Do Your Employee Bonuses Go Unappreciated?

Dec 27, 2021, Written by Jim Miley

small business employee bonuses


As the year winds to a close, we spend a lot of time tabulating our client’s business performance.  Fortunately, many of those clients hit the strategic planning targets we’ve set which often includes incentive or bonus payouts to employees.  It’s really great to set goals and enjoy the success of knowing you’re moving in the right direction.  

Some business owners still use more subjective criteria for distributing discretionary bonuses near the end of the year…. The Christmas Bonus is still alive and well in a few pockets of our community.  

I’ve had the pleasure of sitting with the business owners as they tally up the employee bonuses and prepare to meet with the individuals to bless them with the fruits of their labor.  Sometimes I get to participate in the distribution as we communicate the awards which is nice.

The Celebration Can Fall Flat

Sometimes, not often, the receipt of your financial awards can be met with less enthusiasm than you had hoped.  Your Wheel of Fortune moment feels more like putting coins in a toll booth.  The celebration just falls flat.  

This post is an exhortation to those who have felt disappointed by a lack of enthusiasm or celebratory response to employee bonuses.

Be Humble in Your Leadership

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Matt 23:12

Most employee bonuses are given to reward a positive contribution to your business.  Arguably, you are paying your employee for work they put in prior to the bonus distribution; you should be grateful and thanking the employee for accepting what they have earned.  

Business leaders can get themselves into a frame of mind where they feel like the king or queen bestowing gifts upon his or her loyal subjects.  When the king doles out gifts, the subjects should celebrate the benevolence of his highness?  

I don’t think that is what business owners intend but am pointing out the slippery slope of letting yourself be disappointed if an employee doesn’t respond with your expected expression of gratitude for their bonus.  Rather view your bonus distributions as payments due out of your appreciation for the employee’s contributions.  Be humble in your leadership.  

You are the one that expresses gratitude to the employee.  

What About Discretionary Bonuses?

You may decide to distribute a discretionary bonus that is not tied directly to an employee’s performance.  A Christmas Bonus or Year End Bonus where it just makes you feel good to help the employees with a little something extra; like a gift.  Do you get to expect a celebration of your generosity if it’s more charitable than a performance bonus?  


“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” 
Matt 6:3

In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ Himself exhorts us in Matt 6:3 to be discreet in our giving.  Don’t make a big deal out of your charity and don’t look for accolades.  If you’re doing it for the accolades, it’s a selfish act.  If you’re giving bonuses to employees to bless them financially where it is a benevolent act, you should still remain humble and not turn grumpy when someone is less exuberant than you expected.  

It’s Really Not About the Money

Whether you are distributing Performance Bonuses, discretionary Christmas Bonuses or even weekly paychecks, Christ instructs us that money is not something to worship.  Lead by example that money is a byproduct of healthy work performance.  Of course we maintain competitive wages and reward excellence.  One of the fruits of our labor is to be well compensated. But you are not a benevolent king offering gifts to your loyal subjects.  You are a steward of God’s gifts and a brother or sister in Christ with your employees whom you have the privilege to lead.  Be a humble leader.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matt 6:19-21

When you remain aware that Christ is leading you to a vocation of servant leadership, you won’t worry much about how people respond to your good works as there is really only one person you are hoping to please and that is the person of Jesus Christ.  

You give your bonuses because it’s the right thing to do under the circumstances and know that by leading well according to your Faith, your employee bonuses will never go unappreciated.

Reader Interactions


  1. Kathy Pedeaux says

    Great article! Thank you for bringing perspective to year end bonus giving. Wow! I never have seen it in this light.

    Have a great day!

    Kathy Pedeaux

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Jim Miley

As a Business Coach, Jim brings a broad background of operational and sales management skills and expertise to help small business owners grow their business and reach their highest potential. He has 30 years of field-proven professional experience.

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