Are you waiting in the right line?


Happy Black Friday! Are you shopping online in your PJs, bundled up and waiting outside in a line, or happily sleeping in after a nice Thanksgiving?

A big part of black Friday for me was the build up and suspense. Going through the 2-inch thick newspaper while eating just one more piece of pie, making a game plan with family to divide and conquer different stores, waiting outside in the freezing cold to be one of the first in line.

But ultimately when the doors opened, you didn’t always know where stuff was in the store or if there would be enough for you by the time you found it.

I’m all for a good mystery but do you really want your bonus to be a black box?
blackboxIt’s time to find out how things work at your job and there’s no better place to start than when you get the news for this year’s bonus.

For our discussion, we will refer to a bonus as a one-time payout each year and a raise as something that is added to your salary which stays as long as you are at the job. Strategies we discuss can be applied to both raises and bonuses. You decide what makes the most sense for your situation.

Raises are usually done every year either on an individual’s anniversary with the company or during a scheduled company-wide window. They usually have some average range and managers have some freedom to allocate higher or lower raises based on performance.

Most companies pay an annual bonus toward the end of the year, and it is usually tied to some company metric like a percentage of revenue or some other target the company has set.

This is because most people are average. They don’t want to think about setting specific goals and rewards for achieving those goals. So from the company’s perspective they just pick a “lazy” metric to base things off of since very few people actually want to think about setting and achieving goals.

This is good news for you – above average people stand out more in a sea of average.
aboveaverageDoes your company pay a bonus? If not, don’t panic – you can skip to the Tesla story further down if you want.

When is it decided?
I once worked at a company where all of the managers met with the directors in October and everyone debated for a larger piece of the bonus pool for their team. They more or less got the same amount unless someone had shown exceptional work and at least some of the people in the meeting knew about that exceptional work. Each manager then was allocated their pool of bonus money and they would divide it as they saw fit among their team.


Here’s the kicker – the bonus was decided in October but paid in December. That left many people working lots of overtime in Nov and Dec to meet “goals” and “deadlines” in hopes of influencing their bonus but in reality, it had already been decided 2-3 months earlier. Talk about waiting in the wrong line.

How is it decided?

You may be uncomfortable digging around trying to find out how bonuses and raises work at your company. Don’t be. A lot of it is outlined in your company handbook or you can talk to HR. Start there to get the standard from the book answers.

As you get the news for this year’s bonus that is a perfectly logical time to get more details from your manager about how it works at your company. Some of the best information I’ve received about raises and bonuses came from managers because they are directly involved in the process.

Maybe you don’t have a formal bonus or maybe it’s based on some company metric that you think you can’t directly influence.

That’s ok. Right now you are defining the wall so you can step over it. The more you know, the less of an obstacle it becomes.
wallAsking questions shows initiative. There’s nothing wrong with finding out how things work. Remember, you’re not just asking for more money, you are finding out how you can add more value to the company, and how the company can compensate you for that added value.

We want to make sure you are waiting in the right line.

Great Question
I was once at an all-hands meeting for a billion dollar company.

The CEO opened up the floor for questions and some guy in the front asks, “Can I drive your Tesla for a day?”
teslasMost of the crowd probably expected the guy to get shot down or laughed at while quickly moving on to a more “serious” question, but what happened next was the real lesson.

The CEO asked him what his job was at the company then instructed the employee to talk to his manager and set an exceptional goal. If he achieved it then he would let him drive his Tesla for a day.

1. Ask
Some people like to “fly under the radar” at their job. They show up, put in their time, and go home.
radar“Flying under the radar” may help someone avoid getting associated with something bad, but it also means that you probably won’t be associated with anything good either.

If you want to start getting an above average raise or bonus then you have to start showing above average behaviors and results.

That means getting on people’s radars (in a good way)

2. Set an exceptional goal

We are all hired to do a job. Doing your job is expected. You get a paycheck and other standard benefits in exchange for doing your job.

If you want more than that, then you have to do something more. You have to provide an exceptional amount of value.

Not only that, but you need to state it as a goal at one point in time, then achieve it by some future point in time.

You have to commit.

commitCommit to tackling something above average and exceptional by a certain date.

Did it just get a little warmer in here? Are you feeling the pressure?

Ok, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Find out how things work at your job. Then you’ll be ready to think about what you can do to step over that wall of average.

All of the strategies and tools aren’t going to work as well if you’re waiting in the wrong line. Do your homework first then we can start talking strategy.

Do you have a “Tesla” story to share? How is your bonus determined? Share in the comments or send me a message using the form at the bottom of the page.

Craig Golightly