my great employee is upset that he’s not getting a bonus for going above and beyond

A reader writes:

At the beginning of the year, I took a new position as the administrator of a small church. I have one direct report, the building manager. Let’s call him Eddard. I’ve never had any sort of management role before, so this is quite new to me. Eddard is a great guy, very personable, does his job well, and in general I’ve got no complaints.

In fact, on the contrary! Eddard used to work in landscaping and renovations, and has been taking on all sorts of extra projects that have really made our building look great. One of his pet projects, something he’s been working on for months, has been to put together a proposal to completely redo the landscaping around our building. He finally had the whole thing ready to show to our board at their meeting this week. According to Eddard, this is a project that would normally cost $80-100k, but because of his long history with his suppliers and because he’ll be doing all the labor himself, he managed to get the price down to about $35k.

Since he’ll be putting in a lot of extra time and saving about $50k of labor costs by doing everything himself, Eddard asked the board if he could get a $5k bonus as compensation. I wasn’t at the meeting and neither was he (it was an in camera session), but apparently the board was uncomfortable giving him the bonus because they thought it would be unfair to the other employees of the church.

After my boss (the minister) told Eddard the board’s decision, he got really miffed and told me that he would not be doing any more special projects. He’ll do his job, put in his normal hours, but has no interest in going “above and beyond” anymore. He doesn’t even want to do the landscaping project at this point — he’s going around to his suppliers to have them put together quotes for the full job, which he expects to be about $100k.

The other wrinkle in all this is that I haven’t been officially told about the decision myself. Eddard was informed about the board’s decision by my boss, who attends those meetings. Eddard then told me in confidence what had happened and how he planned to react. I asked my boss whether there was anything I should know about the board meeting, and she said, “Nope, not for now.” So I’m not sure how to broach this topic with my boss without breaking Eddard’s confidence.

Is there something I can do here? Obviously I can’t force him to take on special projects that were previously done as a labor of love. At the same time, I don’t want to see him so disappointed and disgruntled at the way things turned out. I’m not sure how to handle things.

Oooh, this is not good. It’s natural to be disappointed if you ask for a bonus and get turned down, but it’s really, really not okay to respond by saying “okay, then I’m not going to do things I was planning to do, and I’m not going to go above and beyond again.”

Look, I understand where the guy is coming from. He bent over backwards to negotiate a good deal and was planning on doing what sounds like lots of extra work. But it’s not fair or reasonable of him to have been thinking all along that he’d need to get extra money for doing it, and to spring that on your board without any discussion with you earlier on.

It would be different if he had come to you earlier on in the process and said, “Hey, normally this project would cost about $100,000, but I could really lean on my connections to get some good deals and if I did all the labor myself, I could get the price down to $35,000. That would be a lot of extra work though, much of it outside of my normal job description, so I want to talk to you about how we could compensate me if go that route.” Then you’d have had a chance to talk about it with him, weigh the options, and negotiate something that worked for both of you.

But telling you it was all set up and then adding at the last minute, “oh yeah, I want a bonus for that” — it just comes across much differently. Add to that “and if I don’t get the bonus, I’m going to just do the minimum from now on” and it comes across even worse.

To be clear, he’s not in the wrong for thinking that extraordinary work should be rewarded. It should be (even at churches and other nonprofits). He just went about it wrong.

So where does that leave you now? If he weren’t a stellar employee, I’d say to have a come-to-Jesus, this-isn’t-how-you-can-operate-here talk with him. But it sounds like he is a stellar employee and just mishandled this (and that happens — he can be awesome at his job and not great at navigating this kind of thing).

So my first question is: Is there an argument for giving him a bonus for this work? If he’s really saving you that much money (which you should probably independently verify unless you have enough experience with him to trust him implicitly) by putting in massive amounts of his own labor outside of his normal responsibilities, then yeah, he probably does deserve extra compensation, especially if you want to keep seeing that kind of dedication from him and if you want to retain him in the long-term.

I realize that’s not your decision, but as his manager, you could advocate for it happen.

As for Eddard telling you all this in confidence, that’s not really reasonable — you’re his manager and you need to be able to act on information that you hear. (That’s why it’s not a great idea to promise people confidentiality at work.) As for your own manager telling you there’s nothing you need to know about the board meeting — that’s not good. He really needs to pass on to you relevant information about the people you manage.

So ideally, you’d sit down with Eddard and talk about how much you appreciate all his hard work and recognize that he went way out of his way to put together a proposal that would save the church huge amounts of money … explain that the church doesn’t normally do bonuses and so it would ideally have been something that you hashed out together earlier on, rather than something sprung on the board later in the process … but that you want to work with your boss and the board to see if there’s anything that can be done … and that you need to be able to talk to your own boss about the situation in order to be able to do it.

If the bonus is an absolute no-go, you could look at whether there are other ways to reward him — extra vacation time, or a higher-than-usual raise at the end of the year, or whatever else you have available to you. If none of that is on the table, then I think your best bet is to say something to him like this: “You’ve done amazing work here. I don’t want you to think it’s not recognized. It is. You went out of your way to use your own connections to negotiate great rates, and you were prepared to do all the labor yourself. That’s an enormous contribution, and it’s the type of thing that makes you so great at your job. But the reality is that the church doesn’t do bonuses. I’ve tried to see if there’s a way to make it happen, but there isn’t. I know that’s disappointing to you, and I understand why. I hope that you’re going to continue to do the same fantastic job you’ve always done for us, but I understand if you feel like you need to pull back, and as long as you’re working at the level we’d ask of anyone else, that’s your call. But mainly I want you to know that the lack of bonus doesn’t indicate a lack of appreciation or recognition, and if there are other things I can do to recognize your work here, I’m open to talking.”

I don’t know if that will get you anywhere, but y’all are likely to lose Eddard if someone doesn’t at least try. He was wrong in the way he handled this, but he wasn’t wrong about the substance.

{ 325 comments… read them below }

  1. Jennifer*

    I think it’s fair of Eddard to decide he’s not going to go above and beyond for them any more. Expecting a bonus is…. hahahahahaha, not something that happens in this day and age.

    1. Spooky*

      My “bonus” at the end of last year was supposed to be a caricature sketch (which many of us never even received), and the year before that, it was an imitation-leather business card holder. Terrible. I am very glad to no longer be with that company.

      That said, my good friend gets reliable, annual bonuses. I think it just depends on industry.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        My “bonus” for hitting the three-year mark here was a key chain with our logo on it. The same exact key chain that they gave me in my orientation packet on my first day. The same exact key chain that I had a drawer full of as last minute tchotchkes to give out. And it was obsolete because we had updated our logo and it had the old logo on it. Very demoralizing gift! I never even received my 5-year bonus.

        1. Accountant*

          I think its hilariously sad when a company thinks they are doing something nice but it is so misguided that it actually just enrages an employee.

          I’ve had this happen twice– one summer I spent hours every week making brunches for my church as a volunteer. In the end, they had this big last brunch and to thank the three of us, they gave the main lady a nice gift card somewhere, and they gave me a plastic pen. I would have rather nothing. A plastic. pen. No.

          The other time was at my public accounting job. On 4/15 after we all worked a bunch of 70 hour weeks, the big gift was a bag full of crap from oriental trading company. Weird off brand candy, and plastic toys. To a bunch of adult professionals who just busted their @$$es for three months straight. It made me so incredibly angry. If you give someone a bag of plastic crap, make it be on top of a raise or something. Because, like the pen, it was worse than getting nothing.

          1. many bells down*

            Mr. Bells spent 12 years at a software company. At 10 years, they threw him a lunch (where he couldn’t eat half the food, even though they knew he had celiac) and told him there was an “amazing gift” in the works that he’d be getting soon.

            Two years later he left that job. We’ve never seen the “amazing gift” but we’ve heard from other former employees that all their suggestions for it were shot down. I don’t think they ever had a gift planned.

          2. The Alias Gloria Is Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

            The only time you should get a cheap bag of crap from Oriental Trading as a thank you for hard work is if you actually work for Oriental Trading.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              Or if you’re five years old. My mum taught kindergarten and gave her students Oriental Trading Company crap when they earned rewards. They loved it, but five year olds are generally all about quantity over quality anyway.

          3. Emily*

            I’ve seen similar things play out as “we want to hold a special brunch to thank you for all your help with brunches this year,” but then the “guests of honor” for lack of a better term wind up doing a lot of extra work.

            1. K.*

              That happened at my previous employer. We (the marketing team) had to plan and work an employee appreciation lunch. It was a lot of work and we didn’t even get to eat the meal. (I’d anticipated this so I brown-bagged it, but a few of my colleagues didn’t so they went hungry.) They asked us to plan it because we were the marketing team so we’re “used to planning events.” I’m sure the fact that we were all women had a lot to do with it (also the then-managing director was very, very cheap so he didn’t want to pay to have it catered). Afterward we told the higher-ups that they could play it however they saw fit, but they’d need to look elsewhere to execute it going forward. My boss was like “My team doesn’t feel very ‘appreciated,’ but glad everyone else had fun.”

            2. Collarbone High*

              A previous job had a catered lunch as a thank you to the staff. That part was fine. BUT. One of the catering company employees was later found to have hepatitis A, and everyone had to get gamma globulin shots. I was so glad I missed the lunch!

            3. onlyasmalllizard*

              I used to work at a pub that the local hospitals liked to use for leaving parties. One time, we set up the tables for the number of people the booking listed, and when people started arriving, several of them put their coats on the chairs next to them. The guest of honour was one of the last people to arrive, there were no more more chairs, and no one moved their coats for him. He ended up sitting on a short stool on a corner of the table. I could definitely see why he’d gotten another job.

          4. CAS*

            My boss at my previous job (I was her personal assistant) told me last year my Christmas present hadn’t arrived yet but I would be getting it soon. Never received it.

          5. Nervous Accountant*

            In the middle of tax season, the high producers were rewarded with multiple $25 gift cards we chose at random.

            I can imagine someone being insulted and disgusted by it…..I wasn’t, but I’m now wondering if somethng’s wrong with me.

          6. Dan*

            I used to be an airline ramp agent. One day HR wanted to throw an employee appreciation lunch. Great! Lunch was half of a sandwich and an apple.

            My ramp manager (rather big cheese at our hub) had to explain to HR that with ramp guys, if you can’t bring enough food to save them a trip to the fast food joint down the hall, that you’re better off doing nothing.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              So these are the guys who are throwing luggage all day long, and they thought half a sandwich and an apple would feed them? Anyone, large or small, male or female, who is doing manual labor all day is going to need more than half a sandwich for lunch. Jeez!

            2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              My last company threw a lunch like this. The choice was supposed to be a half sandwich or a small cup of soup.

              Of course, people took the small soup and a half sandwich thinking this was what had been intended, so there wasn’t enough food for everyone.

            3. Rusty Shackelford*

              Back in the Dark Ages, when I was a secretary and our day was called Secretaries Day, we had an appreciation lunch that consisted of a scoop of tuna salad in a cantaloupe half. Because you know, all those gals are on a diet.

          7. Chloe*

            This thread reminds me of something particularly awful— a company I worked for years ago made a big show of awarding an employee a 15-year pin… after cutting his hours to one below full-time to avoid paying for his health care.

          8. Narise*

            In those situations save the gifts and re gift them to the boss at the holidays or for their retirement.

        2. bridget*

          Do companies really truly call tokens like this “bonuses”? That seems to make it so much worse than just giving you a dumb gift! “Here’s a small gift” – fine, thanks, don’t care about a keychain but whatever. “Here’s a ‘bonus’ – it’s a keychain!” just screams neener neener neener NO MONEY FOR YOU!

          1. Lily in NYC*

            I think they called it a service award – we never get cash bonuses but sometimes we’ll get special vacation days as a perk.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I loved my boss who wrote me a nice card saying, “Please accept this small token of my appreciation”, and the “small token” was a $100 bill.

          3. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I still miss the pre-2008 days at my university when the dean of my college used to give each staff member a bonus, from his discretional foundation account, a bonus of $100 per year of service. I got the bonus one time, when I’d been there for one year, and then the practice was ended when all the foundation accounts took a hit in 2008. I would be getting a $900 bonus this year if we were still doing that. *sigh*

        3. starsaphire*

          The bonus-that’s-an-insult is really worse than no bonus at all, isn’t it? Sorry that happened to you!

          I’ve gotten great bonuses working for tiny mom-and-pop firms, and I’ve gotten the can’t-look-you-in-the-eye-while-I-lie-about-bonuses-being-frozen speech from managers at huge companies. It really all depends on the company, the industry, the area, and so much more.

          On the whole, though, I’d say my personal anecdata is that the smaller the company, the more likely the annual bonus or merit bonus. YMMV.

          1. Dan*

            Smaller companies have a larger incentive to treat employees as humans. Any given person has a much more significant impact on your org. At a large company, any given person’s impact is small in the grand scheme of things. So they act like they can treat you like crap.

        4. Lurker*

          One year as a holiday gift, the museum where I used to work gave all of its employees a free family membership! To the museum where we worked! We could already attend the museum for free, as could our guests. We could get discounts at the store and for performances. So basically we were just added to the mailing list. Which actually *cost* the museum money in printing and postage costs. I would have rather had $50 in cash.

