my boss keeps touching my hand, the point of bonuses, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My boss keeps touching my hand

My boss will sometimes touch my arm or hand. Most of the time I think that he does it to get my attention, although lately he seems to be doing it more often. But that could just mean that he is comfortable with me as I’m his secretary?

One afternoon, he grasped my fingers in both of his hands – he was asking me to do something, but he then held on to my fingers for a strangely long time. I flipped my wrists, effectively breaking the contact. Also, he has now taken to telling me that I am “perfect.” I arranged something tricky for him, and he touched my arm, smiled, and told me that I’m perfect.

I’ve noticed that he doesn’t touch any of the other employees, only me. I don’t know what way to take this and would appreciate an outside perspective.

Tell him that you’d like the touching to stop. This doesn’t have to be a big, awkward conversation that causes tension in your relationship — it’s all in how you say it. For instance: “Oh, I’m not a toucher!” — said cheerfully and briskly and then moving right along to something work-related.

If he continues after that or does anything else that makes you feel like he’s violating your boundaries, then it’s a more serious issue. But try this first and see it if solves the problem.

2. My manager sounded thrilled with my work, but my written review was less glowing

I have a question about performance reviews. My work is project-based and I work on five or six projects at any given time. Leaders from these projects gave input for my first performance review, and based on my interactions with them throughout the year, I was expecting pretty positive feedback. During my meeting with my supervisor to discuss the review, my supervisor said really positive things like “I got comments from your project leaders that you were a rock star on X project, indispensable on Z project, couldn’t have done it without you on Y project…” That was really great to hear, but then I discovered that in the written review that’s going into my HR file (which my supervisor wrote), the praise is all flat. It contains phrases like “competent project manager,” “able to juggle assignments well,” and “speaks articulately.” There is no mention of any of the really strong praise that I had heard personally throughout the year as well as from my supervisor in the review meeting itself.

Do you have any idea why that might be the case? Should I have asked my supervisor about why he didn’t include that praise? I didn’t really realize the discrepancy in the reviews until after our meeting was over and now I think I’ve waited too long to bring it up. I’m worried that this is going to set me up for a low raise when I feel that the quality of my work merits a more substantial one.

Some people are far less effusive in writing than they are in conversation, which might be the explanation here. But it’s absolutely reasonable to ask about it. I’d say something like, “Could I ask you about my written evaluation? When we’d talked, I had the sense that you were giving me a very positive assessment, but when I read the written review, it seemed a lot more tempered. I came away from our in-person conversation thinking I’d really done a great job, but the written review has me less sure.”

3. What’s the point of giving bonuses?

Please explain to me the point of bonuses in the workplace. I understand bonuses for exceeding sales quotas for sales people or a “sharing of the wealth” when a company has a spectacular year. But why give employees an “incentive” for what is basically doing the job they were hired to do? CEO’s who get many times their salary to efficiently manage a company, admission coordinators in health care who admit people, middle managers that get a bonus for the company meeting goals when they have no ability to affect those goals. How do these bonuses benefit the company?

Like any other compensation, they’re part of retaining and (to some extent) motivating people. Some bonuses mean “you did an exceptionally good job this year.” Others mean “the company did exceptionally well this year and we want to share some of the results of that with you.” That kind of thing builds loyalty in people and makes them feel like the company recognizes their work and like they’re sharing in its success.

You might think that the company could accomplish the same thing with a raise, but it’s often easier to give bonuses than raises — raises are generally permanent and can put people in a salary category that doesn’t quite make sense for their role. Bonuses allow you to give an extra shot of compensation without making it a forever thing.

4. What recruitment data should I be tracking?

I work for a nonprofit without an HR dept and I’ve inherited the intern recruitment process. (I work in marketing, so I don’t have training in recruitment.) We have a fairly competitive program, with dozens of applications each semester. But I’m not sure what (if anything) I should be tracking during recruitment.

I keep track of all the applications each semester, of course, so I can set up interviews and let candidates know if they’ve been selected or not. But after I’ve selected a candidate and notified the others, is it typical to keep some kind of spreadsheet or record of the past applications? Or is there something else people typically track when they’re recruiting?

It sounds like you’re not using an electronic application system, but rather just accepting resumes and cover letter that don’t get put into any broader system? That’s totally fine, and often makes perfect sense for smaller organizations. In that context, there’s not really much you need to track. I’d separate out any applications that are strong enough that you think you might want to reach out to them about future openings. And you might want to have a record of who’s applied for a job in the past and what they’ve applied for — in case they apply again, or someone else in your organization is meeting with them for some other reason. But that’s not necessary, just something some organizations find useful to do.

Some organizations also track stats on the demographics of their candidate pool, so they can watch to make sure that they’re recruiting and hiring a demographically diverse staff. But that’s usually something you don’t see with smaller organizations, in part because of the resources it takes to collect that information and in part because smaller employers aren’t typically subject to required EEOC reporting.

Also, you’re required by law to keep all applications filed away somewhere for one year (and for two years if you’re aware that the applicant is over 40 — which means you should just keep them all for two years to make it easier), in case an applicant later sues (so that their materials and your notes are available for any litigation). But other than that, there’s no standard set of stuff to track.

5. Does my employer have to give me time off to interview while I’m in my notice period?

I am looking to hand in my notice tomorrow and as yet still have to seek new employment. I just can’t take my current boss’s mood swings, screaming, shouting, and throwing stuff (not at me) any longer. But by law am I allowed to ask for time off to attend interviews while I am working my notice period? I know once I hand in my notice, he is going to be really difficult about things. I would just like to know the rules/laws of where I stand.

You’re certainly allowed to ask, but your employer isn’t obligated to grant you time off for interviewing. However, since you haven’t started job searching yet, it’s probably going to be a non-issue — it’s unlikely that you’re going to have interviews scheduled in the next two weeks if you haven’t sent out applications yet.

{ 123 comments… read them below }

  1. Is this Legal*

    3. What’s the point of giving bonuses?

    Companies really care about the bottom number. A CEO is hired to increase investor’s value, that’s why they get paid so much. They take the blame when things are bad and they get huge bonuses when things are great.

      1. Mister Pickle*

        At my company, bonuses for non-executives is primarily an attempt to boost morale. In theory, it was supposed to help everyone “feel” their contributions to the bottom line.

        1. Bird*

          Working for a company that only gives bonuses to C-level employees, and no raises (cost of living or due to performence), hearing about thoses bonuses for the high level employees is incredibly de-motivating. Part of the reason why I’m leaving a corporate job for a smaller organization.

