Bonus Smaller This Year!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about high rating but low bonus: How is it best to talk about it with the boss?

I work in a place where you receive bonuses on performance evaluation. The money differential is big, and my issue is I received in my mid-term evaluation a top performance, but when I got my final one for the year I was a notch down so my bonus went from 3 percent to 1 of my salary and that is significant. There was no feedback to why the difference. In fact I think the praise was even better in the second one. I am talking with my supervisor about this. Any suggestions of how to talk about it with him? I do believe he is under pressure to not give too much money out, and in fact I wish they would just be honest, but still awareness of fairness is important…Thanks as always for your time.

Signed, Stumped

Dear Stumped:

The good news is that your evaluations have been positive. What’s frustrating is that you expected a better bonus based on the feedback they gave you. Is your supervisor the one who handled the evaluation? Whoever handled it should probably be the one to talk to. Have a conversation with him. You could begin with something like:”I wanted to follow up on the evaluation we had recently. Everything seemed positive yet the bonus was less than before. Is there something you were unhappy with? I’d like some feedback on that.”

That opens the door to hearing what he might say. He might say you slipped a bit or he might explain what you already heard about the financial pressure. but I do think you have a basis to ask for more detail and reasoning as to what’s happening. maybe they could provide some additional bonus after the first of the year?Good luck! WEGO is using communication to clear the air and move forward

Steven H. Carney, Guest Respondent Author, The Teamwork Chronicles The Workplace Doctors WEGO is using communication to clear the air and move forward!

Follow Up: Thank you very much for the advice. I did talk to him actually before I got the response, but it was exactly in the manner of which you suggested so that feels good.I got two explanations. One I accept though I think its a human response that all of us do, but I accept that, the other one is factually wrong as our policy on paper backs up what I did. I’ve mentioned that to him and have not received a response. Any thoughts or suggestions on where to go from here?

This is hard because I got a good evaluation, but not a great one, which translates monetarily. He told me that I was close and how he can’t give everybody an outstanding which I understand, yet I know of at least three people who got out standings which makes the percentage already above the norm, but I just don’t think bonuses based on percentages of salaries is good for morale.

As I get involved in the union, I want to make this an issue of concern. Do you have any suggested reading or support of my position that bonuses based on salary and percentages might make for a morale problem? I’m a big believer that bonuses are for the TEAM and should be shared. The regular season where people get paid more is already the difference, so the end of the year bonuses in my opinion should be equal. I think it helps morale.

I appreciate suggestions for following up on a point of contention that I think is factually wrong and then any suggested reading on bonuses and morale.Thanks for your time.

Signed, Still Stumped

Follow UP: This is a bit complicated. Partly that you received two explanations is part of the problem–there should only be one! On some level your boss or manager seemed to make some sense when he said you did well but not outstanding, etc. The fact that 3 other employees got “out standings” probably feeds your concern that you weren’t treated fairly. As for bonuses based on salary and percentages isn’t really a problem from my perspective.

Bonuses are a good incentive for many employees and it can encourage better performance from them. They are rewarded when the guidelines are met. I think the real problem is that you heard two explanations and you feel like you got the short end of the bonus pool. When you raised the issue, your boss gave a partial explanation but didn’t respond to your more detailed question where you thought he was factually wrong. That keep the issue unresolved and you probably feel like you were shorted and are not being treated as well as you should.

Your boss should sit down with you and clear this up. Leaving it unresolved will probably create some ongoing resentment for you and that lack of trust should be fixed.It sounds like you are becoming unionized soon. Many of these problems may fade if that happens, because they will probably help set up guidelines that are more predictable and less interpretive.Can you live with the situation as it now stands–that you are a good employee who did merit a bonus? If so, you will be in a better position to negotiate something for the future. You’ll be more confident and feel a sense of resolution.

If you seem desperate for what you think you should have received, it could backfire now. So I’m not sure you will be able to win a bigger bonus immediately. How open and stable is your relationship with your boss? If you took him to lunch (you take a leadership position) to just chat about it, would he be more responsive? You could come from the position that you would like more clarification because the decision still isn’t making sense to you–you’re confused or concerned about what the guidelines really are. (That way, you’re not blaming him or targeting him for any accusations where he might get defensive and make things worse for you.)At lunch, he might be more open to acknowledging that they would have/could have paid more, especially if the policy states something that wasn’t done right in your case. Maybe they can do something after another quarter or promise more for next year?

I think the idea is to see if he will compromise in some way that is a benefit to you, either now or in the future. Have a few suggestions available–a bigger bonus later, some paid time off–whatever you think would feel right to you. By trying that approach, you show that you are open to a resolution without being insistent on a bigger bonus right now–might that be a problem with other employees?Anyway, I hope these suggestions are helpful. Feel free to let us know how things go!WEGO is using communication to solve problems and create a win-win!

Steven H. Carney