Last month went really bad. I had a serious problem with my family, this significantly decreased my performance at workplace.

My boss says, he is so sorry that I didn't get much bonus.

However, I am actually happy that I didn't get fired.

How should I answer him?

The honest answer would be this: "That I could keep both my family and my job, it makes me actually happier than a huge bonus in ordinary circumstances!" This is the truth, but it sounds for me somehow... unprofessional.

How could I communicate this, or analogous information on a professional way?

  • 23
    Doesn't sound unprofessional to me, to be honest. I'd probably use similar words if I were in those circumstances.
    – Berend
    Feb 14, 2022 at 15:07
  • 65
    What is your objective? Why do you feel you need to respond at all?
    – Seth R
    Feb 14, 2022 at 16:08
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    Have you explained to your boss the reason for this "decreased performance" ? You don't have to go into great details about the family issue with your boss. But, if he knows the general reason, it will work out to your benefits . If your boss knows that this is a temporary or one-time performance decrease, he would understand and may help you out. But, if he does not know the reason, he may think that this could be a long-term bad performance. Feb 14, 2022 at 18:39
  • 4
    Do you get a bonus every month? If your performance was perfect for 11 months, but on the month before bonus time, your performance was poor, does that mean you get no bonus?
    – Neil
    Feb 15, 2022 at 11:19
  • 13
    Did your boss actually say he wasn't pleased with your performance? For all I know, he's fine with you overall and you just didn't meet the high bonus level.
    – pboss3010
    Feb 15, 2022 at 13:00

7 Answers 7


Whether you should be fired or not is someone else's decision. Obviously that someone didn't think your performance was that bad. Don't beat yourself up about some perceived low performance. Sometimes we judge ourselves too harshly.

Don't apologize prematurely for something that doesn't seem to be a big problem. If you feel your performance was lower than you would have liked, you can ask your manager about feedback and see if your perception aligns.

If your manager knows you had rough times, you can say something less specific like "I'm just happy that last month is over, bonus or not". Don't mention getting fired.

  • 25
    Obviously that someone didn't think your performance was that bad. - It's also possible that someone above the manager with hiring/firing power and insight into the external issues had empathy for OP and was significantly lenient in performance determination. Feb 15, 2022 at 15:00
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    Which makes sense, there is no way to fix last months' performance and if they determined that OP is a good employee they are happy to keep them if the issues are fixed.
    – Bob Jansen
    Feb 15, 2022 at 15:04
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    It's entirely likely that your boss knows just how terrible your performance was last month, and expects it to be a temporary situation; therefore, it's a better idea to keep you than to hire and train someone else. Saying something like this lets the boss know they made a good decision, and you (also) expect you will do better.
    – Jeffiekins
    Feb 15, 2022 at 23:44
  • 1
    Also as a general point: there's people being decent to you here, remember that if you find them- or anybody else- having a hard time. Feb 17, 2022 at 9:49

I should have been fired

If you should have been fired then you would have been fired. Instead, you have a job and a small bonus.

Your post makes no indication of reprimand nor PIP so this just sounds like your anxiety talking.

My boss says, he is so sorry that I do not get too much bonus.

Sounds like your boss values your skillset and appreciates that you stayed onboard during your family struggles.

However, I am actually happy that I am not get fired.

Aren't we all?

What should I answer him?

Concentrate on the positive, period.

Thank you, I am content with the bonus and above all very thankful for being able to work at a such a great place. I sincerely appreciate your understanding with my recent family issues and look forward to what's ahead.

The honest answer would be this: "That I could keep both my family and my job, it makes me actually more happy than a huge bonus in ordinary circumstances!" This is the truth, but it sounds for me somehow... unprofessional.

This sounds like excessive gratitude and can end up putting your boss in a weird position in which they now feel like your savior. It will make them feel like you think they're the sole reason that you're not fired.

Don't make it awkward, he's just doing his job of balancing employee needs. Don't make this some over-the-top dog & pony show.


The honest answer would be this: "That I could keep both my family and my job, it makes me actually more happy than a huge bonus in ordinary circumstances!" This is the truth, but it sounds for me somehow... unprofessional.

I would advise against this for a few reasons. While you may see it as a "favor" your boss may just see it that if he hires someone else, he'd waste more time than if he simply waited for your problems to end.

I also think by sending him a letter that essentially agrees that your behavior warrants a firing, that it should be avoided in case they do actually fire you. They'd show that you agreed that you should have been fired.

Instead you shouldn't send any letter to your boss since none is required. It sounds like bonuses are given based on the previous month's performance. Since you were out of the office, no bonus was required therefore it was expected and accepted.