          1. Bird*

            Especially when they keep demanding more from us, time and effort-wise, and we have nothing more to show for it!

            1. Rebecca*

              I’m going through this now. No cost of living increases, no merit increases, insurance goes up, and paycheck goes down. If we get a bonus, it’s the same percent for everyone, regardless of performance. Workload keeps increasing because they don’t want to hire anyone.

              Aside from needing to keep my job because I need the paycheck, there’s not much of an incentive to shine.

            2. Bea W*

              My employer keeps making cuts, and then I hear the C-level execs brag about profits being up some double-digit % and x number of double digit quarters of ups…talk about demotivating and demoralizing. One of them happened to do it the same day we had to let someone go. That was months ago, and the taste is still sour in my mouth. I love my team and the job I do, but every time I hear something like that, it’s like a little piece of my working self shriveling up and dies.

          2. SerfinUSA*

            Academic setting here, classified staff. We haven’t gotten a cost of living increase since 2008, we don’t get raises for merit or performance, and the 3% “bonus” we got last summer (which amounted to a few hundred dollars) instead of raises was counterbalanced by increases in insurance costs.
            To top that off, faculty was awarded 15% raises recently, though some made a huge drama out of how poor they still are, and would have to cut back on sabbatical travel.
            Talk about demotivating :/

            Most private companies I have worked for gave small bonuses or gift cards, but one family-owned place gave gift cards, gifts, a big company dinner……and….2 weeks pay for a bonus.

            1. Maggie*

              We must work at the same university. Sucks to be us.

              Before Current Job, we always received 3-5% merit (unless you were on a verbal warning at the time) with up to 7% annual bonus and free parking. Ahhh, I miss free parking.

      2. StanislausBabalistic*

        It depends on the industry, too. In the government contracting world, a significant portion of compensation is generally tied up in pre-agreed bonuses, because contracts are based on cost, and that includes employee salary. So by paying less in salary and more in bonuses, contract proposals to prospective customers become more attractive from a cost standpoint.

    1. Artemesia*

      CEOs are paid because they have power not because they are effective. Take a look at the number of money losing companies that still have enormous bonuses for the CEO — multi million dollar bonuses. And when they are fired, they walk away with multi million golden handshakes.

      The reason CEOs make huge rewards and workers today are paid less than they were 30 years ago has nothing to do with productivity and everything to do with differential power.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        CEOs don’t typically determine their own pay though, at least not in publicly held companies, where they report to boards. Boards are paying them those amounts because that’s often what it takes to attract those particular people to those particular jobs. You can certainly argue that it’s not about productivity, but I don’t think it’s just power, when someone else is setting that pay.

        1. Artemesia*

          CEOs often serve on the boards that set salaries for other CEOs — it is an interlocking old boys network. They get the big money because other CEOs get the big money and it is in their interest to keep the daisy chain going. It is a very inbred system. The huge explosion of salaries for CEOs cannot be attributed to increased productivity as it doesn’t track that — just as the falling salaries of the workforce has little to do with falling productivity and everything to do with policies designed to increase unemployment and reduce bargaining power. It is power not productivity.

          1. Sarabeth*

            This. There’s an extensive economics literature on CEO pay, and one of the major findings is that CEO pay is really not correlated to performance in any meaningful way.

        2. LoFlo*

          I have seen the Compensation Committee set the bonus amounts based on an industry benchmark, and then when that benchmark didn’t result in the desired amount a new benchmark was used and a new discrestinary amount was granted.

  2. Mister Pickle*

    #1: *groan* AAM’s advice is great. But I fear that it’s going to come down to this: your boss is smitten with you.

    #2: *groan* again. It might be that your boss just ain’t so good at writing. Or it could be that when he does reviews, he has to (for instance) rank you with your co-workers, and under that lens, all your good work either isn’t as good, or isn’t percieved as being as good. Or he could simply be a jerk.

    1. AnonyMouse*

      Re #1: I’m inclined to agree, but I think she should probably give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he snaps out of it when told she’s not a toucher for now. If not…ugh.

      And also as a side-note, just a PSA for people who like to touch other people like this to be friendly/express approval/whatever: some of us really hate it! I do not like casual touching and while I can deal with it in a social situation, I don’t think it’s appropriate for the workplace (unless you work with people who have actually told you they enjoy/are alright with it).

    2. Sarahnova*

      I hate to be the cynic, but even if OP#1’s boss is genuinely “smitten” with lovingful feelings for OP#1 (which he should know better than to be acting on), I feel that’s a rather nicer description than he deserves. It sounds more like deliberate boundary-pushing as a prelude to, or early form of, harassment. The holding fingers for ages thing is weird and evidently made the OP quite uncomfortable, which it seems didn’t bother him at all. That’s a bad sign.

      Alison’s advice holds either way.

      1. ac*

        +1. It sounds like he may be grooming her for further line crossing. A firm “no” will make a well-intentioned touchy-feely boss back off, and hopefully make a potential harasser take a step back, too.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Yep. Total boundary pusher. When I was in a similar situation it started with unwanted shoulder rubs. Of course I was too young to know to just say “please don’t touch me.”

    3. Koko*

      Or the boss might think that the more tempered language sounds more formal and objective and therefore professional. The effusive glowing praise from her colleagues is pretty informal and subjective, and I run into people all the time who think that everything they put in a written document at work is supposed to be dry, factual, and as formal as can be. (The people who won’t even use contractions!)

  3. AnonyMouse*

    #2: Is it possible that your supervisor is one of those people who thinks exceeding expectations really means meeting them? I worked with someone once who expected everyone to be a “rock star”…whenever anyone got that kind of feedback, she was really pleased, but it was clear she kind of expected it from everyone. I could definitely see her writing “competent project manager” on the review of someone who got the kind of individual feedback you got. It’s annoying, but happens sometimes.

    1. James M*

      *groan* Also, a boss with such high expectations could be covering their ignorance of the business’s minutiae. Its more palatable for them to expect excellence from everyone than to admit that they have no idea what everyone’s jobs entail.

    2. Koko*

      On a similar note, I’d try to investigate what’s normal for other high performers. During my company’s annual review last year, they held webinars to walk people through the process of using the electronic review system, how to set SMART goals, how to evaluate up, how to evaluate down, how to evaluate yourself, everything we needed to know. The HR person made a point in every webinar to say something along the lines of, “I know we have a staff full of people who were straight A students and are used to getting a perfect score on everything they do. That’s not how this works. The majority of people should be getting “Meets Expectations.” “Meets” is an A, not a C. “Exceeds Expectations” is an A+ and only a minority of people should be earning this if they’re truly going well beyond their job description, and they should be promoted into a more senior role in that case. If your entire team is “Exceeding Expectations” then your expectations need to be adjusted upward.”

