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No Bonus, Again?

Just as small businesses could feel the yolk of pandemic restrictions lifting, Omicron entered the arena and now things are looking uncertain again.  According to Business Tech an estimated 1000 businesses were forced to close their doors due to Covid – 19 in 2020 alone.  Taking this into account it’s easy to understand why many employers have had to forego annual bonuses.  While 2021 did not see such extreme lockdown restrictions as the year before, it was still a difficult year for many businesses.  That is why it might be tricky to have the bonus discussion with your employees this December.  


Obviously, if you are going to be able to pay an annual bonus in December, the discussion is very easy:  

“Dear employee, here’s extra money, enjoy!” 

“Dear employer, thank you, I intend to!” 

However: If this year has been a harsh one for your business, and you have to give your employees the “Bad news, no bonus” talk, here are some pointers on how to make the news as palatable as possible.  

Sooner Rather than Later

If you already know that the funds to pay bonuses aren’t available, speak to your employees ASAP.  Unless you have a very good reason to expect a late surge of income in the following two weeks.

Be Honest and Clear

Don’t blame anyone or make promises you don’t know if you’ll be able to keep.  

Set Out a Timeline

If you legitimately think you will be able to pay some sort of extra remuneration within the next couple of months, set clear goals for employees and then follow through the moment you are able to meet them.  

An alternative to a year-end bonus is a temporary increase that will allow you to keep healthy cash flow going but show your employees that they matter and that you will share the good fortune when it comes your way.

Skip Yourself

For most business owners this goes without saying, with many of them even having forgone their own salaries during the height of the pandemic to be able to keep paying employees. But this goes for bonuses as well:  

The worst thing you can do for morale is to inform your employees that there is no money for bonuses but then be ostentatious in your own spending over the festive period. Yes, you might have savings or even alternative income, and yes, it is YOUR money, but don’t be tone-deaf and revel in champagne breakfasts and yacht trips if you know there are employees struggling to pay school fees in January. (Definitely don’t post about your lavish vacations on social media!)  

Try to Find Non-Monetary Alternatives to Show your Appreciation

If bonuses, Year-end functions and gifts are out of the question, why not give your employees a day off, an afternoon off, or even just close 30minutes earlier than usual every Friday in December. No, it doesn’t fill the gap that a lack of bonus has left, but it can go a long way towards keeping morale high in these trying times.  

Finally – let your employers know that you are hopeful and remain dedicated to making the business work. The best thing you can do for your bottom line at the moment is to lead by example. Hunker down, trim the sails, and know – This too shall pass.  

More business advice here.