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Boss introduces bonus system to cut employees' salaries but it ends up backfiring on him

Negotiating a raise with your employer can be tricky. Learn how to do it with confidence and get the salary you deserve.

Boss introduces bonus system to cut employees' salaries but it ends up backfiring on him
Cover Image Source: Pexels/ Photo by: fauxels

Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 1, 2023. It has since been updated.

Reddit user, u/letowyn, who formerly worked as an IT technician, shared a story with the 'Malicious Compliance' community on the platform. The story recounts how the user's boss, instead of offering a salary increase, implemented a bonus system based on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Although it was presented as an excellent opportunity, the change was actually intended to deprive the user and their colleagues of a higher salary. Nevertheless, the employees discovered a way to work around it by focusing on a single objective - achieving their benchmarks.

Shot of a young woman using a headset and laptop in a modern office - stock photo/Getty Images
Shot of a young woman using a headset and laptop in a modern office - stock photo/Getty Images


Instead of being rightfully given a raise, the top-performing employee received a "bonus," structured in such a way as to keep their pay low. However, the employees found a way to manipulate the system and demonstrate to the boss that he had made a significant error.

Image Source: Reddit/ letowyn
Image Source: Reddit/ letowyn


Discussing money matters with your employer can be challenging, and many employees shy away from asking for a raise. A study of 3,000 UK workers found that 55% of employees were reluctant to bring up the subject. Some common reasons included not knowing what to say, fear of appearing greedy, and general anxiety. In these situations, low self-confidence and a lack of awareness of their market worth made people uneasy, even when they had a strong case to make.

Image Source: Pexels/Photo by:  Andrea Piacquadio
Image Source: Pexels/Photo by: Andrea Piacquadio


Carol Hagh, an expert in leadership and executive development, suggests a strategic approach to these interactions that can boost confidence and reduce anxiety. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Hagh recommends a win-win approach to negotiation or a "two-way commitment." It involves outlining the value you will bring to your employer and then discussing what you hope to receive in return. With preparation and a clear understanding of their expectations, you can make a strong case for yourself and demonstrate your commitment to their success.

Image Source:
Image Source: Reddit/ letowyn


The employer must perceive the commitment as genuine when the employee requests something. In order to achieve this, employees should express enthusiasm for the company's growth, discuss their satisfaction with a recent project, reiterate appreciation for their colleagues, and highlight how their work helps the manager achieve their goals.

According to Bored Panda, Hagh emphasizes the importance of understanding your boss's perspective before entering into a negotiation. While your boss's job is to support your growth and provide feedback, they also have various competing priorities, including managing budgets, meeting business objectives, supervising peers, and advancing their own careers. To gain insight into your boss's priorities, Hagh suggests paying attention to your company's announcements about business goals and asking your manager how your work contributes to these objectives. It is also helpful to note what your manager praises or expresses concern about during meetings or departmental updates.

Image Source:
Image Source: Reddit/ letowyn


If you receive a negative response when asking for a raise or feedback on your progress, consider it an opportunity to inquire further. Hagh suggests asking questions such as "What did you think of my last project?" or "Do you have any feedback from the team?" to gain valuable insights. However, if you have been with a company for several years, have demonstrated strong work ethics and achieved exceptional results but still receive repeated dismissals when asking for a raise, it may be time to consider moving on.

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