Wednesday, October 04, 2006


A magical word. Especially when it’s in reference to your paycheck or other compensation.

A bonus has both positive and negative connotations. The positive is obvious — more money in your pocket! What could possibly be negative about that? And why am I going off on this topic anyway? (Yes, I hear those questions leaping into your minds!)

Well, my company declared in July that it would pay a bonus each quarter if we accomplish certain goals. Each goal had a value attached, and if all goals were attained we would each receive 4% of our gross pay (including overtime, for those who earn it) for that quarter. Without bogging down in specifics, most of the goals were safety-related in one way or another.

That quarter has just ended. It looks like we’ll be earning 3.667% (we missed one goal for one month. Bummer!) I’m in the process of calculating the exact dollar figure for each employee so we can include it in the next regular paycheck.

Here are the questions and complaints I’m already hearing:

1. But if it’s all paid in one lump sum along with a regular paycheck, it’ll put me into a higher tax withholding bracket for that check, so I won’t get as much money.

My answer: You’re supposed to establish your withholding rate based on your actual tax status, and the withholding will be what it will be. If you think the withholding will be too high, you can change your tax status to a different bracket. Please fill in this form and turn it in. But don’t forget to change yourself BACK next week, or you’ll owe taxes at the end of the year.

2. That’s too much trouble.

My answer. I’m sorry. Here... sign the form and tell me what you want to accomplish and we’ll fill it out for you.

3. The trouble with a bonus is; it’s a one shot deal. And it won’t be factored into my earnings when I get my next “percent” raise.

My answer: You’re exactly right. But this was never intended to be a raise in your pay. It is simple an opportunity to earn some more money on a one-time basis by doing things that help save the company money. We’d rather pay it to YOU than pay for the injuries and damage of accidents. We WANT you to earn the money.

4. Okay, then just pay it to me in the form of a raise.

My answer: But what if we don’t achieve the goals? Then the company would be spending more money on accidents, but you’d still get more money too. You can’t have it both ways.

5. Why the hell not?

My answer: Look, everybody wants more money. We understand that. We’re trying hard to raise everyone’s morale by giving two raises this year PLUS the performance bonus. But the bonus has to be conditioned on attaining our goals and thus saving the company the money.

6. Well, MY morale would be higher if you just gave me a bigger raise and kept your bonus.

My answer: But we’re giving both. What could be wrong with that?

7. In fact, MY morale would be higher if we had a pension plan and retiree heath coverage. When you gonna put THOSE in? And what’s more, I think you oughtta offer more flex time. And that’s not all...

My answer: Excuse me, please; I have a meeting I have to attend.


Michelle said...

I know you are being serious but I can't believe that there are people out there who actually ask these questions. Do they not understand the concept of a bonus. I would like to know how many grey hairs popped out today and how you manage to keep your cool?

r.e.wolf said...

"Ungrateful" comes to mind. I admire you're ability to keep your cool and not point out the ridiculous.

Kirsten said...

How about this, "look, you're right, this bonus business is more bother than it's worth. So forget it, we'll just give you your regular paycheck and donate your would-have-been-bonus on the office Christmas party."


Karyn Lyndon said...

Tell him he has a choice...hold out his hand and take the money or go put his hand in the lathe.

Duke_of_Earle said...

Michelle and r.e.:

Keep my cool? I don't. I just grit my teeth and bottle it up, then take it out on Carol when I get home. Her prognosis is actually pretty good; she should be walking again in a few days.

Kirsten: Good suggestion. Many of them don't come to the Christmas party anyway, or if they DO come they complain about it but are never willing to plan the next years'.

Karyn: Ouch! (Though that IS tempting.) But that would be a safety violation and would cost the rest of us our portion of the bonus!


Michelle said...

I am glad you went gently on Carol. Imagine if you really blew your top, she would only be walking in a week. Maybe you should a dog or a cat?

Candace said...

Good grief - what are you, the company babysitter, too?

Duke_of_Earle said...


During my first few months on this job (21 years ago) I conducted an exit interview with a guy who had found a better job and was leaving. He told me this was the biggest kindergarten he had ever worked in. I've never forgotten that comment. Still rings true!


M.E Ellis said...

My head hurts...


Miss Cellania said...

I would be shocked to ever have a job where you get raises. I would be amazed if I ever got a job where you get bonuses, even a Christmas gift. But right now, I'd just be happy to get a job.