So youve been keeping your head down, working as hard as you can — glad, you tell yourself, that you even have a job.
But youve been doing that for several years now. And in that time, the cost of your health insurance has gone up, along with college tuition, petrol and a host of other things. Your pay, meanwhile, has been stagnant.
Asking for a raise is hard enough in normal economic times. But now, you cant help but wonder: Does the mere act of asking for more money has its own risks?
If you are a good performing employee who is contributing, I think it poses zero danger, said Mike Zwell, a consultant and author of Six-Figure Salary Negotiation (Adams Media, 2008). The worst that will happen is that they will say no.
There have been some encouraging signs on pay lately. Only about nine per cent of companies have put pay freezes in place over the past 18 months. Thats down from the nearly two-thirds of companies that had pay freezes in place in January 2010, according to research conducted by Buck Consultants.
The reality is that most companies have responded very effectively to the changing economic conditions, Zwell said.
Still, compensation budgets remain tight, and the employees who are getting raises tend to be their companys top-performing stars who stand the highest risk of being poached by competitors.
How can you set yourself apart? Before you walk into your boss office, several career gurus suggested considering the following:
Do you deserve a pay raise? Before you ask for a raise, you need to get a sense of how you are perceived. Most workers have said their employers dont provide enough feedback, according to Buck Consultants.
So if your employer doesnt have formal performance reviews in place, ask your supervisor about how youre doing.
Keep track of any additional responsibilities youve taken on, perhaps because others were laid off or your role has simply evolved or expanded.
Also try to assess how fairly youre being paid. The most effective way may be through networking or internal sources, Zwell said.
You should be finding this out before you ask for a raise, he added. Before you approach your boss, summarise the main points youd lie to make. Threats and ultimatums should be avoided.
Research has shown that women who ask for more money are perceived as less attractive than their male counterparts. So its especially important for women to frame their requests in the context of the greater good for the organisation.
Its also important to try to maintain some perspective, since these situations have the potential to poke some holes in your self-esteem. Even a disappointing result could have a positive outcome over the long run, because youve opened the lines of communication, which can help build your relationship with your boss.