How do I get what's coming to me?
April 12, 2006 11:39 AM   Subscribe

How do I gently ask/remind my boss about a bonus that was promised to me in my original job offer?

I have an email that states my salary, plus a bonus after 90 days of employment, so it's documented in writing. I haven't heard anything & it's been about 4 months since I've started. It's been a great position & I'm doing very well. Although I don't want to come off like "where's my money, dude?", That's pretty much what it is. I'd like to go about this professionaly, with very little discomfort. I'm not very good with being assertive with things like this. Is this something I should ask the office manager who cuts checks? Advice much appreciated.
posted by Alpenglow to Work & Money (24 answers total)
Schedule a meeting with him, make two copies of the email, sit down at a table, and say something like, "What do we need to do to get this going?"

He wouldn't hesitate to do the same with you if you missed a deadline, would he?
posted by jon_kill at 11:46 AM on April 12, 2006

Is there anything in your contract about job reviews? That would be a prime time to bring up the bonus.

Generally the office manager would need the go ahead from your boss / superviser to cut a check.
posted by Julnyes at 11:47 AM on April 12, 2006

Be direct, short and sweet, as casual as possible. Don't try to finesse. Ask your boss for a moment of his/her time and ask about the bonus. I would probably go with "My offer letter mentions a bonus after 90 days. Do you know the status of that?"

A best answer mark for me means I get 10% of the bonus.
posted by sexymofo at 11:52 AM on April 12, 2006

I'm not a great office politician but it seems to me that you don't want bring this up at a job review. It would be too easy for your boss to replace whatever perks you were going to get out of the job review with a bonus that she already owes you.
posted by rdr at 11:55 AM on April 12, 2006

In my experience, this means one of a few things:

a) he's hoping to get away with not paying it, because lots of people lack the balls to ask. solution: ask for the bonus (and associated performance review) directly.

b) he forgot about it. solution: ask for the bonus (and associated performance review) directly.

c) you're not getting a bonus. solution: solution: ask for the bonus (and associated performance review) directly, then go get a better job when you don't get one.
posted by I Love Tacos at 11:55 AM on April 12, 2006

Also, no reasonable boss is going to have a problem if you just directly say: "We agreed upon a 90 day bonus + performance review after hiring, and it's been 120 days. Can we get this scheduled within the next two weeks?"
posted by I Love Tacos at 11:57 AM on April 12, 2006

As an aside, don't be afraid to come off as "where's my money, dude". Managers know that people are motivated to work at a job for a variety of reasons, and money is one of them. (Other people may be more highly motivated by vacations, professional opportunity, training, etc.) Good managers know what the key motivator is for each employee and use that information to create incentives/rewards to get employees to work harder/keep working hard. I have stated in no uncertain terms to my boss that the reason that I come to work is cash, and if he wants me to keep doing an excellent job, cough it up.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:58 AM on April 12, 2006

It's professional to follow up on your contracts. I'd view a direct report that was too passive to ask for what's theirs as fairly uncapable of beign assigned increased responsibilities.
posted by kcm at 11:59 AM on April 12, 2006

We agreed upon a 90 day bonus + performance review after hiring, and it's been 120 days.

I Nth all the people who say you shouldn't be shy about asking about it; it's your compensation and you're entitled to it. I would say, however, that you should avoid any judgment, implied or explicit, in your first mention. Throw them a bone - say "you know, I just realized I forgot to schedule a meeting with you for that post-90 day review. When would be a good time?"

If they shuffle you on it it's perfectly reasonable to say okay, we can push that off till next [whatever] but since we're already a few weeks past I'd like to get that check cut for the agreed-upon bonus done right away.
posted by phearlez at 12:05 PM on April 12, 2006

Dale Carnegie wrote a book called "How to Win Friends and Influence People", way back in the 1950's, I think. It is a great read, and even though it's dated, it still is applicable. What I would recommend is kind of based on some of his techniques:

First, always start with sincere praise. Made up stuff won't do. Make sure that the boss knows that you are liking your job (assuming that's true!), enjoying the environment, getting settled, looking forward to a long and beneficial relationship, etc.

