Choosing a bonus or work/life balance

Coach Vera Held’s verdict on difficult situations at work.

Q: I’m a middle manager and have one staff person reporting to me. I’ve been asking for another staff person for one and a half years now but the company was not able to afford it. I did, however, receive a big bonus for 2010: $12,500. I nearly fainted when I opened the envelope. What do I do now?

A: Clearly you deserved it; your efforts have been recognized by upper management. And this was a truly smart corporate move: your bonus is approximately one quarter of what it would cost the company to hire another person for your department. Your challenge now will be to determine for how much longer you wish to keep up this pace. Sure, the bonus was great — but what did it take out of you? Are you always tired? Is your health good? Do you have ample time for the rest of your life? You need to ask yourself these serious work-life balance questions. You certainly wouldn’t feel right walking away now that you just received this mega bonus but my questions stand for the future.

Q: I was at a tradeshow on booth duty when I got a call from a tearful colleague telling me our company had just gone under. Then my boss called to tell me to give away all the tradeshow samples as there was no point in packing them up. So I worked the tradeshow for potential job leads. I felt terrible inviting people to the booth for freebies but what else could I do?

A: You did great. You kept your wits about you and stayed super practical. You’re out of a job and need to get a new one. Bankrupt organizations aren’t known for giving generous good-bye packages so you need to hustle. Work your network, stay focused, package yourself well to highlight all your strengths and, above all, remember sometimes bad things happen to good people. It’s the natural course in life and of work. Your situation is temporary. Happy hunting.

Q: I’m an electrician. Plumbers and electricians don’t work under unsafe conditions and we don’t rush to get the job done because we are paid hourly. However, the other onsite contractors — roofers, window guys, cabinet makers, floor installers, etc. — all work piece, meaning they get paid for the job, not by the hour. Because of this they cut corners and work fast to get as much work done as possible. Rushing leads to all kinds of accidents.

A: I appreciate your honesty and insights. With other contractors focusing on putting bread on the table, it’s hard for them not to rush and not to cut corners when minutes count. So what’s the solution? Self-preservation and responsibility to themselves and their loved ones has got to be a priority. What’s the point of rushing on top of a roof and risking a fall to save a couple of minutes? Spread the “safety first” message to everyone on the construction site. No amount of money is worth risking their lives.

— Vera Held ( is a coach, facilitator, speaker, writer, PR consultant and the author of How Not to Take it Personally. Send your workplace questions to