No year-end bonus

Q: I was just told that I would be one of the few employees not receiving a year-end bonus this year.  Historically my company rewards employees with a bonus in January, based on the prior year’s performance, both company and individual.  Our company did well, and I think I did ok.  Do you have a recommendation on how I should approach my manager?  I am angry that I was led to believe I was going to get a big check in January.


A: Many companies offer bonuses, which are based on overall company performance as well as individual employee performance.  It sounds like 2016 was a successful year for your company financially.  However, I am guessing that your individual performance did not meet an expectation or a standard, probably set by your manager.

Think back on the past year.  Were there goals that you did not meet?  Did you receive any signals that your performance was not up to par?  Did you and your manager have any serious conversations regarding deadlines missed, careless errors or not being a productive member of a team?  Usually there are signals, but sometimes managers are reluctant to confront performance issues.  Often times, ignoring a performance concern is a poor path in the long term.

First, take some time to think about the past year and allow any anger to subside.  Then, I would suggest requesting a face-to-face meeting with your manager.  Summarize your performance over the past year.  Ask for feedback on what you did well and also what you didn’t do well.  Ask how the bonus payouts were determined.

After this meeting you will have a sense of your manager’s perception of  your abilities.  Does your manager have confidence in you, or not?

Only you can make the decision whether you can continue to work for this manager and this company.  If you feel that you have been short-changed, only you know if you would be able to move on from that feeling.  Some employees are able to rally and improve upon their individual performance.  Others struggle and leave the company, looking for a better fit for their skills and their interests.

One final comment: because you have received a bonus in the past, does not mean you will always receive it in the future.  Companies often use individual performance as a criteria for awarding bonuses. You should never assume.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.