Second, solicit input from him/her on how you are doing and if your performance has been adequate, etc. Make sure to listen and pay attention, because if any criticism comes out, it might have a grain of truth. It provides an opening for feedback that many not-too-with-it managers might appreciate.

Towards the end of the conversation is where I usually put the real reason for starting one. It seems to flow better, but basically, you might consider asking her something along the following lines:

"Mary, I almost forgot... remember when I interviewed we discussed a 3 month bonus. I almost forgot it, but stumbled on my notes the other day and reminded myself to ask you the next chance I got. Hopefully, it's still valid and I understood it correctly. You'll have to forgive me for my ignorance about how things are done around here, but how does that work? It is something I am supposed to initiate or does it happen at the end of the fiscal year, or what? I really feel a little uncomfortable about asking, but I am understandably curious. Can you shed any light on this?"

What this does is desensitizes it and makes it a little less awkward, puts you in a friendly and non-critical, yet concerned light, and specifically asks her to respond with an answer. You haven't accused, but you have diplomatically raised the issue in a heirarchically appropriate manner, demonstrating your political sense and an adult level of problem solving skills, all of which is useful.

Another key item is to ask the question, then remain quiet and wait for an answer. Who knows what you'll get?

She actually may have forgotten, you may be doing a lousy job, or the company might be bankrupt or any number of other explanations. How else are you going to find out than to diplomatically raise the question at an appriate time and place (in private, BTW!)? Any info is good info and this could be a great way to find out how your boss deals with delicate situations. It's all a learning experience.

It doesn't have to be a conflict, just a clarification.

Good luck!
posted by FauxScot at 12:06 PM on April 12, 2006

If it's like the place I work, they're just kind of disorganized when it comes to HR-type stuff. My full-time contract included an annual review, but I was the one that had to hassle for its occurance. I know others here have similar terms in their contracts and have also had to push for these things to happen.

Just needs a little motivating on your part to get it to occur :)
posted by lowlife at 12:10 PM on April 12, 2006

Mary, I almost forgot... remember when I interviewed we discussed a 3 month bonus. I almost forgot it, but stumbled on my notes the other day and reminded myself to ask you the next chance I got

Honestly, I don't think any boss will believe this. And thinking of all the bosses I've had they'd consider I was wasting their precious time with a build up of prepared flattery (unless it's a scheduled performance review, of course). In my opinion you're better off using the very direct approach suggested by jon_kill and sexymofo above.
posted by jamesonandwater at 12:43 PM on April 12, 2006

Direct and polite always has worked in my experience. If you beat about the bush, they're going to think they can take their own sweet time with it.
posted by lemur at 12:52 PM on April 12, 2006

If the bonus is a standard policy, you'd be better off finding out how these things work through a co-worker or somebody in Finance before you see your boss about it.

If it's something that applies only to you, I'd go with what jamesonandwater said.
posted by beno at 1:00 PM on April 12, 2006

I disagree with FauxScot and agree with most others: make it direct, though polite. If you go through all that soft soap first, the boss is likely to 1) overlook the bonus entirely, having pretty much tuned out already, or 2) figure it doesn't matter much to you. The Carnegie book is from 1936, and the world (very much including the business world) has changed a lot since then. Just say "Hey, if you have a minute, could we talk about my bonus?" and talk about it. You're not asking for a special favor, just what you were promised.
posted by languagehat at 1:17 PM on April 12, 2006

I disagree with FauxScot too. The 'almost forgot' routine is an insult to your boss's intelligence. Polite and direct is the only way to go.
posted by unSane at 3:03 PM on April 12, 2006

I think it's important to leave your boss a face-saving out. Make sure not to imply that you think he's forgotten or, God's love, trying to cheat you. Maybe a question like,

"I was wondering about some tax implications of that bonus we spoke about. Will the company be doing withholding from it, or do I need to take it into account and pay some estimated tax?"

