I am a fourth-year data science Ph.D. student and my professor always tends to send bonus payment at the end of November for all of his Ph.D. students.

This year, all of my teammates got the bonus, even the newly admitted students (I asked them indirectly). Some of my colleagues' behavior is so frustrating as they keep talking about the issue.

I don't know if he decided not to pay me intentionally or he just forgot me. My performance is considered excellent and he is satisfied with my publications. Should I send him an email and ask for the bonus?

Update: I got the bonus. The professor forgot to send me an email that I will get it. I just got them in my bank account without any emails or notices... I also asked to meet my professor yesterday and today we meet and discussed my thesis table in general. He is more than satisfied with my work and performance. I did not ask or open the topic of the bonus.

  • 15
    "Some of my colleague's behavior is so frustrating as they keep talking about the issue" - what does your colleagues' behaviour have to do with it? Dec 11, 2020 at 11:18
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    It should never be a surprise if you don't get a bonus. If you have regular meeting where you (also) discuss performance and they indicated they are happy with your performance, the simplest and most likely explanation is an oversight. No harm in asking if you will receive a bonus this year.
    – user9482
    Dec 11, 2020 at 12:00
  • 9
    talk to him face to face - btw if you move to industry with a DS-Phd you might get twice your professor's salary. so i would care too much ;-)
    – lordy
    Dec 11, 2020 at 12:28
  • 16
    You should NOT "ask for the bonus" but you could as WHY he did not pay you the bonus. It is quite possible that he simply overlooked you- or he might have problems with your work or your behavior that you need to know about.
    – user247327
    Dec 11, 2020 at 22:36
  • 7
    In general, you should never expect a bonus. They happen or they don't. In your case, I'd suggest another tack; the next time you are talking to your advisor, ask him if there were bonuses this year. You should get an answer to your question from that. If not, it provides a path to further questions
    – Flydog57
    Dec 12, 2020 at 0:34

3 Answers 3


I think you need a more serious conversation with your advisor. You need to know if he is unhappy with your performance and if there are things you need to do to improve it. If the answer is no, then you can bring up that you didn't get a bonus. Perhaps it was a clerical issue or an issue in the delivery. But if you are not meeting expectations it would be a time for reflection.

But asking about your performance rather than your bonus would show some sense of seriousness about your work.

  • 29
    It is also a good move as the advisor being very unsatisfied with the performance of OP is potentially a much bigger issue than bonus payment (yes, I like money, too, but still).
    – Greg
    Dec 11, 2020 at 14:21
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    @Greg, and, of course, the professor might be mistaken and have misconceptions that should be cleared up.
    – Buffy
    Dec 11, 2020 at 14:22
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    I think asking about the bonus as a side question would be fine, just as long as it's not taken as the focus of the meeting. It may just be a clerical error that needs to be fixed and not bringing it up may not fix the error. Dec 11, 2020 at 20:17

I would definitely have a meeting with your advisor to weave this into the discussion. Many years ago (1974) in graduate school I received a poor grade on a test, lower than other classmates. Our marked-up exams were returned to us and a friend and I compared our marked-up exams; mine had fewer negative comments than hers. I met with the professor, took in my marked-up exam, and asked about the grade. Turns out she had mis-recorded the grade (an honest mistake), apologized profusely, and change my grade.


This is most certainly a mistake. I doubt that you could possibly go from "excellent performance" to being the only one not receiving a bonus in just one year. And if somehow you managed to mess up this severely, then there is no way your advisor did not communicate this clearly to you several times (There might even be legal implications in this case). So no need to worry.

Talk to your advisor or send an informal e-mail, and simply state that you did not receive the bonus and kindly ask him to check if there was any error in the processing. In contrast to what other answers suggest, there is no need to completely question your self-assessment of your performance.

  • 1
    Agree with the last sentence, but I would not be unnecessarily blase about the approach. Simply stating that you didn't get a bonus in a casual email only works if you are absolutely 100% sure that it was a clerical error, and you can't be 100% sure until you've asked. Dec 14, 2020 at 15:26
  • @MadPhysicist You are technically right, but my point is that OP can be certain (in a more colloqial sense) that this is indeed a clerical error. OP knows he is not underperforming compared to his peers, so no need to overcomplicate things.
    – M. Stern
    Dec 17, 2020 at 15:33

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