      1. Koko*

        …Which isn’t to say they’re being unreasonably demanding! In my company, many high performers who get a “Meets” evaluation do get a respectable raise along with it (5-10%). An “Exceeds” would mean a title change, possible position reclassification, and a much heftier-than-usual raise (15-25%).

        1. AnonyMouse*

          Yep, at some companies/organisations you really do need to be doing ‘A’ work (demonstrating initiative, going the extra mile, etc etc) all the time to be meeting expectations, and that’s fair – as long as it’s made clear to everyone. It sounds like your company did a good job of this, in mine it was really more of an unwritten rule…which can get awkward. The OP could definitely look into what the normal expectations are for high performers, but if she’s really confused by the discrepancies between her in-person and written reviews, they might not be communicating things perfectly.

  4. Kerry*



    I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with that at work. I totally agree clearly stating boundaries is the way to go – ideally in a flat neutral tone. It’s an awkward thing to have to say but if you try to minimize it by laughing and looking away, or any other normal body language we do in awkward situations, I’d worry your boss would construe that as flirting. It’s okay to be The Fun-Killer for conversations like this.

        1. NotMyRealName*

          No, document now. The first question that will be asked is “When did this start?” If the behavior stops, great, but if it doesn’t there needs to be a timeline from the beginning.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I mean, if she wants to document, there’s no harm in doing it, but there’s a good likelihood it’ll end up being overkill. What the manager is doing isn’t likely to rise to the legal bar for harassment of “severe or pervasive,” and definitely not before she’s directly told him to stop. I don’t see any reason to document at this stage. The step to take right now is to clearly telling him to stop.

            1. JB*

              Eh, gonna have to disagree with you there on no reason to document at this stage. There’s no harm in writing it down with a date and description of what’s happened so far, plus additional notes about when she told him to stop and what she said. If he backs off, she doesn’t have to keep the notes. But if it doesn’t stop, or if it escalates, it’s much harder to go back and try to remember when things started, what you said to him and when to make him stop, etc. People’s faulty memories often torpedo later claims.

              I agree that at this point it will probably end up being overkill and totally unnecessary. But it never hurts to write yourself a note to keep at home for this kind of thing because proving a pattern is pretty difficult after the fact.

              1. CEMgr*

                I agree. The documentation is obviously her private record to be kept at home, completely inaccessible to her employer. It takes only 60 seconds to log this. Since the cost to document is effectively nil, there’s no reason not to. Documenting may also have a psychological advantage for OP in that she is rejecting all the fluffy boundary-pushing, “oh you must have misunderstood” cloud that sometimes gets blown around this behavior, and putting down the facts and her discomfort about them down in black and white (again, as a private record for her own use).

    1. CS*

      +1 for the EWs.

      I’ve encountered a lunch buddy who touched my hands when he tried to make a point. He did so repeatedly. Among other things, I’ve made my point about his actions and comments are not welcomed. I’ve since eliminated him from the lunch table.

    2. Zahra*

      OP #1: Some food for thought :

      Your post mirrors so closely was the author was going through, it came immediately to mind as I was reading your question. Definitely de-escalate the situation as soon as you can, before you find yourself in a situation where it’s even more awkward to say “Stop! This is not appropriate professional behavior” (in more low-key terms at first, but you might need to go up to that level if your boss doesn’t get the hint).

  5. Cheesecake*

    OP #3 – exactly as AAM said. Giving a pay rise is a big deal – it is a permanent thing that usually comes with increased responsibilities/job change.. Also what happens is sometimes an employee constantly delivers above the norm, but s/he already has maximum salary for particular pay band. For some reason the employee can’t be promoted, so the only thing to keep high morale is a bigger bonus :)
    Sometimes the whole compensation framework is a bit off, and instead of making market analysis and changing key element – base salary, employer gives generous bonuses. So i’d be suspicious if offered below the market salary and a generous benefit for a non-sales position.

    1. Eliza Jane*

      SECONDED. My first job was a programming job, and paid $40K with 25% annually in bonuses. I got a raise to $48K at the end of my first year, which meant my total compensation with bonuses was $60K. Over the next 6 years, I got steady “raises” while my bonuses shrank, so by the end I was at $67K, but no bonus anymore, which was a really, really sad increase from a 1-year programming position to an 7-years-experience senior/leadership position, and was actually a significant decrease from my high point a few years in. And every year, they’d promise — this is the year there will be bonuses again. My last year, they told us in November we’d have end of year bonuses, then decided they couldn’t afford them and just stayed quiet, hoping we’d… forget? I followed up in January, and they told me they were figuring them out. I followed up again in February, then March, and was finally told, yeah, they don’t have the budget. That’s when I decided to give my notice.

      Bonuses can stop coming any time. Salary is the baseline for future growth.

      1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

        Oh, they did that to us too at a former workplace. They said it’s a year end bonus, but don’t count on it and then the year’s end went by and they never said a thing. Finally in March the Comptroller was asked directly at a meeting and had to admit that one department had lost a client at the end of the year that had significant revenue impact on the whole year, so no bonuses for anyone.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          While I understand that in some companies and for some people the “unknowable amount until the check arrives” kind of bonus system works, it would just never ever work for me.

          We do bonuses by quarters, not annually, and the bonuses are based on hard numbers (goals and stretch goals) which anybody who is bonused is aware of (meaning, they are aware of the progression toward the goal as it progresses).

          My personal compensation is heavily weighted to bonus (50%+ of my total annual income is bonus) and you best believe I know what’s due before the CFO does. :)

          Anyway, generally, I think it’s a big old backfire of any bonus money spent to keep people in the dark about how much, what and when.

      2. Cath in Canada*

        I managed to work for a company for the only two years in their 20 year history in which they did not give bonuses (they took a big hit when the Canadian dollar reached par with the US dollar, because the US is their biggest market). And now I work in academia, where there are no bonuses at all, ever. Yay me!

  6. GrumpyBoss*

    #5: i would strongly consider hanging on long enough to find a new job. I certainly can understand wanting to escape a bad boss, but you are making yourself substantially less attractive to a future employer if you are quitting without something else lined up.

    That being said, why would you expect your company to let you out for interviews? Your company presumably needs to use your notice period to transition your workload.

    1. Cheesecake*

      This. Do not give your notice, OP 5! Hang on there until you find another job. They are not obliged to give you any time off and if your manager is so difficult, he is going to make it impossible for you to go to interviews.

