It's a discussion no one wants to have. Still, asking your boss for a raise can be important to your career and your finances, too.
"For many of us, even in the best of times, this is a difficult conversation," says Roy Cohen, career coach and author of "The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide." "The stress is multiplied exponentially in this still very challenging economy."
Workplace communications expert Donna Flagg, who is the author of "Surviving Dreaded Conversations," says asking for a raise is one of the top three dreaded conversations. The others? Firing someone and having to make someone aware of personal habit or hygiene offenses.
Your best strategy is to do your research, gather your confidence and make your pitch.
"You can't worry about being told, 'No,'" says Ginny Clarke,?founder, president and CEO of Talent Optimization Partners, LLC, a talent and career management firm.
She recommends an employee tell the boss, "This is why I want to be a part of your group. Try to have a rationale and know the company's limits," says Clarke, who is also the author of "Career Mapping: Charting Your Course in the New World of Work."
That means if your salary range is between $40,000 and $47,000, make sure your request falls in that range.
Know what you're worth. Gather salary info from recruiters, LinkedIn networking groups and websites, such as www.salary.com.
Make your request when the company is financially doing well, when you have good reviews and results, after you've taken on new responsibilities or after you've exceeded your boss' expectations.
How to Ask
It's best to make an appointment with your boss to discuss your salary, rather than catching your supervisor off guard.
When you do meet with the boss, Ask, "how feasible is it to get a bump in my salary?" says Flagg, who advises telling the boss why you love the company and don't intend to leave.
Let your boss know you're worth the raise.
"The way to be most convincing is to provide facts, figures and success stories because there's no way to be challenged on information that's indisputable," says Flagg.
If a colleague or a project manager praises you, ask that person to send a note to your boss. That way your boss will feel like he's hearing good things about you from others, not just you.
You also need to know exactly how much money you want and how the company will benefit from paying you more. If you don't get a financial raise, you could ask for other types of compensation.
"It could also be additional vacation, flex time, sponsorship for an executive MBA or membership in professional associations or clubs, to list just a few options," says Cohen.
Make sure your request is confidential. Don't risk losing your boss' respect by sharing your conversation with co-workers.
"Discretion is key in these discussions, the good and the bad," says Clarke. "If you got what you want, keep it to yourself. If you didn't, work through it with your superior and HR person only."
What Not to Do
There are many things not to do when asking for a raise.
"Skip the tales of woe or plea based on personal circumstances," Clarke says. "Desperation is never becoming and you never want to give the impression you don't manage your finances well."
Another don't is taking things personally.
"People have to understand it's not personal," says Flagg. "It's about a line item on a budget."
It's also not a good idea to play games. Instead, be honest about what you need.
Don't compare yourself to other employees. Instead, demonstrate what you do well, including increasing revenue or providing good customer service.
"Don't give ultimatums," says Clarke. "You will probably lose out as no one likes their feet held to the fire."
While Cohen doesn't recommend ultimatums, he says, "You can deliver an ultimatum, "but you have to be prepared for the consequences."
If the Answer is No
If your boss rejects your raise request, stay calm and focused. The company may have financial restrictions or they may not want to give the raise to you out of fairness to other employees.
When a boss asks for time to think, you can say, "Is there any information I can provide for you to help you organize your thoughts?" says Cohen.
Tell your boss you want to revisit the issue at a later date. Ask for a follow-up timeframe, such as a month, six months or longer.
"Make your boss a partner in you wanting to advance," says Flagg who encourages employees to ask what they need to do to earn a salary increase.
"You deserve feedback," says Clarke. "Or else, how do you grow?"