Long Tradition of Holiday Bonuses Likely To Continue

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Many sounds, sights and traditions have long been hallmarks of December…from decorating a Christmas tree to the singing of carols. And at least one seasonal tradition is specific to the workplace: the holiday bonus. But where did this tradition come from? And in our current economy, will it disappear?

Viviana Zelizer is a Professor of Sociology at Princeton University and author of the new book “Economic Lives: How Culture Shapes the Economy.” She shares some little-known history on the holiday bonus.

Louise Story, Wall Street and finance reporter for our partner The New York Times, also joins us with some hard numbers and predictions for the future.


Viviana Zelizer

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer


Louise Story

Comments [2]

Priscilla Herrington from Ipswich MA

I listened to your report on bonuses this morning, and thought about how bonuses I had received over my working life. Most of the time I worked in the public sector (for the state or municipality) and our rules were different from private employment; however, our unions had negotiated "longevity payments" which were in lieu of raises once an employee had reached the top of his pay grade. These "bonuses" were calibrated to length of service, and were always paid in early to mid December - so they were, for us, Christmas bonuses.

In my earliest working years, there was a bonus or perk given to "the girls" in the office - usually a half day off, with pay, in December, for Christmas shopping! I suppose this recognized that women in low paying clerical jobs were often homemnakers as well and had little time to spare at this busy time. I noted that, as more women were promoted to middle and upper management jobs, this custom was phased out!

Dec. 14 2010 08:52 AM
Dave Roth

After listening to your report on bonuses, I arrived to my office to learn that this year my bonus comes with something "extra".

An agreement that says that in exchange for my bonus that I give up any right to a court trial for any legal action arising from my employment.

That word "any" could extend to injury through negligence, or civil rights issues. Am I going to sign it, of course. Doing so gets me a reward, not doing so, would make me appear to be hostile to my own firm.

Connecting this to bonus and annual review just introduces an adversarial theme to what I'd prefer to be a discussion of achievement.

Dec. 14 2010 07:58 AM

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