    2. Csarndt*

      Sometimes you *have* to get out for your own personal health and well being. Quitting without another job lined up isn’t something that most people take lightly…so I’m inclined to give the OP the benefit of the doubt and assume he/she is in the category of just can’t take it anymore. I was there in July when I walked away from my job without another lined up…and it was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.

      OP, hang in there, it’s rough, but yes, you’re not likely to *have* to schedule an interview during the next two weeks. If you can swing it financially, take a little break to decompress before you even start applying. My husband and I had a deal where I looked for jobs, but unless they had the potential to be the perfect job for me, I didn’t even apply. This was in force until I took a trip to visit my parents and took a week off with my husband. We agreed that then I would start applying in earnest to less than dream jobs and if I was still unemployed by now, I’d work temp in retail and then temp in tax season to help with household cash flow. Fortunately, I’m in the end stages of starting a great job so no holiday retail and angry taxpayers for me! Hopefully you have the financial means to take a little time off so you are applying for only great job with a good attitude and outlook, good luck!

      1. Cheesecake*

        Totally agree on “sometimes you have to get out”. I had this once, but because i had to move to another country i didn’t particularly like into a job i hated. And there was nothing else. So i just left before company was about to incurred expenses to move me there.

        In OPs situation i’d first research market, if it was relatively easy to get a job, i’d stick in old job for a bit. If it wasn’t and OP would have to stay for 6+ months, then it is better to get out

    3. Colette*

      I definitely agree that the OP should stay if she can – and she should be sure that she looks into how long it takes people in her field to get new jobs, on average, since I’m not sure she has a realistic picture of that (based on the assumption that she’ll have interviews less than 2 weeks after first applying).

      Maybe she’s financially able to be out of work long enough that it doesn’t matter how long it takes to find a new job, but most of us aren’t able to do that.

      1. Sue*

        OP #5, I support you. Sometimes a work environment is so toxic that one just doesn’t have the mental clarity to plan their next step. Plus, if their boss is really difficult, it will be hard to get out for interviews (and frankly, I wouldn’t expect to be able to interview during a notice period). I’m in a job search now after a temp assignment ended. The flexibility of not working has helped me – I’ve been able to go on more interviews including interviewing twice in another city. The old adage, “don’t leave a job until you have another job” has its exceptions and limitations.

  7. Lori C*

    LW 1 – I’m getting creeper vibes from your letter. Next time he reaches for you and tries to touch you, step back, lean away, or move your hand/arm and say, please don’t touch me. Thank you for understanding. Don’t smile and don’t be cheerful. Be polite, matter of fact and look him in the eye. He should apologize and not do it again. If he does do it again, you will need to be firmer. Don. I asked you nicely to please not touch me. It makes me uncomfortable. Thank you for understanding. And start keeping a paper diary (not online in case he fires you and you have to clean out your desk and leave) with time, date, what happened and who said what. If he makes any excuse for touching you, I was trying to get your attention, I was just being nice, document and report his ass.

    1. Zillah*

      Okay, so I agree that the OP’s boss is creepy, but I don’t think that this is the best response out of the gate. If this were a social situation, I’d be inclined to agree with you, but since this is the OP’s boss, I think a milder response is a better starting point. That’s not to say that she shouldn’t make it clear that she doesn’t want to be touched – just that I think the delivery should be a little more friendly. Alison’s approach seems right to me for a start. If he persists, yes, get a little blunter and aggressive about it, but don’t start from there. It’s unnecessary escalation in the wrong setting to do that, IMO.

      1. neverjaunty*

        OP #1 has already been nice about it, by simply pulling away. Boss is not only continuing the behavior but is getting creepier with the comments. Somebody is escalating; it’s not OP.

        And absolutely agree, OP, that you need to start keeping a written record (at home, not work!) of these incidents. They should be neutral and descriptive. If Boss cuts it out, no harm done. If not, then you will be in a situation where you have kept a record so that it can’t be dismissed as “are you sure that really happened?” or “Oh, well, if you can’t point to specific incidents….” by boss’s boss or HR.

        1. Zillah*

          If someone doesn’t respond to nonverbal cues in a situation like this, I think it’s worth making the cues verbal. That deals with genuine cluelessness and removes any plausible deniability.

          Look, I tend to agree – I think the boss is being creepy. But until she’s verbalized her discomfort, the level of assertiveness you’re describing seems like overkill. This is her boss. She should try using the tone she usually uses with him first. If he doesn’t respond to it. She should absolutely move to something stronger.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I agree. The best outcome here is if she can get the touching to stop without causing tension in the relationship. If it turns out that’s not possible, then so be it, but that would be preferable and that’s the place to start.

            1. Hooptie*

              Because I’m not a “touchy” kind of person, when this has happened to me I’ve just come out and said it.

              *Pulls hand away* or *Dodges a hug*

              ‘Sorry, I’m just not a “touchy” kind of person.’

              It works every time. I don’t think I’ve ever hurt anyone’s feelings either. It kind of gives off an ‘it’s me, not you’ vibe, which gives them an out but still defines a boundary.

          2. Colette*

            I think either is fine, depending on the OP’s comfort level and relationship to her manager. If it’s a generally friendly relationship, the more casual, friendly approach will likely be effective.

      2. Sarahnova*

        I don’t think this IS an aggressive response. I think it’s merely an assertive one: “Please don’t touch me. Thanks.” I mean, how screwed up is our world when politely (please and thank you) asserting a boundary which someone else has transgressed is aggressive?

        I agree that it’s awkward, and it’s awkward because women in particular are put under tremendous social pressure to sacrifice their own feelings for someone else’s. It’s also awkward because of the power differential, which is a reeeeaaally great reason why the boss should know better than to be doing this in the first place. But to paraphrase the magnificent Captain Awkward, the situation is already uncomfortable and unpleasant – for the OP. What needs to happen is for that discomfort to be transferred back onto the boss, by the OP asserting her desire not to be touched.

        If he’s simply thoughtless, he will likely absorb the awkwardness and stop. If he’s an ass, yes, he may hold it against the OP and act this out in his behaviour, but his assiness would have showed up elsewhere soon enough – and yes, documentation is a good idea. And if he is systematically testing the OP’s boundaries to see how good a victim she will make (which I rather suspect, from the escalation), he will keep going UNTIL she asserts herself clearly, because what he is looking for is someone who feels too awkward to say “stop”, or too intimidated by the power dynamic.

