Negotiating a year-end bonus

Review your achievements for the past year before you embark on negotiating a year-end bonus.

An end of year bonus is a rewarding way to celebrate a successful 12 months. But in Japan it’s not something to take for granted. Bonuses are a reward for a job well done – and an incentive to maintain a strong effort over the 12 months ahead.

If you’re approaching the boss about a year-end bonus, it pays to maintain a professional approach. Here are the key issues to consider.

The boss expects a return on investment
While you may see a bonus as an end of year sweetener, your employer is likely to see it quite differently. For businesses, a bonus is an investment, and it’s expected to yield a healthy return in the form of improved staff retention and increased productivity.

So rather than simply assuming you’re due for a bonus, think back over the past year to consider how you have added value to the business. You need to be able to demonstrate times when you have gone above and beyond your job scope to really make a positive impact.

Bear in mind, if you are continually working extended hours, taking on additional responsibility or consistently punching above your weight in terms of output and achievements, you could be due for a promotion and salary increase, not just a one-off bonus. Take a look at the Robert Half Salary Guide if you feel a salary review could be overdue.

Sell your achievements
Discussions about bonus payments are a golden opportunity to highlight your achievements during the year. Strengthen your case by drafting a report that showcases your accomplishments. Take the same approach you’d use to win over a new client - provide compelling facts and figures of how you have added value through increases in revenue; by outperforming personal targets; or conversely by trimming expenses.

It’s all about building a bulletproof case. So even if your achievements aren’t easily measured in figures, look for other ways to substantiate your value to the firm. Written notes from managers singing your praises can have a powerful impact.

Your bonus is approved – what’s next from here?
If the boss approves your bonus, give yourself a pat on the back. Though remember, the money comes with strings attached and it’s certainly not a cue to rest on your laurels.

Your employer will expect you to continue, and even improve on, this year’s great results. Winding down your efforts could compromise the likelihood of receiving a bonus next year.

When a bonus is knocked back
Even if your case for a year-end bonus appears iron-clad, your request may be knocked back. There can be a variety of reasons for this that don’t necessarily reflect your value as an employee, and you may be offered worthwhile alternatives to a cash bonus such as additional leave or time in lieu.

However if you walk away completely empty-handed, maintain a professional demeanor. Ask for feedback on why you didn’t received a bonus and use these insights to boost your personal productivity for the year ahead. Knockbacks are never pleasant but they shouldn’t deter you from achieving career goals.

The year-end is also a suitable time to check that you are being paid what you’re worth. Download the Robert Half Salary Guide to see how your salary compares with market rates.