Talking money is a bit of a taboo subject. We find it difficult to talk about salaries and even more difficult to ask for an increase or bonus. However, there will come a time in most people’s career when they need to have the conversation about a pay rise or bonus to bring their salary into alignment with extra work, responsibility or a step-up in level.
Writing a bonus request letter is a great way to start this process. It may feel uncomfortable, but it is important that you are being compensated for the work you do and that your worth to the company is recognized. This article will give you tips on when and how to ask for a bonus, with email and letter etiquette examples to help.
When to ask for a bonus
You have to have a solid reason and evidence if you’re going to ask for a bonus. It can’t simply be because you’ve worked somewhere for a long time. You need to show your value and contribution and back it up with examples. This means being prepared and picking your moment. Here are some excellent times to ask for a bonus that put your performance at the forefront.
Your appraisal or review is set in time and will allow you to get your case together with this date in mind. The great thing about asking for a bonus at your appraisal or review is that part of the process is documenting your work performance throughout the year/quarter/particular time period. This means you have a platform to outline all you’ve accomplished, making it the perfect lead in to why you deserve more money.
Here's an example:
After a financial win for the company
Making big money for your company, like landing a big client, winning a big project, or exceeding sales targets with a large financial gain for your employer, is a great time to ask for your fair share. Be prepared with figures on the revenue you have brought the company and suggest that you should be compensated with a bonus above your salary in-line with a percentage of the total. This is standard if you work in an organization where you are paid commission, so it isn’t unreasonable to ask for compensation if you have made the company a lot of money.
Here's an example:
If your performance is outstanding
In a similar vein to above, if you’ve been highly motivated and achieved outstanding results for the company, it’s a good time to ask for a bonus. Have you put in the hours, gone above and beyond to win a big contract, or gained industry recognition for the company? Achieving something big that is of real value to the company you work for is a worthy reason to ask for a bonus. Companies want to reward their employees, so get your facts together and ask.
Here's an example:
If you’re working above your pay grade
After working for a company for a while, people can often find that they are taking on extra responsibilities and management for staff, or even working different hours to what they originally signed up for. This may be temporary to account for something that is happening in the short term, like working around the impact of COVID-19, or it might be more of a permanent change. If this is the case, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for a review to see if you are working at the next grade up. This may result in a bonus or even a pay rise.
Here's an example:
How to ask for a bonus
Timing is important when asking for a bonus or pay rise. You need to show that you are professional, so make sure that you have plenty of time to get your reasons across and have the full attention of your manager. Catching them when they are popping out for lunch, or in a team meeting, won’t be ideal. Here are some tips on the best times to ask and how to go about ensuring you are prepared:
Ask for a meeting
When you feel the time is right, bring up the possibility of a bonus with your boss. You could start the conversation like this:
You: I’m so pleased that the XYZ project was so successful.
Boss: Me too. You all worked so well together.
You: Thanks! I’m looking forward to the next project, but I’d like to talk to you about a bonus for the hours I contributed.
Boss: The next project will be great. Send me an email and we’ll set up a meeting to discuss a bonus.
You: Thank you, I’ll send you an email to arrange one.
If you’re due an appraisal, you could bring up a bonus like this:
You: I got your email about my appraisal. [Date] works for me. I’d like to discuss a bonus/pay rise, so is there anything specific you need me to prepare?
Boss: Oh, great. I’ll put it in my calendar. If you could bring XYZ, that would be great.
You: Perfect, I’ll make sure I have everything ready.
Once you’ve casually introduced the idea, make sure to follow up the conversation with a letter/email. Use your letter to ask for an official meeting to discuss the potential pay rise in more detail, rather than noting every reason you deserve one in the letter/email. If you are going to make your case during your appraisal or a scheduled review, mention this in your initial conversation and use the letter to make this clear, so your manager is prepared.
Gather your evidence
Once a meeting has been scheduled, gather your evidence to demonstrate why you deserve a bonus. Bring facts, examples and figures to really show what you’ve achieved. If you’ve brought in huge revenue for the company, have your numbers ready — along with estimations of a percentage that you wish to be paid.
Know what you’re asking for
Don’t be vague. Be confident in your approach and ask for what you think you’re worth. Your employer will ask you what you think the bonus you’re requesting should be, so don’t go all shy here. State your case, what you want and why. Be prepared for some negotiation, so have a figure in mind that you will accept. It is a good idea to do some research of similar salaries to give you an idea.
Bonus request examples
Below you will find some more example letters and emails that you can use as templates to ask for a bonus in different scenarios.
Requesting a bonus is often way out of our comfort zone, but if you approach it professionally, with all the facts and examples you have presented clearly, it doesn’t have to be a difficult experience. Remember, you are only asking to be paid what you are worth, and this is a perfectly acceptable request. Using a letter to request a meeting can reduce any anxiety and give you plenty of time to prepare.
Have you ever asked for a bonus? Did you choose to write a letter/email to organize a meeting to discuss the matter? Share this with your hard-working colleagues and let us know if you get the bonus!
This is an updated version of an article originally published on 13 October 2017.