This is a nice question because it gets it on the table for discussion as an already-done deal.

If he answers the above question and tries to change the subject, the next question is "So I can make plans, when will that bonus be issued exactly?" The meaning of this statement is equivalent to "Where's my money, fucker?" but it is phrased in an acceptable way. The answer will give you a pretty good idea of what is going to happen.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:08 PM on April 12, 2006

I say this as an employer: I would see through FauxScott's ruse before he even got finished his first bit of praise.

I've always been able to tell when somebody wants to discuss money, vacation or job security issues, because the person puts on a fake personality to cover up their nervousness. (Understandable, since they have no power, and are essentially begging for mercy.)

I sincerely hope you reconsider and go for a simple and polite, but direct approach instead.
posted by I Love Tacos at 4:08 PM on April 12, 2006

Several people have mentioned a performance review, but you didn't when you asked your question. Is the bonus contingent on a review, or is it more like a signing bonus?
posted by kirkaracha at 4:30 PM on April 12, 2006

I offer a different approach. I suggest you ask a question "Is there anything I need to do to get that 90 day bonus rolling?"

Assume the sale, act like he already remembers that you are owed the bonus and it's simply delayed.

You're not telling your boss what to do. You're not being a pushover, and your aren't being crass.
posted by Megafly at 4:33 PM on April 12, 2006

ILoveTacos... it's not a ruse, it's a civil and as requested, "gentle" means of introducing a subject that Alpenglow is obviously uncomfortable with. Direct is obviously not Alpenglow's style. A boss sophisticated enough to 'see through it' may likely smart enough to appreciate the finesse. Of course, he/she may also be smart enough to remember important written commitments, too, so this oversight speaks against both, I guess.

I know I'd promptly can his ass if he approached me with a 'Where's my money? It says right here in this memo!' attitude. And have in similar situations. It's a little condescending to assume that my suggestion was predicated on lack of current business knowledge.

Perhaps a restatement of my suggestions would be "Study human nature. Get smart about people. Try and cultivate a civil society by practicing some social grace, even at work. Be honest, but not brutally so, and be kind enough to allow your 'opponent' a graceful means around his failure to follow through, even if it is slightly at your expense. Learn from your mistakes and those of your employer. Learn from people who know more, even those writing from distant 1936!"

Good luck, Alpenglow. I hope when it's your turn to hand out bonuses, you'll remember this one every time!
posted by FauxScot at 6:18 PM on April 12, 2006

You'd fire someone when you failed to fulfill your end of a bargain?
posted by rdr at 8:36 PM on April 12, 2006

I gotta disagree with FauxScot as well. Unless your boss is from 1950's America, he will see right through your flattery. The easiest way to go about these things is to be casual but direct about it. "Hey, I was just thinking about planning a vacation/extension to my house/computer upgrade/etc, and I was thinking of using my bonus money for it. Do you think you could follow up with HR/payroll (the same in my company, YMMV) and see what the status is on it?"

Of course, if your boss IS from 1950's America, and loves all that flattery garbage, go with FauxScot's method (as you appear to be doing, since it's marked best answer). Personally, I would be getting my ass outta there right quick if that was teh case.
posted by antifuse at 1:34 AM on April 13, 2006

I know I'd promptly can his ass if he approached me with a 'Where's my money? It says right here in this memo!' attitude. And have in similar situations. It's a little condescending to assume that my suggestion was predicated on lack of current business knowledge.

I think other people are now in a much better position to judge how reliable your overall business advice is, given that you appear willing to fire a person for asking you to fulfil an obligation you had agreed to in writing. Jesus.

If you were my employee and I heard about this I'd can YOU and make sure the other guy got a double bonus.
posted by unSane at 4:40 PM on April 15, 2006

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