          1. Stellar*

            I had a similar reaction to being added to Old Job’s mailing list.

            I already know what all of our events are! Because I’m here! Making them!

            No hope for a bonus, but they could at least stop sending me pieces of trash. I may have said as much when they asked for suggestions to help the company go green.

        5. Kyrielle*

          One year we all got 20th anniversary of the company pens. For a Christmas bonus. At the end of the 20th year, of course…when they could no longer hand them out to customers as swag.

          For added amusement, some of them (including mine) didn’t even write.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            ha! It’s more fun when the gift doesn’t work. Our logo pens used to explode and our umbrellas were so awful that they’d last 30 minutes before the spokes would try to stab you in the eye (we’ve since gotten better ones).

            1. Windchime*

              Our company recently got bought out, and one of the little “welcome” gifts on our desks were pens with the logo of the new company. Pens that felt really good and worked great for about a day, then started leaking and blobbing ink all over. Thanks.

              1. Kyrielle*

                …you know, I am inspired to a new appreciation of that 20th-anniversary pen. It didn’t write, but it also didn’t leak ink. It just couldn’t be bothered to pretend it knew what ink was…which sounds like a positive now! :)

        6. Elizabeth West*

          My bonus for five years at Exjob was an ugly grey windbreaker. They cheaped out on the nice jackets by the time they got to me. :(

          I never wore it and the last time I cleaned out my closet, I threw it away.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Should have added that they did give employee bonuses when we hit financial goals (to everyone, not just sales), but that ended after we were bought out.

      2. K.*

        A caricature sketch? As a bonus? Who comes up with this stuff?

        I got annual bonuses at my last employer that were percentages of my salary (they were tied to the company’s performance), as well as a couple of smaller spot bonuses for exceptional work. I have friends who get them regularly too. I also have friends in (and have worked in myself) industries where bonuses are Not Done.

        1. Spooky*

          And yet it’s still not the best bonus story in my family. Back in the 90s, my dad used to work for a small, private college in Georgia, and the very first year he was so excited about the bonus – he had previously worked at a public school that gave no bonuses, so he was thrilled at the prospect of one. The end of the year came, and the bonus was…a bag of cornmeal.

          Now, in the college’s defense, it WAS actually special cornmeal (sort of). They have a gorgeous old stone mill with a big water wheel on the upper campus that’s almost always shut down, but they started it up again for one day to make a bag of cornmeal each for all their employees. It’s not the sort of thing you can buy – it’s not available to the public at all (or students, I think.) I’m sure they would all have rather had money, but in a weird way, it was kind of sweet.

          Mostly just weird, though.

          1. Nighthawk*

            That is actually kind of sweet in a bizarre way. I guess I would have made cornbread with it!

      3. SystemsLady*

        Yup, seems industry-specific, but it can also depend on how the company is run.

        Where I work (in a fairly stable…sector of our industry), the salary is significantly below the norm, but if you’re not getting a bonus that isn’t a double digit percentage of your salary equivalent to or somewhat greater than the difference between your salary and what you really “should” be getting paid, it’s either been an exceptionally off year or [the president thought] you didn’t have any big projects that year. Plus most of the benefits are, at the very least, decent. Cost of living being low and lowered by frequent in-state business travel also helps.

        It legitimately appears to be the case that the president views the bonus as making up for the low salary and largely delivers on that, though a lot of employees rightfully disagree. The president’s opinion on how much you contributed affecting the amount (and not always listening to managers) bit is the main problem, but I’m fortunate to be in a part of the company that does very visible work.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m getting frustrated by the cynicism on this topic (because it’s spreading misinformation). Yes, many, many organizations give bonuses that are truly based on merit, as I’m sure many people here can confirm.

          1. Juli G.*

            I get an annual bonus that pays out based off merit (although there is an auto trigger element) as well as project/above and beyond bonuses.

          2. Kyrielle*

            Yep. I’ve gotten bonuses for work above-and-beyond job role in the past. And I’ve gotten “everyone got a bonus” bonuses. And I’ve gotten terrible “bonuses”. They’re all out there. (I’ve never worked for a church, small or large, so I can’t comment on that part of the context, though.)

            (Actually, the best one was where a large group of us worked extra and struggled to make something the company wanted to happen, happen. We got bonuses, proportional to our role in it. That were anything but welcome, because the temp contractor working in finance accidentally *set our payscale to our bonus amount* instead of providing it as a bonus, so our next paycheck was short. The less we contributed, the more it was short by. They found it as the electronic payments and checks were going out, they told everyone, they made it right for everyone who had problems because of it, but still…wow.)

          3. Hello Felicia*

            Our company gives bonuses every year tied to the number of years you’ve worked. I’ve also received a ‘Thank you for not melting down during this incredibly steep learning curve” bonus. The last one was actually promised by a previous boss, but he didn’t follow through. I was fairly frustrated but not sure how to approach it. One of the first things new boss said was “You never got that bonus that old boss promised, did you? It’ll be in your next paycheck.”

            I’ve received both small and large bonuses at other places I’ve worked too.

          4. Sans*

            I’ve gotten bonuses at my last two companies and both are partially based on merit. My division did not do well at all last year and although that affected the bonus, I still got one. Some companies suck. But not all companies.

          5. Megs*

            In the private legal field, the most common “bonuses” are for billing hours above par, but many firms also offer merit bonuses for associates as well. The office I worked before law school gave profit-sharing bonuses as well as merit bonuses.

          6. Art_ticulate*

            I mean, every organization is different, of course. I had a great retail job where ee got regular yearly raises and bonuses based on years of service. Contrast that with my professional, post-grad jobs where bonuses have largely not been A Thing, with the exception of one place where I’m pretty sure the bonuses came at our ED’s own personal expense. *shrug* I mean, they’re called bonuses for a reason, you know? If you get one, awesome, but you’re not owed it unless that’s established as policy early on.

          7. Anonymousaurus Rex*

            I’ve never worked at a job where I received a bonus, but I’m guessing it’s position or industry specific? I’d be interested to know what fields those who receive bonuses are in. I’m assuming sales, but beyond that, who else gets bonuses?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s all over the map — there are certainly industries where it’s standard, but lots of others where it just depends on the company. Beyond that, I’d say it could be a good thing to ask in Friday’s open thread, but I’m wary of getting off-topic from the OP’s question here. Thanks!

            2. alter_ego*

              I’m an electrical engineer at an MEP design firm, and I’ve gotten a bonus every year, partially based on merit, and partially based on the company’s performance that year.

            3. Just Another Techie*

              I’m in computer engineering and I get an annual bonus that is a complex formula based on title, salary, how well the company overall did, and how well I as an individual did. Also my site director has a discretionary fund where he can (and does!) award one-off spot bonuses for innovations, major contributions, saving a coworker’s @$$ from the fire, etc.

              1. nerfmobile*

                My company has a similar plan for annual bonus calculations. Everyone gets something, but as you get higher up in the org, your possible bonus becomes a larger percentage of your salary, subject to all of the other factors. There is also a separate process for stock-based awards that only a certain (small) percentage of people get based on performance and potential.

            4. Amber*

              For being a developer of computer games, I don’t get them every year but when I do they range from $4,000 to $10,000.

            5. Stardust*

              I received several bonuses of $500 for merit in Human Resources (at a call center company).

            6. Shark Whisperer*

              I work at a conservation non-profit and we get merit bonuses. Your manager gives you a number score on your goals and one on how you meet the values of the organization and those are added together to determine the percent of your salary that you’ll receive as a bonus. Even our part-timers get bonuses.

          8. Liz in a Library*

            For more anecdata, my husband’s current company regularly gives merit bonuses ranging from spot-bonuses of $20-100 gift cards to big year-end bonuses.

            Both of my last two employers gave out merit bonuses from time to time, even the awful one.

          9. LJL*

            I never dreamed of one when i was working for the state but now that i am with a company, I got one. They do exist.

          10. Liza*

            My current company gives bonuses annually that are partly merit-based (how many of my goals for the year did I achieve) and partly based on how well the company has done financially. My “bonus target” (how much I can get if both of those numbers are good) is 10% of my salary.

            A couple of years ago, at the same company, I was part of making a big project go well. I was pleasantly surprised to get $250 and a framed certificate thanking me for my work.

          11. SystemsLady*

            Yup – even our yearly, large bonuses are merit-based. There seems to be a base percentage of your salary you get and company performance contributes, but merit is the multiplier on that.

            We also get assorted merit/extra hours-based bonuses or comp time for exceptional work every once in a while.

          12. kitty_mommy*

            The one job I had that gave bonuses (a small medical office) had them based on revenue that month. What was cool was the main doctor decided in my first month that I was doing such a good job they were to start mine early, normally it was at 3 months. That still makes me feel good.

          13. Mallory Janis Ian*

            At my university, we get a bonus the percentage of which is based upon our performance evaluation scores. It is paid as a lump-sum check, separate from our regular paychecks, and is entered as a merit increase for accounting purposes.

          14. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            The one and only thing I miss from my call center job was the bonuses. The threshold for them kind of sucked — the whole department had to be performing on a certain level before anyone could receive one, and that meant that a few deadbeats or the company holding off on a hiring cycle could and did screw those of us who worked hard — but once we were all on top of the department-wide threshold, I was taking home $150-200 a month extra on the regular. It made a huge difference for me.

            1. Megs*

              Man, the call center you worked in was way better than where my mom works – her manager will walk around with $1 bills and hand them out to the top performers every so often. $1 bills. She makes a big deal about it, too.

          15. Beanie*

            I know they exist – but in education they’re highly controversial (or more likely just don’t exist). I received my first bonus of my career this spring. The metric? My ACT score from high school. How that determines my value as a teacher 20 years later is still a mystery to me…

          16. Tonia.*

            Yes, can confirm.
            I have been working in the finance sector for many, many years. All employees get bonuses at least twice a year. I mean everyone, all the way down from receptionist to President. The work is challenging, but great industry, and we are rewarded in so many ways.

          17. SusanIvanova*

            Yep. I got a *really* nice bonus last year because a project came up with a very hard deadline (the web plugin it used would no longer be supported by any browser) and the person assigned to it, while talented, could never have even learned what all the pieces did in time to reassemble them to fit. Whereas I’d spent 8 years writing all those pieces, and had a quick prototype in under a week, and a properly done one that I could hand off to him in 2 months.

            But there was also the tiny mom-and-pop software shop that promised a bonus, told us the price range, encouraged us to put up photos of what we’d spend it on (mine was a Mac Plus, state of the art at the time. Someone else had a nice vacation with the kids) – and then only paid themselves the bonus.

          18. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            At my company, we are able to earn up to a 5% raise based on performance and up to a 5% bonus based on performance.

            There is a rating scale based on goals and performance metrics that calculates down to your raise and bonus percentage.

          19. Anon for this*

            I can confirm. The whole company gets a year end bonus, my team has the ability to each get a substantial monthly bonus depending on performance. (We’ve gotten it the past few months in a row)

        2. hermit crab*

          Maybe not in your experience, but we totally get bonuses, and the system for doing so is reasonably fair and merit-based (it’s directly tied to certain performance metrics). It does happen!

          1. AMG*

            I think that’s what bothers me about the church’s response. It wouldn’t be fair to the other employees? It absolutely would be fair, because they should be prepared to give $5K to anyone that saves the church $100K and takes that kind of initiative. I can’t believe that they actually think it wouldn’t be fair as much as they just made up a lame excuse. I hope that Eddard gets his bonus. Please let us know, OP!

            1. Zahra*

              The thing is… The reduction was 65k.

              And, actually, it may have been an expense that the board wasn’t planning to make. In that case, the proposal is actually *costing* them money.

              1. sunny-dee*

                Yeah, it really depends on the proposal. Most churches have some kind of capital program in place for maintenance, and it could be that there were reasons for them to address landscaping, anyway (like, dying trees or a recent storm) or they could have been looking for proposals for that year’s capital expenditures. Or he could have proposed it out of the blue. The context would make a difference.

                That said, if they decided to do the project, I still think he deserves a bonus or reward for it.

              2. JoJo*

                Eddard said the savings would be 65K. I’d like to get a few estimates from other landscapers to verify that.

        3. Security SemiPro*

          In my company bonuses are given out related to the quality of work of the employee and the overall performance of the company. My previous company, in a different industry, only gave out bonuses to a few senior people and seniority was a heavy factor. Different companies and industries have different norms, your experience is not universal.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            At the last private company I worked at, before returning to work at the university, the year-end bonuses were based upon a metric, determined by the two principals, but comprising factors such as length of employment, seniority of position, project-hours logged in relation to the baseline project-hours (a designer who logged way more hours than his peers over the course of the year would have that factored into his bonus), and how well the business did that year. It seemed fair to me. I got a nice bonus when I worked there as the office manager; it was smaller than the designers’ bonus because I was new and I also didn’t have billable client hours or work overtime like the designers did.

        4. LBK*

          So far at every job I’ve had I’ve received unsolicited merit raises (that weren’t related to my annual review or a promotion). And some of them came from otherwise not-that-great managers.

        5. Engineer Girl*

          My company gave me four figure bonuses many times. Sometimes it was multiple times a year. It was always on merit, usually after I completed some complex thing.