  • Since he does in fact agree that he should have been fired, why would he not want to admit this? He, presumably, would still agree that he should have been fired in the future since the past is not going to change. There is nothing adverse whatsoever in his relationship, why should he be the first to treat it like an adverse relationship? Feb 15, 2022 at 2:04
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    @DavidSchwartz It's never a good idea to write it down on paper. The fact is when you write an email or such in the office, it is kept for some time and intercepted by the office. Point is, it's never a good idea to leave a paper trail of admitting something negative no matter how good of a relationship someone has. One day that boss might have to let people go and he'd have supporting evidence of these emails to let you go first.
    – Dan
    Feb 15, 2022 at 16:12
  • That's such a bizarre way of thinking. Sure, there's some chance that might happen, but running one's life based on avoiding tiny chances of deserved negative consequences is so much worse for your health and sanity than dealing openly and honestly with people rather than imagining conflict where there isn't any. This guy's manager is working with him to help him. Feb 15, 2022 at 18:00
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    I'd second this advice: keep a low profile here. Show your gratitude by over-achieving in subsequent months. Feb 16, 2022 at 3:17
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    @DavidSchwartz There's ways to say "I know I can do better" without saying "I thought you were going to fire me." Of course, all an internet stranger can do is give generic advice without all the context, and so we may be missing things. But, as generic advice, I would say that it's usually better to focus on the positive and the future, than the negative and the past.
    – Andrew
    Feb 16, 2022 at 12:04

Last month went really bad. I had a serious problem with my family; this significantly decreased my performance at workplace.

My boss says he is so sorry that I didn't get much bonus.

However, I am actually happy that I didn't get fired.

How should I answer him?

It is perfectly acceptable to give no answer at all. But if you feel an answer is necessary, you could say something like: "I understand. I wasn't satisfied with my performance the past few months. It was in part due to a family issue, and I hope to do better in the future."

This assumes you have a very good relationship with your employer and want to keep it that way.

It is very professional to be aware of how well or how poorly you are doing and to talk about this with whoever is your manager. It is generally a good idea to honestly communicate when you believe you've done your job well and when you believe you haven't. This way, you can find out if you and your manager are on the same page.

One thing I would caution you about, however, is that it's very easy to think you performed more poorly than you actually did. Be careful not to needlessly undersell yourself. It's easy to imagine how you could have done more or could have done better and conclude that therefore you didn't do very well, even when your actual performance was better than expected.

I've personally experienced many times when I believed that I did something poorly at the time and went back and looked at it later, with a fresh eyes, and found that it was much better than I remembered. I'm not sure why this is, but you may suffer from this same effect.

  • 1
    Adding to this answer, to balance "the underselling" mentioned above. You could formulate it on the lines of: I wasn't satisfied [...] in the past few months, considering the great start this year.
    – Marco
    Feb 15, 2022 at 17:00
  • This is a good response, but I don't love the phrase "hope to". Maybe "I'm commited to being back on track"?
    – mhenry1384
    Feb 17, 2022 at 15:13
  • @mhenry1384 I agree with you. "am committed to" is much better than "hope to". Feb 17, 2022 at 22:25

Not everything on the job needs to sound 100% professional, especially if you have a good relationship with your superiors/coworkers. We are human, and sometimes it can be ok to let them have some insight into what's going on in your life.

So if you feel that you need/want to provide an answer, you can say what you cited as your "honest answer". But I would only do it if you're on really good terms with your boss (since it implicitly admits that your performance would have warranted being fired). And instead of writing, you could tell it to him in person; that way it's more personal and doesn't leave a paper trail.


I'm not currently a manager, but I would never fire someone over a single bad month and I don't think that any sane manager would do so (especially when there were extenuating circumstances like family problems). Think about it this way: you had one bad month due to circumstances beyond your control and (presumably) lots of months that weren't bad.

I assume that almost everyone will have some kind of problem that temporarily impacts their performance at some point in their career (family problems, health issues, etc.); if we fired everyone who had that happen to them we wouldn't have many employees left. For example, I had a fairly major knee surgery a few years ago; I was out sick entirely for a little while, and then when I came back I couldn't sit up for long periods of time (and I was on pain medication that impacted my ability to think clearly). Even when that changed, I still had to take time off to attend frequent physical therapy sessions. I simply communicated that that would be impacting my ability to function at "full" capacity for a little while, and they were quite understanding about it. I still got a good performance review that year, and they continued to have confidence in me as an employee.


TL;DR: You don’t, he’s said his piece and you don’t need to comment or acknowledge it further.

Long version, you ain’t that special.

I will take it as a given that your performance last month was less than what you consider acceptable. That does not mean that you should have been fired. There are various non-humanitarian reasons not to fire an employee that does sub-par work. The most common reason is that over an extended time period their work is acceptable or even outstanding.

People are very seldom doing their best work while using the restroom, why don’t managers barge into the restroom and fire people? Two main obvious reasons, first and perhaps most importantly, they know that the downturn in productivity will be temporary. Secondly, it would negatively effect retention. If people are fired for a temporary and understandable downturn in productivity, other people will reasonably fear that the same thing will happen to them and they will start looking for employment elsewhere. Which leads to a less obvious reason, hiring people is expensive.

You may have seen movies or TV shows where guys in pickups drive up and hire “day-workers” with just a nod. That only works because what they are looking for is basically a back and a willingness to work. The most unskilled of “unskilled” labor. If it’s something more complex like taking orders and relaying them to a chef and then bringing the food to the customers, well, replacing that worker is going to take some time and money.

You don’t say what industry you are working in, and it almost doesn’t matter, firing you for a bad month would almost certainly, under the same theory of management, be grounds for firing your manager.

Unless the companies continuing operations rely upon you, then in the grand scheme of things, your off month just doesn’t matter. If it does matter, they need to reorganize things so that it doesn’t. You’ll see advice all over that indispensable employees should be fired ASAP. I wouldn’t say that, I would say that indispensable employees should be turned into replaceable employees as quickly as possible, and only fired if they fight that process.

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