January 29, 2013 in Features

Christmas bonus sorely missed

Kathy Mitchell
 

Dear Annie: I am an associate in a law firm with two offices. Each office has three associate attorneys and is managed by a partner.

During my first year, I was the only associate in my office, and I received a Christmas bonus. The second year, we hired two additional associates. I was devastated when all of the staff but none of the associates received a bonus that year, as I’d planned to use the money to buy gifts for my family. I wasn’t surprised last month when, once again, the associates received nothing. I did learn that all of the associates in the other office received bonuses.

I understand that a Christmas bonus is not something I am entitled to receive, and if I bring it up to my boss, it would make me sound selfish and greedy. We do get extra money each month if we exceed a specific number of billable hours. However, that is a part of my compensation agreement. I also think my boss has decided that the office staff, most of whom are single parents, need the bonus more than the associates do. But my law degree came with six figures of student loan debt.

This is less about the money than it is about the disparate treatment, especially between the two law offices. Is there any way to bring this up to my boss for next season without sounding like a spoiled child? – Struggling Young Professional

Dear Struggling: We understand why this seems unfair, but unless a yearly bonus is part of your compensation package, such money is given at the discretion of the managing partner. It is possible that the associates in the other office have a different compensation agreement that includes a Christmas bonus or that there are other factors involved. You could ask what you can do to increase the likelihood that you will merit additional pay at the end of the year, or whether something about your performance has been disappointing. Beyond that, you’re out of luck.

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