Skip to main content

This year's average holiday bonus is likely to knock Scrooge off his feet

Bonuses are 26% merrier than last year. Plus, here's how you can get on your employer’s “nice” list for next year.

This year's average holiday bonus is likely to knock Scrooge off his feet

If you’re too old to be waking up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning to check out your haul from Santa, there’s still one potential present you can look forward to unwrapping: your holiday bonus.

You and your co-workers’ stockings could be stuffed with a little extra greenery this year, according to one survey of employers by Accounting Principals, a staffing firm that specializes in finance and accounting. Of the U.S. companies they polled, 75% are planning on giving bonuses this year, and the average of that bonus is $1,081 this year, up from $858 in 2015.

While bonuses are partially driven by the success of the company over the course of the year, the survey data also offers ways that your individual behavior shapes your odds of reaping those end-of-year rewards. In fact, more than 80% of surveyed managers said there are steps you can take to increase your chances of landing a big bonus.

These tips can help you get a head start on your 2017 holiday bonus.

Be upbeat and driven

Your attitude at work is hugely influential on your bonus. More than half of the survey respondents (54%) said employees who remain motivated during the year are more likely to receive a bonus when the holiday season rolls around. And 45% of managers in the survey said workers who are positive and upbeat are more likely to receive a holiday bonus.

One way you can amp yourself up for greatness is to create goals for yourself to work toward, says Kim Gottschalk, a senior regional vice president at Accounting Principals. “These don’t necessarily have to be lofty goals for the year. They can be smaller daily or weekly goals related to your work,” Gottschalk says. “Working toward these goals will help you remain engaged and productive. And reaching those goals will help enhance your attitude—which will help motivate others to have a positive attitude as well.”

Go above and beyond

If you want a little something extra in your check, you’ll need to put in some extra effort. About a third of survey respondents said that taking on additional duties at work increases an employee’s chances of receiving a bonus.

“Volunteering for extra assignments throughout the year helps demonstrate that an employee is willing to go above and beyond to meet departmental and possibly wider strategic objectives of the organization,” says Stacey Berk, managing consultant and founder of Expand HR Consulting, a boutique human resources consulting firm based in suburban Washington, D.C.. “It's just one way that an employee could show a meaningful contribution compared to others.”

But don’t simply volunteer for the additional work and walk away. Berk suggests seizing the opportunity to discuss the broader impact of your work with your manager before you begin the new tasks. The conversation could create an impression that makes a difference during bonus season.

When appropriate, toot your own horn

It’s true that some companies pre-determine holiday bonuses before December hits. But some firms wait until the last minute to allocate those funds, so it’s worth reminding your manager of all of the good you’ve done throughout the year. And besides, managers and bosses are busy people with a lot on their mind. It can make them slightly forgetful. Nearly a quarter of managers surveyed said that employees who remind the company of their accomplishments are more likely to receive bonuses. Another 15% said that asking your boss directly for a bonus could pay off.

Now, there are tactful ways to go about this, and there are straight-up tacky ways to avoid doing this. Bonus policies vary among organizations, but if you decide to approach your boss directly about a bonus, you will need to demonstrate your value, Gottschalk says. “Showcase your accomplishments and highlight your dedication, proactive thinking and collaboration to help make your case,” she says.

Berk recommends meeting with your manager at the beginning of the holiday season to highlight your accomplishments in the past year or six months. “It's typically strong individual performance throughout the year that yields the highest bonus,” she says.

Remember, if your employer pulls a Scrooge and stiffs you on a holiday bonus, there are plenty of companies out there that believe in the spirit of the season.