At the other end of the spectrum is a 100-percent transparent system of incentive-pay. All the rules as to who can get what are spelled out to the last decimal, and if you keep track over the course of the year you can know what your bonus is (or at least your percentage, if it’s based on what the group’s net profit for the year turns out to be). It might as well be written into your contract—and, indeed, it sometimes is.
I think individual preferences about bonuses (other than “More! Gimme more!”) probably run similar to those regarding income-tax refunds. Lots of people like hearing that they overpaid in taxes with their withholdings—or estimated payments—over the course of the year, and are, thus, receiving a check back from the government. It’s like getting a bonus from yourself…which can be exactly what you need, if you’re not so good at living within your means and/or putting something aside for retirement. Presto! Here’s some extra slack for such purposes.
Others regard it as having needlessly given the government an interest-free loan, and simply a matter of reclaiming their own property which could have been used for other things in preceding months. I imagine such an individual might be inclined to tell a bonusing employer: “Look, every year I get a bonus of about X. I sure appreciate that, but can we just give me X/12 in my regular salary every month from now on? If my performance deteriorates, I’ll understand that we have to revisit the issue.”
Myself, I’m just going to savor that it only took four jobs before I found a place that uses something beyond nice, cheap words to express appreciation for my efforts.