        OP: I know the prospect of saying some of the things that have been suggested probably sounds really scary, and I hope you know we’re not suggesting them like it’s the easiest thing in the world. But you have every right to say “Please don’t touch me, it makes me uncomfortable”, and to be listened to.

        1. TL -*

          Yes to this. I had a professor one time thoughtlessly touch right above my knee when he was talking to me- I was sitting on a high table, he was standing – and I just stared at him in shock; he turned red and jerked his hand away. It was actually pretty funny, even at the time, but he knew it was inappropriate the moment he’d done it and also responded to my nonverbal signals that I was uncomfortable. If someone is truly doing something on accident, that’s how they’ll respond. If they don’t, a firm verbal boundary-setting is completely justified.

          1. Kathryn*

            This, if it is an innocent mistake, they will act like they have made a mistake, they will be embarrassed and/or apologize and then be careful not to do it again.

            Speaking up is treated as “too aggressive”, but then when someone does escalate into truly horrible behavior, it gets dismissed because “how would he know that petting your thigh made you uncomfortable unless you say something?” Both sides are set up to make the victim lose, make the victim be silent and accept poor treatment.

            Saying “I don’t like that, it makes me uncomfortable, please stop.” isn’t aggressive, its communication.

            1. Zillah*

              I didn’t say OP shouldn’t speak up. In fact, I specifically said that she should – I just said that the first time she verbalizes it, she should try to frame it in a friendly way. E.g., what Alison suggested. If he continues after that, she should absolutely lose the friendly tone.

          2. NoPantsFridays*

            Yup, this. IME if someone is doing things like this (awkward touching, strange advances, etc.) out of social awkwardness, by accident, or something else innocuous and not creepy, they will react as your professor did. They don’t intend to make you uncomfortable. The creeper, on the other hand, actually intends to make you uncomfortable and so will not stop just because you’re uncomfortable. Some people are genuinely socially awkward such that they are oblivious to non-verbal signs of discomfort; however, if you verbalize it, they will stop (because the intention is still innocuous). If they do not stop after explicit instruction to stop, well, you have your answer.

            1. Zillah*

              This is not my experience at all. Some people will certainly react in the way you’re describing, but some will definitely react in a defensive or awkward way. Is it ideal? No. Should it be your problem? No. But this is the OP’s boss, so yeah, it’s something to keep in mind.

              FWIW, I’d probably feel a little uncomfortable if someone initiated a conversation in the way that’s being described, rather than a friendly, “Hey, I don’t like this.”

              1. NoPantsFridays*

                Well, I agree with your earlier comment that Alison’s “friendlier” wording is probably better as a first approach.

          3. Cath in Canada*

            One of my professors once got roaring drunk at a group outing (he’d just been awarded a new grant that secured the whole lab’s jobs for the next five years, so fair enough), and put his hand on my thigh while he was talking to me. I completely freaked out and ran away to the bar, where I found the male technician from that lab, freaking out for the exact same reason. Turned out he was so drunk he was just doing it for balance – as we found out when another guy slapped the prof’s hand away and he almost fell out of his chair. That was when we put him in a taxi under the pretense that we were going to another bar and would see him there, gave the driver his home address, and all went back to the pub.

            Ah, Scotland…

        2. Elizabeth*

          I agree that it’s awkward, and it’s awkward because women in particular are put under tremendous social pressure to sacrifice their own feelings for someone else’s.

          Always remember that you’re already feeling awkward in that situation, because the other person transgressed the social boundaries. You’re just pushing the awkwardness back where it belongs, onto the person who created the situation.

          1. puddin*

            Very well said Elizabeth. Many people think that being embarrassed by a situation is their own problem, when really it is the concern of the person who created the embarrassing circumstances.

            I think it was Emily Posts’ definition or reason for manners – to avoid causing embarrassment or awkwardness those around you.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That’s true, but the reality is, in this situation it’s to her benefit if she can get the behavior to stop without causing tension or discomfort, because this is her boss. It’s to her advantage to not have weirdness. That might not be fair, but we’re not talking about what’s fair — we’re talking about what will get the best outcome for her. It makes sense to verbalize a “no” in a way that lets him save face the first time. If that doesn’t solve it, then yes, you escalate, but there’s just no reason not to give him a face-saving out the first time she verbalizes it. That’s not a cop-out; she’s still saying “stop it.” But there’s benefit to her in doing it that way.

            1. Hermoine Granger*

              I understand your point but respectfully disagree.

              The OP already feels tension and discomfort so cushioning her desire for him to stop touching her would be for the boss’ benefit, not her’s. There’s certainly a power dynamic at play and that’s why the boss should know better than to be unnecessarily touching her.

              It shouldn’t be the OP’s responsibility to help the boss save face when he’s doing something wrong and unrelated to work. I’m not saying the OP should yell at him or physically push him away. However, simply saying “Please stop touching me, it makes me uncomfortable” or something along those lines without being obligated to smile or be friendly should be perfectly acceptable. I don’t think it’s fair that the OP should have to risk possibly continuing to be uncomfortable to avoid making her boss uncomfortable. It’s best to be direct but professional and nip it in the bud.

              I just feel that there’s this double standard where men are touted for being direct and straight to the point but with women there’s an expectation for them to be smile and be subtle. And then when the other person doesn’t pick up on (or chooses to ignore) what the woman is saying people ask, “How was he supposed to know? You weren’t direct enough.” (I’m not saying this about you but just in general.)

              1. MK*

                Look, you are treating the boss-employee relationship as if it’s equal and it’s not. It’s also not the same with a personal relationship, because one can’t walk away. As Alison said repeatedly, it’s not the OP’s responsibility to save the boss’ face, but it is in her best interest.

                Also, though I agree there is a double standard when it comes to men and women, I don’t see that it applies in this situation. A man who would react as you suggest wouldn’t be praised as being direct, he would be considered boorish and overreacting.

            2. Hermoine Granger*

              I saw your followup comment about your suggestion being an example of language most might be comfortable using and agree on that point. I guess what rubbed me the wrong way was the suggestion to smile / be friendly while saying it. I’ll agree to disagree on that part of the advice.

        3. Zillah*

          Okay, so I get your frustration, but I feel like you’re projecting a lot of general frustration about the societal dynamics of this onto me and attributing a lot to me that I didn’t say. I have many of the same problems with this issue that you do, so it’s making me feel a bit frustrated, too.

          I didn’t say that telling the boss not to touch her was “aggressive.” I specifically said that she should absolutely make it very clear that she doesn’t want to be touched. All I said was that I thought her first verbal response should be milder.

