by Barbara Pachter | October 01, 2004

It’s been a great year so far. All the meetings you’ve planned have gone off without a hitch, thanks to your creativity and problem-solving abilities. You believe you deserve a raise, but what’s the best way to go about bringing up such a delicate topic with your boss?
The following tips will help arm you for the discussion and keep it from veering off course.

Before the Meeting
Do your research. Find out as much as you can about the salaries other people in your position are being paid. Ask colleagues outside your organization, check trade publications and/or find out if your trade association publishes these numbers.
    Pick your points. Write down all the reasons you feel you deserve a raise so you are prepared to present yourself in the best light to your boss. You want her to know you have put a lot of thought into this important conversation.
    Practice what you’re going to say. Anticipate the objections your boss might raise, and have responses at hand. The rehearsal also will help you be calm and more focused during the meeting.
    Choose the right time. Make an appointment to sit down in your boss’ office for this conversation. Don’t do it on the spur of the moment or when the boss is scrambling to get ready for a meeting.
    Consider other factors that might influence your boss’ mood. You don’t want to go in when the company just lost a big account.

In the Hot Seat 
Lay it on the line. Describe why you deserve a raise in concrete business terms, such as money you’ve saved the company, innovations you have implemented and productivity numbers you’ve improved.
    Keep it positive. Don’t compare yourself to others working in your department, even if you think you should be earning more than they are. Keep the conversation upbeat and about you.
    Avoid getting defensive and making demands or threats. Saying, “If you don’t give me a raise, I’m quitting,” puts you in a position where you might have negotiated yourself out of a job.
    Keep it about business. Bringing up personal reasons why you want a raise will backfire. If you bought a new car, it’s not your company’s responsibility to pay for it.
    Overcome the jitters. You’ve asked for this meeting to discuss your salary and request a raise. So do it. Women, in particular, might have a hard time taking the initiative to ask for more money. Be calm, professional and direct, and don’t let the meeting go by without getting to the point.
    If the answer is no, ask why. The reason might be lack of funds, company policy or differing opinions on how well you’re doing your job. Knowing why can help you reevaluate your position and analyze your next steps.
    Ask what changes you need to make to get that raise and when your request might be reconsidered.

Company Culture
Depending on the common practice at your organization, review time might be the only chance you will have to bring up the subject of a raise. If you get promoted but don’t get an increase, however, you need to ask for that raise.
    Smaller companies often have policies that are a lot looser, allowing you to go to your boss for this conversation at any appropriate time.
    Also, realize your boss might not be able to give you money, but she might be able to give you comp time or some other compensation.
    It’s OK to be nervous as the conversation begins, but butterflies shouldn’t stop you from asking for what you think you deserve. After all, the worst your boss can do is say no.

Barbara Pachter is a Cherry Hill, N.J.-based business communications consultant and author of When the Little Things Count...And They Always Count and The Jerk With the Cell Phone (