Holiday bonuses can be tricky. While not every employee expects a holiday bonus, depending on the corporate culture, the practice may presumably be a standard part of the job. According to one recent poll, two-thirds of HR and Hiring Managers say they plan to offer holiday bonuses.

A majority of the remaining HR managers reportedly planned on offering some other perks this holiday season, like a holiday party and non-monetary gifts. Here’s what to keep in mind when deciding how–and whether–to offer a holiday bonus.


“Scrooge-like” is how one blogger describes companies that don’t offer monetary bonuses. It’s a sentiment echoed in many other pieces on the subject. Sometimes, the source of this discontent seems to stem from context — whether it’s an established tradition of bonuses or a workplace environment where employees regularly see executives’ displays of wealth. Take this anecdote, from Entrepreneur, about Kristen Lunceford, who had been working as an associate editor for an “extremely affluent” regional magazine whose “bosses were aloof millionaires”: After a year of working for the publications, Lunceford was eagerly anticipating her holiday bonus.

Near the end of one fine day in December, her editor-in-chief headed toward her cubicle — and handed Lunceford an oversized Hershey Kiss. Lunceford quit shortly after, and perhaps with good reason — in the context she describes, the gift she received could easily read as insulting. Additionally, if a workplace normally gives out bonuses based on salary or other incentives, and an employee has been working under the assumption they will receive this bonus, they’ll likely be upset if they don’t receive that amount. This could cause them to become less engaged at work, or even to quit.

Moral of the story? Understand the expectations, company culture, and other context queues your employees have been relying on to determine whether they’ll get a bonus.


Giving out a bonus your company can’t really afford doesn’t help anyone. The good news? Studies suggest that nonfinancial rewards can be much more effective than monetary ones. Paid vacations, a nice gift item, or options for different gift items, like those described by Glen Tullman over at Forbes, can all be great — and likely less expensive — alternatives to traditional monetary bonuses. Just keep in mind that this will only work in an appropriate context.

If there’s a traditional financial bonus, you’ll need to explain clearly and sincerely why that’s not an option at this point. Bonuses may be complicated, but HR doesn’t need to be. FingerCheck360 allows HR professionals to track time, process payroll, and onboard employees in one convenient system. For a free trial or to learn more, contact us! Get social with us!

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