          Next time he reaches for you and tries to touch you, step back, lean away, or move your hand/arm and say, please don’t touch me. Thank you for understanding. Don’t smile and don’t be cheerful. Be polite, matter of fact and look him in the eye.

          This seems like overkill to me, and it turns the conversation into something bigger than it needs to be. A simple, “Oh, I’m not big on touching. Thanks for understanding!” that’s delivered in a more friendly way will get the message across without creating tension. Captain Awkward has a lot of good advice, but I do think that she (and her commenters) often apply the same advice to every situation, which doesn’t necessarily make sense.

          Like I said: if this was a social situation, I’d probably agree that the delivery doesn’t require friendliness. However, this isn’t a social situation – this is her boss. Transferring discomfort back on your boss is not the same thing as transferring discomfort back on your friend, or on your parent, or even on your coworker. Maybe it should be, but it isn’t. People are generally on their best behavior around their bosses, and couch almost everything in milder language.

          Is asserting a physical boundary different than asking for the day off? Absolutely, and if he doesn’t respond to the first friendly request, the OP should absolutely start to use stronger language and/or escalate it to his boss or HR. But I think that her first verbal response should be more in line with how she generally communicates with her boss, and presumably, what’s described above is not a typical interaction.

          1. MsM*

            I don’t really see much of a difference if both statements are delivered with a smile. In fact, it seems to me that each question serves as a response to the other if someone pushes back…except that following up “please don’t touch with me” with “I’m just not a fan” does a much more effective job of shutting down the conversation without awkwardness than having to respond to questions about *why* you’re not big on touching with “I just don’t like it. Please stop.”

            1. Zillah*

              The major difference was that the original poster specifically said not to smile or be friendly – not the way it’s worded. Either wording is really fine, IMO.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              One other thing to consider: In my advice, I’m trying to offer wording that I think the majority of people will be comfortable using. Loads of people just aren’t going to be comfortable with some of the alternative wording in this situation, no matter how entitled they might be to take a hard line. They’re just not going to do it if it feels rude to them, especially when dealing with their boss. People need wording that they can imagine themselves actually saying, or the advice is going to go unused.

    2. Mister Pickle*

      One of the reasons I like AAM is that Alison’s responses are so often “economical”, and I think that her original response here is a fine example of that. By “economical”, I mean that the suggested response is easy and minimally impactful. This kind of thing comes up in a lot of disciplines; medicine for example: if you go to the doctor with flu symptoms, the doc probably isn’t going to schedule you for a biopsy (although that may change if the situation worsens). This is a good thing. In general, if you’re attempting to diagnose or fix a problem that has significant unknowns, you want to try the simplest, easiest, cheapest, least risky tests first.

      Alison’s advice her is a good example of that. OP and her boss need to sustain a working relationship. If OP does the “oh, I’m not a toucher!” thing and the touching stops, then everyone lives happily ever after.

      If the touching doesn’t stop – well, then it’s time to move to a “more expensive” action. But starting out with an offended “don’t touch me” will almost certainly put some strain on the relationship. And maybe that’s necessary – later. Again: economy.

      I wish the OP well on this! This may be difficult to believe, but back when I was young and tender, I had to deal with something very like this. I wish I’d had a resource like AAM to turn to.

      (Heh, speaking of economy: I think Zillah used many fewer words to express what I’ve attemptes to say here!)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Exactly. If there’s a way that’s likely to be effective that will cause less tension, it makes sense to use it. Just because you’d be entitled to use a more aggressive response doesn’t mean that it’s the place to start or that it would be the most effective thing for the OP.

        The best outcome here isn’t just “the behavior stopped” It’s “the behavior stopped and we still have a reasonably good working relationship.”

        1. Kerry*

          “Just because you’d be entitled to use a more aggressive response doesn’t mean that it’s the place to start”

          This is a really good point. Something being acceptable or understandable doesn’t mean it’s the best possible response.

      2. Zillah*

        Heh, only the first time around! The second I got a lot more verbose. :P

        And I agree re: economical responses – I find them really helpful, especially since work does differ from other situations in some pretty major ways!

      3. Nobody*

        Mister Pickle, I totally agree! It seems like a lot of people want to skip straight to marching to HR and demanding that someone be fired, but if a problem can be resolved through civil discussion, it is so much better for everyone. It might not always work, but in most cases, it doesn’t hurt to try the easy way before turning something into a big issue. I’m glad to see someone dispensing sensible advice like this. It’s not always easy to come up with the right words on your own when you’re in the middle of a flustering situation.

    3. Clever Name*

      I had a boss that tried to do this to me. We were both looking at my computer screen, and he was just a tad too close to me for my comfort, but I ignored it, because sometimes people have different senses of personal space. Then he put his hand juuuust close enough to my mouse hand so our hands were barely touching. At that point I moved my hand and obviously moved my chair away from him. Luckily he took the hint and never did that to me again. I think my boss was testing my boundaries. I heard later that another one of his reports had reported him to HR for sexual harassment. Not surprised.

      1. Otter box*

        I had a boss who did this to me all the time too. It was always just little pats and touches and quick shoulder massages. The worst instance was when I was sitting at a computer with my hand on the mouse, and he came up and put his hand on my arm and told me I was “so strong,” which is laughable because I am definitely not strong. When I told him it made me feel uncomfortable, he got really defensive and asked me why I didn’t like him like everyone else did and basically made me feel incredibly guilty for being cold and standoffish. I never brought it up again, and thankfully he was promoted out of my store after six months. I do feel guilty for not saying more because maybe he’s doing it to someone else and I didn’t do enough to stop it when I could have, but at least I don’t dread going into work anymore.

        I guess my advice to the OP would be to stand your ground – I wish I had. Don’t let him push you around.

  8. Lori C*

    LW 5 – You could resign and give the company two weeks notice but your boss can have you escorted out immediately and they don’t have to pay you for your notice. Start to take home the personal items you would not want to have to leave behind. Get everything personal off your work computer. Keep a box big enough put put the rest of your personal items in when the poop hits the fan. If you are still working, and get a request for an interview, ask if you would interview before you need to report to work or after you get off work. There usually isn’t enough time during lunch. And I hate to say this but I will. Are you allowed to take 1/2 day for sick time? When you leave a company, you usually get paid for accrued vacation but not accrued sick time. So you might as well use your sick time. Since you are truly sick and tired of your boss. I would also check your employee manual if you have one about employees separating from the company and what is required on your end. Now if you give your two weeks and your boss gets worse, you are under no obligation to continue. In fact I would be in fear of my safety if someone behaved the way your boss behaves and would leave immediately.

