Tom Tierney, former CEO of Boston-based consulting firm Bain & Company and author of Aligning the Stars, elaborates that for many employees, "lifestyle needs are as important as money." Offer employees flex time, for instance, and that might be viewed as a substantial reward.

A key point: Ask workers what they want, and do your best to deliver some of what they crave. (For more on "Getting Yours," see below.)
In fact, Tierney suggests that years with no bonuses may - paradoxically - be the best times for a business: "Turbulent times can strengthen a company," he says. "Mercenary armies rarely win wars, and in down times a com-pany can reiterate its core values: What other than money brings and keeps us together?" Keep up that discussion, says Tierney, and "you reinforce your culture's values beyond money. That's how to build a company that lasts."
GETTING YOURS
What can you do if the no-bonus Grinch comes your way? Step one is to swallow hard and accept reality: If the company says there are no bonuses, there are none. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't ask for a one-on-one with your boss, because it could deliver tasty alternatives. Such as?

• Ask for recognition, suggests Lena Bottos, a compensation analyst with Salary.com, a Web-based human capital management products company. Do you want a spiffier title? Now's the time to ask.

• Seek career growth opportunities, says David Hofrichter, principal and national compensation practice leader for Buck Consultants. Crave more challenging work, or maybe you want to take classes that will prepare you for a higher-level role in the company. Managers may smile upon such requests - and the doubly good news is that you'll be preparing yourself for more responsibility, inside your current employer or outside.