Sunday, September 30, 2007

Getting Your Annual Bonus

Bonus season is about three months away for my company, which means that there is just enough time to plan and execute my strategy for ensuring that I receive my annual bonus in full.

Last October me and my team were placed under a new boss, and come December I received a nasty shock. My new boss gave me an outstanding evaluation, but only gave me 80% of my annual bonus. She explained her decision as follows: "As far as I am concerned, only God is perfect, therefore no one on my team is getting 100% of their bonus". Last year, I decided not to protest this absurd and obnoxious position. I felt that it would be a better long term strategy to build a stronger relationship with my boss and to prove my worth to her, before getting into any major battles. However, I hated and resented that decision and even more so I hated the rationale that my boss used to justify it.

This year, I fully intend to receive 100% of my bonus. Here is my strategy for achieving this goal:

1. Review my MBOs - Management by Objective (or MBO) is a favorite HR buzz term around Silicon Valley these days. It works as follows: early on in the year you receive from your boss a list of objectives that you must achieve. If you achieve those targets you get your bonus. I received my MBO papers in May, but I believe that I am well on track to achieving or exceeding all of my goals. In the next week I will make sure. I will review my MBO document in detail and will immediately tackle any deficiencies I discover.

2. Focus on What Counts - My philosophy is that in the employer-employee relationship, money speaks louder than words. It's fine to tell me that some task is high-priority, but if it's not in my MBOs, it's probably not that important. After all, if it were that critical wouldn't it be listed as a major objective for the year?

Before I do anything else, I make sure that MBO activities are at least at 100% of where they need to be to ensure achievement of my targets.

3. Obtain Buy In - it doesn't really matter what I think that I achieved, or for that matter, it doesn't even matter what I actually achieved. All that matters for the purpose of my MBOs is what my boss believes that I achieved. For that reason, it is my intention to go through my MBO list with my boss. Understand what she thinks I have already achieved and what tasks are not complete in her mind. I will also present to her all the activities and successes that I have delivered so far this year.

It doesn't help me to find out whether my boss thinks I achieved my goals at my annual review. That is too late. The bonus decision will already have been made. Nope. If my goal is to ensure 100% bonus this year, I must understand her thoughts and feelings about my performance while there is still time to do something about them.

4. Clarify My Position - it is now time to tell my boss that I did not feel comfortable with last year's 80% bonus award. I intend to tell her that I felt bad that I did not receive my full compensation in spite of my outstanding review, and that I fully intend to get 100% of my bonus this year. I will ask her what more I need to do to obtain this target and I will explain that unless I am able to achieve 100% of my bonus this year, I will consider this to be an unfavorable rating of my performance and will plan my steps accordingly. I will not threaten to leave, but will make it evident that I view my bonus as an integral part of my compensation package and that I consider it my right to receive 100% of the agreed upon bonus, if I deliver 100% of the agreed upon targets (which thankfully are very measurable).

5. Prepare to Appeal - Should my boss resort to the "only God is perfect" logic again, I will go to my boss's boss, our division President. Luckily, he knows me well and appreciates my work. He knows that I do not turn to him directly, except for very rare cases where I feel very strongly about something. In each of the few cases in which I turned to him for assistance he came through and provided the help I was seeking.

Bonus season is only three months away. Much to do, not a lot of time. I will provide updates on my progress and my results.


plonkee said...

Your boss' attitude sucks. I'm sure it doesn't say anywhere that your performance has to be perfect to get 100% of your bonus, and I bet that's not the consensus of the rest of the company (assuming its not only your section that bonuses).

Shadox said...

Plonkee, you don't know the half of it...

James said...

I found your bosses comment incredibly annoying. It is also interesting that God probably isn't part of the bonus pool. I'm sure I wouldn't feel comfortable saying that to my boss, but would surely think it. Also, if 20% of your bonus isn't paid to you for your productivity, I'm sure it is being paid for to someone else. Unless your company is unlike most, there is a predetermined amount that is allocated specifically to bonuses, the fact that your boss has an irrational hang-up leads to unmotivated employees and contributes to the adage that employees do not leave positions/companies, they leave bosses. Good luck in this year!