Winning Back an Unpaid Bonus

Bonuses are commonly used across insurance agencies to incentivize and reward growth.  And while calculation and payment are typically straightforward, there can be issues in any areas of the bonus agreement that are ambiguous.  This lack of clarity can lead to issues when it comes time for the employee to collect.

While problems with bonuses are rare, here are some tips to help you reduce room for error

Review the Contract –

Anyone who has been in insurance for any amount of time would agree, we live in a world of contracts.  Whether it is the policies we’re selling or those dealing with our employment at the agency, contracts play a critical role in our day.  Therefore, just as insurance professionals review the insurance policy for errors or ambiguities, you should closely review contracts that dictate your employment.  Leaving it up to chance that everything discussed and agreed upon is present in the contract can leave you at a loss. 

Instead, take time to read through the contract.  Confirm specific goals, time frame, and bonus amount match what you had noted from negotiations.  Also, make sure to look for any unique conditions that would allow the agency to reduce or eliminate the bonus.  For example, suppose a condition requires agency growth of a certain percentage for anyone in the agency to be eligible for a bonus. In that case, your bonus is now contingent on your department and the success of the entire organization.  Awareness of these details before you sign will justify you going back to the table for revisions if needed.

Appeal to Management, Respectfully

When something goes awry with a bonus, it can cause a variety of emotional responses.  However, if you’re new to the agency, you may feel pressure just to let it go and hope it resolves itself in the future.  Keep in mind, approaching upper management in the heat of the moment can do nothing more than leave you more frustrated and potentially in hot water with agency leaders. Only letting it go can demonstrate a lack of confidence.

Instead, make sure you have all the necessary data and have correctly calculated the bonus you’ve earned.  Present all the details to management along with the verbiage from your contract.  While this is information they likely have available to them already, taking time to assemble it can help them focus on the issue you’ve uncovered.  If they still decline to pay a bonus at this point, requesting an explanation or plan for future payment is well within reason.

Get an Attorney Involved –

While no one wants to take legal action against their agency, it may become necessary.  If you cannot make any headway with leadership with bonus agreement language and the appropriate data to support payment, reinforcement may be necessary.

An attorney will be able to review and confirm your understanding of the contract.  They can also help guide you through the next steps with the agency.  While this may create tension in your relationship with leadership, an attorney can often resolve the issue quietly and get you your bonus.

Tackling a breach of contract issue with your agency can be complicated and uncomfortable territory.  Using the tips above, you can more easily navigate the situation to a resolution that works for everyone involved.

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