Getting A Year End Bonus: What If You're Not Prepared? (Pt 2)


This is the second of two posts on getting that year end bonus.

In the ideal world, you would use December to reflect on goals accomplished and to set the stage for next year’s performance review and bonus discussion. However, if it’s December and you haven’t prepared yet for this year’s bonus, then you need to focus on last-minute moves:

#1: Find out exactly what bonus decisions have already been made
Are bonuses still being calculated or are the checks already in payroll? If your company’s culture is open to this type of inquiry, ask your manager when the bonuses are determined and where your group is within the process. Aside from your manager, experienced colleagues or your mentor may know this information. Where you are in the bonus decision cycle impacts what you can negotiate for.

#2: Find out the mood and profits for your company specifically
Will there be bonuses? Never mind the general economy, but how is your company doing? Even if it is having a banner year, it may not dole out big bonuses in order to keep something in reserve or just because they may feel like they don’t have to given the sour economy. Either way, what you know about your company impacts what you can negotiate for. Ask for what you deserve but temper your style based on the company mood.

#3: Collect testimonials
Know which people or departments benefited from the work that you did – e.g., you did a revenue analysis for marketing. Ask marketing to email their feedback to your manager or even your department head. While you’re collecting testimonials for yourself, give testimonials to others. Don’t wait for them to ask – email their manager and blind copy them. It will brighten their day and win you some points with the manager (b/c they like to know their team is highly regarded).

#4: Quantify your results
Go month-by-month and quarter-by-quarter and list every project that you worked on. Quantify revenues added or costs saved because of your efforts. Go into a bonus discussion with quantified accomplishments.

#5: Use proven negotiating techniques during your bonus meeting
You should know how the decision-making works, what money is available, what your results are worth and have evidence with testimonials and an achievement list. Advance preparation is key to the negotiation. Now you are ready to meet with your manager and LISTEN. The information you hear reveals what she values. If she commends you for things that didn’t make your achievement list, then you two are focusing on different objectives and you may want to re-frame your accomplishments (another good negotiation technique). During this meeting, your manager may also reveal constraints she is under and these might be points to negotiate.


Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart a career coaching firm for Gen Y professionals. Formerly in corporate recruiting and retained search, Caroline has recruited for Accenture, Booz Allen, Citibank, Disney ABC, Oliver Wyman, Pfizer, and Time Inc. She currently writes career columns for and and teaches Professional Development at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

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