Promised bonus: Carrot that disappeared
Hi Ronnie Ann. I just came off of the worst job review of my life. And I’m worried it will affect the promised bonus I’m working toward. Funny thing is I have had regular one-on-ones with my manager and everything had seemed to be going well. But that guy recently stepped down as manager.
Anyway, while I agree some of the stuff he wrote was true, I do not believe that he presented to me the information in a timely manner. Waiting six months to tell me that I’m not doing well while each weekly meeting has been fine is a shocker!
So I’m not sure what to do at this point. The guy is no longer my manager, But he still works in my group and is a respected IC. My new manager says I’ve basically got a couple of months to prove myself. And he’s going to help by giving me specific things I need to accomplish. And changes I need to make.
“But do I really want to stay now?”
The problem is I’m not sure I want to stay at this point. I’ve been with the company for a little over a year and haven’t really meshed well with anyone. But I don’t want to lose my promised bonus either.
The work is uninspiring (writing code to test more code). But the reason I stay is because we were bought out a few months ago. And I’m going to make an extra year’s salary for the next 3 years I work. (Work 3 years, get an extra year of pay for free due to vesting options.)
While the promised bonus is not a LOT of money, it’s still rather substantial. And I’d kinda like to extract all of the value from this job before I call it quits.
~ Anon Geek
My response to Anon Geek:
Thanks for writing. I just want you to know that I’m really sorry this review came at you with no warning. While a promised bonus can be used to keep you going, it can also be yanked away for poor performance. And, not that I’m saying this is their game, that can enter into how they see you.
And clearly a poor review is not a great sign. Or at least it’s a sign that you need to keep your eyes wide open. So you’re wise to use this as an opportunity to think about your options.
You wrote “While it’s not a LOT of money, it’s still rather substantial. And I’d kinda like to extract all of the value before I call it quits.” This raises several thoughts for me. I hope you will permit me to share them, even if none of what I say rings true for you.
Your desire to still “extract value” deserves a bit more digging. If you don’t like the job (you call it uninspiring) and you don’t feel you match well with your environment or the people, then the only value I see is the promise of that extra money. And even you say isn’t all that substantial.
But there would be HUGE value in spending your days doing something that feels good. A job that gets your juices flowing. Rather than slogging through just to get a carrot that may never come. (I will address that point soon.) So a different perspective may open some doors for you.
Should you stay or should you go?
Looking at the bigger picture, real value could come by finding a new job that you actually feel good about! That value is priceless; it is your health and your mental well-being as well as your future career opportunities. (One door leads to another.)
We are not enhanced by slogging. In a new job where you feel energized, you could move ahead to the point that the monetary gain you would have stayed for would be well-surpassed in about 5 years.
But by staying, you will only etch into yourself an attitude that you may not see, but potential employers will. Choices like this can shape your whole career. So shaking off the mismatched environment and moving on could actually be the wisest move, both from an emotional and monetary point of view.
The promised bonus loophole
But let me throw in one other factor. This poor performance review that came out of the blue may mean they don’t see you being with them the whole 3 years. And therefore that promised bonus you are in effect selling your life for may never materialize!
Before staying the whole three years for that purpose only, I think it would be wise to make sure you have support from the new boss. And a real sense that you are actually wanted there. (Finding a mentor would be a great idea if you do choose to stay.)
I like that your new manager is working with you to set goals so you aren’t shooting in the dark. But they may already have formed an opinion of you. In fact, your former manager might have reflected the opinion of others in his review — trying to help you see what you need to pay attention to.
If you do stay for promised bonus…
Now, looking at it from yet another angle … you might choose to use this wake-up call as a chance to challenge yourself and wow them! Maybe there is a place for you there after all that would be good for you — as well as for whatever job you wind up in next.
By the way … I’ve worked in IT as a Project Manager. And good people do move up to more interesting assignments. But the secret is they also treat less exciting assignments with the same thorough professionalism, good attitude, and enthusiasm as more challenging ones.
Maybe they haven’t seen all that you have to offer yet. But you need to make that crystal clear and find ways to show them just how much you can shine. If you choose this path, find allies you can trust. Ask your manager for more help. Be sincere and then give it your all! At the very least, this can help solidify your references!
Is it worth investing in an unknown?
There’s no way, of course, that I can know the real circumstances and how they truly view you or what your ideal move would be. Only you can know that. Trust your instincts and not just your “logical” head.
But the idea of just hanging in and staying for that bonus without you deciding to change things for yourself may only bring short-term gains and lots of continued dissatisfaction. And again, you may never get to that bonus unless they decide “you’re a keeper!”
Many companies weed out people before such deadlines specifically to avoid paying a promised bonus. These are instituted to encourage good employees to stay. Unless employees can show their worth in a way the company recognizes, they are expendable. And that’s a harsh reality that may or may not apply in your case.
At least keep your eyes wide open!
I hope this helps you think things through. Or at least, reminds you to keep those eyes open even wider. Jobs are rarely perfect. But if you’re lucky enough to have options, please don’t settle for just “getting through each day.” There can be so much more out there for you!
Good luck with whatever you decide, Anon Geek. A promised bonus is certainly tempting. But are you giving up something more precious to get it? Only you can answer that. Please let us know what happens!
~ Ronnie Ann
[Post updated 2020]
About the author…
Ronnie Ann, founder of Work To the Wise and Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development, as well as her many adventures as a serial job seeker.
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