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Monday, December 19, 2016

To Give or Not to Give

I’m sure it generates for most workers a sense of “bonus envy.” You know, when you find out that some friends or family members received a healthy chunk of change at the end of the year. It’s often referred to as a Christmas or Holiday “bonus.”

Last year, bonus envy grew to new heights when a Houston company doled out $100,000 celebratory paychecks to all of its 1,381 employees! The very generous Hilcorp is one of the largest privately-held oil and natural gas exploration and production companies in the US. It was named to the 2015 FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For list…for the third consecutive year. Ya think?

It must be shared that this was not just a “gift” of love. It was performance-based reward. It was handed out after employees helped double the size of Hilcorp over a five year period.

This was the second really significant bonus employees received. In 2010, when the company had doubled in size, employees could choose a $50,000 car or a $35,000 cash check. Sweet!

This sets the stage to consider whether and when to give out rewards to employees. Is Christmas or year end the time do it? There is, of course, no perfect answers on these questions. But a few things should be considered.

First, the use of the word “bonus.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language states “A bonus is something given or paid in addition to what is usual or expected.” The Columbia Encyclopedia explains “wage incentive was designed during the late 19th century not only to increase production but to reward the more skillful and more energetic workers.” The website concludes from this that “a bonus is a premium paid above and beyond standard compensation to reward high-achieving employees and to encourage them to continue such achievement with the company in the future.”

That is the way Hilcorp views it. Others view a “holiday bonus” as, in theory, given from the heart by compassionate and grateful management. In this case, performance measurements do not necessarily determine the size of the gift. Some firms will vary these holiday rewards based on roles in management and labor.

Many companies choose another option. Do nothing. Or maybe hold a “holiday” or Christmas party. Maybe not. Maybe a turkey or ham. A small gift certificate, perhaps.

One business owner wrote his “best solution” was an unexpected day off. He gives it to employees in December to catch up on the myriad of personal tasks that arrive this time of year for employees. Or just to spend time with relatives. In his mind, there is no “hard cost” to this and it avoids IRS issues.

And speaking of that, there are legal and financial considerations to be weighed for both the company and the employees for any real financial “bonus.”

The right mindset for any employee reading this is simple: be grateful for your job and the benefits in return. Do not begrudge others who may get exciting bonuses. Envy offers no payoff. Contentment is good for the soul.

To the employer or manager, your legacy is determined (in part) by how others feel valued by you. This can be demonstrated in various ways. But it is a choice you make. We can take nothing with us from this life.

Christmas is a time to remember one of the choicest admonitions attributed to the One whose birth we celebrate: “You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35, NLT)

Unwrap that teaching this season. It will change your world.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app. 

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