  9. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


    Like most businesses, the health and profit of our business is tied to sales coming in and customer satisfaction. It’s not just sales people who drive sales. I like the saying “everybody is in sales”.

    I believe that a bonus system tied to what people can control is most effective. I’m not such a fan of “great sales year, here’s $500 for everybody” . We take our projected yearly goal and then also stretch goals and craft bonuses for different job functions based on those. The bonus can be per person but it is usually for a group.

    It’s not easy! And it’s not perfect. But we believe it helps keep us all focused on working together to achieve the piece we’re individually responsible for to make goals and stretch goals happen.

    (We’re always looking to add more people into bonus groups and create more bonus groups. It’s so tricky to get it right….)

    1. Jazzy Red*

      I hope you rembered to include the assistants in the bonus programs. I cannot tell you how demoralizing it is to type up congratulatory letters to those who are getting bonuses when you’re in their group/department and not getting a bonus yourself.

      Think about this: if your entire support staff was gone, how long would you remain in business?

      1. Chinook*

        “I cannot tell you how demoralizing it is to type up congratulatory letters to those who are getting bonuses ”
        What? Admins can get bonuses? After the fifth industry where I ended up typing those exact letters (and also got to hear colleagues whine about how the bonus isn’t as big as they expected), I just accepted that I am on par with office furniture and should be happy with the fact that atleast my paycheque appeared on time (unlike life as a contractor where they have lost or accidentally attached my invoice to someone else’s and paid me only after I asked them where my money was).

        Also, if your work is supported mostly by contractors, pushing us to make you meet your goals and telling us it is so you can get a bigger bonus is also not going to endear you. We can’t bill for a bonus, there is no room in the A/P system to add a tip for great services rendered, and contracts are only negotiable when the previous contract has expired (unless we negotiate COLA into the contract and it gets approved).

    2. Artemesia*

      Actual situation. Key player promised bonus if targets hit for profits. He builds the product that produces that profit. New CEO is hired at the end of the year and is given an enormous signing bonus that erases the profits. Key player is stiffed.

    3. Editor*

      While I like bonuses tied to metrics, some businesses give bonuses to people who’ve been in jobs a long time that they’re not going to advance from. I knew of a couple of mentally handicapped people who had modest limitations and functioned pretty well who worked as a janitor and a receptionist respectively. They were in their jobs more than 20 years and performed consistently well. Their employers rewarded them with bonuses because salary increases over that number of years would have bumped them up too much. And their success stories led to some other careful placements through a nonprofit that did some mentoring in the beginning, leading to others having long-terms jobs even if they were still living with parents and not entirely self-sufficient because of their limitations.

      When a janitor comes to you with his face glowing because he’s going to go to Branson with the cousin he lives with because the cousin saved money and the janitor was able to save two bonuses and go along on a paying-his-own-way basis, it’s hard to feel that bonuses are a totally inappropriate reward.

      But yes, most of the time I like to see bonuses that are tied to actual performance goals that are not to easy and not too hard or capricious.

  10. Basiorana*

    My company has a bonus plan tied to the overall success of the company. It’s based on hitting corporate, department, and personal objectives and varies based on what level you are (associates make most of their bonus on their personal objectives, VPs and the CEO on company objectives, everyone else fall in between). These are hard “yes or no” things and there’s no extenuating circumstances; you either got your objectives or didn’t.

    So raises are reflective of your overall work, bonuses are “you didn’t just do your job, you did your job in a way that directly improved the company.”

    1. Judy*

      I worked at a company that every one had a target bonus based on percent of salary. This was multiplied by your “personal multiplier”, “unit multiplier”, “region multiplier” and “company multiplier”. Each set of goals were rated from .25 to 2.

      I worked at another company, that bonuses were part of the wage discussion. If you were at a certain percent of your market rate, yet you had a great year, they might put what would be extra as a bonus.

      Either way, it was a way to pay you extra in good years while not increasing their “fixed costs” in the leaner years.

      Theses are obviously different than a $100 holiday bonus that everyone gets. (I’ve never received one of those.)

      1. Windchime*

        It’s been years since I have received any kind of bonus, even the little $100 holiday bonus. We just don’t get them where I work, and I’m a little jealous of those of you who receive bonuses.

    2. periwinkle*

      My company’s bonus plan is also tied to overall success. They set a target, and then calculate the bonus based on the company’s performance to target. Missing target means no bonus, of course, but we’re doing pretty well right now. At the end of the year the money folks wave their magic wand and set a number of days, and that’s our bonus: X days’ worth of wages. We’ll probably get about two full weeks of salary this time.

  11. shellbell*

    I don’t understand this at all.

    “But why give employees an “incentive” for what is basically doing the job they were hired to do?”

    I mean why pay them or praise them either? Bonuses are compensation. Compensation is incentive.

    1. Monodon monoceros*

      And using the “But why give employees an “incentive” for what is basically doing the job they were hired to do” logic doesn’t even work for CEOs either. Aren’t CEOs hired to make the company successful? So if you shouldn’t give bonuses to someone just “doing their job” then the CEOs shouldn’t get them either…

      If a company gives out bonuses, I think it is only fair to recognise that the lower level employees play a role in making the company successful also. Sure, the CEO makes the big decisions, but it’s the other employees that execute the CEO’s vision. So they are the ones making it a success too.

      1. shellbell*

        I strongly agree. It makes people feel valued and let’s a company who had a good year reward employees without committing to that higher salary next via a raise.

    2. Mike C.*

      Furthermore, it belies a rather unhealthy attitude about employees. Without employees, the company would be nothing.

    3. Artemesia*

      Exactly — I love the idea that workers who excel are ‘just doing what they are supposed to do.’ But the C suite gets enormous bonuses in many organizations even when the organization is not performing well.

  12. bonuses for all!*

    #3 – at my current company, the only employees eligible to receive bonuses are managers. I don’t mind this, except when your boss reminds you of it. It irritated me when my former boss would say, “make sure you do a good job so I can get my bonus.” I don’t know about anyone else, but I could really care less either way.

    (FTR, I do excellent work all the time.)

    1. Frances*

      Oh wow that is incredibly obnoxious of your former boss. And seems like bad policy on the part of the company – talk about lowering morale! I understand giving higher level employees bigger bonuses, but to have a whole segment of workers who don’t get any just seems really counter productive.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Love it.

      Yep, couldn’t agree more. I won’t stop until almost everybody in our division has some kind of bonus plan tied to their part in achieving overall goals and stretch goals.

