My current company has announced that the annual reviews will take place in the next 2 weeks. This means in the next 2 weeks, I'll most likely receive a bonus as it happens every year.

I have received a job from another company, and they want me to start working for them at the end of July (about 4 weeks from now). I want to accept this offer as it comes with a significantly higher pay.

My notice period at the current company is 1 month.

If I hand in my notice now, I risk not receiving any bonus. This will put me out of pocket, and frankly, that's money I could really do with right now.

I am contemplating pushing back the start date at the new company by 2 weeks and hand in my notice after receiving the bonus. However, this feels very unethical because it amounts to grabbing the bonus and running away, so to speak.

Is it ethical to quit in this fashion soon after receiving the bonus?

  • 1
    They aren't exactly the same question, but I asked a related question a few years ago. workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/38480/…
    – Sidney
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 17:01
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    I think it would be helpful in this sort of question to say what country you are talking about. Different places may be different. Also--what do you mean by "retention period"--did you sign a contract to give 30 days notice? Anyway, I think the answer most people have given--no, it's not unethical--is correct, but that is from a US view because the company certainly can drop you at any time as well.
    – RCM
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 17:04
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    If you want to be really sleazy about it -- if you have leave available, use that to overlap the new job. (true story (but hearsay) ... a company spent months finding a new department director ... they selected a guy, he worked 2 weeks, and then quit. He had never resigned from his other job, he just took 2 weeks of vacation to see if he liked the new one or not)
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 13:22
  • @Joe I'm pretty sure that that is illegal in some European countries.
    – ANeves
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 13:53
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    From an ethical standpoint (for me), I'd ask myself: is the bonus mainly for the things that you have already done, or as a motivation for things you are expected to do (though bonus almost always imply the former). Commented Jul 1, 2017 at 18:40

8 Answers 8


... hand in my notice after receiving the bonus. However, this feels very unethical because it amounts to grabbing the bonus and running away, so to speak.

Nothing unethical here. You get the bonus for the good work done over the past one year, not for the work you would do for a year starting now. It would be prudent to resign after you receive the bonus, assuming your next employer would wait for you.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 6:38

One thing the other posters have not mentioned that is worth trying is to tell your new employer that you are due to receive a bonus of $XXX and can they offer a signing bonus in its place so that you can start the new job on the date they would like you to start. You may or may not get it but it is certainly worth asking about.

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    I usually prefer however to give the commenter time to convert that to answer of he or she wishes. That is simply polite.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 14:16
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    @MisterPositive don't comment answer >.< Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 17:35
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    @Yakk Not sure about that. It's against the rules for answers to be in comments in the first place. Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 17:35
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    @HLGEM Don't apologize for my laziness :-)
    – Neo
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 17:42
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    @HLGEM It’s actually a false politeness. You do a favor to the commenter—who has broken the rules and does not really deserve a favor—to the detriment of all the other readers of the question—who are really the people we are here for. I suggest you reconsider that policy.
    – KRyan
    Commented Jul 1, 2017 at 15:07

I'm assuming you are getting a bonus for things that happened in the past (because pretty much all of them are).

In which case; you've earned this bonus through your actions in the past month/quarter/year/whatever. Taking the bonus and then leaving isn't unfair or unethical; it's yours. In fact; it would be unethical of your company to deny you the bonus because you are leaving in this situation (and, depending on your locale and contract, might even be illegal).

Compare it to a regular salary; nobody would consider it unethical to quit on the 25th if your salary is paid on the 26th, and nobody would consider it reasonable of the company to not pay you for the last month of work because you turned in your notice.

So push back the starting date of the contract, wait for them to pay out the bonuses, then turn in your notice.


One slight caveat to the answers given so far:

Make sure you are aware of any specific terms and conditions that may be attached to the bonus!

In some industries, especially banking, bonuses may now be delivered in stages, so you might get 30% now, then 30% in a month and 40% the month after. This is in place to try and persuade employees not to hand in their notice right after they get a bonus, as there is a little more if you wait another month...

Ethics don't come into this. Your pay does, and legal requirements, terms and conditions do.

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    I was about to answer that for investment banking the period just after annual bonuses is considered the "shopping season". It has been quite a while - and according to your answer the banks have now addressed this! Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 18:18
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    For more senior roles, sometimes the bonus is delivered over years rather than months :-)
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 18:29
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    It sort of works out that way, but is often cancelable or reclaimable, which makes a big difference.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 14:18
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    When I worked for a UK bank it was 50% of the bonus THAT YEAR, then 25% each over the NEXT 2 YEARS. And the 50% was paid in shares in the bank. So having got the bonus stage 1, the financial crash happened and the shares went from £11.75 to 52p before I had the access to sell them. You also had to sell via the bank's share dealing service, and they would take a flat rate commission, which ended up being 75% of the bonus stage payout. And if you left the later stages were forfeit. Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 16:10
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    A colleague who worked for the bank for 10 years had taken their advice and rolled each bonus into share they kept for him. Had about 2 years salary in shares, ended up receiving about enough to for a meal in a nice restaurant, a couple of hundred quid. Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 16:16

I am contemplating pushing back the start date at the new company by 2 weeks and hand in my notice after receiving the bonus. However, this feels very unethical because it amounts to grabbing the bonus and running away, so to speak.

