Here’s a scenario we get asked about all the time, and it’s one that many construction professionals will have to ponder at some point in their career. It goes like this: you’ve decided to move on from your current position but your year-end bonus hangs in the balance, do you stay and claim it or do you move on and leave money on the table? The truth is that there is no right or wrong in this situation but there are a few things to consider.

The first thing to recognize is bonuses are generally given as incentives to meet certain agreed-upon targets or as rewards for contributing to the company’s overall success. As such, if you have met those criteria, then you have earned that money and you should be comfortable in accepting it regardless of your future intentions. Are you going to be viewed negatively for collecting your bonus and then leaving for another opportunity? Maybe, but while there is no ‘perfect’ time for an employee to move on, a reasonable employer realizes that the bonus is for past work and you have earned it. The timing of your move immediately after bonuses are given isn’t really relevant.

The other side of this scenario occurs when you’re close to getting your bonus but another opportunity has presented itself. Of course, nobody wants to turn down cash, but is the wait to get it going to cost you greater gains in the future? Along with the lost opportunity, maybe you’ve told your network that you’re on-hold, so to speak, until a further date. Your delay can also alienate your network because they have proverbially “stuck their neck out” for you and it makes them look bad now that you’re temporarily unavailable.

Also keep in mind this isn’t always the way things play out. Some employers will pay bonuses or pro rate them for employees that leave before the bonus period. In some cases too, a new employer might offset the loss of your bonus with a signing bonus for the right hire. There is always a chance to negotiate so make sure you explore all your options.

In the end, it becomes a question of value rather than one of timing. Once you’ve decided you’re going to look for other opportunities, go in with the outlook that you’re looking for a reason (your current job isn’t satisfactory anymore or doesn’t have growth opportunities). Then consider the long-term value of a bonus versus another potential opportunity. It’s also a great time to talk your options over with a trusted employment advisor who can explain what your choices might mean for your career in the future.