How to negotiate for an end-of-year bonus

By Robert Half on 23 October 2015

If your company has had a successful year, it might be a good time to ask for that bonus. After all, your hard work may have contributed to healthy profits. But before you storm into your manager's office, keep these tips in mind:

Think of it as an investment

A bonus is not a gift. Like any other investment, a bonus has to provide a return – it needs to motivate you to work harder for an extra reward.

Be realistic about your work over the past year before requesting a bonus. If you can’t think of at least a few instances where you have gone above and beyond then you need to focus on next year and make something happen.

Likewise, don’t sell yourself short. If a long-term pattern of extended working hours or responsibility exists, you should consider asking for a pay rise and maybe a promotion, rather than a one-off bonus.

Treat it like a new business pitch

Any discussion about an end-of-year bonus has to start with a face-to-face review of your work together with your employer. It helps to get yourself in the mindset of persuading your boss to give you a bonus like trying to win a new client.

It’s a good idea to start by creating a report detailing your work over the year. You need to build a bulletproof case for a bonus – don’t just rely on a list of accomplishments. If you work in a target-driven environment, show your performances in percentages and figures. If your achievements aren’t as measurable, consider building your case by using the words of others. Evidence of recognition in the company will bolster your argument.

When the answer is yes, what next?

Congratulations! But be warned – from an employer’s perspective, bonuses are really about the coming year, not the one coming to a close. Your boss is looking ahead to make sure you stick with the company and continue to perform above what is expected.

If you think that your bonus gives you a bit of room to relax next year, think again. When end-of-year bonuses aren’t working as a motivational tool, don’t bet they will be on offer again next year.

What happens when the answer is no?

If your request for a bonus is met with opposition, be open to other benefits such as additional holidays or even flexible working hours. If that doesn’t work, don’t despair. Being knocked back shouldn’t put you off working towards your goal next year but rather serve as additional motivation to hone your negotiation techniques.

Be sure to get clear feedback about why your work didn’t deserve extra cash and use this to create a plan to improve your output during the next 12 months.

For details about the latest salary and bonus trends in Australia, download the Salary Guide.


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