This year, 74 percent of those responsible for hiring decisions in science, tech, engineering and medical fields say they plan to give their employees a bonus, according to the 2017 STEM Workplace Trends survey from information technology staffing company Modis. But what if your boss is among those who respond to bonus expectations and compensation requests with a big fat no?

Why your company might tighten the purse strings


Trent Beekman, Modis' president of recruitment solutions, asserts that there are three big reasons why companies choose to hold back on both raises. The first, of course, is that you're just not hitting or exceeding the mark when it comes to performance. While that might be a tough pill to take, acknowledging areas where you can grow and creating clear strategies for improvement can turn things around over time.

Then there's the shifting of company cultures. While millennials and other workers certainly still value traditional perks, they're placing more emphasis on areas like a sense of purpose and ethics. So some businesses consciously reallocate funds toward those areas.

"Organizations are looking for out-of-the-box ways to resonate with their internal audience. Some companies [might] opt out of bonuses if they have made other investments in order to align with their employees' interests. For example, instead of a holiday payout to employees, a company [might] choose to donate to a charity or cause."

Lastly, some companies simply come onto tough financial times and honestly can't afford to hand workers extra money. Underperformance often means leaders have to cut costs, and in those situations, it's the non-essentials like bonuses that normally hit the chopping block first.

Turning "no" into "yes"


Even if your company has fewer dollars to toss around than normal, Beekman says there are still a few tricks that you can use to get your boss on your side of the court.

1. Showcase your value to the company with strong data points.

Don't just say you think your contributions have helped the company. If you landed a deal worth $10,000 or improved your sales by 9 percent, for example, be specific. Quantify everything and make sure your boss is aware of the ways you're chipping in. Lay it all out in terms of what management values. Then, when you ask for a bonus that's just a small percentage of what the company earned from you, the request will seem like it's actually a great deal and incredibly logical.

"Going in with data-driven examples of how you helped the company succeed by meeting your goals will not only make a better case for a bonus or pay increase, but will also allow you to have a more productive discussion if the answer is no. It's important that you have a candid conversation about your strengths and opportunities for improvement so that you have a clear direction for moving forward."

2. Anticipate your employer's rationale and state it ahead of your points.

Whether the problem is a lack of expected revenue or costly operational snags, be realistic. Show you understand what the company is going through. For example, you might say, "I know budgets are tight right now, but..." Doing this tells the employer that you're not making the request blindly and that you're able to see their dilemma. That helps them see you as more of an insider, which helps them see the request more positively.

3. Put on a happy face.

This isn't to say you should pretend everything is fine if it's not. Rather, it's simply to say that, if you go in only with a list of grievances about how you're being gipped, your boss probably is going to get defensive and be less willing to hear you out. Be positive about what you've accomplished, point out good things about your worker-employer relationship and say what you look forward to with the company. The more you mirror a great mood, the more relaxed and willing to open the company bank account your boss likely will feel.

No matter what size bonus you actually get, remember that a bonus is something you've earned. Subsequently, while you can express appreciation that the company sees your efforts, there's no need to go over the top with thanks. Remember, too, that "extra" money can work for you. It's a great idea to see where you can invest what you get to make the bonus even bigger!