        6. pope suburban*

          I hear you. I really, really do. I work at a dysfunctional company where high performers are treated badly, while poor performers are lauded and give nigh-infinite slack, and the token “bonus” we get near Christmas is the same for everyone. It’s very demoralizing, and I can’t say as it incentivizes working even harder. But– there’s always a but– I have to remember that this is a problem with my particular company, rather than a universal truth. It’s a struggle not to let my thinking get poisoned, but if I do, then I’m not going to be putting my best foot forward in cover letters, and I’m going to be even more stressed out (and correspondingly less fun to be around in general) than I am now. Getting burned is bad, but letting it wreck your head about *every* company is even worse. So we have to keep fighting the good fight, and have hope that we’ll end up somewhere that rewards our efforts.

          1. all aboard the anon train*

            This is a good comment. I’m being burned for being a high performer at my current company and the same thing happened at my previous companies, but I have to remind myself that there must be companies out there that don’t treat poor performers better than high performers.

            Though, it’s something I have difficulty trying to gauge in interviews since I don’t know how to ask the question without it sounding like I want multiple pats on the back and bonuses for doing good work before I even get the job.

            1. pope suburban*

              As far as interviews, maybe couching it as a question about the company culture would work? Like, what’s your company’s philosophy on rewards? I feel like this is something a Friday open thread might be able to help you with, what with all the clever posters here. It’s definitely something that would be important to know before accepting an offer; no one wants to jump from one demotivating business to another.

              1. all aboard the anon train*

                Definitely. I’ll have to try and remember to post it in Friday’s open thread.

        7. Green*

          I’m sorry you’re somewhere that you feel doesn’t appreciate you. But I wouldn’t consider that indicative of a trend.

          We get above-and-beyond awards throughout the year of $250-750 for taking on extra assignments or receiving particularly excellent feedback from a client. We also have monthly meetings in which we discuss with “shoutouts” individuals’ accomplishments. Our bonuses are based on a combination of our performance relative to our peers (an individual rating component) and company division performance. The great majority of my group receives a full bonus and stock award, low performers relative to their peers may receive 85-90% bonus, and extraoardinary performers receive 110-120% bonus.

        8. Jake*

          Our bonus pool is based on profit (20% goes to pool, owner keeps 80%). Then the pool is split by merit. Last year most people got nothing, with a few of us getting a bonus less than what a bottom performer got the year before.

          Merit based bonuses exist, but how well the business does seems to be a more important factor in my experience.

      1. TAR*

        I’m pushing 40 and I’ve never gotten more than a coffee mug or starbucks card from an employer and I’ve worked in nothing but corporate settings.

        Is this a reflection on ME or where I’ve worked? Because I honestly thought bonuses were a myth.

        1. The Alias Gloria Is Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

          I’m also pushing 40 and my current company is the only one where I was eligible for a bonus. That said, it usually isn’t that much. In a good year it’s about as much as a paycheck. This year wasn’t a good year. After taxes it was $156. I did work at a company for 10 years where I just wasn’t eligible even though I was expected to care as much as those that were.

          1. Dan*

            I’ve never worked at a place where I had to bust my hump to make sure my boss got a bonus, but I wasn’t eligible. I can’t imagine how miserable those places are.

            My previous employer used to give generous bonuses to everybody, but then went through difference management changes. They tried taking the bonuses away, but there was a revolt from the staff. They brought them back, but then set the goals really high, and the year we met them, they dragged out payment for almost a year. God that was a pain. (I got $2k that year. I would have almost been happier not getting one instead of getting jerked around.)

            I work for a non profit now. We don’t do bonuses. And you know what? I don’t miss the drama.

        2. SevenSixOne*

          I’ve only had one job with cash bonuses… and they were maybe $100/month, not enough for a vacation or anything.

        3. JB (not in Houston)*

          There’s no way for anyone to answer that without knowing you, your skills, your work ethic, your industry, and your geographic location, just to start with. All we can say is that bonuses are definitely not a myth.

        4. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          It’s been about 50/50 for me. And honestly, it’s surprising the ones that do vs. the ones that don’t.

          In my current position, my bonus is performance based for my individual goals. At my previous company it was based on the companies revenue.

        5. BananaPants*

          Where I work, you have to reach a certain level AND be selected to be eligible for IC (incentive compensation). It’s usually awarded with RSUs, cash, or a combination. The overwhelming number of individual contributors are not eligible and never will be.

          It’s especially frustrating when you have a crappy manager who leaves the group to largely run itself, can’t/won’t make priority calls, and expects his technical leads to do all of the project management work that on paper is his responsibility. So my hard work results in his quarterly bonus paying for new granite countertops in his kitchen – wow, I feel so motivated!

          1. BeenThere*

            ….or his brand new Telsa X like my current crappy manager.

            I feel zero guilt about planning to start a new team with the tech lead and then raiding the disgruntled talent from our current team when our project really takes off. I expect to feel much schadenfreude when the current application grinds to a halt after only a year in the hands my my current manager.

      2. orchidsandtea*

        I got $25 and $50 bonuses as a nanny and housecleaner. In my office job, I got “you pulled in a project!” bonuses and also “you kept things running while I pulled in a project” bonuses. I even got a “we know you’re struggling financially” bonus, and a “you really need a retirement account” bonus. Basically my boss can’t afford to give me a raise, but whenever he sees an opportunity, he gives me a bonus. Small companies are weird, but sometimes in a good way.

    2. KT*

      Hmmm not generally true. In my last job, I received a bonus that was 20% of my salary; higher ups got bonuses in the range of 40%.

      Even when I worked at small non-profits, bonuses were (and still are) the norm. They won’t be the 20% bonuses, but it’s not out of the ordinary to expect $1,000-3,000.

      I’m sure there are places where bonuses are just “not done” but I don’t think that’s a universal thing.

      1. Always Anon*

        I work for a non-profit and I get an annual bonus that can range from 4% to 12% of my annual pay. It’s an incentive bonus so it depends on how much money we made, etc. But, then I also work for a non-profit that pays its employees as if they are professionals, not glorified volunteers, as so many non-profits do.

        1. Dan*

          I work for a non-profit that often places on national best places to work surveys. They pay us like professionals, and give awesome benefits.

          If I had to criticize them, it’s that they don’t pay bonuses. Since bonuses are an easily quantifiable thing, I’m sure they could easily come back and say that they’d cut something to generate the cash for a bonus program. Me? I’d rather have the cash and skip the drama.

      1. De Minimis*

        Yep….at my last fed job everyone got a bonus if they got a positive performance rating, anything at “exceeds expectations” or above. You could either get cash or bonus vacation days. This was a fairly routine thing at evaluation time, the only difference was in tougher fiscal times they would not pay cash and everyone got vacation days.

    3. Sami*

      I’m a teacher and for National Teachers’ Day (part of National Teachers’ Week) the district gives us a letter. It’s just blather about how important teachers are, but come contract negotiation time that sentiment seems to disappear.
      We used to at least get cinnamon rolls. :-/

    4. Vicki*

      Yeah. My first response was to say “I agree with Eddard”.

      He expected some sort of reward. “because they thought it would be unfair to the other employees” is a TERRIBLE reason to not give some a bonus, a raise, a promotion, or a thank you.

      Also, Alison, I think one of us misread the original letter. YOu seem to b responding as if Eddard was told to set up a project, did so, says he could make it cheaper, got mad and now says he won;t. i.e. he’s not doing his job.

      But note that the LW says that this is Eddard’s “pet project”. He did this _on his own_.
      “One of his pet projects, something he’s been working on for months, has been to put together a proposal to completely redo the landscaping around our building. He finally had the whole thing ready to show to our board at their meeting this week.”

      Deciding not to do it after all really does seem like it’s his right. He wasn’t asked to create this. He wasn’t told to create this. He did it on his own and believes (I think rightfully) that he should get some kudos.

      The LW should check the figures and determine if the $50,000 savings is real. If so, she should tell her boss that a board that can’t spend 10% for a thank you is penny wise and pound foolish.

      Also? Get ready to interview new building managers because Eddard now knows how much the oard values him.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        We didn’t read it differently. I agree it’s his right not to do it. I also think he handled it less than ideally for the reasons in the post. But my advice to the OP was to tell him that it’s fine if he wants to pull back as long as he’s working at the level they’d ask of anyone else.

    5. WIncredulous*

      I don’t blame Eddard one bit. I love my job (at a small church, ha) and go over and above, but not a ton – my time and effort are worth something. I think this board made a large mistake in turning down a bunch of work for relatively small remuneration.

  2. Lily in NYC*

    I can’t say I blame him for not wanting to continue to do the landscaping project – I agree that he didn’t handle it all that well, but I have sympathy for him. If I were him, I wouldn’t have said anything about not being willing to go above and beyond on that project (the one where he was going to save them $$$), but I would have quietly done the bare minimum while looking for a new job.

    1. Rafe*

      Yep, I think the church is going to lose him, his plans, and all that hard labor he had been excited to put in for them. It seems like if he had asked them to just pay him overtime, it would have been exponentially more than the $5K bonus. He’s bitter now. I don’t know that this relationship can be saved.

    2. all aboard the anon train*

      Definitely. I’ve been in his shoes and it’s pretty awful when you’ve been told you’re a great employee and going above and beyond, but promotions or raises/bonuses are denied. During those times, even a nice lunch or a thoughtful card would have meant a lot and the lack of anything has definitely led to me doing the bare minimum.

      1. mdv*

        I don’t think it’s fair to say the “but promotions or raises/bonuses are denied” in this situation. He built it into his proposal that went to the board without even running it by anyone beforehand, so … no one promised him anything.

        1. Vicki*

          Who exactly would he have “run it by beforehand”? It was his idea.

          We can do this thing. It would be nice.
          If we do this thing, it would normally cost $X, but I can do much of the work and I also know people and I can save you 50%.
          If you decide to do the thing and we save 50%, I think it would be fair for you to pay me 1/10 of what you are saving.

          Or, your options are to do the thing at full cost (without my help) or not do the thing.

          If Eddard was a contractor, no one would be arguing that he did something wrong.
          We’re only arguing that he made a “mistake” because he’s a (oon-to-be-former) employee.

    3. Vicki*

      The thing is, he already went above and beyond. The _existence_ of the project is “above and beyond”.

  3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

    Since this is work Eddard would do in addition to his duties, is there any way to provide overtime pay?

    That way the money is not tied to the cost savings, but to the extra work he is putting in.

    1. Misty*

      Yeah this is what I was wondering too — I would have guessed he’s a non-exempt employee? And in that case if he’s putting in extra hours he should be getting paid for them!

    2. Shell*

      Honestly, Eddard was only asking 5k in compensation for 50k of savings (assuming his math was correct). If the church cannot/will not compensate him 5k, the chances of them able/willing to pay him overtime for what is presumably a lot of hours, which will probably work out to a lot more than 5k, is slim to none.

      (I have no idea whether the church legally can get away with not paying overtime. I’m assuming religious institutions can have certain exceptions.)

      1. Mary*

        Nope! I work for a church. We don’t get a pass on overtime! (Which doesn’t mean churches always follow labor laws…but they should.)

        OTOH, at my church, bonuses are pretty much unheard-of.

        1. Shell*

          In that case, I think the church is likely to scrap the project altogether. If they’re unwilling to pay a 5k bonus, then they probably wouldn’t go for >5k in overtime costs, or the approximately 80-100k in regular costs.

        2. Sins & Needles*

          I left a religious sect over them not following labour laws, amoung other issues. Not just the local organization, but the larger one, too.

          1. Anony-turtle in a half shell!*

            I did, too, Sins & Needles. The church I worked for made the “suggestion” that I just volunteer my time to do my job over the 32 hours they allotted me to be paid for, knowing that they were regularly giving me 45-50 hours of work each week. I refused to do so, being pretty good about learning labor laws even from a young age. Apparently the woman before me regularly would volunteer the extra day that she didn’t work in addition to working (excuse me, “volunteering”) on Saturdays and Sundays in the office as well. They were heavy on the guilt for office staff, but low on actually helping us prioritize our time to get things done without breaking the law.

            Bonuses for office staff were definitely unheard of, but the pastors regularly voted themselves bonuses. (It is a denomination where the senior pastor is the head of the church board and one or two other pastors also serve on the board.) They also solicited end-of-year monetary gifts from the congregation (that they called “Christmas gifts”) for our staff, but those only went to pastors. One year they sent out a letter saying, “Forget the Christmas gifts this year, unless you really want to. We’ve worked so hard that we voted ourselves a bigger bonus this year instead!”

            These were egregious manifestations of larger issues with the way they wasted and handled money, but I left the job quickly and the church soon thereafter. (The writing was on the wall my first Sunday after I started working when they pulled me out of worship service to yell at me for not putting the stapler and pen in the desk drawer and the Kleenex box out of sight in the office on Friday when I left for the day. I came back in that week to find that they had ransacked the entire office and thrown it into my newly organized closet that they’d griped about all week, because the “previous employee” had left it such a mess. I suddenly understood how it got to be such a mess when they literally just picked up everything that was on the counter or the desk in the three offices and hucked it into the closet randomly, not even putting it on a shelf! All leftover programs and things had been thrown in, too, as if they had just opened the door enough to toss everything in and then shut the door as it settled all around. This was the pastors, mind you, not volunteers or other staff.)

