Wall Street Grappling With How To Give Out Zero Dollar Bonuses Without Upsetting Recipients

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As you may have seen, this morning the Times a serious issue this morning involving financial services employees who will be receiving nada come bonus time this year. How serious? Codename serious. "They've come to be called the Zeros," the gray lady quoted someone as saying (possibly the same person who snorted to himself and then said "stop, no, you're so bad-- so bad you're good" after coming up with the nickname). "And they...are facing a once-unthinkable prospect: an annual bonus of ... nothing," he/she continues. One executive- possibly James Gorman- can't even think about it.

Even though employees will receive roughly the same amount of money, the psychological blow of not getting a bonus is substantial, especially in a Wall Street culture that has long equated success and prestige with bonus size. So there are sure to be plenty of long faces on employees across the financial sector who have come to expect a bonus on top of their base pay...One executive, whose firm prohibited discussing the topic with the news media, said the bump in base salaries had confused people, even though their overall compensation was the same. “People expect a big bonus,” this person said. “It is as if they don’t even see their base doubled last year.”

What can be done? Not much.

Dealing with the Zeros can be complicated. “It’s a real headache,” said another senior banker, who asked not to be identified because the topic is so volatile at his company. There has been so much grousing that in some cases," he said, “we’ll throw $20,000 or $25,000 at each of the Zeros so they’re not discouraged. No matter what we pay people, it is never enough and they always find something to complain about,” this banker said.

I think the issue here is that these people just want to feel appreciated, a sensation they're accustomed to feeling come bonus season. So if you can't do it in unmarked hundos, why not make the presentation of bupkus a little more palatable by adding some fanfare? For instance, you could fill out a check for zero dollars and put it in a nice gift bag with tissue paper and whatnot. Or you're charged with dispensing the bad news you could do so with your dick in a bow-topped box. Or you could issue a bonus people would be content with via posted-dated check ($1,000,000 payable 12/20/2012). All of these measures would like to go far in turning those frowns upside down.

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Bonus Watch '12: Half Of Wall Street Feeling Pretty Positive About Pay Day

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