The Golden Handcuffs Paradox

Do you sometimes feel like leaving your job that you no longer love, but you stay a little while longer because you’re so close to hitting your bonus target? So you wait until you made it to the bonus. Finally, you think you can now leave, but your manager speaks to you about your future with the company. You’re now in line for the next promotion; with that comes the probability of increased earnings. In comparison, you think that earning will solve your problems for good. You’ll start liking your job when you make more money. If you can relate to this situation, you have voluntarily slid on the golden handcuffs.

Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

According to Investopedia, Golden handcuffs are a collection of financial incentives intended to encourage employees to stay with a company for a stipulated time. These incentives come with an agreement that bounds an employee to work for a minimum period of time before the incentives can be fulfilled.

Some examples of such incentives can be a pay rise after hitting a particular sales goal, end of financial year bonus if an employee’s contribution helps the company the way it was forecasted. These incentives aren’t offered to anyone and everyone. There are set numbers of key employees in a business such as a head chef in the kitchen if they can put up a new special menu to bring in more customers and increase sales. A manager in any business for achieving KPI’s set by the employers or CEO’s some KPI’s is marketing campaigns to increase the market share of a company, reducing staff turnover, cutting overheads by 5–15% in the given time frame.

When offered, golden handcuffs are extremely tempting as they usually are of great value compared to the employee’s annual salary. The experience that follows an agreement of this sort may be draining and abhorrent, which is why the contract must be thoroughly analysed and thought about until an intelligent conclusion or compensation, that benefits both the company and the employee is agreed upon. Often employees feel the urge to remain within the company they’ve been working with, even though it may not seem like the smartest choice, objectively, because of tradition, relationships or a simple feeling of belonging. When different opportunities are offered to an employee, generally, the choice is made by a mix of objective and subjective views. They must prioritise every aspect of their options to result in a beneficial solution. These sorts of agreements might potentially impose penalties if the employee decides to leave the company before the contracted date, such as paying bonuses. Often included in these contracts are Non-Discloser Agreements (NDAs), where the employee is prohibited from communicating sensitive corporate information, and non-compete clauses, where working for competitors is forbidden for the leaving employee.

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

We can take steps to position ourselves better when the potential for getting out of those handcuffs is on the horizon.

  • Figure out your minimum expenses over the period of at least six months. Separate your needs and wants
  • Top up your emergency fund
  • Decide what skills do you need to acquire to help with your next steps
  • Undertake at least thirty mins of anaerobic and aerobic exercise.
  • Compartmentalise your time to increase productivity
  • Have a backup plan in place in case your plan fails to lead you to your desired outcome.
  • Please don’t break the cuffs; instead, slowly slip them out of your hand
  • Get some perspective; it’s not all about the money

Figure out your expenses — The first move to slip out of those handcuffs is to figure out how much money you need to keep your current lifestyle. It is one thing to think about. You know the figure, but it’s far more important than you actually sit down and list all your expenses and calculate the figure to the last dollar. If your costs are more than your income, you might have to think about making some changes to your lifestyle to decrease the temptation of incentives. Separate your needs from your wants and work on keeping your expenses as low as you possibly can.

Top up your emergency funds — Life is full of uncertainty. Your emergency fund can help keep your stress level down. You never know when you find yourself in a situation where you need to deal with urgent or unexpected costs. This could be a car repair, unexpected travel or a visit to the emergency room at a packed hospital in the middle of the night.

Decide what skills you need to acquire before you make your next move — you decided that you would wanna work for yourself. You no longer want a company to control your time, but all you have ever done is take orders from your boss and working from there. You will no longer be able to do as such when you work independently. To best manage your time, you might need to learn new skills if you leave your job to work independently without acquiring the required skills. The probability of success is slim.

Undertake at least 30 minutes of anaerobic and aerobic exercise daily –

Thirty minutes of daily exercise can help sharper your memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for the task at hand. Exercise helps you sleep better if you sleep better at night, you can consequently focus on getting the work done.

Compartmentalise your time to increase productivity — one way for doing more than just your job at a time is to compartmentalise your time. That’s the advice of entrepreneur Zoe Foster Blake — who splits her time between project and entrepreneurial ventures, including her start-up skincare company. She told the vogue she dedicates Mondays to her startup, followed by books on Tuesday and writing on Friday’s.

Don’t break the cuffs. Rather slowly slip them out of your hand — it’s not so much about breaking out of them as much as figuring out how to slip them off. Breaking suggests total and immediate change. Rather, It should be an intentional process, perhaps taking one-off at times until you are comfortable with both of them full-time.

In the end, golden handcuffs are a choice. Some of us might struggle to accept it, but that is the reality of our situation. It’s your choice whether you’d wanna chase the green or want something else potentially more fulfilling. You must take the necessary to realistically consider all of your options — often, there is more available to you than you initially realise.

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