            Ugh. The whole thing made me so sad, because the larger church philosophy and ideology, that of the entire organization, meshed with mine so well. :( But the local church claimed to follow those ideals while wasting money that could have been much help in the community while spouting the “give until it hurts” philosophy to church members for tithes and gifts. I now look for churches that care less about appearances (coffee shop, latest sound system, “cool” graphics and fonts, etc.) and more about actually taking care of the community.

        3. Meg Murry*

          What if he’s doing the landscaping outside of his regular hours, is he allowed to donate the time, since it’s outside of his normal job duties?

    3. Kate M*

      Yeah, the way I think he saw it (but didn’t quite word correctly) was that he has his “building manager” duties. On top of that, he had an idea for a landscaping project. I think he saw himself as a contractor for this part, and was just willing to take a lot less money for it out of love of the church or something. Like he would do this in addition to his job, and for this project they would pay him $5k. That seems totally reasonable to me. And then the board said no, we want you to do this extra contracting work for free [as part of your normal salary]. Not saying that was a good or bad call, maybe the landscaping project isn’t really needed, and the board was like, “it would be nice, but we’re not paying for it. If you want to do it, you can, but we’re not paying $5k extra.” But I don’t think it’s unreasonable for him to now say, “ok, I’m not doing projects that take up more of my time if I’m not being compensated.”

    4. Meg Murry*

      It’s distinctly possible that the church wasn’t budgeting on spending much money on landscaping at all this year, or they had only budgeted a much smaller amount. So while it’s cool that Eddard could get them $100,000 of landscaping for $35,000, if the $35,000 wasn’t in the budget it isn’t necessarily a “cost savings”.

      However, I agree with everyone else that he could/should at least get OT for this project.=. Rather than ask for a bonus of $5k, since he was talking about donating the labor, could you at least get the board to approve paying him overtime for any landscaping work he does over his regular work week (capped at $X or Y hours)? It wouldn’t be $5k, but it would at least be something.

      Related, I have family members that are contractors and this is why they will not do projects for most churches anymore – because they will give the church a quote and the church will come back with “but we’re a church, can’t you cut us a deal? What if you just buy the parts and we use volunteers for the labor? etc, etc” My husband has said he doesn’t care if his partner does the work for free on his own on weekends or evenings, but he isn’t volunteering himself and he isn’t cutting their rates.

      1. AnonT*

        Yep, yep, yep. My whole family (except me) works in various construction-related fields, and it’s gotten to the point where having a church call for a quote is a running joke. They all know that once the church gets a number, they’re either going to try and wheedle their way into a lower price or just back out entirely. Either way, when a church calls, they’re not getting paid.

        On a semi-related topic, can anyone who works in a church tell me why some religious groups do that whole “but we’re a church! give us a discount!” thing? I seriously do not understand it. Like, I get that they are a church, but they’re not my church, so why the heck am I supposed to care?

        1. Jessica (tc)*

          I no longer work in a church, but I think it has to do with their feeling that they want to use the money for other things for the community, such as food banks and so on. They feel like they should get more bank for their buck, so those bucks can do a “greater good” elsewhere–almost like they want to do things for the church for less, so it seems like they are better stewards of the money, perhaps. I get that some churches don’t actually do that well–or at all, for some, and it bothers me even if that’s the reason. Of course, I’m the person pushing more money on friends and family who do work for me or don’t ask in the first place to avoid problems with working with friends/family, because I worry that they will think that I’m trying to take advantage of them when they do something for me, especially creative work.

        2. Meg Murry*

          Yup, all this. Plus, more often than not once they start opening up walls, etc they find all kinds of other things that were done in a haphazard way by previous volunteers – and if they are doing a job that requires calling in an inspector, the inspector isn’t going to pass the job until EVERYTHING is brought up to code, even if it was that way before my husband started working.

          To be fair, there is another church in our area with a resonable board of directors (comprised of many people who aren’t handy at all, and others who have formerly worked in a maintenance department so they know how big these jobs can get) that call my husband regularly to do upgrades, pay their bills on time, etc. They recognize that he is not gouging them – he charges them the same rate he would charge anyone else, and it is way cheaper than an out of town contractor would. He also does all their annual maintenance – changing light bulbs that require really high ladders, etc.

  4. ZSD*

    I can absolutely understand Eddard being upset about not getting a bonus, and not wanting to go above and beyond in the future is a natural human reaction (though I think it was unwise of him to openly declare this). However, I think that backtracking on the negotiated discounts and going around getting more expensive quotes for the work is just petty. And honestly, I think the board would be justified in saying, “At this point, with the money we’ve already committed, we consider your labor on the landscaping to be part of your job for the next year. We’ll be moving forward with the $35k plan.”
    However, there’s something that isn’t clear to me: Did anyone ask Eddard to start this landscaping project and get these quotes in the first place? The OP says it’s his “pet project”; did the church even have the spare $35k in their budget to begin with, and did people other than Eddard want the landscaping redone? If he came up with this idea mostly on his own, I can see that the board might basically be thinking, “Well, now that you’ve pretty much committed us to spending $35k we didn’t have budgeted to spend this year, no, we won’t be spending an additional $5k to reward you for that.”
    If the project was the idea of the board or someone other than Eddard, though, then my last paragraph is all moot.

    1. ZSD*

      I went and re-read, and I guess he hasn’t *committed* the board to spending the money; he’s just put forth a *proposal*. But I can’t imagine that they’ll approve the new $100k plan he’s trying to put together.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yep, I think it would be totally reasonable for there to just be no overhaul to the landscaping at all. Just scrap the whole thing for now and leave the grounds as-is.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think that backtracking on the negotiated discounts and going around getting more expensive quotes for the work is just petty. And honestly, I think the board would be justified in saying, “At this point, with the money we’ve already committed, we consider your labor on the landscaping to be part of your job for the next year. We’ll be moving forward with the $35k plan.”

      So, that was my initial take too, but then on a second reading of the question, I thought that the whole reason he was able to get those discounts in the first place was because he was going to do all the labor, and that without that component, the original price quotes don’t apply.

      1. KT*

        That’s how I read it…but that doesn’t seem at all reasonable (or practical).

        My husband worked in landscaping. 35K of work (if the labor is free of charge) is some pretty significant work. THat price-point would mean removing trees, putting in all new flowerbeds, trucks of dirt or mulch, etc. That would be a hefty amount of work for a usual team of 3 or 4, but for one person? That doesn’t seem feasible (especially if it’s a volunteer project or side gig) or safe, frankly.

        1. Interviewer*

          This is exactly what I was thinking about the pricing. OP, are you taking his word for it on how much Eddard is saving the church in labor costs? Can you see his original proposal (with the original quotes) on how much labor he was intending to do, or what tasks he was planning to handle himself? Can you reach out to the suppliers directly to find out if that’s feasible? I’d be worried if Eddard even had the skills to handle this project on his own. Or if you end up with scope-creep, where you need additional hands, rental equipment, new suppliers – or it takes way too long for one person to do all of it.

          Separately, his actions seem very passive-aggressive. The church is turning down his offer to go above & beyond for a bonus, therefore he’s going to gouge them on the project and do the bare minimum of work around the place. Have you seen him exhibit this type of behavior before? This is the piece I would address immediately.

        2. Kate M*

          Well, I’ve known some people who could probably do it themselves (especially if they were in the industry and already had the tools/equipment). It wouldn’t take a week like some landscaping projects, it would probably take 2 months. So it couldn’t be done in the same time frame, but if they wanted to save money, it could still probably be done.

        3. Just Another Techie*

          The only way I can see it being feasible as a one person project (having just served on a church board that approved a $50K landscaping project) is is Eddard is very very part time (say 10 or 16 hours a week) and is planning to donate a significant number of hours (40-50 hours/week) on the landscaping. But that might then put the church afoul of labor laws? I’m not sure, but I think the law has things to say about employees who then “volunteer” for their employers.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Yep, I don’t think any money is already spent, and I also don’t think this is part of his regular job–don’t make him do it for no additional pay, just don’t do it at all.

      3. Emmie*

        I wonder if he expected overtime compensation for his work in addition to a bonus. I wonder how he has the time in his current workload to preform such significant work.

      4. One of the Sarahs*

        I don’t understand why he didn’t include the 5k cost of his labour in the budget – that would have made much more sense, presenting it as part of the costs, rather than asking for it as a bonus…

        1. AnonT*

          Oh, hey, I wonder if that is a possible solution, too. Can Eddard just come back with a new proposal that includes some money to pay himself? It sounds like he’s currently working on a revised proposal/cost estimate without his work included, why not pair that with one that includes his work so that the board can see the difference?

    3. boop*

      That’s what I was wondering. The church isn’t saving money if it wasn’t money they were going to spend in the first place!

      1. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

        Yes, I was wondering the same thing! It would be saving money if they had an existing budget to re-do the landscaping but because this is his pet project, I’m assuming that’s not the case. Instead, it’s an unplanned expense.

      2. Not a Real Giraffe*

        This is what I came down to post! The entire time I was reading the letter, I was wondering if the Board had ever even intended to spend $100k for this. If not, it sure sounds like Eddard is creating a $35k expense, rather than a $65k savings.

        1. BeautifulVoid*

          After initially being sympathetic with Eddard, this is where I eventually arrived. This doesn’t sound like something that HAS to be done, like redoing all the plumbing or the electrical work (if there are issues) in the building. Sure, new/fancy landscaping is nice, but it’s rarely a necessity. Again, I can see why Eddard feels the way he does to an extent, but the petty behavior of going out to get bids to raise the cost of this project just isn’t going to get the results he wants. It’s not going to turn into “appease Eddard so we can get this done for $35K vs. having to spend $100K on this project”. The church can easily decide to scrap the whole idea and not come out any worse for it.

        2. AcademiaNut*

          I have a fair bit of experience in church organization and work, and that is what sprung out for me. The pet project thing really resonates – that’s a pretty common situation, where a congregation member has an idea they really want to push through, even if no-one else is all that enthusiastic, and it’s not something that’s really needed. If you’re lucky, they get official approval first – I’ve known congregations where someone would just start digging.

          If the board came up with the idea, had a budget of $100 K, asked him to work on it, and he saved them $65 K, then I’d say a bonus was certainly reasonable, although churches aren’t usually an employer that give bonuses.

          But it sounds like he came up with the proposal himself, got quotes, asked for a budget of $35 K plus a bonus to him of $5 K, and then got mad because he had negotiated good deals on his pet project and that wasn’t being rewarded, and now he’s sulking and saying he won’t do it.

    4. starsaphire*

      You did a much better job making the point here that I tried to make in my post further down.

      Does the church even have the $35k to begin with?

    5. Observer*

      If the Board didn’t go with it because they don’t have the $35K, they should have said so. I’d be willing to be that if they had done so, Eddard would have reacted differently. Because, although it still means that he won’t get the money, it’s still a VERY different response from “We won’t reward you for your work because that’s not fair.” And, that’s essentially what they said.

    6. TinyTim*

      If I were Eddard, I would have gotten three quotes from all vendors – one straight list price, one with the steep discounts I negotiated and another with me doing the work. That way he could show the potential savings on paper. I would never tell someone I was saving them $X and expect them to just take my word, even if they already knew me to be honest. Then if the board said no, Eddard could have said “OK, then we go with the $80K bid” and went on his way.

      Instead, he gave them only the rock bottom price that also included him working like a slave. I get the impression that in the minds of the board, the official bid is $35K with no caveats. By presenting only the lowest bid, Eddard could now be in the uncomfortable position of appearing to sabotage the current bids to raise the price as punishment. “So we declined to pay him the $5K bonus and suddenly the bid is now $80K?” No, it was actually always $80K but Eddard didn’t do a very good job of laying out the numbers.

      The steep discounts he negotiated should stand regardless. It’s his job to negotiate those deals to the best of his ability. Just because he had some inside connections and got better-than-expected deals, he shouldn’t expect a bonus. The only thing that should change in the quote now is the labor costs.

  5. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Well, this is a church, ostensibly a charity – where bonues are not expected.

    In the commercial world, some companies do use the bonus system. And when an employee goes above and beyond and brings in income in the hundreds of thousands, or even millions – he/she SHOULD be recognized.


    1. Jennifer*

      Right: there’s a lot of companies who just aren’t going to do that stuff. If you’re not in some kind of high powered financial-ish industry–heck, he’s in a church!–they’re not going to do it. Churches don’t have the money to throw around anyway, I suppose.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq*

        I’ll tread carefully, since I don’t want anyone to think I’m saying churches are bad, but churches have less financial oversight than perhaps any other institution in America. As a result, some (not all, by any means) have tons of money to throw around because nobody but the leadership (sometimes, just one person) really knows where its going.

        1. Just Another Techie*

          Depends on the church. My denomination requires that our budgets, with detailed line items, be published where anyone, inside or outside the church, can see it.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            Yup. For us, the only part that is kept under wraps is who gives how much. Only one person knows what individuals are giving, but how much is received and where it goes is very open information. There are always at least two people counting the money received, so they have a general idea of who gives what, but only our financial secretary knows the totals given by each person.

        2. Chinook*

          “I’m saying churches are bad, but churches have less financial oversight than perhaps any other institution in America.”

