I have a question. I now have to undergo a punishment due to a situation that happened with a client of mine. My boss said that i did not give the client the correct solution or complete the necessary paperwork needed. They complained about the solution and stated that it did not solve the issues. He was offered multiple options to resolve this. However the next day boss decided to hold my contractual bonus stating that i can “earn it” back. However i already met the criteria to earn this bonus. I don’t know what my next steps should be here.

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    What is your goal? Do you want your bonus, do you want to improve conditions between you and your boss, both, other? We can't help you if we don't know what you want to accomplish.
    – Erik
    Oct 15, 2020 at 12:37
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    I don’t know if I can because she is the general manager and her parents are the owners of the company.
    – Russian101
    Oct 15, 2020 at 13:16
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    My client is stating that the solution i gave him did not solve his issue, that i just sold him junk. I’m not that type of salesperson.
    – Russian101
    Oct 15, 2020 at 13:21
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    That actually complicates things... if the bonus is tied to sales, but you sold the client a solution that they weren't happy with, her position is at least a little more understandable TBH. There may be a little more to this than just her being vindictive. (I'm not necessarily saying that she's right, just that that fact makes her position at least somewhat more understandable). Oct 15, 2020 at 13:24
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    This was past bonuses, or a bonus for the time period in which you made the sale that the client complained about? Oct 15, 2020 at 14:01

3 Answers 3


Assuming you don't want to go straight for the nuclear option and want to continue in the job and rebuild the relationship then unfortunately you're going to have to do a bit of the running here.

My boss said that i did not give the client the correct solution or complete the necessary paperwork needed.

Be honest with yourself - is there any truth to this? Screw-ups happen and none of is perfect, if you did mess up here (even if not as badly as the angry client is making it sound) then you're going to have to take that much more of a conciliatory approach.

He was offered multiple options to resolve this. However the next day boss decided to hold my contractual bonus stating that i can “earn it” back.

Are any of the options he offered before withholding the bonus things you'd consider acceptable? Because if so you've got the basis of a counter offer. You're a salesperson you know how this works - come up with a deal where both parties give/get something.

You could try something like

I understand that Client is unhappy and that bear some/all of the responsibility for that and for the trouble that has caused the company. I understand that you need something from me towards making this situation right, however I don't think it's reasonable to withhold bonus monies that I have already earned. How about we revisit the suggestions you made the other day? I can commit to having x,y, and z done by reasonable date and if not then you withhold non-trivial but acceptable percentage from my next bonus.

This way you've giving them the sense that you're being "punished" for what they see as being your screw up and demonstrating that you have a strong motivation to make the situation right. You get the bonus money you've already earned and if you don't think they'll keep their end of the bargain or you decide later on that you're not happy with the company/job you can still pull the ripcord at a time that suits you rather than being potentially forced into taking the fight and possibly even leaving now. Heck, even if you knew right now that you definitely wanted to leave over this it's still a good idea to at least try for a peaceful resolution beforehand. Sure you might be able to take them to court over the bonus money, but even assuming you win it's not going to be quick, or cheap for that matter.

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    I think that’s the best way to go. I don’t want to threaten to quit, that doesn’t work ever. I could play that card since I’m 42% of the company sales. I’d get what I want, however it would be short term solution.
    – Russian101
    Oct 15, 2020 at 14:38
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    Russian, if it was me I'd: walk to the owner and say "After this incident, I need a cheque for the $35,000 today or I'll be leaving." If they gave me the cheque, I'd then say "I am 42% of sales. I need to make considerably more money. Give me a better deal with much more money now, or I'm leaving today."
    – Fattie
    Oct 15, 2020 at 16:16
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    Yeah. I the OP is that good, then going nuclear is sensible.
    – TomTom
    Oct 16, 2020 at 7:51
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    If they are only two and the other is 58% then it's not too big, but if the average of the other seller is 10% then he got leverage.
    – Al rl
    Oct 16, 2020 at 21:46

May I suggest that the problem isn't that you may have made some mistake filling out forms etc. etc. The problem is most likely that you are getting a huge bonus, and your boss doesn't like you getting that bonus. Maybe because he doesn't want you to make more money than he makes.

That means that when you approach this problem, you don't talk about whatever mistakes you may have made, that's totally irrelevant. (You may call the company that has supposedly complained. Just to find out if they know about that). You focus on the fact that you have a contract that requires the payment of the bonus, and his refusal to do so. So first you state that you have a contractual right to the bonus, and he cannot refuse to pay. If he does refuse, what you can do is either visit HR, or your bosses boss in case he is not the company owner, or a lawyer. Lawyer doesn't mean you have to go to court; a lawyer will inform you exactly what your rights are, and may be able to change the bosses mind just by sending a letter using the right words. (A good lawyer can write a convincing letter even if your rights are not as strong as you would like).


The only real possibility here is

  • Be completely blunt and direct.

  • Copy both the boss and ultimate owner of the company.

I would probably send a written (printed) signed letter. Short and blunt:

"Jill, on (date) you stated that I will not be paid my contractual bonus, due to your anger over the incident with (client). I'm now confirming in writing that I will be paid my contractual bonus, as I have fulfilled the contract. The contract is attached. There is no need to reply to this communication. The issue is closed.

If someone is literally telling you they are going to break a contract, this is the only real approach.

A contract is a contract.

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    That could easily cause blowback, though, given that the OP's boss is the general manager and her parents are the owners of the company. This seems like a good way to get fired to me. Also, is this really and truly the "only real possibility"? It seems like there are other ways to handle this. Oct 15, 2020 at 13:18
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    Fair enough. But if there is a contract that you must be paid the bonus, then there's trouble ahead.
    – Fattie
    Oct 15, 2020 at 13:26
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    I have the contract that states when the bonus is to be paid, how much, and how to achieve it. The way I understand this, and correct me if I’m wrong is that she can stop the bonus but has to pay for previous months the bonus was achieved. In PA I don’t believe that an employer can withhold pay as punishment.
    – Russian101
    Oct 15, 2020 at 13:30
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    I’m at a loss. If i leave I’m leaving 150k sales position a year. If i stay I’m loosing 35k a year in bonuses.
    – Russian101
    Oct 15, 2020 at 13:33
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    I don't know what "technically" could mean here. If someone steals $35,000 from you, it's absolutely impossible to have any sort of relationship, at all, going forward.
    – Fattie
    Oct 15, 2020 at 16:15

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