Chinese New Year Bonus, and How Much to Give?


That time of the year is upon us, never on the exact dates as it is following the Lunar calendar – Chinese New Year. We can expect the timeframe to be around the end of January to mid-February. As always, Chinese staffs will enjoy it, but the management often has many complex things to prepare, such things as how to balance their project roadmaps. The projects are stuck on hold with this whole duration of holiday between dealing with customer service in the Western world. But more importantly, how much bonus should the management give their team before they go back to their hometowns?

1) Why Is Bonus Giving Stressful?

Many “laowai” (foreigners) and Chinese business owners ask how much is normal to give a Chinese staff on Chinese New Year. The stress is that, if you don’t give enough to them, you might insult the staffs. During this long holiday, it makes people reflect on the year they had and will decide if they want to continue working in this company or not.

As a result, the owners of a Chinese company are always worried about the percentage of their staff returning to the company!

When everyone is back in the office or factory, management will start hiring new staff to replace those who decided not to come back to the company. Pretty ridiculous right?

So, if you want someone from your company to quit, just give them a low or no bonus and most likely that will provide them the hint to find some other company to work. But most managers would want to keep their staff, so what is a good amount of bonus to pay?

2) Some Normal Ranges

In the Philippines, there is a requirement of giving a 13th-month salary, which means you must give each staff working for you an extra month of salary at the end of each year.

In China, it isn’t required, but maybe this Chinese New Year bonus can be thought as the 13th-month bonus.

Of course, you can choose to do lower or none or higher, and it is also on the way you give it, not just how much you give to the staffs.

3) Show Each Team Member You Care

In most cases, the business pays bonuses in the form of cash money, a month of salary in 100 RMB “red notes”, so it will be a thick stack of cash. Everyone loves cash, and you will be in line at the bank to get a big stack of money if you have a lot of staffs in your company.

When you give these bonuses to them, it is a courtesy to put them inside a traditional Chinese “red packet” for the coming Chinese New Year’s Chinese zodiac animal. This follows the Lunar year calendar, for example, the year 2017 is the year of the rooster!

To show them that you do care about them, invite each of them into your office, one after another. Provide them a year-end review of how they worked and get their feedback about their work as well. After you have finished with the review, you can then take out the red packet and issue it to them. One recommendation is to explain to them how well did the company perform that year, and if it was a good year, they would expect a good bonus from the management. If it was a tough year for the company, you can explain to them that why their bonus isn’t what they are expecting.

Importantly, you must make them feel like they are part of the company. If the company does well, they will be rewarded; if the company had a rough year, the team members will have to share some of that hardship together.

4) Be Honest And Transparent

A lot of times in life, it is the small things that matter the most. The courtesy of you taking the time and prepare a proper red packet to sit down with them one on one and see how they are feeling about their work, are small things that your staffs will see.

Assuming you are a foreigner (non-Chinese) as you are reading this article, a lot of Chinese staff enjoy working with foreigners because they tend to be more open and transparent.

So, use that to your advantage when you are issuing your year-end bonus. If you are comfortable enough, you can show them the company financials, some of the big projects and milestones that the company has reached. Generally, most Chinese companies are not this open to show them, and you’ll be amazed that your staff will love to see the insides.

It is completely your choice, but there also non-monetary ways to make them feel like staying around with your company after the New Year.

5) Oh Yea, They’ll Tell Each Other How Much They Got

Of course, you may tell each of them not to tell anyone how much you gave them, but don’t expect that to work. After returning to their desk, there will be a chat group which consists a group of people in the company talking about it. Therefore, keep in mind when choosing the right amount to give them.

Not only they will share among other staff members, but they will most likely compare with their friends in other companies. They would want to see how much better (or worse) they did from the average of their friends.

Additionally, they will talk about it during Chinese New Year holiday with their family members. Their family will do a checkup with them regarding how they are doing in their career. Typically, it means that they will be asking how much money they are making and how much they have saved.

The staff member might be private about it, but their parents definitely aren’t! Just imagine the hometown, filled with all the Chinese parents talking to other parents in the town of their children. It is a common topic that the family’s parents talking about their kids at a dinner table.

To summarize this, there are no secrets to keep in the family. The amount of Chinese New Year bonus you issue to your staffs will somewhat become a public knowledge in a short amount of time.

6) How Do You Handle Your Chinese New Year Bonus Giving?

These are some of the style and tips to handle your Chinese New Year bonus giving, but we are curious to hear from you! How many Chinese employees do you have? Have you been through a Chinese New Year bonus round for a year or more? Are you having a problem retaining them each year?

Let us use the comment section below to share some of your stories, and perhaps we can help each other out!