          The OP said that this was in Canada. Depebding on the church, they are probably a registered charity and they do have to submit financial statements to at least the federal government if not also their regional hierarchy. Our local Catholic Church sends in their financials to the diocese every year (and are also required to pay a portion to it to cover the diocesan expenses). We also have a financial committee and a pastoral committee to help make financial decisions. The pastor can’t ask for a raise (salary is set by the bishop) and some of them have taken a vow of poverty, so it is a non-issue. In fact, it is a big deal when the parish offered to get our priest a part-time housekeeper because a) he is on call 24/7 and b) he lives alone and keeping up with household chores and being on call was starting to wear him out. I left the pastoral council over this issue because they wanted to pay the housekeeper minimum wage (plus benefits) because they didn’t want to risk the other church staff being insulted at her better pay. I actually pointed out that they were free to apply for that job but others thought I was crazy. At no point did anyone think that they should be offering a “living wage” and one of the women there, who was my age, said this is an opportunity for someone’s stay-at-home wife to make some money.

          I am sure the idea of bonuses for anyone going above and beyond would also be shot down either a) because there is no budget for it or b) the idea of treating people equally has warped into treating everyone the same. Now, if there was never any money, that is one thing but I think Eddard saw the writing on the wall that there was never going to be a time that he would be rewarded for hard work because that would be unfair to Amy in the office who may or may not do the bare minimum at her job. If he was going to be treated just like Amy, why shouldn’t he work to the same level as her?

      2. Observer*

        They may not have money to “throw around”. But, landscaping is not necessarily money being thrown away.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        I’ve worked for a charity, and I’ve gotten bonuses. Yes, I already took a pay cut to work there, but I still have bills to pay just like everyone else.

      2. AnonasaurusRex*

        The term “small church” creates an entirely different picture in my head than a regular non-profit organization. I live in a mid sized town, we have tons of small churches with congregations of 200 people or less. I’ve served on the board of my church. 35K for landscaping is astronomical and bonuses are unheard of. A lot of the church’s needs are taken care of by its members volunteering to do the workd, and there are only 2 paid employees beyond the minister and the secretary. This is completely different from the community development non-profit that I have volunteered for in the past which has about 30 employees and is run mostly like a regular business and gives raises and all that to their staff. I’m not sure we have a clear picture of what kind of organization we’re talking about here.

        1. Amadeo*

          Same! We’re lucky at our ‘small church’ if we get 35 people in the pews on any given Sunday and all of the work, including what little landscaping we do, is voluntarily done. The only individual on our church’s payroll is the pastor. $35k for just landscaping would be unheard of for us.

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          35K for landscaping is something our small church would never be able to afford, but we do give bonuses. In lean years, when we can’t afford to give a raise, we often at least give our pastors a bonus, and if we can’t afford even that, we offer them a bit more time off. We’ve approved a bonus for the church secretary just because he is awesome and not for anything specific.

      3. Rachel in Minneapolis*

        I worked in churches for 12 years. In my latest position, I have received bonuses 2 out of 3 years.

        They only difference is that they are across the board staff bonuses and not tied to merit. There was a big push last year from the personnel committee to have us set goals, get reivews, and receive merit bonuses if we meet goals. That idea was stopped by the council in favor of the traditional spread-it-around evenly bonuses.

        We had one person doing the job of 2 people; lots of extra work; great initiatives, etc, and no one received a merit bonus.

    2. Anonymous Poster*

      Just wanted to say, this isn’t always true. Especially if the church/institution has budgeted an amount and it comes in under because of someone going above and beyond – there are churches that will give a bonus based on that. A church I was a part of did this when our sound system upgrade came in under budget.

    3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*


      Does this church EVER pay bonuses? If they don’t , Eddard should be told.

      If they do, the board might want to reconsider, because the backlash is a reduced performance from the employee.

      In my profession (IS/IT) – if someone is shafted out of a bonus, or think’s he’s been – he may decide – going forward – that the extra time should go to his family and his outside-of-work life.

      Yes, a retraction/reconsideration might show a “loss of face” by management – but others – peers – may view guys like Eddard as a sap and a sucker if he continues to perform at the same pace.

      If something like this happens – there is opportunity to resolve it – higher increase, a bonus later on , that doesn’t appear to be a “quid pro quo”, even if it is, and so forth.

  6. starsaphire*

    I have to admit I’m surprised by the idea that there exists a “small church” that can budget $35k for landscaping. My parents’ small church has its landscaping done by volunteers who bring in plants or cuttings, and the lawn is usually cared for by whichever family happens to have a teenager at the time. (Including ours, back in the day.) They also have to go begging to the congregation and throw fundraisers every time they need a new roof or a kitchen appliance.

    I’m in no way casting doubt on the letter writer, by any means! I’m simply wondering if the church in question can even afford the $35k in the first place.

    1. ZSD*

      I was wondering about that, too. Maybe the OP just means “small church” as in “not a megachurch.”

      1. starsaphire*

        Oh, that’s a possibility. Yeah, I can see where a bigger church might have money for staff and groundskeeping and so forth.

        1. Meeeeeeeee*

          It may also be a historical church with some upkeep budget from taxes (am thinking of medieval churches).

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        You can also have a church that is small in terms of membership, but has a lot of solvency thanks to that small membership being quite well-heeled and generous, or thanks to a bequest, trust, endowment — heck, the money could be already there thanks to a donation for church beautification or similar! It’s not uncommon.

        A fairly small church I used to attend received a very generous bequest from a member who passed away, earmarked for the church garden to be completely redone, with some set aside as an annual maintenance budget. We ended up with a beautiful space for contemplation and prayer.

    2. Anonymous Poster*

      I’ve seen big churches in lower income areas where $35k would certainly be unreasonable for landscaping – but I’ve also seen small churches with very generous and well-off congregants where $35k for nice landscaping would be very, very reasonable.

      Depending on what the church has budgeted, this could be really reasonable, depending on their specific situation. For example, a smaller church a relative of mine was in had an endowment of $2 million, and would dip into that for major projects like this, after saving for a number of years. They had to have some foundation work done, which ballooned into landscaping because the repair work tore up the yard. I’m not aware of how much they ended up spending, but it was quite a sum.

      Short story long, anything by Dickens, but here it’s one of those it-really-depends situations, in my experience.

    3. Seven of Nine*

      Meh, “small church” is a relative term. It’s clearly a church that’s large enough to have a (presumably full-time) building manager, and while I’ve been a part of churches where the $35K would be impossible, I’ve also been a part of them where it wouldn’t be. “Small church” could simply mean a church that doesn’t have 5,000 members… and at 300-600 members, maybe in a wealthier community, I can see it.

      1. Roxanne*

        Hm – good point. They have an administrator now and a dedicated building manager so the budget must be good enough for that. Technically, in our church, we have a staff of two: the pastor and his PT administrative assistant. Building stuff is done by the administrative assistant or by the elders and trustees, unless it is too difficult, dangerous or needs an expert; lawn mowing and snow removal are contracted out and volunteers take care of the plants and flowers.

        That said, 35K is still a large amount and may not be budgeted for. And if they had 35K to spend, the board could choose to spend it on Sunday School, missions, outreach, choir supplies, or serious upgrading / repairs of the church instead.

        35K would not be possible for us! We purchased a defibrillator for $1300 that was not budgeted for and that put us in the red.

    4. Kate M*

      My home church has probably 100 or so on the rolls at any one time (so fairly small), but because of it’s proximity to a country club, quite a few people who come have money. Plus a some rich “old families” who have gone there for 4 generations. Most of the work done at the church is volunteer except for the minister, choir leader, and maybe groundskeepers. Since it doesn’t spend a lot of money (imo, it should be spending more than it does on charitable works, but whatev), it has a lot saved up. Not saying that they’d spend $35k on landscaping, but they certainly have the money.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        My church is about the same size, and we do seem to have some money. We have the pastor, a part-time administrator, a director of religious education, a nursery director, a father/son building maintenance team, and a choir director as employees. We also have a passionate volunteer groundskeeper who does most of the work himself and then coordinates a volunteer brigade several times a year for bigger jobs. I could see him wanting to do a huge landscaping project and then getting miffed if the church didn’t have the budget for it, because to him, the grounds are the church. (Not that this is what happened with Eddard; I just see some parallels between the passion that Eddard and our grounds guy have for the grounds).

  7. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Regardless of Eddard’s actions, which weren’t that great, the reaction to the bonus is ridiculous.  If you don’t give people an occasional substantive reward (cash, more vacation, flexible hours, etc.) for going above and beyond, then all you’re ever going to get is people who do their jobs to mediocre standards, such as Peter Gibbons who raised this issue in Office Space. 

    Plus what’s up with this fairness issue?  If other employees went above and beyond, then they’d receive bonuses too.  NOT handing out a reward because of “fairness” to others is unfair to the person who went the extra mile!

    Assuming Eddard’s estimates were accurate, if the church can spend $35K on a project, then $5K more isn’t that much of a difference, especially if the regular estimate is more than twice the original estimate.

    Until people can pay the mortgage with compliments and glowing evaluations, then employers really shouldn’t be surprised when high performers either leave for greener pasture$ or dial down their efforts.  

    1. Kyrielle*

      Yep. And if they’d said they really appreciated it but they truly couldn’t afford the bonus, I’d have more sympathy than them saying it wouldn’t be fair.

    2. Rat in the Sugar*

      Yeah, I feel like this church should not be surprised to see Eddard leave soon. He may not have gone about asking for a bonus the right way, but there’s no way to repair that relationship now.

  8. Anonymous Educator*

    I agree with Alison that he put the cart before the horse here. Would it make sense for him to get a bonus? Sure. Does he have a right to demand a bonus after the fact? Not really.

  9. Former manager*

    Perhaps the church board didn’t want to do even $35,000 worth of landscaping. That’s a lot of money that could be spent on other, more worthwhile projects. If that was the case, Eddard’s proposal may have been dismissed immediately and the question of a bonus would be moot.

    1. Pipette*

      Exactly. Was Eddard even asked to come up with a landscaping proposal in the first place? If the board doesn’t have any plans for landscaping, springing a $35k project on the board is not going to be appreciated.

      If he was indeed asked to come up with a proposal, I’d be super wary of the $100k plan now. There are so many ways to enrich yourself in this business with kickbacks under the table if you have the right connections.

    2. CMT*

      Can we stop harping on this point? It’s not actually relevant to the question at hand, and there’s nothing in the letter that indicates that the church can’t or doesn’t want to spend the money.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Hmm. I disagree; I actually do think it’s relevant if Eddard cooked this whole thing up on his own and the church never intended to spend that money. It’s not that I think the church doesn’t have the money; they just might! But I do think it’s possible that the church doesn’t want to redo the landscaping at this time, and this is all Eddard’s baby.

        1. Rat in the Sugar*

          In that case the board should not have approved it, so it still is not relevant to him getting a bonus. They approved it, therefore they have the money and wanted to do it.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            Unless the OP has chimed in, it’s not clear that the board has approved it. He’s presented it to the board, and they’ve denied the bonus, but I don’t see that they’ve acted on the landscaping proposal.

            If he’s going around and getting a higher cost proposal (without his work), then the board would probably want to revisit that expense anyway.

        2. Missy*

          In which case that is what they should have said when the proposal was brought up. Instead they seem to have given the project the go ahead but refused to pay the bonus he asked for. So it doesn’t seem like the church doesn’t want to redo the landscaping.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Wait, where are you reading that they gave the project the go-ahead? I didn’t see that, and that may be the disconnect. I read it as they said no to the whole thing. It all went down at one meeting: Eddard shows up, says “Hey, I’ve got this proposal,” and presented the whole thing–quote, bonus, and all–and the board said no. Now Eddard has gone rogue and is getting quotes for what it would cost to have someone else do it, even though there’s no certainty that the board is going to have anyone do it at all. Or at least that’s the way I read it.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s implied — Eddard doesn’t want to do the project anymore and is going to get a different set of quotes for it (which wouldn’t make sense if the board said no to the whole thing). Plus if they’d said no to the whole project, the answer about the bonus wouldn’t be “it wouldn’t be fair to others”; it would be “we’re not doing the work at all.

              1. Kelly L.*

                I read the “it wouldn’t be fair to others” as part of why they said no to the whole thing.

                I didn’t think Eddard had anybody’s permission to get quotes–I thought he was just doing it on his own, maybe to “show them” how good of a deal he was going to cut them–and that he doesn’t want to do any special project going forward, not just specifically this one.

        3. Observer*

          So? In that case they should have told him that. NOT that they would do the project, just not pay HIM.

  10. CAS*

    Honestly, from what OP has written, it doesn’t sounds like Eddard really did anything to warrant a bonus. He wrote a proposal and contacted suppliers. That’s not exactly extraordinary. Overtime pay for the labor he’ll be doing, sure. But expecting $5000 because he put in some extra effort at his job is ridiculous.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq*

      It sounds like his current job has little to do with maintaining the grounds. The labor he’d be doing would be entirely on top of his other duties, so I think that’s what he wants compensated… not the time it took him to gather proposals.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        I think then he shot himself in the foot by saying he was going to do the work for “free” and then asking for a “bonus.” If he thinks the labor he’s going to put in is worth $5,000, it should be included in the proposal as such.

