G.I. Jobs Virtual Job Fair   |   June 27

Virtual Job Fair   |   June 27

Holiday Bonuses in Civilian Companies: What to Expect

Holiday Bonus

Is the company you work for giving out holiday bonuses this year? Did they give one out last year? Everyone remembers the scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where the lead character Clark Griswold puts down a deposit on a swimming pool in anticipation of getting a holiday bonus and instead gets a subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club. This is a very funny, yet poignant, way of looking at your anticipated holiday bonus.

Nearly half of the companies that responded to a national survey indicated that they do give out a holiday bonus. But bonus types can vary greatly from company to company. If you surveyed 25 different companies, chances are that you would get 25 different policies on what they give their employees during the holiday season. Small companies as well as large ones give bonuses, and there is no hard and fast rule on what should or should not be given out. But there are basically three different kinds of bonuses.


A celebratory bonus is usually just that: a celebration.  Celebrations can be a night on the town, potluck or other such event where the company picks up some or all of the expenses.  This allows employees to socialize outside of the working environment and get to know each other away from the demands of the business. Company parties are a great way for supervisors and CEOs to let their employees know just how much they mean to the organization. They’re also great team-building events.



Blanket bonuses are given out to all employees regardless of their time with the business or position with the company.  These bonuses can be monetary or come in the form of a gift. Fruit baskets, gift cards, gift certificates or a company check placed in your in-box can all be forms of blanket bonuses. These are the least personal type of bonus and do nothing to address the employee as an individual contributor to the overall success of the business. To some employees, this can be seen as just a rubber stamp acknowledging nothing more than employment within the company.


An incentive or performance-based bonus ties the company’s goals and objectives to what each employee receives. This may or may not coincide with the holiday season, depending on when the company’s fiscal calendar begins and ends. In other instances it could be a percentage of an employee’s base salary; for instance, two weeks of base pay for each employee. The message here is to have a productive Christmas and an improved bottom line for the New Year.

Companies that give out a Christmas bonus are creating an employee loyalty program.  Receiving a Christmas bonus isn’t the only thing that creates employee loyalty, but it certainly helps. There is no law requiring companies to give out a holiday bonus, and indeed ’tis the season for CEOs, managers and business owners to do their best or worst to show employees just how much they are appreciated by the company. Companies can use some, one, none, or all of these bonus methods to reward their employees during the holidays. So before you go out and make that down payment on a new pool, be sure to understand what you can expect from your employer in the form of a Christmas bonus.


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