How to use your spouse and colleagues to get a larger bonus

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The fourth quarter is approaching. If you work in banking, this means 360 degree performance appraisals. Performance appraisals are a big determinant of banking bonuses. If you want your appraisal to go well (and your bonus to be big), now is therefore the time to prepare ahead.

Anecdotally, the big problems with bankers at appraisal time are self-delusion and a mistaken belief that banking is an industry where performance can be measured objectively.

Performance in banking is less easy to measure than people think said Kilian Wawoe, a former senior HR professional from ABN Amro, last week. There are just too many variables to adequately assess how well people in the industry are doing, Wawoe claimed. As a result, appraisals will have a strongly subjective element - in a 360 degree appraisal, a lot will depend upon your colleagues' perceptions of your performance.

It doesn't help that people often think they're either far better or far worse than they really are. "It's a real mixture," says Andrew Pullman, a former head of HR at Dresdner Bank-turned founder of consultancy People Risk Solutions. "In banking you get some people who think they're brilliant at everything but you also get people who are very hard on themselves."

Beware alienating your boss with delusions of grandeur

If you fall into the former category and think you're very good at everything, be especially warned. Bankers with delusions of their own excellence often end up alienating their bosses and being marked down, says Pullman. "These people often fall out of synch with their managers' opinions," says Pullman. "That can be dangerous - they start to get defensive."

Lack of awareness of incompetence is a scientifically recognized phenomena. In a new book, 'Judgement and decision making at work,' Scott Highhouse, a professor of psychology at the University of Misssouri, highlights the so-called Dunning–Kruger Effect. This states that people with the lowest levels of performance also tend to be the most deluded about their own abilities. The error isn't intentional, says Highhouse - people honestly believe they are better than they are. The incompetent are particularly wrong about their performance simply because they lack the ability to accurately how well they're doing.

Adrian Furnham, a professor of psychology at University College London, says he's seen people storm out of meeting rooms when the (unfavourable) results of 360 degree feedback have been communicated. In his own life, Furnham says he has a very simple strategy for avoiding delusional opinions of his own greatness: he talks to his wife.

"My wedding anniversary is also known as my annual appraisal," says Furnham. "My wife knows me best. If you want to get a good idea of what you're really like, get someone outside work to appraise you."

If you don't want to discover that your spouse thinks you're a bigoted bully, there are alternatives. Pullman advises you speak discretely to colleagues before completing the self-appraisal element of the 360 degree review. "It's a good idea to ask a couple of colleagues whether your self-appraisal seems fair and accurate," he says. "If you can get an idea how you're perceived by colleagues before you claim to be brilliant, you're more likely to look realistic and on the same wavelength as your manager." Come bonus time, Pullman says this will stand you in far better stead than crazy claims which make you look narcissistic and out of touch.



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