Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bonus Time

So my last post was about how tax time is usually a happy time of year... this goes hand in hand with bonus time, which is also usually a happy time of year. This year was a bit of an exception.
I have mostly had jobs that involve measurable performance in some aspects, so a bonus has often been a significant part of my compensation, sometimes more than I even expected! I always remember my first job in NYC, where my salary started at $25,000. I knew that some sort of bonus would accompany that, but I don't know how much I asked about how big it could be. I was coming from a job where a bonus meant maybe $1500-2000, so I didn't think of it as a make-or-break thing. So it was a fantastic surprise when I ended up making about $15,000 in bonus that first year, and all of it went straight into the bank. I've always tried to make ends meet on my base salary and put bonuses towards saving, it just seems easier to be disciplined that way.
Nowadays, my bonus tends to be about 15-20% of my total compensation, so it's still a good chunk of savings that I rely on to meet my overall goals. And this year, because I had done some things that went above and beyond in terms of my job performance, I was counting on a bigger than usual bonus. In fact, I had sort of been told, or it had been implied, that when I got only a so-so raise this year, it was because that was not the way my work was going to be recognized, but that I would see the payoff in my bonus.
My personal performance isn't the only thing that determines my bonus, so when I have this conversation with my boss, she usually hands me a piece of paper that shows the whole calculation. My eyes usually jump to the total, I smile, I thank my boss profusely, and that's pretty much it. But this time, my eyes went to the total, then dodged around a bit, then back to the total, then back and forth over all the math. While this happened, I was sort of zoning out on what my boss was saying and my face must have slowly dropped from a smile into a blank look into a frown. My total bonus was less than the prior year, and specifically the part that was about my individual performance was less than the prior year. I knew one part of the bonus might be down due to certain sales numbers that it would be based on, but I just could not comprehend how my personal number was less. I managed to gather my thoughts enough to say, I think gracefully, what was already written on my face-- that I was surprised and disappointed, because I had accomplished X, Y and Z, etc., that were a significant jump over what I'd done last year.
This all happened on a Friday and I spent the whole weekend in a funk. It wasn't so much the money itself-- it was that I felt insulted. I also felt demoralized. I had worked harder than I ever had in my life, and been amply praised for it, but if it wasn't going to be recognized with either a raise or an increased bonus, what was the point? Why was I working so hard? And though I am certainly not irreplaceable, why would my company send me this message at a point when it would be quite difficult for them if I were to leave? What were they thinking?
In the end, fortunately, it worked out. They reconsidered the bonus and gave me a couple thousand dollars more, so that in the end, my bonus was slightly larger than last year's. They said lots of nice things and I was able to feel more valued again. But the whole thing did leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. I probably haven't been a squeaky enough wheel about asking for bigger raises the last few years, so maybe I'm being taken for granted.
That said, I am always thankful that I have a job with a decent income, where I've gotten promoted and have interesting work to do-- life could be far worse! I was talking to a couple of people from another company recently-- one complained that she had found out that she was being paid a lot less than her male counterpart who did the exact same job, despite some pretty significant accomplishments on her part that the male co-worker didn't have. The other, a younger and more junior employee, had asked to be promoted when a spot above her opened up, and was disappointed to be told that no, they weren't going to hire someone for that spot, and no, she could not have a better title, and no, she could not have any more money either!
Ultimately, no matter how much you like your job, it's never all that great to work for someone other than yourself... and being self-employed is no piece of cake either! Retirement is starting to loom large in my imagination... but I still have at least 20 years or so before that will be an option... ugh!


Ms. S said...

I went through this same thing! Well, except for the reconsideration of my increase. My review was 2 weeks ago and I am still feeling undervalued and insulted. I have another meeting with my manager this week and will be expressing those sentiments again. Since then I have just lost all enthusiasm for my job and company. In the end, loyalty means nothing and I should re-arrange my thinking. I know I'm not irreplaceable but when you feel you are not considered valuable either, it takes away from the work I once did. I'm no longer trying to prove myself and find myself just going through the day and signing off.

Thankful for my job? Yes. But I still have a rather sour taste in my mouth.

Anonymous said...

You mention having 20 years before retiring, and it makes me wonder what your trigger is for knowing that it's time. Is it an age for you? Or a certain net worth? I ask because I think when I get to a net worth like yours, I'll be awfully close - definitely not 20 years away.

Anonymous said...

Like Anonymous, I was surprised at the 20yr comment too. With your savings/passive income, should be a lot sooner than that, no?

Anonymous said...

i agree 100% with the first respondent above.

i am older (pretty sure) and have worked in the same company in fl for over a decade now. no bonus. at. all. ever. raise is like 2-3% a year. still on a five-figure salary. just plugging along.

teammate jumped ship last year - got a raise of $15k. i am assuming he was already in six-figures previous to landing here.

- s.b.