Is it ethical to quit in this fashion soon after receiving the bonus?

You have to do whatever your personal ethics tell you to do.

But in my opinion, your bonus is a reward for the work you did in the past year (since presumably it's based on your annual review), and not as an enticement to stay for an additional period of time. So it wouldn't bother my personal ethics at all. I wouldn't give my notice until I actually had the check in my hand, though.

In most companies where I've worked, the prime time for people to leave is soon after the bonus checks are handed out. Often, that was months after the close of the fiscal year and the close of the review period.


One thing that would be unethical is for your company not to pay you the bonus for the work you have already done, if they learn you're planning to quit. Which is nevertheless likely to happen if you tell them now. So you'll have to play your part of the game, grab the bonus and resign afterwards.


I would say it depends. The question is why you are given that bonus. If it is for your good work in the year that past alone, then obviously you are entitled to it as it is part of your pay. But if the employer has stated that he gives the bonus to encourage you to put in good work in the upcoming year too, then it would be fair to deduct some of the bonus meant for that part of the deal.

You should check your contract, what it says about bonuses in that regard. From an employer perspective, I would suggest that close to every employer, at least in part pays out bonuses, not only to reward past performance but also to encourage future performance as well as to encourage loyalty.

That aside, I would not try to be sneaky here, if you go to your new employer and ask him to help you hide the fact that your leaving your current engagement so that the old one pays the out the bonus to you, the new employer just might change his mind about hiring you. I certainly would reconsider my offer to an employee that would do that as I would see it as a character flaw.

So, from a business perspective, don't gamble with the new job as it as you say pays considerably more. Be honest with both employers. Also, your former one might surprise you and pay you all of your bonus anyway. And if not, that bonus is a "one-time fix", the considerably higher pay on the other hand will come every month from now on. That’s probably worth much more over some time. Your current financial low you might instead take up a small loan for. Should that be necessary.

When it comes to morals, a good rule is, if we feel we might be doing something unethical, we usually are. It might not be in your particular case, but surely you are doing the right thing spending more time considering it.

In conclusion, regardless from what perspective you look at it, doing the right thing and being honest with will serve you best in the long run.

Good luck on your new job!


While I agree that there's nothing wrong with taking a bonus that your company is expecting to pay you, and there's nothing wrong with asking a future employer to work with you on this (either delay start date or come up with some signing bonus), I want to stop and think about whether you should be keeping your eye on the ball.

A typical bonus is a nice lagniappe, but over the course of a year, doesn't change your take-home in any particular way. How much difference does it make to you if you just let the bonus go? If the answer is anything other than "not much difference" then you're probably in a situation where your pay is not sufficient to your expenses and you should probably put your attention on fixing that.

If you're in a financially healthy position, the bonus is just that - a nice way for your company to make their appreciation of your work concrete. It shouldn't be something that affects your life plans. If it is, this is the life equivalent of a "code smell" - a valuable and actionable indicator of some deeper underlying issues.

  • This depends a lot on the industry. At my company, a bonus for an eligible person can be 10% of their salary and up. Commented Jul 1, 2017 at 14:36
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    I was figuring on 10% as a reasonable number for a bonus. And again, it is my position that if you're depending on getting a bonus (of whatever amount) in order to make up a shortfall in your budget then you are not getting paid enough to spend what you're spending, and this is the thing you should be focusing on. Commented Jul 1, 2017 at 20:18
  • Are you suggesting that the idea of getting more than an extra month's pay for sticking around at a job a few weeks is a "code smell"? Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 21:07
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    Nope. I'm suggesting that relying on that bonus to meet your expenses (suggested but not implied by the use of the phrase "out of pocket") indicates that your salary alone is not sufficient to your needs, and that's a "life smell". And in particular, it's a life smell that seems much more noteworthy than whether or not the OP gets this particular bonus. Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 22:24
  • @JonKiparsky, I absolutely agree, there are so many things that can make a bonus get reduced from expectation or even not given in a particular year that have nothing to with your performance. Negotiate the salary you need to live the way you want to live and do not consider the bonus at all in the negotiations and certainly don't reduce your salary expectation because this company pays a bonus.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 18:08

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