Ask Kathy Corner
2017 Bonus Fell Short?
10 Ways to Manage the Disappointment
QAfter a year of hard work, weekends spent at the office instead of with my loved ones and early mornings in front of the computer, it is January and time for my reward. However, when I opened my year-end bonus envelope, the size of my bonus was $10,000.00 less than expected. The company’s stock is up and performed well in 2016 so I don’t understand. I am disappointed. So, what do I do now?
A It is early 2017 and the year is off to a great start. Yet for some, the first month is already the season of disappointment–from those quickly abandoned New Year’s resolutions to the flood of post-holiday credit card statements, the seeds of regret are all around.
Your annual bonus may be another source disappointment if the numbers don’t add up. You may be thinking of storming out in a cloud of indignation…quitting your job or looking for another … telling your boss off …. or internalizing your disappointment and heading to the fridge. Before you do any of these, think first on more practical ideas.
Here are some proactive steps you can take to increase the size of your bonus or improve your odds for an impressive bonus next year.
1. Keep a Smile on Your Face. Managing disappointment can be challenge, but rather than letting the situation steal your 2017 joy, remember to keep a smile on your face and joy in heart for the what you have achieved. Yes, lift your chin up and keep performing.
2. Ask to Restructure Your Compensation. If you want to ensure that you receive your fair compensation, ask your HR department about the possibility of restructuring your compensation package. For example, see if the company would be open to bumping up your base salary by $10,000.00. One thing that you are guaranteed to receive is your base salary.
3. Be Flexible. It would be great to receive a generous year-end bonus, but sometimes extra cash compensation is simply not in the budget. Fight for a bigger bonus, but be flexible enough to suggest alternatives. A one-time stock option grant and a few extra days off might be a tenable compromise.
4. Meet or Exceed Expectations. If you want to set yourself on track to earn a bonus at the end of next year, talk to your manager about your 2017 performance goals. Check in with your manager on a quarterly basis to ensure that the two of you agree about your performance to date. Ensure that all expectations that have been set for you regarding performance and productivity will be met or exceeded.
5. Do Your Homework. The more you know about the company and its finances, the easier it will be to negotiate. If the company had a stellar year, you will be in a better position to demand a bigger cut of the profits. If your company is struggling, it may be time to look for a more promising platform.
6. Keep Your Emotions in Check. It is easy to feel slighted or even angry by a disappointing bonus. Remember these decisions are rarely personal and getting upset is not nearly as fun as getting that bonus.
7. Stress Your Loyalty. If you have been with the company for a while, you can use that loyalty to your advantage. Emphasize your long history with the company.
8. Notice Your Body Language. Non-verbal cues can either reinforce, or undermine, your negotiating skills, so be aware of how you are perceived and use it to your advantage. Maintaining eye contact, presenting a firm handshake and standing tall are all great ways to express the seriousness of the negotiations.
9. Be Confident. You are a good worker and a loyal employee, and you deserve a bigger bonus than the one you got. Be confident in your abilities, and in the fact that you deserve a just reward for all your hard work. Be prepared to back up your confidence with data.
10. Avoid Threats to Quit. You want to be firm, but you should never threaten to leave unless you are willing to walk out the door at that very moment. Using threats to get what you want could backfire badly and leave you without a bonus – or a job.
Year-end bonus season should be a time of celebration. If the envelope holding your year-end bonus is lighter than it should be, use the tips listed above to get what you really deserve.
Kathy Richardson is the Founder and Principal of HR Legal Search. She is a Texas-based Legal Recruiter with a national practice. She supports in-house lawyers and law firm partners in their career development and has successfully placed hundreds of lawyers nationwide.