Honest communication with your boss

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Q. I’d like your perspective on an issue that has caused dissension between me and my boss. A VP in another unit wanted to show his appreciation for my work on a company-wide project by giving me a bonus. Not one to turn down money, I was dismayed that my own boss chose to use this outside bonus as an opportunity to hold back on giving me a bonus on his own.

I don’t want to seem unappreciative or greedy, but doesn’t it make good management sense to reward employees for their good results and not pull a stunt like this? I tried to tell my boss I would rather the bonus come from him, not an outside source, but he failed to see any merit in my point. My boss had always had a reputation for being tight, but this case seems to have taken the cake.


A. Having a boss claim credit for your fine efforts isn’t necessarily such a bad thing. The boss probably figured, “Hey, I didn’t have to spend a dime to reward my star employee and he still got a nice bonus. Did I luck out!” As a rule, the more you make your boss look good, the faster you’ll advance. (That’s because the boss will advance too.) I realize that general rule doesn’t apply in every organization, but it’s worth remembering in your situation. While I understand that you’re peeved by your boss’ “stunt,” beware of wasting too much time and energy dissecting it.

For example, do not waste time talking about this incident with your co-workers. It’s better to spend your time focusing on performance issues that you can control, rather than growing irritated at the behavior of others (however offensive) that you cannot control.

Separately, keep building alliances with higher-ups in your organization. Redouble your efforts to give other influential, high-level executives ample opportunities to evaluate your abilities. Offer to tackle thorny challenges for them or mop up their mistakes. Express your desire to expand your horizons and get more cross-training.

Also, level with your boss. Rather than make lots of statements (such as “I’m not pleased with what happened”), pose nonthreatening questions (such as “What was your thinking in not giving me a bonus on that project?” or “Do you think it’s ever appropriate for me to earn two bonuses from different executives for a job well done?”). Engage the boss in an honest conversation and try to learn something.

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