10 step process to bonus negotiation

by Dec 10, 2014Dear Dorothy, Negotiating salary and benefits: value your work

salary gap

Help! My bonus is less than my male report!

Despite reaching my targets year on year with related bonuses, I have just discovered that one of my reports (male) is going to receive a greater bonus than myself this year. It was a very successful year for me personally in terms of meeting targets, and of course my team exceeded expectation. How do you think I should handle this. Sara  (Italy)

Hi Sara – Thanks for your mail. This is not an uncommon situation. Women step up to the negotiating table 6 times less than men  during their careers and generally according to what stats you read, earn 81% of their male counterparts. I actually think this is probably a generous figure. I cover this in detail in a series of posts starting with  “Let’s go girls.. negotiate .”

As you say you had a particularly successful year as team manager as well as previous years. Bonus negotiation is no different to salary negotiation.

[Tweet “My first and basic question would be: “why are you not making bonus recommendations and who is?””]

  So I would suggest the following 10 step process for bonus negotiation:

  1. Get into business neutral – don’t take this personally. It’s a negotiation process.
  2. Understand well your areas of added value – have all that information prepared as a business case.
  3. Talk to your boss with attentive listening skills  “Help me understand… “
  4. Benchmark your salary within your team  – were there any special circumstance to factor in?
  5. Research your own external market value.
  6. Look at fringe benefits – could you translate extra cash into another benefit. Is that what you want? Benefits can eventually have a high monetary value and also play an important role in work/life balance issues. There is a caveat in the sense that  generally benefits do not count toward pensionable earnings if there is a  scheme. Factor this in fully.
  7. Be prepared to get into the double bind of women being perceived as aggressive and strident when negotiating salaries and fees. Let that go. Remember business neutral.
  8. Do you have an HR appeals process within your organisation. What is the HR input?
  9. Evaluate any rejection neutrally – the question should be not be “ do you want to stay in this job?” – but  “when would be a good time to leave? My employer doesn’t value me.”
  10. Really ask yourself if you are prepared to leave. If it all works out make sure you have control over the salaries and bonuses of your reports.


Hope this helps.

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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