Quick note: I will try to make this as concise and non-ranty as possible.

Background: I've been working at a large company in the US for about 18 months, it's my first "real job", and so far, things have gone very well. Recently, I've been heading up a relatively small but important project for my team. I've put in some longer hours than normal, but nothing insane, and done a lot of cross training and learning as this project reaches into some new territory for my team.

What happened: My team lead has at least twice told me that he was going to talk to my manager about getting me a bonus for the work I've been doing. I didn't feel it was owed to me, but I thought it was a nice gesture. Last week, my manager gave me my bonus, $100. This is a little bit over 0.1% of my annual income. I thought it weird to get such a small bonus, but just sort of let go.

Why I'm bothered: I found out this week that a colleague and close friend of mine had also gotten a bonus for his work on a different project, totaling ~10x what I received. He's been at the company longer and I'm sure makes more than I do, but absolutely not 10 times what I make. My prior assumption was that the program was short on money, and my manager was trying to make sure I felt noticed, this seems to fly in the face of that. My last several reviews have gone very well, and the fact that my team lead told me he was actively campaigning for me to get a bonus would suggest I have performed well recently.

Follow up: I have applied for an internal training program at my company that my current manager used to run, and said he would put in a good word for me. If I got into this program, it would take me away from my current team in 6 months for about two years. It has occurred to me that my manager may already know if I got in to this program, and if that's the case he may feel less invested in keeping me happy and on the team than my coworkers.

Question(s): Am I correct that my bonus is pretty small in the world of corporate America? I wasn't planning on bringing this up to anyone, but should I? If my assumption that my manager is "holding out on me" because he may know if I got into this training program, is there anything I should do?

  • 4
    Frankly with a small project there likely was not enough room in the budget for more. the other person on the other project may have had a bigger pool of money to get a bonus from. In 40 years of work I have gotten a bonus only about ten times and several of them were less than 500. And I am consistently rated as an outstanding performer.
    – HLGEM
    Dec 1, 2017 at 22:35
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of How should I properly approach my boss if I'm feeling underpaid?
    – gnat
    Dec 2, 2017 at 6:40
  • 0.1% or 1% - BOTH are insulting. I generally am insulted by bonuses or raises that make no difference whatsoever.
    – TomTom
    Dec 2, 2017 at 7:58
  • 5
    You're confusing a one-off performance bonus with an annual bonus. A one-off bonus is a cash amount, it isn't calculated in terms of percentage of your salary. You may also get an annual bonus, if you continue to do well. Just take this money in the spirit it was intended: a thank-you for some good work. Dec 2, 2017 at 12:54
  • What I don't understand: If your manager "put in a good word for you" to get on the training, why should he feel less invested to keep you "happy and on the team" when his good words worked out?
    – Fildor
    Dec 4, 2017 at 12:12

6 Answers 6


Am I correct that my bonus is pretty small in the world of corporate America?

You got a bonus. Take it as a win. For many, such things are a pipe dream.

I wasn't planning on bringing this up to anyone, but should I?

Don't. Other than to say thanks and a brief story of what you will spend it on. i.e. a round for your friends, a new jacket, save it, etc.

If my assumption that my manager is "holding out on me" because he may know if I got into this training program, is there anything I should do?

Bonus are optional. You could've received nothing. Unless agreed upon contractually, i.e. "bonus if sales target of x is reached" then you might have cause, but that is a legal question and out of scope for the workplace.

  • Seems we are synced today :) I agree with your answer.
    – DarkCygnus
    Dec 1, 2017 at 22:33
  • Correct. I should rename my handle to DarkCygus2too.
    – Bluebird
    Dec 2, 2017 at 6:05

Am I correct that my bonus is pretty small in the world of corporate America?

Well, that really depends on the company, on the project you are working, and several other things. The question (that only you can answer) is if this is a small bonus on your company. Still, you got a bonus for some small project, which is better than nothing.

