Q. I am an associate in a law firm with two offices. Each office has three associate attorneys and is managed by a partner.
During my first year, I was the only associate in my office, and I received a Christmas bonus. The second year, we hired two additional associates. I was devastated when all of the staff but none of the associates received a bonus that year, as I’d planned to use the money to buy gifts for my family. I wasn’t surprised last month when, once again, the associates received nothing. I did discover, however, that all of the associates in the other law office received bonuses.
I understand that a Christmas bonus is not something I am entitled to receive, and if I bring it up to my boss, it would make me sound selfish and greedy. We do get extra money each month if we exceed a specific number of billable hours. However, that is a part of my compensation agreement and a variable portion of my salary, not a bonus. I also think my boss has decided that the office staff, most of whom are single parents, need the bonus more than the associates do. But my law degree came with six figures of student loan debt.
This is less about the money than it is about the disparate treatment, especially between the two law offices. Is there any way to bring this up to my boss for next season without sounding like a spoiled child? – Struggling Young Professional
A. We understand why this seems unfair, but unless a yearly bonus is part of your compensation package, such money is given at the discretion of the managing partner. It is possible that the associates in the other office have a different compensation agreement that includes a Christmas bonus or that there are other factors involved. You could ask what you can do to increase the likelihood that you will merit additional pay at the end of the year, or whether something about your performance has been disappointing. Beyond that, you’re out of luck.
Q. My friend “Harry” has had an on-again, off-again girlfriend for the past year. They have broken up many times, but claim they’re right for each other. Most of our friends think their relationship is a waste of time.
Well, now they are on again, but this time it is different. Harry is totally head over heels, but she isn’t into him so much. I used to talk to him every day, and now I barely get a “hello.” His girlfriend says I’m “bugging” him and never lets him hang around long enough to talk to me.
We all know it’s only a matter of time before it ends badly. How can I help Harry realize what’s going on? I want my friend back. – Worried in California
A. Unless there is abuse, it is pointless for you to involve yourself in Harry’s relationship. He could benefit from counseling to work on the reasons he pursues such a self-destructive romance, but until he admits that he makes bad choices, your words will have little effect. Since the relationship is likely to end sooner than later, you will have other opportunities to discuss this with him.
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