        1. Megs*

          Yes, exactly! This is what immediately jumped out at me. If he wants some compensation for his labor, why not just frame it that way? He’s already offering the church huge savings, so why not say “in lieu of my usual hourly rate, I’ll agree to do all labor for $5000.”? Why frame this as a bonus at all?

        2. LBK*

          Completely agree with this – I think he should’ve approached it as “I’ll do the work at a fraction of the rate an outside contractor will charge” and then I don’t even think it would’ve been an issue. Agreeing to do something for free and then getting mad when you don’t get paid…well, that kind of seems like your own fault.

        3. One of the Sarahs*

          Yes, this! Either it’s above-and-beyond work, that should get compensated for (just as, eg, delivering the gravel, or whatever) or it’s not – presenting it as a bonus for good work was poor tactics, and also mis-representing the situation.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Yeah and for all we know these are buddies of his and he’s going to get some kickbacks or something from what’s being contracted out. I just get a bad feeling about this whole landscaping thing.

        1. JoJo*

          Nope. The whole thing sounds hinky to me. If I were on the church’s board, I’d get quote from several landscapers before making a decision.

        2. Reverendish*

          Nope, definitely not the only cynical one. Just knowing how church projects always seem to have the most drama the first 6 months of a minister’s arrival, combined with the supposed savings, makes me want to break out a divining rod and “sacramental” bourbon. I’m not sure of the denomination, so do not know organizational procedure, but at minimum get a second bid and check in with insurance on this. Also, on a pastoral management note, be aware of triangle-ing: don’t let minister and manager roles mesh when he vents to you about the project. Boundary set and stand firm on that. I tend to be more of a business manager, so I work with my fellow ministerial staff and refer out on the emotional component while I mentor the business side. But again, each denom and ministerial role is different……..

          1. Eohippus*

            What’s really fun is when there hasn’t been a minister for a while, and the council/elders/committee/whatever has gone feral and taken over the church. Fixing that is a bit like the Rabbit of Caerbannog fight scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Reminds me of the joke: There was an interdenominational Protestant gathering, and a fire started in the sanctuary. The Pentecostals got up and screamed: “Fire!” The Baptists shouted: “Water!” And the Presbyterians said: “Order.”

    3. HumbleOnion*

      This was my reaction too. He hasn’t actually *done* the work yet. $5000 seems like a lot to expect for what he has done.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      I don’t think he wanted $5K for coming up with the proposal; he wanted it for carrying out the work.

    5. Xanadu*

      It may not work that way in other industries, but knowing people and calling in favors is an excellent way to save money in landscaping. For example, if the church needed grading done and Eddard could do it if he had a backhoe. He calls his friend and borrows a backhoe. He saved them both paying for the skilled labor of the equipment operator AND was able to procure the equipment (which is something the landscaper would likely not have done for someone he didn’t know and couldn’t guarantee wouldn’t damage his equipment).

      There’s a lot of power in “Hey, I cut you a break on X, can you help out this church and cut me a break on Y”.

  11. Erin*

    This isn’t directly related to the question, but if $65k savings is tied to ONE person being able to complete that work, what happens if he leaves? Or gets sick or hurt? That is a huge liability to have set aside only a small amount that the project might not end up finished or paritually finished and look worse than it dors now. It’d make sense to get the full job quoted and have a proposal of which parts Eddard can tackle and how he could be compensated for any extra hours he spends above his normal job.

    1. HumbleOnion*

      Related – what happens if he does a bad job and the church has to spend more money fixing the issues?

      1. sunny-dee*

        Except he has experience in landscaping and his work has been classified, so far, as stellar. There’s no reason for anyone to believe he can’t do what he’s proposing to do.

        1. Zillah*

          Sure, but I think it’s still a very valid question. Someone can be good at something in general but still execute a project poorly – or just not in keeping with the original vision. It’s an enormous amount of money to entrust to one person.

  12. Well*

    Even at a smaller organization where the board knows staff really well, going directly to the board to ask for a bonus strikes me as really poor judgment, unless you’re the Executive Director/President/CEO. Compensation for employees who aren’t C-suite isn’t really a governance decision, it’s a management decision. No wonder the board was uncomfortable – Eddard asks them to weigh in on something that they probably don’t have the judgment or the context to authorize. (Ideally, the board would’ve said this and delegated the decision to the minister to make, with your input as Eddard’s boss.) On top of that, Eddard also doesn’t have the full context of everything else the board is considering the way the minister would, like the organization’s fiscal health and other costs — maybe they also discussed laying off other staff at this meeting, or a major investment in other initiatives that will stretch the budget, etc. and the timing on Eddard’s request was just bad.

    The letter’s not from Eddard, obviously, but I think you need to share that sort of thing with him as his manager to help him be more successful in getting rewarded for his good work in the future. I’d let him know that asking the board directly, he created a situation where you couldn’t advocate for him with your boss – who, as the person in the room, who was probably best-positioned to tell board members “look, I know you all don’t know Eddard well, but he’s one of our star employees who frequently goes above and beyond like this. Given the cost savings he’s found – and that he routinely does excellent work – I’d really like to be able to offer him a bonus for taking on this major project.”

    In terms of other next steps, I’d also try to get Eddard to let you raise this with your boss. Something like “Eddard, I know you shared the board’s decision to me in confidence. But for me to be your advocate on this, I need to be able to talk to the minister about it. Can I do that? I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to change the outcome, but I’d at least like to be able to raise it with him.” and then raise it with the minister to try to understand why the board said no, and if there’s anything you can do to rewarded Eddard’s efforts. (As a final note — I get the sense that while you’re Eddard’s manager maybe there’s some weirdness in the management structure at your organization, what with Eddard pushing for a bonus without consulting you, and the minister not sharing that with you either?)

    1. Marian the Librarian*

      “Eddard asks them to weigh in on something that they probably don’t have the judgment or the context to authorize. (Ideally, the board would’ve said this and delegated the decision to the minister to make, with your input as Eddard’s boss.)”

      IME, this is correct. I’m on the board of my church, and we do not have the authority to determine staff salary, we just say yes/no to what our rector decides. We set the rector’s salary, but that’s it.

      Also, the church actually may have money to spend on landscaping, but not on a “bonus” for staff. The money for the landscaping could come from a completely different pot than staff salary, and the board may not be able to give a bonus out of the “staff salary” pot. I know that in our case, we raised quite a bit of money to restore our church, and we have to use that money on renovations–we couldn’t allocate part of that money to staff salaries. Of course, if the board (or maybe more accurately, the rector) were inclined to give Eddard a bonus, they could probably fudge things so that his bonus was called something else and came from a different line item where they have some money to spare. However, as a board member, I wouldn’t have the authority to propose something like this be done, only to approve it or veto it if the rector proposed the change.

  13. LizB*

    So in Eddard’s proposal, the labor costs were supposed to be “free” since he was going to do all of it himself… but then he asked for a $5000 bonus because he would be doing so much extra work? It seems to me like if he was planning on demanding that money, he should have just included it as the labor cost in the proposal. I don’t know if that would have made it less weird or more weird (or if that’s a decent rate for labor for a project of this size), but it seems more honest, since the $5k was clearly an essential part of the proposal in his mind.

  14. LQ*

    *Others have address the other stuff so I’m going to focus on a different piece, that doesn’t mean I think that Eddard’s response is reasonable.*
    I’m going to come back to the board here. Yes, it can totally be fair to pay someone a bonus or more for doing extra work. And unless the church pays everyone the exact same amount (which I’m willing to bet lunch they don’t if they have at least 3 levels of employees) then it is not inherently different to recognize someone’s work above and beyond.

    This is the same as saying well it would be unfair to have any flex time because the receptionist has to be here exactly during work hours. Or giving raises with promotions. We do that to recognize the different kinds of skills, and unless this church is paying everyone the same amount they are already recognizing that different kinds of work sometimes means paying people different amounts of money for the job they do.

    1. LBK*

      I don’t think we have enough information about the other employees to make that kind of judgment. Maybe this is above and beyond the expectations of his role, but a) it’s one example, and usually I’d say bonuses are the result of a pattern of exceeding expectations, and b) we don’t know what the rest of the staff have or haven’t done that might have also merited a bonus. If someone else also just completed a huge project and didn’t get a bonus for it, I can certainly see the claim of unfairness being valid (whether they should’ve also paid that person a bonus is arguable, but in general I don’t think every single instance of doing things outside your core job requires a reward orI suspect many commenters here would be getting rewards every damn day).

      1. sunny-dee*

        Except the OP says explicitly that he “has been taking on all sorts of extra projects that have really made our building look great.” He has already been taking on extra projects and the work has been good. So, there is a pattern — this is just a larger project (apparently) than the others.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          I agree with you on that, but the rest of LBK’s point stands–we have no idea if other employees also go above and beyond, maybe even find ways to save the church a lot of money, but they didn’t get and aren’t getting bonuses. We don’t have enough information to say that the board’s statement wasn’t true or valid.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      This is the same as saying well it would be unfair to have any flex time because the receptionist has to be here exactly during work hours. Or giving raises with promotions.

      Interestingly enough, I worked someplace where a line employee was promoted to supervisor, but didn’t receive a raise because “if we did that, you’d be making more than people who have been here longer than you.”

      1. Jennifer*

        All of us in my office have to be paid the same, I’m told. No raising of positions, no raises period.

  15. Katie the Fed*

    FWIW – I think you might also want to get a second opinion on the landscaping job. I’ve been very involved in landscaping lately (ugh) and have found there are HUGE variations in quality of work, prices of estimates, etc.

    You should also make sure that even if these are buddies of Eddard’s, they’re licensed, bonded and insured. You don’t want some rando buddy of his showing up to do the work, doing a crappy job/getting injured/causing property damage and you guys to be on the hook for liability.

    1. Laura*

      Also wanted to have some input– the church I used to attend had an issue with hiring the buddies of the building manager to do maintenance and landscaping. A lot of mistakes were made because the guys approached it as a hobby project, not a real job. And of course many of them weren’t licensed. You HAVE to do your research with things like this, especially since a church is a nonprofit, and presumably wants to spend as little as possible to have a good landscaping job done.

    2. the_scientist*

      Seriously, not to stereotype landscaping (and car repair, which is the other industry I feel this runs rampant in), but in any industry where it’s all handshakes, “gentleman’s agreements” and “I know a guy” (or friends of friends of friends) there is SO MUCH potential for things to be shady/under the table. I am extremely skeptical of the legitimacy of the $100K quote to begin with, and it’s entirely possible that Eddard is getting kickbacks or was planning to “sub-contract” some of the labour by paying a buddy under the table or something.

      Pro tip to Eddard: look up cost-reimbursable contracts.

      1. embertine*

        Again, agreed. I work for a large commercial company in the UK, and we won’t even put a spade in the ground without at least a JCT Minor Works in place. In the US, I believe that ConsensusDoc is the place to find proper construction contracts. They’re not all for big commercial projects either – they can be adapted for smaller jobs.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        I just had a guy try to tell me that a tree trimming project would be $5k but he could do it for the bargain price of $1500. Since I already had a bad vibe I wanted to be sure and asked to verify his insurance information (because chainsaws and liability, ya know?) and he just disappeared after promising to send it. Yep.

  16. Curious*

    It makes sense to me that a church board might find $35k to pay for $100k worth of landscaping. But they didn’t ask for this proposal, and as others have noted, the $35k might be a stretch already.

    Where the board may be having an issue is that the employee is asking for a bonus for work not asked for and not already done. They may be annoyed that this proposal was brought to them without giving them any input. The employee may have overstepped boundaries by representing the church in dealings with local businesses, and they may be disinclined to reward that behavior. Boards work hard to develop and maintain relationships with community members, including businesses, and this employee may have stepped all over things he shouldn’t have. I would be annoyed if one of my employees entered into negotiations without my knowledge, I don’t care how great a deal it seems.

    1. Observer*

      If we are going to ding Eddard for mishandling things, we should do the same for the doing it ten times over. If you are correct, then they totally mishandled the situation.

      The correct response in your scenario would have been “Thanks for you efforts. However, there are some reasons why this was not an appropriate project for you to take on / way for you to take it on. We cannot go forward with this at this time.”

      That’s not what they said. They implied that they WOULD go forward with the project, just not pay HIM. Because rewarding extra work is “not fair”. You don’t go forward with a project that should never have been launched.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        BUT he didn’t ask to be paid for the project – he asked for a special bonus that no other staff would be paid, despite their good work. I can completely see how another member of staff, who doesn’t have the opportunity to get deals from friends, but still does stellar work, would see it unfair if someone else is getting a bonus and they’re not.

        1. Observer*

          If the other staff person does such stellar work, then maybe she should get a bonus too. But, that’s not the issue. The reality is that if he’s the one who is enabling the place to save a huge amount of money, then he’s the one who made it happen. What you are saying is like saying “Well, not everyone has the ability to do be a terrific grant writer, so the good grant writer shouldn’t be paid more than the really great receptionist.” Do you really believe that people should rewarded only for effort and not for skill and value (neither of which are completely in a person’s control)?

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            It’s not saving though, is it? It’s his “pet project” that he wants to do, and it costs $35k minimum. He’s asking the church to spend that money on something he wants to do, and will be paid to do in his working hours, and then get paid a bonus on top.

