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For some context I work in software development and have been doing so at the same company for the past 5 years. Last year we were handed a bonus at the end of the year for our good work and were "promised" the same this year if we keep up the good work. I will probably sound like an entitled child, but this year there was no such thing even though IN MY OPINION we outdid last year by a lot and managed to pump out a lot of quality software solutions.

Now I feel pretty demotivated as I did work my ass off this year for this very reason.

My question is:
Should I inquire about this lack of bonus with my manager even though my company isn't legally obligated to hand out such a bonus ?

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    What's your goal in asking? I think we both know it's incredibly unlikely you'll suddenly get a bonus. Commented Dec 30, 2023 at 14:57
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    Why wouldn't you ask your manager about something work-related you expected to happen but didn't? "Hey, do you have any information about this years' bonus? Is it delayed or are we not getting one?" You should get more information before you decide how to handle it.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Dec 30, 2023 at 15:11
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    Unfortunately bonuses are related to more than just doing good work. They are typically more reliant on the performance of your company. If they under-performed you are often out of luck. No harm in asking for clarification, though. Commented Dec 30, 2023 at 17:32
  • @LaconicDroid It turns out it was company performance related.
    – CodeJunkie
    Commented Jan 26 at 13:44
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    @CodeJunkie - sorry to hear that, but at least it's a reasonable explanation. Commented Jan 26 at 17:19

4 Answers 4

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Should I inquire about this lack of bonus with my manager even though my company isn't legally obligated to hand out such a bonus ?

First make sure that you didn't miss info about the bonus. Check every email account. Check your pay stubs. Check your bank account.

If you can't find any information, then ask your supervisor/manger. Decisions about a bonus could be made several levels above your team.

Now I feel pretty demotivated as I did work my ass off this year for this very reason.

Don't get demotivated until you know the answer.

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  • Most comapnies tend to be pretty vocal about bonuses.. Unless not everyone gets one I suppose. THe purpose of a bonus is retention. It doesn't work fi people don't know that they got one.
    – Questor
    Commented Jan 3 at 19:38
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First question - do you have the promise of the Bonus in Writing or in an Email?

If so - that is your first port of Call - you need to dig that out and read exactly what was said - even if it is a casual 'Let's have a great year and do the same again!'.

Then, ideally, you forward this to your boss and say 'Just following up on this, Here's the things that I did that I believe justify a Bonus: XYZ'

Now, if you don't have anything in writing - there's still nothing wrong with reaching out and asking about Bonuses. If the Company says 'No' - then that's when you want to start tarting up the ol' CV.

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  • The first ever NY bonus I got was last year and it was more of a surprise for a select few. It was a 1 on 1 talk with the company director who actually presented us with the bonus and a nice feedback session. That is the only time the bonus is mentioned.
    – CodeJunkie
    Commented Dec 30, 2023 at 21:52
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    Sounds like bonuses are the exception not the norm, and while the company did a lot of business potentially, there might have been more expenses to acquire that business.
    – Donald
    Commented Jan 1 at 14:56
  • the boss might also remember that verbal promise differently than OP or not have considered it some promise in the first place. They might have just seen something they felt special that year and handed out the reward without any clear bonus structure in their mind. Commented Jan 1 at 18:55
  • @FrankHopkins a bonus, in my country (USA), is legally not guaranteed. If it were, it would have to be reclassified as pay. It's nice when you get them, and some companies are very dependable with bonuses, but unlike pay, the bonuses disappear when there's reinvestment, hard times, or greedy upper management.
    – Edwin Buck
    Commented Jan 3 at 16:34
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Always better to ask than not to ask and stew

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As others have noted: You worked your ass off to be first in line for a bonus if one became available. But bonuses, like raises, depend upon how much the company thinks it can afford to give its employees; unless they are written into your contract you should not assume they will happen every year.

On the other hand, if your management is being at all reasonable, your efforts have been noticed and will help justify giving you a bonus, a promotion, and/or a raise when money does become available to spend on rewarding folks. So the work wasn't wasted; it just didn't get the immediate reward that you (somewhat unreasonably) assumed it would.

Never budget as if a bonus is guaranteed. If that was the intent, they'd instead raise your salary. Making it a bonus instead makes its size and frequency adjustable every year, which is why the company preferred it... and why you shouldn't count on it.

Refocus your motivation on job satisfaction, and skill growth, and longer-term career success. That will make being patient with this process a bit easier.

Or, if you really can't live on your base salary, you could try to find a job with higher pay, recognizing that it will probably come with fewer bonuses. Or something like a sales position, with lower pay but explicit targets that earn specific bonuses, if you prefer that approach.

Sorry, but that really is the best I can offer you. It's the approach I took throughout my own career -- take my "bonus" most years as satisfaction in a job well done, and in knowing that Management has seen it and will reward it when they can justify doing so.

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