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How to bargain for a year-end bonus

2015-01-16 09:04 Global Times Web Editor: Qian Ruisha
More Chinese employees are plucking up the courage to bargain with their bosses for year-end bonuses. Photo: Li Hao/GT

More Chinese employees are plucking up the courage to bargain with their bosses for year-end bonuses. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Feng Shaoliang, an architectural engineer at an interior design company in Beijing, recently managed to successfully talk his boss into giving him a 28,000 yuan ($4,518) end-of-year bonus.

"Actually, I was kind of shameless. I used my recent break-up to guilt-trip him," said Feng. "I told him that we broke up because I didn't have enough money and couldn't afford to buy a house in Beijing."

Feng said that he and his boss enjoyed a close relationship, forged through frequently traveling together on business trips where they'd often spend their evenings drinking together.

"Drinking and talking about women is the most effective way to shorten the distance of two men, especially two single men," said Feng, whose bonus was the equivalent of around two months' his usual wages. It was during one such drinking session that Feng confessed his relationship troubles, and brought up the topic of getting a bonus.

"He told me, 'Yes of course, take the bonus as a foundation for a new relationship next year, or use it to rent a fake girlfriend to take home to please your parents,'" said Feng.

According to a report published by PXC Consulting, a Beijing-based data analysis company, 84.3 percent of 6,432 enterprises surveyed gave their employees some sort of year-end bonus in the 2014-15 business year.

The findings of the report, which were posted on Sina Weibo, attracted more than 13.68 million views in less than two days. Many who left comments expressed astonishment at the prevalence and the amount of bonuses given, in light of their own experiences.

Others sought advice about how to ask for a bonus.

"I think everyone deserves a tasty bonus after a hard year of work," said Feng. "But it's also a measure of an employee's work performance, emotional intelligence and IQ."

All about relationships

Feng said that the key to getting bonus was establishing a strong relationship with your boss, or else appealing to his or her sympathies would not work.

"Firstly, you have a good relationship with your boss, and secondly your boss has to be someone who is nice and relatively easy-going," said Feng. "Or else you will die a horrible death."

Feng said that there was an unwritten policy at his company that all employees will receive some sort of year-end bonus.

He acknowledged that performance was an important factor, but that among employees who had performed similarly well, the amount that they received for their bonus would be determined by their personal relationship with their superiors.

"The year-end bonuses [at our company] are divided into three tiers: the equivalent of two months' salary, the equivalent of one month's salary, and the equivalent of half a month's salary," said Feng. "In China, relationships are so important, especially in small businesses like ours. The quota for the highest bonus tier is limited to just five to eight people. The deciding factor is what kind of relationship you have with your boss."

"I kind of think I am too easy-going so that the management of my company is not that formal," said Feng's boss Zhou Yunqi. "But I really think there's nothing unusual about a qualified employee asking for a bonus."

"Of course, bonuses are based on the ability and performance of an employee, and how much money the company made in the last year," Zhou continued. "In my company, good employees like Feng are not afraid of me and we are friends, but the mediocre employees are still kind of afraid of me, especially when it comes to bargaining for a bonus."

Strategies for bargaining

Wen Yan, a human resources worker at a State-owned enterprise, played down the value of relying on relationships when asking for a bonus, suggesting instead that employees should focus on performance.

He said that the first question employees should think about is why they deserve a bonus.

"Think about your major accomplishments in the last year, and correlate your performance to your company's profits," said Wen. "Your performance is the most persuasive factor."

Employees should also start laying the groundwork for requesting a bonus months in advance, said Wen.

"You should watch your own behaviors and make sure that you do not make mistakes in your work. Show your boss your enthusiasm and your sense of responsibility for your job," said Wen.

When it comes to actually negotiating, Wen advised employees to keep the tone of the meeting professional.

"You should arrange a private meeting between you and your boss, without letting your colleagues know," said Wen. "Even if you meet in [an informal setting,] you should view it seriously. Make sure you're dressed professionally, and express to your boss confidently why you deserve a bonus."

Wen noted that if one worked at a State-owned company, getting a year-end bonus was unlikely due to efforts to stamp out the perception of corruption. At privately run companies however, if one adopted the right strategies, asking for a bonus was "worth a shot," said Wen.

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