What? No Bonus? Now What?!

You just found out there will be no year-end bonuses at your company.  Take a moment and write down your reaction to that news.  How does that make you feel, what thoughts run through your head?  What’s the story you tell yourself about the situation?  Just make a quick note and we’ll come back to that later.  The facts are clear, you’re not getting a bonus, but your beliefs about the situation will lead you to process that experience differently. 

In my work as a coach, I use a 7 Levels of Energy framework developed by Bruce Schneider that can be a powerful tool for raising your Emotional Intelligence (EI).  Research shows that EI is a far greater predictor of success in the workplace than IQ.  Technical competency is the price of entry into the job, but EI leads to more salary increases and promotions over time.  If you could raise your EI, how valuable do you think that might be for you? 

Here’s how you might react or respond to the “no bonus” news from each of the 7 levels of energy.  Listen for your own voice as I describe these possibilities: 

Level 1:  The core thought is “I lose” – I’m at the effect of the situation.  I blame myself, thinking over and over, what did I do wrong?  I might have a feeling of hopelessness.  I dread going home and telling my husband.  I don’t speak up about it because it wouldn’t make any difference.  In some way, I feel not good enough and I am disappointed in myself.

Level 2:  “You lose” – I blame you.  It’s your fault.  I might tell myself that the company’s greedy or management is, and that they should have given us our due.  I might feel self-righteous.  I could be passive aggressive, sarcastic or even outright angry.  I might complain.  I think to myself, for all I do around here, I can’t believe this is even happening.  It’s BS.  If the job market wasn’t so bad, I might even leave.

Level 3:  “I win” – My goal from level 3 is to get things working for ME, so that I can cope with the situation.  I’m not happy about the news, but I’m already thinking about making sure this doesn’t happen again next year.  So, I get back to work and focus on the part of my compensation that I CAN control, my individual performance.  I want others to just get over it so I can move forward and cope with the situation myself.  My primary goal is taking care of my needs.

Level 4:  “You win” – At this level, I’m energized by helping YOU.  As long as you get what you need, I’m good.  I’m less affected by the news personally and I have a lot of empathy for you and others who didn’t get a bonus.  I am a listening ear for you, just trying to help you feel better.  If I’m your boss, maybe I try to figure out a way to offer you overtime to offset the loss of the bonus.  If you’re my boss, I reassure you and ask how can I help support you in your role.

Level 5:  “Unless we all win, no one wins” – I don’t personalize the news at this level, I see the business need behind the decision.  I’m interested in getting everyone over this setback so we can be productive and set ourselves up for healthy bonuses next year.  I look for the good in the situation, focusing on recent improvements and I engage the team’s ideas.  There’s a collaborative, purpose driven energy at this level.  I focus on being at the cause of my life and not the effect of it.  I take ownership and move ahead proactively with my team. 

Level 6:  “We always win” – At this level, I feel like my boss really has my back and believes in me, even if I didn’t get a bonus.  I’m pretty intuitive, so I am really not too surprised by the news.  I’m grateful to have a job, with or without bonus and I see the bigger picture.  I feel connected to my coworkers and management through this experience and don't judge it as good or bad, just something to learn from.  I don’t personalize the news.

Level 7:  “There is no winning or losing” - I am full of gratitude for the life I’m living and the people I am surrounded by.  I am non-judgmental and objective in my perceptions of the announcement, just observing and accepting it without being triggered.  Maybe I have a flash of brilliance and I see potential for developing a new product or streamlining our operations in a way that seems so simple and obvious now. 

As you reflect on the 7 levels, where do you think you landed when I announced “no bonuses”?  Just observe your response.  How typical is it for you?  Your level of consciousness, the degree of stress that “no bonus” created for you along with your past experiences and behavioral tendencies would lead to the way you processed the news.   

The key is to raise your awareness so that you can consciously choose your response, and be at the cause of your life and not the effect.   The next time you feel reactive to a situation or you observe someone else being reactive, challenge yourself to pause and reflect on your options from the 7 levels of energy framework.  The first step to increasing EI is self-awareness.  Give this tool a try and challenge yourself to raise your energy level.  If you have questions as you move forward, reach out to me and I’ll be glad to help!

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