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How to Negotiate a Bonus

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Bonuses are an important tool that companies can use to reward employees. If an employee has gone above and beyond his job description, the company can recognize that fact by giving him a little extra money. Businesses often use bonuses to thank staff members when profits meet or exceed expectations, but bonuses can also be earned through outstanding performance, regardless of whether it directly generated money for the company.


Write down why you deserve a bonus. Think about your on-the-job performance and whether it clearly brought in more revenue or helped your employer in other ways. This will be the basis for your negotiation.

List your successes and accomplishments. Perhaps you closed a sales deal that earned the company a large sum or took on a task that no one else wanted, such as dealing with a particularly difficult client. Factor in whether you have already been paid for your accomplishments through commission or some other means--don't ask to be paid twice for the same accomplishment.

Calculate how much money should be in the bonus. If you're arguing that you deserve a bonus because of the revenue you've generated, you must provide a dollar figure. The bonus should be a percentage of the revenue you generated for the company--10 percent is usually reasonable. If you're negotiating a bonus for a reason other than revenue, decide what dollar amount you want. It might equal the amount of overtime you worked or the leadership responsibilities you assumed when filling in for your boss. Such a bonus should be a flat amount calculated as a percentage of your annual salary. For example, you may ask for a $5,000 bonus if your annual salary is $50,000 and you consider 10 percent appropriate.

Practice your argument on a friend or co-worker before meeting with your manager. Work in all the points you want to make. Keep your tone of voice friendly and avoid sounding defensive or unappreciated. If you speak with your supervisor in a calm and professional manner, she will be more likely to listen to your argument.


Schedule an in-person meeting with your manager or supervisor. This will allow for clear communication--emails and voice mails are easily misunderstood and often fail to achieve the tone you were trying for. Sitting down together lets you see your boss' body language during the negotiation and helps prevent miscommunication.

Describe all your accomplishments and successes for your boss. Remind him how much you contribute to the company. Ask for input on your greatest successes--he may recall something you have overlooked. Perhaps most important, relax during the negotiation--highlighting your accomplishments is a worthwhile endeavor whether you get the bonus or not.

State that you feel you deserve a bonus because of all your hard work and achievements. Show your boss the figures you wrote down to pinpoint the amount of revenue you've gotten the company by going above and beyond, or lay out the less-visible effects of your efforts--maybe the difficult client found new respect for the company because you took the time to listen to his concerns.

Negotiate. Be willing to compromise if your manager says he can't give you all you're asking for or can't reward you monetarily, but can give you extra vacation time or a new office and title. The goal is to get as much as you can from the negotiation, but sometimes the best way to do that is by being flexible and not making all-or-nothing demands. Maybe you'll get half the bonus you had hoped for--that's still more than you had before you asked.


Cathy O'Brien is a San Francisco/Bay Area native. She has 15 years of experience writing corporate training materials. Her corporate background is in human resources, sales, management and high-tech start-ups. O'Brien has published business and fashion articles on eHow and Answerbag. She earned her Master of Business Administration from Dominican University and her Bachelor of Arts in English/writing from the University of San Francisco.

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