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I work in management consulting and lately had my yearly review with my boss with the intent to renegotiate my salary and yearly bonus. As usual I don't negotiate a lot because my boss is very generous. Our company's bonus calculations are complex, involving several performance indicators, sales incentives, and so on. Since I am interested in how the figures evolved, my boss always gives me a copy of the calculation sheet for transparency reasons.

The day after the review, when I went over the details, I found a minor mistake in it. The salary used in the calculation is lower than my actual salary and the result is that the yearly bonus is actually 5% (€50) lower than what it should be. Despite the overall impact being small, I care now that I know about it (I like things to be correct). At the same time this bonus is still more than I expected and I'm happy with it.

Our relationship is very open and transparent. Should I politely point my boss to that possible mistake or would that be ungrateful/rude?

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    Keep in mind that pointing it out might not only benefit you, but any other employees that may be affected by this discrepancy. – Xrylite Jan 23 '18 at 17:55
  • @Stefan And you're sure that the number your manager gave is what you'll actually get on your pay check? I assume you mean that one of the input metrics wasn't correct and led to a lower overall result (bonus)? – Lilienthal Jan 24 '18 at 12:46
  • @Lilienthal Yes, I am sure. My bonus depends on my current monthly salary and my boss used a wrong number and that led to a lower overall result, yes. – Stefan Jan 24 '18 at 14:56
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    Thanks for clarifying @Stefan, I've updated your question based on that input. The main reason I asked is to see if your HR/payroll department might instead use a correct number when they run the calculations but ultimately that doesn't matter for your question here. – Lilienthal Jan 24 '18 at 15:31
  • It may be that the impact to you is minor but a mistake like this may affect others more significantly. It may also cause your boss to go back over other people's calculations to ensure they are correct. If it's a template that many bosses are using, they can use this opportunity to fix the issue in the template. – JeffC Jan 24 '18 at 21:11
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Don't overthink this.

Politely point out the possible mistake to your boss in a neutral tone:

Boss, I had a look at the bonus calculation sheet, and there seems to be a mistake. Can we go over the calculations together?

This leaves room for your boss to correct the mistake without losing face. Moreover, it also leaves room for you to save face if your calculations are wrong.

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    You can even back it down a notch to "The numbers on the sheet don't match what I have." Sometimes the data supplied isn't complete. One or the other may be missing some information. – Wesley Long Jan 23 '18 at 17:24
  • This is especially true considering the manager has a history of intentionally being generous. – corsiKa Jan 24 '18 at 0:16
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    @Wesley Yeah, if the word "mistake" is seen as too strong, then it can be replaced with an milder expression, like the one you suggested. It is even possible to use Obfuscating Stupidity to avoid "mistake" and its equivalents altogether. "Boss, these calculations are too complicated, and I am having a hard time understanding the sheet. Could you please explain this to me?" But one has to be careful if choosing that option, because if the employee is otherwise very bright, the boss might find this demeaning or insincere. – Masked Man Jan 24 '18 at 1:18
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    @NathanCooper: You can actually take it one step further: "I tried doing the computation, but I must be doing something wrong as I never get the same result, would you mind walking me through it quickly?" – Matthieu M. Jan 24 '18 at 14:12
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I would bring it up, but I wouldn't pose it as a mistake on his part, instead I'd simply raise it as a question of understanding.

I went through the bonus calculation and haven't been able to make it match your results. Would you mind going over it with me so I can understand what's going on?

It should be a very quick visit, and allows you to bring up the issue without casting blame. It's entirely possible you've input a wrong number somewhere, or the calculation he gave you isn't perfect (maybe misplaced parenthesis, etc - errors of transcription).

Regardless of the source of the error, simply bringing it up as a question about why you're getting a different number shouldn't be offensive or problematic, and will give him an opportunity to fix the problem - or correct you - depending on what actually happened.

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Yes. Your company uses the same formula for every employee, so everybody is going to receive an amount based on a set of parameters. If there is an error in your calculation, you should point it out because, if they made the formula like this, it's because they actually want you to receive this amount. So I think if they are coherent they'll be happy to fix this and let you receive how much they wanted you to receive.

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No, it's only 50 quid and pointing it out would put your boss on the spot. Here's what I'd do. Next year, a week before the bonuses are due, bring the error to the attention of the boss and point out where you think it went wrong. If he thanks you and offers to make up the missing amount, tell him only if you can use it to buy him lunch. He's your boss, a good bloke you say, so do what you can to make his life easier. Good bosses are few and far between and definitely not worth upsetting over 50 quid.

  • And if it takes more than a week to solve the error or has affected other employees unwittingly? Errors are best caught early, so they can be investigated and see what caused it, if it affected anyone else and work out a solution to solve it. It may only be €50 to one person, but if it's €50 to 100 people, that mistake quickly starts adding up and can cause issues. – Draken Jan 25 '18 at 8:50

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