Question: I am a well-regarded associate at a large law firm, which is giving a sizeable bonus this year. The bonus is based on each associate's billable hours. My billable hours are low because of the downturn in the economy.

Overall, I am very happy with my firm. I appreciate that many firms are not only withholding bonuses but also laying off associates. But I am not thrilled about losing out on this bonus, which to some extent I view as deferred salary. Since I don't want to leave my firm, is there anything constructive I can do to express my displeasure?

How Can I Express My Displeasure at Not Receiving a Bonus This Year from My Law Firm?

Answer: I am sorry that you are not receiving a bonus this year, but even sorrier that you view a bonus as deferred salary. That reminds me of the taxi driver who is rude, talks on a cell phone, has a cab that stinks to high heaven, drives like a maniac and then is miffed because he doesn't get a tip. A tip is supposed to signify good service; a bonus is supposed to be a reward. In fact, Webster's New World Dictionary defines bonus as "anything given in addition to the customary or required amount."

I know that bonuses have been significant and bountiful over the past few years and it seems as if everyone was able to share in the wealth. However, times have changed . . . we are at war and in a recession. What scares me is that you say your billables are low due to a downturn in the economy. Quite frankly, rather than being worried about not receiving a bonus, I think you should be concerned about layoffs in your department due to the lack of work. Rather than expressing displeasure over not receiving a bonus, be thankful that you have a job.