From Communication

Tying Bonus Potential to Personality

The evolution of the bonus on pedestalThere is nothing worse than an employee that drags down a team, but it happens all the time. Actually, there is something worse…a manager that does nothing about it. This is a common problem in the workplace, it affects moral, and although it may not be obvious in short-term results, long-term negative impact is real.


So what can you do about it? Well, you don’t want to “pick” on your employee, especially if they are a top performer; you want them to continue performing without an emotional complex. And let’s face it, people don’t always know they are difficult to work with and a crushed ego can hurt performance. There is another way to improve individual attitudes, rid the team of difficult personalities and boost teamwork. How?…focus on the team as a whole, and the personality you want your entire team to exhibit throughout the organization.


4 Steps to Implement & Manage Positive Change in Your Team

1.    Define Expectations

Define the reputation you want your team to have both amongst team members and outside of the immediate group. For example, how the team and its members are viewed by each other, by their own employees, by other departments or by customers. As the leader you need to put words around this reputation…define something that can be measured. Here are some examples:

  • Individual actively supports projects and timelines managed by other team members.
  • Individual shares information and gets actionable buy-in from their own staff to ensure company goals are achieved.
  • Individual is accessible to others throughout the organization and acts in a way the represents a culture of inclusion and teamwork at all levels.

2.    Create a Measurement Vehicle

Tying personality expectations to bonus potential is a great way to get your team to take things seriously, internalize them and think about what actions they need to take to ensure financial success. It’s also a great way for you to have conversations with your employees about difficult a subject…their personality. But remember that teamwork should not be something extra, it must be expected as the standard. That means that its tie to bonus is a negative one… if you can’t prove that you are meeting these standards, then there is a negative impact on bonus payout. Yes…if an employee meets all of their performance goals and the company achieves its goals, the employee who does not prove to uphold defined teamwork standards will get a negative tick on their bonus payout. Here is an example:

  • Say you have a performance rating system that averages out between a 1-5 points. If an employee achieves a 4, but is not proving to meet teamwork standards, then the overall rating is decreased by some predetermined amount (by 1 or .5 for example). If they do live up to the standards you set, then they will receive the full bonus they achieved.


The fact that an employee’s total result is impacted by the way they are perceived on the team and within the organization is what makes this process so effective. It’s a great management tool…as long as you follow through.

3.    Communicate Your Plan

Roll out your expectations to the team during a group discussion/meeting. You don’t want to single any individual out; instead it must a team initiative. Be sure to explain the results you want to achieve, including the reputation you want to build together. Also explain why this transformation is so important. Here is an example:

“Let’s talk about what makes any business successful: achieving goals, having tools that help us to work consistently and effectively, and people that are happy and engaged in the team. This year we are going to focus on the “team” aspect of our success. Not only to reach our goals, but also to ensure we are doing what is necessary to create a successful culture throughout our organization. That means that “teamwork” will be calculated in our bonus payout. Here are the things we all need to be focused on: (list your expectations defined in step one). Because working together is essential, it is an expectation, not an exception, so we are going to treat it that way with the bonus. If an individual achieves these standards, then the bonus is calculated as it has been, but if an individual does not exhibit these standards throughout the year, there will be a .5 deduction on the total result. I’m not doing this to punish anyone, but I do want to bring this expectation to the forefront, to raise the bar across the board and set an example for the organization. The better we work together, the more we will accomplish in our results. It’s a win for the business, our team and each of us as individuals.”

4.    Follow Through On Results

After your group meeting make sure to have one-on-one conversations with each team member about the new expectations. Recommend that they make notations throughout the year on what actions they have taken to prove they are meeting these standards. Give examples like:

  • Participated in another team member’s project x by offering y & z enabling them to meet a timeline that otherwise would have been difficult to achieve.
  • Initiated weekly walk-arounds to other departments to understand how to improve communication or service levels between the groups and implemented x y and z as a result.
  • Established monthly reviews with my own team to review goals and teamwork initiatives that are aligned with the overall organization.

You can create some format for individuals to document these examples, send a positive acknowledgement email to the team whenever someone exhibits these behaviors, or incorporate a quarterly reminder into team meetings so that it remains on the minds of individuals throughout the year.


Bottom line is that there should be no surprises come bonus time…this is real, documented and part of the bonus calculation.


Sure you may have some employees that balk at the program, but if you keep it positive, then it will be a positive experience for everyone…and the business.



Written by Lisa Woods, President Lisa Woods Consulting & Founder of

Lisa is a dynamic business leader & author located in Western New York with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth in the corporate world. Today she partners with business leaders to understand their vision, identify internal and external roadblocks, define a practical strategic path forward and guide a successful transformation. This work includes strategy definition & goal setting, organizational design, facilitating team buy-in, establishing visual metrics, internal and external research studies, business feasibility assessments, and investor insight into organizational strength, weakness & strategic opportunity. She helps business leaders drive growth & increase profits.

Strategic Consulting ǀ Management Consulting: Strategy Realized

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