How to Handle Not Getting a Bonus at Work Gracefully

a woman in a business suit standing in front of cars
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We've probably all known the feeling of making bucket-list travel, shopping, or home décor plans because we're sure we're getting that bonus at work and will have a little more financial flexibility. You know, the year-end payout that our boss promised—a special thank-you for the long hours, extra steps, and goal conquering. It’s as good as in the YSL bag we've got our eye on—or is it? If you are 99% sure you’re getting a payout this year, take the following into account. We tapped Create & Cultivate's editorial director, Arianna Schioldager, to help us learn how to handle not getting a bonus at work.

Meet the Expert

Arianna Schioldager is an established writer, content creator, and editorial director of Create & Cultivate, an online platform and offline conference for women looking to launch their dream career.

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

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.

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 are 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. 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

Some years are harder than others for some companies, 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.

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 the next year your most financially responsible year yet!

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