It’s almost holiday bonus season! That glorious time when we push ourselves to be the best employees we can be, to earn that coveted “thank you” check. Right? Maybe not.

A few years ago, I overheard a part-time technician commenting on her holiday bonus check. I’ll spare you the details, but the gist of it was: What am I supposed to do with this dinky sum? I have heard that sentiment many times since then. While most practices give holiday bonuses to show appreciation for their staff, the bonuses themselves are not always appreciated.

So I’ve been wondering: Why give holiday bonuses when the money comes straight from the practice’s profits, and employees seemingly don’t accept them in the spirit they are given?

The fact is that many employees view holiday bonuses as a component of their income. In many practices, it has become an expectation and a habit, albeit one rooted in acknowledgment of a simple truth: employees want cash gifts at the holidays more than anything else. In 2011, Harris Interactive surveyed more than 2,500 employees in various industries about what they wanted from employers during the holiday season and 72% listed a cash bonus as their top choice. Salary raises were the second most popular choice (62%), followed by paid time off (32%), and grocery gift cards (23%). Holiday parties, which many veterinary clinics give instead of a bonus, were unpopular (4%), even if they included an open bar.1

Holiday bonuses may be at the top of staff wish lists, but practice owners may not be thrilled about what they get in exchange—these holiday bonuses appear to do little or nothing to motivate employees to perform better. Behavioral analysts call bonuses “fixed-time schedule” reinforcement, meaning that employees get positive reinforcement just for the passage of time, not for their performance or goal accomplishment.2 When we think about the accomplishments veterinarians and staff should be rewarded for, isn’t the mere passage of a year setting the bar a bit low?

Continue reading…


Originally published online at in December, 2012.

Read original article here.