This is a guest post from Alexandra Levit. Alexandra writes Water Cooler Wisdom, a career advice blog.

First things first — when is a good time to ask for a raise?  Coming off a strong performance review in which your boss acknowledged your accomplishments is a good bet, because he will probably be expecting you to broach the subject of money.  If you’ve just taken on a new role, or your management has raised the bar for your performance, it is perfectly legitimate to ask for an appointment to discuss “compensation commensurate with new responsibilities”.

Before you sit down with your manager, you’ll want to be prepared with a list of contributions that have enhanced the bottom line.  As you’re putting together your case, be hard on yourself.  Look at the situation from your company’s point of view.  Have you honestly acquired such valuable skills, performed at such a high level, and exceeded expectations to such a degree that your company should shell out more money to keep you?

When scheduling the meeting, pick a time when your boss’s stress level and workload are as manageable as possible and tell her what you want to talk about so she’s prepared.  An informal setting like lunch often works best because it allows you to relate to your manager on a personal level.  Before you meet face-to-face, decide on a number that you’d be satisfied with, and think about how you’ll respond if you don’t get it. 

Here are some tips for the conversation itself:

  • If you’re underpaid and you know it, refrain from complaining.  Acting bitter or angry will only put your manager on the defensive.
  • Remain calm, positive, and professional.
  • Tell your boss how much you enjoy working at the company.
  • Talk about your performance in a factual manner, and provide concrete examples of how you add value to the organization. 
  • When it comes time to pop the question, use the word “compensation” rather than “raise” or “money”.

In the event that your boss declines your raise, don’t close your ears to the rest of the discussion.  She may be willing to offer you other perks instead, like extra vacation time, flexible hours or a nice dinner with your significant other on the company.  These concessions may not be as valuable as cash, but they can come in handy for somebody struggling to afford the good life outside of work.

Raise discussions are never easy for either party, and if your boss is the passive-aggressive type, he may tell you what you want to hear simply to get you out of his office.  Make sure that you follow up appropriately on any verbal promises he makes, and if possible, secure an effective date for your increase.  The issue is not closed until you see the change on your paycheck!

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