            And of course I believe people who work different roles deserve different salaries – but a workplace that sets up a bonus scheme where only some employees can be rewarded, and others aren’t, without taking that into account in salary/benefit structures, is problematic to me. Of course lots of businesses do things like salespeople getting bonuses linked to their performance, but if they’re any good, they should also have opportunities for all staff to get performance-related benefits.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t think “pet project” means he’s the only one who wants it. It can mean “we need to do this, and Eddard has gotten really into planning it out.”

  17. newlyhr*

    I so appreciate the way Allison responded to this letter. What a great example of the right way to tackle a difficult conversation. I hope the OP will handle it just this way!!!!!

  18. Laura*

    I think we need to remember that OP said this was Eddard’s PET PROJECT. Something EXTRA he was planning. It wasn’t part of his normal day-to-day duties– he took it on himself. So it’s perfectly understandable that the church doesn’t want to give him a bonus for something that wasn’t asked to do! It doesn’t make sense to give a guy a bonus for a project that isn’t essential to the church operations, and that wasn’t specifically planned and budgeted for by the board.

    Unfortunately his reaction to the whole situation was completely immature and unprofessional. I would be careful with him from here on out.

    1. Peter the Bubblehead*

      But DO we know this as fact? It wasn’t clear in the original letter but how do we know the board didn’t go to OP and say, “We really should re-landscape the property. Can Eddard get us some quotes and we can figure out what we can afford to do?”
      Perhaps Eddard’s pet project is being willing to go out of his way to get the absolute best deal possible for the church instead of the every-day quote anyone else can get and being willing (originally) to do much of the work himself for additional savings for the church. I know if I went out of my way to get such a great deal for the church after being ASKED to get this information for them and they did not think all the extra effort I put into it was worth something in return for all that extra effort, I would only be willing to put in the bare minimum effort in the future too!

  19. EE*

    This would have gone over a million times better if he’d asked for some compensation for the labor outside of his normal duties as part of the proposal, rather than billing it as a bonus. For instance:

    Materials: $35k
    Labor: $40k (or however much) if hired out, though I would be happy to provide 100% of the labor myself for $5k

    1. EE*

      I should add that if the church then didn’t want to take on the project under either scenario, that should also be perfectly understandable. But this framing also makes it seem reasonable that he would not take on the project without compensation, unlike demanding a bonus from a church, which is an unfortunate way to have framed his request for compensation.

    2. Erin*

      When you take such great savings that comes as a huge risk. Quality, total project time, burn out. If the OP gets Eddard to reconsider, it makes sense to have a more detailed proposal for how $65k will be saved and how to minimize the risks necessary. Such as compensation to prevent burnout.

    3. Three Thousand*

      I was just about to say this. The $5K would have sounded like a bargain if he had proposed it as a fee for what could be tens of thousands of dollars worth of labor.

    4. the_scientist*

      Right? I kept yelling at Eddard (in my head) “build the labour costs into the budget!”

      1. sunny-dee*

        But could he do that if he’s on salary? If it is already part of his duties to oversee the grounds, so he’s already spending X hours a week on it, and now it will just be X+10 (or whatever), wouldn’t that already be covered by his wages?

  20. Always Anon*

    I agree that Eddard didn’t handle the situation very well.

    However, I also think this is a management issue. Why was there no sort of established procedure for this sort of proposal? Or was there and Eddard didn’t follow it? Why was the proposal not thoroughly vetted by senior management (e.g., the church’s lead minister) discussing the pitfalls and potential issues that may arise at the board level? These are the sorts of things that should have been discussed with Eddard before the proposal was ever sent to the board for review.

    Especially, in a non-profit, environment where resources are typically limited and many of the key decisions are made by volunteers, this sort of vetting is critical. So I wonder why this didn’t happen and if a plan to address this in the future? Because in the end, while Eddard handled this situation poorly, he’s a good employee and is probably been alienated by not only the board’s actions but the lack of procedure and support from the leadership team at the church.

    1. KR*

      I was thinking if it was a small church, Eddard might be friends with the board members, talk regularly with them, or the members might be involved in the day-to-day activities of the church.

      1. Always Anon*

        I think in that case it’s even more critical that this sort of proposal be vetted and go through a more formal procedure. Because in those types of cases it’s possible (if not likely) that just one board member could have made an off the cuff comment about compensation for the extra work, that encouraged Eddard to construct the proposal the way he did.

  21. Kiki*

    I just wanted to say, I think it is important to consider what Eddard is and is not. I don’t want everyone to pile on this guy. He’s a landscaper, not an office worker in a non-profit. It might be that he’s a bit more blunt in negotiations than a an office worker. So, from his perspective, he didn’t handle the negotiations wrong at all. The Board and the pastor did. When dealing with anyone in any circumstance, I guess I try to be the smarter one and figure out where they are coming from and what they need and want, then I try to make a deal that will work best for everyone. Not that this helps the OP, but anyway.

    1. embertine*

      I’m a landscaper, I talk about money all day and I’m pretty damn blunt – what I don’t do is offer to do something for free, then once everyone’s in agreement, demand extra cash and then throw my toys out the pram when I don’t get it. I agree that the church is being pretty cheap here, but only because Eddard offered! If he truly was a professional landscaper, he should know better than to offer to do work for nothing, because clients never understand or appreciate what’s involved and you just end up resenting them for something they never asked you to do in the first place.
      Signed, Someone Who Learnt That Lesson The Hard Way

      1. JB (not in Houston)*


      2. Kiki*

        Agreed, and that’s exactly how I handle my web development jobs and clients. But not everyone is that professional….and this is a guy that does the yard at the church. So, not exactly a high level dude. Right?

    2. Manders*

      That’s a great point. In his mind, he offered the board a huge favor, and they pretty much told him that they don’t value the actual labor portion of the budget at all, so now he thinks it’s logical to go and get them a quote with the industry’s standard amount added for labor to show them how valuable that work actually is.

      I’m a little unclear about how many hours this would add to his job/whether landscaping is already a normal part of his job duties, which would change the situation a bit. If he’s offering to do a whole lot of extra hours of manual labor for the church on top of getting his regular duties done, I see why he’d be miffed that the board expected him to do that for free. I’m also not sure how necessary this project is to the church–it sounds like they really do want the landscaping but don’t want to pay Eddard, specifically, a bonus. I can understand why he’s upset at that.

  22. Ineloquent*

    Well, I look at it as follows – if Eddard decided to quit, you’d have to go with the more expensive route. $5000 in employee retention compared to $45000 in additional cost if he leaves sound like a no brainer – assuming of course that you’ve move forward with the landscaping at the higher rate.

  23. Brett*

    I really think that “bonus” was the wrong word to use here.

    It sounds more like Eddard put together a proposal for landscaping where he would be the contractor instead of an outside contract and be compensated $5k for doing the contracting. He would basically become a vendor as well as an employee of the church, and automatically be granted the bid for the contract. I don’t blame the board for being uncomfortable with that.

    Even though it costs more, going out to bid for the labor and contracting is the better way to do this for many reasons. The church is not in the landscaping business like a public works department or a facilities division at a large corp would be.
    I think a lot of this was facilitated by letting Eddard do extra renovation projects in the first place instead of properly bidding out the proposals to outside companies. Yes, it saved money, but it created a bad precedent and having Eddard take duties pretty far outside his role without the bonding, licensing, etc that would go with it.

    1. BeautifulVoid*


      As others have said in this thread, adding in a fee for his labor would have been a good idea, and if the entire sum was still less than the $100K he said it would have taken otherwise, then it very well might have been approved. But to some people, it’s coming across as him basically saying “I’m doing a really nice thing for you (that you didn’t ask me to do). Now compensate me for it!” and that could be rubbing them the wrong way.

    2. sunny-dee*

      Except he is an employee. Who is proposing a project at his work place.

      I think a lot of commenters are getting hung up on the “church” part of this, like he’s a volunteer, not a full time employee. Change it to another industry — boss, I have a great idea to grow X account and I can make it come in 50% under budget because I can do Y. You wouldn’t look at it as 1) inappropriate to propose the topic or 2) unreasonable to expect some compensation for it (overtime, bonus, promotion, whatever).

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        It’s more like saying “boss, I am working full-time at my job, and have got my friends to super-discount equipment for a project, which I really want to do, and isn’t actually necessary, but nice-to-have – but the discounts only apply if you pay me”…

        I mean, everyone has always had projects they would love to do at their workplaces, throughout history, I’m sure – but it doesn’t mean it’s in the business interest to do them.

        1. Lindsay J*

          Yeah, we had a similar situation happen at one of my jobs.

          I worked at an Old Time Photo studio, and one of my coworkers had an idea to make one of the sets better. He offered to paint a mural on one of them. The bosses liked the idea and gave him the go-ahead.

          Then he tried to negotiate extra compensation for it because he was using his artistic skills (and he does get paid for his art that he does outside of work.)

          The bosses said nevermind, don’t do it at all then.

      2. Lindsay J*

        But generally you wouldn’t say “I’m not doing this project unless you give me a raise,” or whatever. At least, if you did you would be looked askance at at every job I’ve ever had and the jobs my friends have had.

        You do the project, and then once you have some deliverables to point to you make the case for a raise or a promotion at review time or whatever (and you still might not get it if there’s no budget to do that/your bosses just plain don’t think the work is worth the bonus/someone else did something that makes them even more deserving etc).

        Additionally, there generally needs to be some sort of ROI on the project. You could argue that the landscaping would make the church seem nicer/more inviting and lead to getting more parishioners or whatever. However, every boss I’ve had would want some data to prove that before spending $35K on it.

        I might feel differently if this project was entirely outside his job description like if the administrative assistant came up with the idea of providing an in-church daycare, worked out the cost and details, and was willing to run it herself. But even then, the correct thing to do is put your requirements up front and say “You would need a staff member able to do X, Y, and Z, and who has their first aid certification. I would be willing to do those things and I have the qualifications, but I would need a salary increase of $xxxx to consider doing so. Otherwise you would need to hire a part time staffer to perform those duties, and the average salary for someone with those duties would be $xxxxx.”

        And I don’t think landscaping work is outside of the groundskeeper’s workload. So if landscaping is something that needs to be done in his professional opinion, putting together a proposal to do that is kind of already part of his job. And I completely understand him wanting extra compensation for the actual physical work because that sounds like a ton of work (so much that I am kind of wondering if he would be able to do it on his own), but the correct thing to do would have been to include that as a line item in the proposal. As it is he’s basically holding the project hostage because he didn’t get his way.

  24. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    I’m pretty confused by this scenario. Was Eddard planning on doing this work as a part of his role as building manager? What other projects were going to be deprioritized to make this happen (or was he planning to work additional hours)? Is he exempt or not? Or is he going to do this work as a volunteer? Did he write up the proposal as a part of his work hours, or as a volunteer? How are they managing the potential problems of an employee volunteering with his employer?

    … without understanding the answers to those questions I don’t have any idea how to start to think about what should have happened here.

  25. Erin*

    I think Alison really hit the nail on the head with her answer here.

    It boils down to, it’s very reasonable of him to ask for extra compensation, but unreasonable of him to have asked for it after the fact; it should have been brought up before.

    OP, I think you know how to handle this in terms of making sure he knows he is appreciated, and doing what you can to get him that bonus, or at least reward him in whatever way is doable for you.

    The real problem that stuck out to me is the fact that your boss is keeping this a secret from you. As Eddard’s nanager, that is strange and wrong.

    I’d talk to Eddard first, and give him the heads up that you do need to speak to your boss about this. He might be miffed about the so-called confidentiality breach, but you absolutely need to bring this out in the open, especially if he wants you to go to bat for him. This whole secrecy thing needs to stop in order for the problem to be resolved in any fashion.

  26. Formica Dinette*

    I have nothing constructive to add, but I want to recognize Alison for using the phrase “come-to-Jesus” in a response to a question from a church employee.

      1. Formica Dinette*

        Between that and “try to roll with it” in response to the person getting work assignments on paper towels, you made my day! :D

  27. Roscoe*

    While I think it was wrong to say he won’t do what he already arranged, I have no problem with him deciding to not go above and beyond anymore. Why should you do more if the higher ups are so worried about “fairness” that they don’t give out extra compensation or bonuses when due.

  28. CM*

    I don’t really understand this one. The letter does not say whether the board wanted to do this project in the first place, or whether they approved it after Eddard brought the proposal. So I read it as somebody spending a lot of time and effort on something that they personally wanted to do, then it got rejected and they were upset and said they weren’t going to go above and beyond anymore. If that’s the case, then I think both the board and Eddard acted reasonably. If Eddard is angry about how everything went down and says he won’t do special projects anymore, that’s a loss for the church, but I don’t think it warrants a “come-to-Jesus” talk when someone says they’re just going to do their job.

    1. Erin*

      Really? I’m surprised commenters (not just you) think we need more information. I think the OP was really detailed.

      I read it as, no, the board would probably not have agreed to do this project if Eddard wasn’t in the picture – they agreed to it only after he explained he can get the price down significantly because of his contacts, and him doing the labor himself. I think it was approved only after he brought the proposal.

      And yes, he spent time and efforts doing something he truly wanted to do, but he’s an employee, not a volunteer. As already stated, it was reasonable of him to ask for further compensation – the church would still be getting a great deal – but he went about it in the wrong way, by not making his needs and expectations clear up front.