I wasn't planning on bringing this up to anyone, but should I?

That is really up to you. I wouldn't. You even said that "I didn't feel it was owed to me, but I thought it was a nice gesture", so I would just take that money and be happy with it.

If my assumption that my manager is "holding out on me" because he may know if I got into this training program, is there anything I should do?

I wouldn't assume that. And even if it were true, the only way you could try to do something is if you can prove it, which can be difficult.

I would suggest you refrain from making a problem out of this; you are going to the training program soon, so bringing this up at this moment may leave a bad taste to your leaving (or worse, maybe burn some bridges).

  • 1
    The training could be a bonus, if it has value; otherwise, like the small bonus, it's a punishment. Unless there's a policy or a contract to tie a specific range to a specific effort then it's a gift; don't look a gifthorse in the mouth. Like DarkCygnus implied, receiving it proves that that your manager keeps going to bat for you so you don't want to make them look bad and like they're pawning you off.
    – Rob
    Dec 1, 2017 at 23:45
  • 1
    @Rob yeah the manager is actually trying to scrape some extra money for OP... probably there is few money to spare in the company, but manager is trying his best to reward OPs effort, even if it is by a small amount. The Training as a bonus is another important thing to consider. Imagine if OP got a huge bonus and besides is going for training... would surely make everyone else a bit disappointed or jealous, to say the least.
    – DarkCygnus
    Dec 1, 2017 at 23:52

It's entirely a personal decision whether you think you are being appropriately compensated for the work you are doing. There is no way anyone who doesn't know your company's bonus policies can tell you whether you are being short changed or not. Some companies make bonuses a routine part of the compensation package, some don't give bonuses at all, or only for heroic achievements. Maybe your manager is undercutting you, or maybe they went to bat for your, called in favors, and upper management simply didn't think a significant bonus was merited or within their bonus policy. We (and perhaps you) simply don't have enough information to decide.


In many places, more senior employees are on a "bonus scheme", which means their base salary is lower, but an annual or quarterly bonus is expected, which will increase their salary to a "normal" level if they do a "normal" job, or much higher or much lower depending on the size of their bonus. Entering such a bonus scheme usually involves not getting a raise that you would otherwise expect, or even a lowering of the base salary.

More junior employees will have a fixed salary, with no expectation of a bonus. So in one case a bonus is required to get the "normal" salary, in the other case no bonus is required to get the "normal" salary.


To answer the question directly: I don't think you should discuss the bonus amount with management, since you do not have enough information to argument on whether it is enough or not.

In your case, I would analyse the whole package you are getting from your company. If you are being underpaid, the annual bonus is scarce and you are working hard, I would consider this $100 as a bad sign on company policy.

About the comparison with your colleague: while it may be good to compare salary against market prices, annual bonuses against what other companies are offering, a single-project bonus is quite particular to the project and employee. The good comparisons will assess company policy on salaries and bonuses, but it should not be used to compare your situation with one's. You simply do not know how effective the other employee is, his impact on the project and the contribution to the company as his manager.

If you have reached the conclusion you are underpaid, I would choose the right moment and talk to your manager about a raise/promotion. Do not talk about it know, because you do not know how difficult was to him to get you this bonus. You can read other questions in the Workplace about asking for a raise/promotion. If that does not work, maybe it is the time to move on and find another job.

Bottom line: Not enough information to argument on the bonus amount. Do not compare your bonus to your colleague's, assess the whole salary/bonus policy in your company. If you are being underpaid, ask for a raise at the right time. In case it does not work, maybe it is time to move on.


Bonus are usally paid by the department you belong to rather than the company. Some departments may have a larger amount to spend than other department.

Bonus usually depend on the position and are used as incentive : big bonus for sales people, small bonus for engineer.

You should ask your manager/HR how is calculated the bonus, it can be (team performance) * (individual performance)(available money)(annual salary)(number of years worked in the company)(job position).

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