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It’s Bonuscide Season, 2016

Why Be Embarrassed? All You Have to Do is Explain It.


L.A. Bank Robbery, by Colin Brown, CC license, Flickr

L.A. Bank Robbery, by Colin Brown, CC license, Flickr

Brace yourselves, May is Bonuscide Month. We will be seeing the obscene salaries of anybody who’s anybody in corporate life in the U.S. and around the world. And it falls to the individual committing bonuscide rather than their communicators to provide the explanation for committing this absurd financial act yet again this year. Why should a communicator have to answer the phone calls from the bosses, sometimes the bosses’ mothers, about putting a stop to these irritating, humiliating, and unnecessary annual disclosures?

Bonuscide is the voluntary act of an individual, usually the CEO or very senior executive of a large company, accepting an irrational and unexplainable amount of money and other compensation and hoping it will not be noticed.

Fat chance.

Relax, its bonuscide season, when so many executives receive so much and so many more receive nothing, that there is no credible explanation for the disparity nor for the self-damaging act of bonuscide. Those who get the big checks, should take the responsibility for explaining just what the irrationale is.

The usual corporate self-forgiving excuse is generated by very highly paid compensation consultants, often more than one firm. Their work then is checked by yet another independent, outside advisor as a means of justifying the horrendous unearned salaries and bonuses that senior executives are and obviously will continue receiving.

These consultants clearly never start with the lowest possible salary, they are hired precisely to find the highest salaries or salary estimates and then justify corporate leadership’s over-filling the gap to be able to compensate their employees even more highly than the benchmark examples. This is classic bonuscide. The top corporate, “Mine is still bigger than yours,” mentality.

Maybe the mothers of these executives can explain it better than the executives themselves can.

At this point, perhaps one could launch into some kind of mathematical analysis to determine a rationale for this annual irrational behavior, but that would not be me. Like most in public relations, math and we have never been great friends.

But, the truth is, it is not a math issue. It is not really even a compensation issue. To be an issue implies that there is some room for discussion, constructive thinking, analysis and seeking some kind of more rational result. Trouble is, top level executive compensation in our culture and others is simply and irrationally beyond control.

Boards love handing out the big checks and the people who get them, of course, not only love to receive them, but many also take out extraordinary loans against this anticipated windfall to leverage the size of their compensation to another level yet. Maybe it should be the Chairman of the Board’s responsibility to explain these extraordinary disparities.

I have never been very good at justifying the unjustifiable. If it fails the smell test, the laugh test and the straight face test, the only people who can explain bonuscide are the individuals directly involved in accepting the money and the consequences.

roll of money by frankieleon, CC license, Flickr

roll of money by frankieleon, CC license, Flickr

Not many do because not many can. Almost no one returns the excess. That would be a good start. So, for those moms and bosses out there who are going to be somewhat embarrassed by having a mindlessly huge salary be a part of a table of other equally mindless high salaries of similarly bonuscidal executives, take a breath. Recognize the fact that only you or recipients or the perpetrators of this corporate largess dumping has a chance of making a credible stab at an explanation.

So my advice is, stop asking your PR people to solve this problem for you. Stop whining about the unfairness of your bonuscide. Compensation of big time executives is always a public matter and a public concern. Get used to it. And let the rest of us work on stuff that really matters. Trust me, you may think you’re suffering as a result of this behavior, but even if you are, nobody cares. Well, six people may be angry, including your brother-in-law.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the check and the season.

Happy Bonuscide!

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