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Holiday Bonuses: Avoid Clark Griswold Behavior

Article over. Who wants some eggnog?

Just kidding! Out of all of the shenanigans in the film Christmas Vacation, perhaps the one that could happen most easily to the rest of us is Clark’s holiday bonus situation. It is important to know your company’s holiday bonus policy, and to talk to the right people before making financial plans based on that bonus.

If this is your first holiday season with the company, start by checking your employee handbook for holiday bonus information. It may be called a “discretionary gift” or something similar. While this will give you the official word on company policy, bringing up the topic with your coworkers could also serve you well. Inquire as to whether holiday bonuses are the norm, but use tact when asking about an amount. Coworkers may offer up the information willingly—especially if it’s a smaller amount, under $100, or a tangible gift of some kind—or perhaps the topic is of some speculation depending on how the company did that year. It’s possible that individual amounts may vary though, and the information is kept private.

The other place to find holiday bonus information is in your employment contract, if you have one. Many compensation packages include a bonus as part of the annual salary. In this case, the amount should be specified in the paperwork. (If not, I refer you to the previous paragraph.)

Clark’s main mistake in Christmas Vacation was counting on a large bonus that had been handed out every year, but was not guaranteed as part of his salary. How do you avoid this? Keep an eye on how the company has been doing lately as far as profitability goes. Also consider the health of your industry and the economy overall. If any of these factors have been not-so-great, it may be a sign that your holiday bonus is in trouble. Many bonuses are based on how the company has done financially in the previous years. For sales positions especially, bonuses may be based on making sales goals and the company’s profitability.

Also remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to planning based on bonuses. If you really have to make the deposit on that swimming pool… explain the situation to your supervisor and ask politely about what you can expect for a bonus.

The good news is that 72 percent of HR executives this year said that they would be handing out some kind of holiday bonus. Happy Holidays, indeed!

How do holiday bonuses work at your company? How do you wish they worked? And, is it possible to talk your boss into a (bigger) bonus? Leave a comment below, or send me a tweet, @ithinkther4iamb

IMAGE: Courtesy of Morgan on Media Blog

Kristin Anderson

Kristin has a B.A. in English from the University of Iowa, with an emphasis in creative writing. In her free time she enjoys long walks, kitchen adventures, and making puns.