Should You Give Your Staff Bonuses? How Much?

Greg A. Hood, MD


November 29, 2018

In This Article

Holiday Bonuses Take Thought and Planning

Because this form of recognition from the office is inherently economic, it is important that the physicians and practice administrator sit down and create a detailed Christmas/holiday bonus budget. It is important that effective loyalty and quality of service are honored.

However, there are practical limitations to the magnanimity of the gesture. Ask yourself, "Am I overdoing it?" It does no one any good to enter the new year with indebtedness. Doing so in such uncertain times may add to the instability of the practice—a tradeoff no one wants. Furthermore, some employees in medical practices view their work supporting the physician and patient as a calling just as strongly as physicians may view theirs. It is possible to embarrass or even offend some staff with the scope of a bonus or gift.

With budgets being severely strained, the timing and manner in which the gift is given can enhance the meaning of the gesture. Two customary ways of delivering the bonus generally should be avoided.

The first is giving the bonus on December 24th, somewhat like the catastrophe portrayed in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Although some employees may be planning on hitting the stores that evening (most don't), waiting until then to give staff their bonuses stokes anxiety regarding whether the bonus is going to come this year, and what size it will be. The negative emotions and distraction that these feelings cause essentially negate the benefit to the employer of providing the bonus.

Similarly, simply adding it into one pay cycle's direct deposit should not be encouraged. Much like the payment of income tax is softened by it happening automatically and without personal effort, the intended effect of the bonus is mitigated when it is just a number that shows up on a line of a stub that the employee might or might not even open.

Instead, giving the bonus, whether it be a check or a cash card, in person sends a much more effective message. When a physician takes the time to come to an employee; take them aside; and deliver a concise, personalized message of appreciation for what is special about that employee and the service that has been performed, the true meaning and spirit of the gift shine through with much greater clarity.

When doing so, by all means, do not refer to the amount of the bonus, nor stick around to "see their faces" when each opens his or her bonus.


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