Don’t Hold Your Breath for That Year-End Bonus
By Randall S. Hansen Ph.D.
Once upon a time a fairly large group of employers shared the company good fortunes through holiday gifts parties and the now infamous year-end bonus. Because of the impact of the economy and a focus on efficiency and productivity many workers may need to be satisfied this year-end with simply still having a job with the company.For the third year in a row more than two-thirds of the employers surveyed by Hewitt Associates in their annual “Holiday Bonus and Gift Study” state that they will not offer any type of holiday bonus (including cash food or gifts). Specifically Hewitt’s 2002 study found that more than half of the companies reported never having a holiday bonus program while almost a fifth reported that their program had been discontinued. These numbers aren’t surprising since many employers ended year-end bonus programs in the 1990s.Still some employers are looking for creative ways to reward the overworked and overstressed layoff survivors. John Challenger chief executive of Challenger Gray and Christmas says that non-monetary benefits are one way companies are rewarding employees this year. What might you expect from your employer instead of a year-end bonus? Examples of these non-monetary rewards include better job titles recognition programs extra time off or even a better parking space.Besides the obvious economic rationale for discontinuing year-end bonus programs other reasons employers give for ending bonus programs include switching to a performance-related compensation plan rising corporate sensitivity to workplace diversity and entitlement issues.And there’s even more bad news. Among companies still planning to give a holiday bonus the size of the bonus continues to shrink. The Bureau of National Affairs reports that the median projected bonuses for non-management workers has slid to around $150. The Hewitt research pegged the amount at approximately $200. Still it’s the symbolic gesture not necessarily the amount that matters.?For some companies a holiday bonus is part of their culture and helps define the organization? says Hewitt’s Ken Abosch. ?Meanwhile other organizations use a holiday bonus as a way to build morale and thank employees for their efforts during the past year.? (Read the full report.)And here’s a big surprise — research has found that ending holiday bonus programs is a morale-buster. According to a study conducted last year by Xylo about 40 percent of workers who received year-end bonuses or holiday rewards say the practice has a positive effect on company loyalty. (Read the full report.)And the silver lining in all this research? According to Hewitt’s study 64 percent of the companies surveyed plan to host a holiday party — although it may be simpler and on a much smaller budget than in the past. Vault.com’s research similar results: 56 percent of companies plan to hold parties — and many of those parties have been downsized to lunchtime gatherings (the Holiday Hoagie) or 5 p.m. onsite holiday socials. So blame the economy and a shift back toward corporate fiscal responsibility as you drink that watered-down holiday cocktail. Just remember not to enjoy yourself too much — or blow off too much steam — at the holiday party this year or face the consequences the morning afterward. Remember that holiday parties are not the place to mouth off about your boss or the company nor to engage in inappropriate behavior. Read about the 10 worst holiday party mistakes in: Business Etiquette for Company Holiday Parties. And be sure to read our Do’s and Don’ts of Holiday Office Parties.Finally don’t forget that holiday parties are a good time to build your network of contacts or to use your existing network to help you with finding a new job. Read: Using Office Parties to Network.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college career and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms. Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author with several books chapters in books and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally Dr. Hansen is also an educator having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com.