      1. Peter the Bubblehead*

        I read this a little differently. I interpreted it as; The Board said they want landscaping done. Eddard went out of his way to get quotes through his connections well below what would normally be obtained be most people, plus he included in his proposal his willingness to do most of the work himself, ding extra savings on labor too. He wrote this all up into a proposal and included “If this is approved, I would appreciate a $5k bonus for my extra effort to bring this project to fruition.” The Board looked at the proposal, likes the quotes, but took issue with Eddard’s ‘demand’ for a bonus. NOT that he presented the proposal, it was approved by the Board, and then he said “Oh, by the way, I want $5k if I do this for you.”
        As I contributed up-comment earlier, if the Board asked for this proposal, I went out of my way to make it as cheap as possible AND was willing to put my own extra labor into it, and the board balked at my request for compensation (call it salary, bonus, or whatever) I would not be willing to go above and beyond anymore either.

  29. L*

    Although it has employees, a church doesn’t necessarily operate like a regular business. Especially in a “small” church, staff and board members may actually know each other really well outside of work because they are part of a tight-knit religious community, and the lines between personal and professional relationships can be blurred pretty easily. Maybe confusion over those boundaries is part of why Eddard negotiated in such an awkward way.

    Beyond that, the ministry aspect of a church’s operations can sometimes create a weird culture of expecting people to invest a LOT of time and effort without fair compensation. Is this one self-contained issue? Or is the church implicitly encouraging Eddard to do a ton of work on a consistent basis without really acknowledging that they should get what they pay for from their employees.

    1. FCJ*

      This. Depending on the size of the church and the denomination, it’s possible that the entire board are basically elected volunteers (maybe with a small stipend, but the point is they weren’t *hired*), and may or may not actually be business-minded people, and may or may not have much oversight by regional councils. Often (again, depending on the church/denomination) what happens on the board and who’s elected to it have far more to do with personality politics and who’s willing/available to do the work rather than who’s qualified.

      It’s possible the church just doesn’t have the money. It’s also possible that the board doesn’t really know the most efficient ways to make these sorts of things work, both the landscaping project itself and employment/compensation practices.

  30. Cubicle Four*

    Long story short–Eddard’s feelings got hurt. And perhaps the biggest challenge with all of this is the environment. Churches promote generosity, selflessness, giving, looking out for your fellow man, etc. Eddard brought his vast experience and network into this context, wanting to help, perhaps as a retiree now looking to give his skills to a greater purpose in a job that he would enjoy. On a daily basis, I’m sure his philanthropic bent was strengthened by staff meetings that probably began in prayer and all the rest of it. He’s perhaps part time, and not privy to the realities of budgeting based upon (essentially) donor giving. Because he IS on staff though, he probably felt that a bonus would not be out of line, because a) he’s on the payroll b) he’s really doing a great job c) $5k is pretty much pocket change, considering the money involved overall and d) he used to be in real business where money going back and forth is part of the deal. Because it’s such a small workplace, and again–one dedicated to being and creating good people–he probably feels close enough to the letter writer to assume more of a personal, than a professional, relationship. So his comments were based out of hurt feelings, and not any kind of manipulation. ALSO–he’s probably embarrassed, as he’s secured all of these great deals with his network, and now it’s become messy. ‘How do I go back to them and tell them it’s off’ is what he’s wondering. Should he have worked all of this out in advance? Sure. However, I’m guessing that he did it more as a correlation to the overall philosophy of the workplace he’s in (honestly–do you think he would have done all of this for some tire store he worked for? I doubt it) and the harsh reality of budgeting, boards and ministers who know how to behave like a CEO probably surprised him. His essentially surprise gift/upgrade/whatever you wanna call it was (in his mind) not received the way he most likely imagined as he toiled in the dirt, because I’m sure he was anticipating a more positive response. So he’s hurt, and feels that those around him are ungrateful.

    1. Jeanne*

      I think you have it. This is a church. Churches almost never are able to operate like a corporation. Eddard could be a life long member and now the groundskeeper. His proposal had a lot more wrapped up in it than just landscaping. Church becomes a home in a way an office never does. The board is volunteers who are assigned to the board for about 3 years. They might not even think of bonuses as a way to retain employees. “My mom cooked for every church dinner for 35 years and never asked for a cent.” Stuff like that. Eddard may not have handled this well but I bet the board doesn’t know what they’re doing either. And many pastors have no clue about managing employees.

      Take a step back. Take time to talk to Eddard. Listen to him. I bet that’s what he is looking for. After he expresses himself (possibly with “unprofessional” emotions but normal in this case, then you can talk about what needs to happen next. Good luck.

  31. Poohbear McGriddles*

    I’m curious what types of things are considered “special projects” outside of his role as building manager. Are we talking painting the sanctuary as opposed to fixing a leaky faucet in the restroom? Do his normal duties involve outdoor maintenance, such as cutting the grass?
    If, instead of being a former landscaper, Eddard was retired from law enforcement, it would be a clearer (to me) distinction if he offered to direct traffic before and after services for a reduced fee. But when it comes to landscaping and building maintenance, it seems like the line between what is within his job description and what is not is kinda blurred.
    Regardless, the OP is in a bad position because the board won’t tell her what is going on so she can’t advocate for any position.

    1. sunny-dee*

      I think that’s why he proposed it as a bonus instead of payment for services. I am guessing, but I read it as basic landscaping / maintenance are part of his normal tasks, anyway. He proposed a sizable improvement project, which is still technically within his job duties, and is requesting a bonus for his extra efforts.

  32. hbc*

    How long has Eddard been working there?

    I ask because there’s a certain type of person who will go all out, exceed expectations, and make you think you have a great employee (or friend or student or girl/boyfriend)–until they snap around and ask for their payback. Most of them aren’t deliberately building a debt that you never asked them for, but it ends up being pretty manipulative, unintentional or not. They usually have a very short window for feeling appreciated, a long memory about the extra stuff that they did (unasked), and a short memory about the stuff they’ve gotten in return.

    I could be completely wrong, but the timeline is eerily similar to when I took over supervising a really hard worker who spent extra time on pet projects that no one else really wanted.

  33. sciencegirl*

    A lot of assumptions are being made about the board’s reaction. The OP didn’t hear anything through official channels, just from the employee. She needs to talk to her boss to try to understand where the board is coming from.

  34. Decimus*

    It sounds to me like OP doesn’t officially know about the decision to do the landscaping OR to turn down the bonus – Eddard told her both but her boss, the minister, hasn’t confirmed or denied it.

    If OP really does want to do retention, they could go to the minister and board with their own proposal to compensate Eddard, either as a bonus or (more reasonably perhaps) as a fee for services performed. If nothing else that would show Eddard that HIS direct superior, the OP, does value his work.

  35. bopper*

    I am a trustee at our church. We would never give a bonus like that. We have people who are paid to do specific tasks (Sexton, who keeps the church clean) and they still volunteer outside that role. If some one came to us saying they have this great Landscaping project, then that is something that would have to go to the finance board and then planned in advance for.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      “– The proposal Eddard had put forward was for landscaping the entire grounds, essentially by himself. (Ripping everything up, putting in proper underground barriers, leveling all the land, replacing the front steps and ramps, replacing the pathways, adding new low-maintenance plants, creating a walkable labyrinth, etc.) He was planning on doing it over the course of the entire summer”

      Oooh that’s a really bad idea! I’m sure Eddard is a great guy, but for things like grading and building stairs and ramps – you really want to have a licensed professional who is up to date on codes and requirements and really knows what they’re doing.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Yeah but there’s a world of difference between trimming trees/shrubs and putting mulch beds, and doing grading/stair work.

          Just please get a second bid at the very least. Please?

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      – As far as I know, the church does not generally offer bonuses. We did actually give Eddard a year-end bonus last year because he’s been so amazing, but this was done quietly and I believe he was the only one who got one.

      Then how on earth can the board use the rationale that they’re uncomfortable giving him a bonus and not giving everyone else one, when they’ve already set a precedent for doing exactly that? Eddard’s request for a bonus is not coming out of left field, as the original post implied.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        I think it must be because of how he’s asking for it. If he’s suggesting he does all of this in work hours, and it’s within his job description, it’s not bonus-worthy. If it’s out of hours, it’s extra labour and should be costed as such.

        If he’s asking for the bonus as a “cut” of the savings he’s procuring, that’s super-problematic to me, because not all staff have the opportunity to do equivalents, so it’s kind of unfair. Plus getting those saving doesn’t cost him anything – and it’s also one of those areas that’s a bit dodgy to me, as well as Katie upthread. They’re not getting 3 quotes, and one is massively cheaper, they’re being told “I’m saving you $65k on materials, trust me and give me a proportion of that”.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        Because the board doesn’t usually give them, he was the only one who got one last year, and they kept it quiet. It sounds very much like a rare occurrence. If they keep giving him bonuses, they are either going to have to start giving them to more employees, or they’ll have to deal with unhappy employees. Maybe Eddard didn’t know that when he asked, but based on the board’s response, he knows it now.

    3. Eohippus*

      Are bonuses even actually allowed by the governing body or your individual church charter, particularly if the funding is coming from the parent organization? I know some have particular rules on the matter. I’m a PK from the States whose Dad was basically a fill in minister for the area so I’ve been able to witness how several operate, and I don’t remember bonuses ever being a thing. Granted even though they were often a similar size to yours they didn’t have large operating endowments. Are you tied to a denomination, and if so is there some sort of diocesan/presbytery/conference/whatever award or recognition you could nominate him for instead?

  36. Monique*

    I disagree a little with Alison’s advice here. It doesn’t sound to me like the employee sat the board down and said, “Unless you give me this $5k bonus, I’m not going to do anything extra anymore.” It sounds to me like he presented his plan, including the astronomical savings, explained the extra hours and effort he’d need to put in, and asked to be remunerated for those. I agree that ideally he should have discussed this with his manager beforehand, but I don’t think he necessarily posed the question in an unprofessional way.

    It sounds like the board shut it down in such a way that the employee left completely demotivated, wondering what the point in doing anything extra was, which he communicated to his manager. The board could have likely handled it a lot better, whether they were or weren’t able to provide/agree a bonus.

    I also find it hard to believe that an institution with a $35k budget for landscaping couldn’t find the extra $5k for an employee saving them approximately $65k on a landscaping (e.g. hardly vital to the running of the organisation) project. It’s not like he’s asked for a slice of the savings – he’s asked for a bonus for all the extra work he’s already put it and will be putting in going forward. No wonder he was dejected and at a loss about why he’d put all that effort in if any talk of a bonus was shut down so easily.

  37. MadameLibrarian*

    Hi Alison – the past few days, I’ve been having issues with the blue lines on new comments on mobile. If I read to the end of the comments and then refresh the page, the blue lines show up, but if I go to a different article or par and then come back, the new comments aren’t indicated at all. (I’m on mobile.) Thanks!

      1. MadameLibrarian*

        It’s not when I hit the Back button. It’s when I go to a different page, then go back to the homepage and reopen the article by clicking the link again.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      It’s highly possible your browser cached the old page so it wouldn’t have to reload the page when you hit back after visiting the other link. You may have to manually refresh.

      1. MadameLibrarian*

        When I leave and come back, I’ve clicked to another page on the same tab and then later reopened the article, so it fully reloads. The blue lines have usually showed up in this case, but they’ve stopped. Should I refresh the page after re-opening it?

    2. Talvi*

      I’ve been getting that too, actually (in my case, if I read an article one day and come back later that day, the blue lines show up, but if I shut down and come back a day or two later, I don’t get any of the blue lines). I’d written it off something being blocked by NoScript, but it could well be a caching issue!

  38. HR Caligula*

    I can understand Eddard’s frustrations but really there is no reason to lose his head over it.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        It seems like there’s a pretty Stark contrast between his proposal and what’s normally done though.

  39. Zoogie2*

    I’d be concerned as Eddard’s manager about how the board will react to his actions. After all, he went to them and said “it will cost $35K” and once it’s done the receipts are going to add up to $100K.

    If I were a board member, I’d be very disturbed about the HUGE gap in what it was going to cost and what it actually did cost and hearing that it cost me almost 3x as much because I didn’t give one guy a $5k bonus isn’t going to trigger the thought “Oh man, $5K could have saved us $65K”, I’m going to think to myself “this guy deceived the board about how much this project will cost”.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      Well, no – Eddard isn’t just going to quietly keep the project going at full price and spring all these receipts on the board – he has made it very clear that he’s backing out of working on the project and is getting all new bids, and at that point the board can decide whether or not to move forward with the project.

  40. KM*

    I might have missed this somewhere in the comments, but it isn’t clear from the letter that the bonus was a surprise to Ned’s boss or the minister. It sounds like Ned wasn’t even at the meeting, so the proposal would have either been presented by someone else or submitted in writing, in which case they would/should/could have read it beforehand.

    In any case, if there was a chance that the board wasn’t going to approve that part of the proposal, that’s something everyone should have talked about early on.

  41. Jessica*

    Eddard’s mistake was calling it a bonus and the boards mistake was not fixing that.

    My suggestion – forget calling it a “bonus”, call it a project management fee or some other suitable name that describes what he’s really doing.

Comments are closed.