How to (Gracefully) Handle Not Receiving a Bonus

Well, the weather outside is frightful—and so is the holiday gift list you’re currently compiling. After all, presents don’t buy themselves. You need something for Mom and Dad, a Ruth Bader Ginsburg coloring book for your colleagues—oh, and definitely a New Year’s Eve outfit for yourself. 

You’ve made plans to charge your credit card with the gusto of a rogue bull in Pamplona, all because you’re sure you’re getting that bonus. You know, the year-end payout that your boss promised. A special thank-you for the long hours, extra steps, and goal conquering. It’s as good as in the YSL bag you’ve got your eye on—or is it?

If you are 99% sure you’re getting a payout this holiday, take the following into account before your wide-eyed expectations ruin your 2017.

Until It's in the Bank, Don't Bank on It

Giving is better than receiving, and buying gifts for loved ones is part of the joy of the season. However, if you’ve started buying under the assumption that you’re going to pay off those bills, bills, bills with your holiday bonus, you need to put the card down and walk away.

Unless you are 100% certain that a year-end bonus is heading your way or was already direct deposited, stay smart with your funds. You don’t want to start off your New Year in crippling December debt.

Shop within your budget and save your bank account—because the only thing you should be breaking is a glass ceiling. 

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Find Other Ways to Boost Your Work Standing

A bonus can provide a nice little end-of-year bump as well as the psychological recognition from your employer that you’re valued and doing a good job. We’re primates, after all, and a little incentive in the form of cold, hard cash can go a long way. But bonuses are not always in the cards. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t improve your position. If your boss has made it clear that no one is getting a bonus, but a bonus is deserved, you should research what other ways you can increase your “net worth” at your company. In the same way your overall net worth (money saved, investments, properties) is more important than your salary, you can apply that concept to your job.

Think of your job as a package—not individual parts—that propels you forward. A bonus may be nice, but it’s not factored into your career standing. To point: No one in a job interview will ever ask what your 2016 year-end bonus was. They will want to know your title, your salary, how you climbed through the ranks, and the incentive goals you hit.

Don't Take It Personally

Twenty-sixteen was a hard year for most companies, and we are still in the process of climbing out of an economic downturn. 

So if it was a rough year for your organization, if there is a lot of spending that needs to happen in Q1, or if (and think on this) you don’t actually deserve a bonus, there’s a good chance you’re getting a holiday mug and a hug.

Be realistic about what you deserve and what you should spend, and plan to make 2017 your most financially responsible year yet!

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Try not to let it get you down. Unless you’re the only person at your company that isn’t getting a little something extra, then it’s time to truly assess your shortcomings and have a chat with your boss. A bonus is a reward, not a given. Be realistic about what you deserve and what you should spend, and plan to make 2017 your most financially responsible year yet!

This piece originally appeared on My Domaine on December 8th, 2016.

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