Year-end bonus season is here and it is sure to get some people thinking about their employment situation. Expectations around bonuses can leave emotions running high and make both employers and employees uncomfortable. A little calm reflection, however, can put the bonus in context within the bigger picture.

The thing to remember when it comes to bonuses is that they are given (or not) at the employer’s discretion. Does that mean bonuses should be used as a tool for employers to squeeze their employees to work more, harder or better? Hardly. Employers who want to retain staff and reward the hard work that earns a bonus are clear in their communication about how and when bonuses are given and stand by their word. Used correctly, bonuses can be an effective part of a company’s retention strategy.

If bonuses aren’t given, however, employees should try to evaluate the situation with a cool head to see if the bonus they were hoping for is worth it in the end. Particularly for construction professionals, there can be times when bonuses are just not feasible or aren’t even part of the compensation package. Again, it comes down to communication. If expectations are clear and communication is on-going then there shouldn’t be any surprises.

Problems for construction executives arise when they feel they earned bonuses that weren’t given or they rely on them as part of their compensation package. While feelings can be hurt as a result, an internal review of the pluses and minuses of the job can determine whether a bonus is worth looking elsewhere for. For example, you’re a project manager and you didn’t receive a bonus but you’re with a company with almost limitless possibilities to work on exciting and challenging project around the world. Is not getting a bonus worth sacrificing long-term opportunity for professional growth? Maybe, but chances are you would benefit lot more from adding to your project list and your capabilities when the bonus money left on the table becomes a distant perk.

There may be other reasons to stay in spite of not receiving a bonus like; an outstanding group of co-workers, comprehensive benefits or flexible hours. The point is that an honest, dispassionate assessment of what you value is the way to determine the impact of a bonus on your overall satisfaction. On the other hand, if the lack of a bonus is one more thing adding to your dissatisfaction and you see no positives to offset not getting it, perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere.

Regardless of which way you’re leaning, it’s always a good idea to talk to a trusted employment advisor to give you non-biased information and advice on your current situation and other options that are out there.