      It’s hard! Lots of maths! :)

      1. puddin*

        I think the best bonus structures are ones that are transparent to the employees. I had a job where I was able to calculate based on company performance (public trading value), personal performance, and salary grade exactly what my annual bonus would be.

        Current company – I have next to zero idea how they calculate it and I suspect neither do the people who are supposed to know. Ok, they probably do know how to calculate the bonus, but without the transparency I feel certain that there is shenanigans (I have been paid fairly good bonuses, so its not the sour grapes talking – just observation and anecdotals.) For example, my guess is that at pay grade X or above the bonus is fixed regardless of company performance which means that the bonus is variable at lower pay grades – e.g. we get the leftovers.

    3. Chinook*

      ““make sure you do a good job so I can get my bonus.” …(FTR, I do excellent work all the time.)”

      This type of comment really does hurt those with a strict work ethic. It implies that what they are seeing is not my best work and I would only give it if there is a financial benefit. If that was the case, I wouldn’t volunteer for anything in or out of work.

    4. Sabrina*

      I worked at a company where a significant chunk of folks were not bonus eligible. Basically the lowest paid folks. But of course any time anyone asked what they were doing about engagement, they’d point to bonuses. And have no answer to how to keep the rest of us engaged. Bottom line, they didn’t care. They expected the grunts to work harder so that everyone else could benefit.

  13. Jake*

    Our bonus structure is the owner gets 80% of profit, the rest is spread amongst the eligible employees. This 20% is distributed by the President as he sees fit.

    The projects kicking butt and taking names tend to get larger bonuses than the stinkers, but everybody gets a piece of the pie. They usually give bonuses to even the non-eligible employees to head off resentment.

    The point is to provide us some extra incentive to make the company more profitable. My project is one of the stars of the company right now, so our bonuses will reflect that, while a coworker of mine was on a very poor project before this one and got a bonus about 15% what he will get on this project.

    I’ll be honest, the bonuses don’t motivate me to do my job well, but it is nice to have something tangible to show for doing a good job.

  14. MK*

    OP3, I don’t know if the examples you gave here come from your review, but I note that the verbal praise is more enthusiastic but also more vague and opinion-centric, while the written review is more tempered, but also more factual. What you see as a less positive review could be simply the translation from speech to written text; most people tend to be more precise and factual in writing.

    For what it’s worth, “competent project manager” and “able to juggle assignments well” would mean more to me than “indispensable” and “couldn’t have done it without you”; the latter are great compliments to receive, but when it comes down to it, it’s mostly hyperbole, while the former come across as sober and serious declarations of competence.

  15. spek*

    Personally, working for a multi-billion dollar company, I find my annual bonus of $180 deposited to my retirement account amusing. Better than nothing, I guess. I don’t self contribute to my Plan that week and use the extra $$ as a holiday bonus…

  16. puddin*

    #1 – how many Mississippi’s is it?

    OP – I hope you do not mind a little amusements about the matter.

  17. Kay*

    For question 4: Do you have to keep applications for 2 years if they’re received unsolicited when you’re not hiring? At Ex-Job (a very small company – maybe 5-7 people), every once in awhile we would receive a faxed in cover letter and resume for positions we didn’t have available at the company and I’m not trained in HR, but was the office manager. Most of the time I just threw them away because we weren’t hiring anyone, much less the kinds of positions the people were looking for.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Unless you consider them, at which point they become applicants and are subject to the same rules as solicited applications. So if you just throw them away instantly, that’s fine. If you review them, though, then you need to store them for two years.

  18. Purr purr purr*

    My biggest annoyance with bonuses is how they’re handed out. For my first job, I got a lovely bonus at the end of my first year but was surprised that my colleagues on the boat got very little (literally £100 each). Then I switched to working on the boat instead of the office, which meant being away from my family six months of the year and working a dangerous job, and found that my yearly bonus thereafter was also £100 while in the office they were getting £thousands. It was bad for morale because without us going on the seismic boats to collect their data and literally risking our lives, they wouldn’t have had anything to do in the office so why the big discrepancy in money?

  19. Dennis*

    #1 This is extremely inappropriate. He wouldn’t be touching another guy like this. I wouldn’t wait until he touches you again. I think you should talk about it before the next time it happens. He knows what he is doing.

    1. long time reader first time poster*

      Right. That’s why #dudesgreetingdudes is so spot on. If a man wouldn’t be caught dead acting a certain way with another male colleague, but thinks it’s okay to do so with a female one, he’s being totally inappropriate. And I don’t see a lot of guys reaching out and tapping other guys’ hands at the office, so…

  20. Quadra*

    #3 about bonuses: as someone who works directly with salespeople, my workload is tied directly to their inbound business. So this year, my hours and productivity have skyrocketed accordingly. So my bonus better increase as well, otherwise all the “extra” hours wouldn’t be worth it based on just salary.

  21. AmyNYC*

    #3 – my company gives year end bonuses in place of overtime (we’re all exempt). I feel “meh” about this policy because a) I have stuff to do outside of work and make every effort NOT to work overtime, so I’m losing out on a bonus by working efficently and b) the bonus doesn’t even come close to what overtime would be for some people

  22. Bea W*

    #3 – Well, now that my company gives raises that don’t keep up with COL (some people jokingly refer to them as “pay cuts”), the bonus we have no control over and has no correlation to how we perform is more important than ever. It’s easier to swallow the annual “pay cut” when you get a tidy lump sum deposited to your bank account at the same time.

    The industry I work in, the annual bonus is pretty standard. For people in my position, it’s a recruitment and retention tool. For people doing the higher level managing, the bonus for everyone in that division depends on meeting goals. At the level of the grunt work, people might understand the amount will depend part on your division meeting goals, but I’m not sure how effective it is at motivating at that level where you’re a small cog in a big wheel.

  23. HR Manager*

    #3 – it depends on how the bonus plan was written. Sometimes they’re just meant as token ‘thanks” (e.g., some holiday bonuses) while others are meant to incentivize certain behaviors. Variable compensation has become more popular because if the bonus plan is well designed, the employee takes on some of the risk for company performance. If you know that your bonus is 20% and is dependent on your company achieving XX, you may be inclined to help make sure the company achieves XX ,even if it’s not directly related to your day to day job.

    As an example, we need sales to hit 10M this year. I may be a recruiter and I can’t help you sell, but if I make filling the sales team openings a priority by getting more sales folks on the ground, then I’ve hopefully helped to hit that 10M sales target. Good bonus plans are designed around incentivizing your behaviors and work towards achieving your goals and/or key company goals, and they should be aligned.

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