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Fatten Your Paycheck

By Stephanie AuWerter
SmartMoney.com

REMEMBER BACK IN the late 1990s, when it seemed that all you had to do to get a raise was not fall asleep at your desk?

How times have changed.

Gone are the days where employees can assume that raises will come as frequently as the annual company picnic. Instead, workers need to be proactive about asking for more money. "If you do not ask, you do not get," says Frances Bolles Haynes, co-author of "101 Salary Secrets: How to Negotiate Like a Pro."

But, tempting though it may be, stomping into your boss's office and demanding more money on the grounds that your haven't had a meaningful raise in years probably won't be warmly received. We advise a more thoughtful approach. Here are some tips.

1. Pick the Right Time
When is the right time to ask for a raise? Most employees take a passive approach, meekly waiting for their annual review. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but in some cases, greater success could be achieved by striking when the iron is hot.

"What's out is, 'It's a year, come in and ask,'" says Challenger. "It's always better to ask for a raise when you've done something that had some impact and made your boss look good."

So if you just, say, brought in a big account, managed to save your firm some money or completed a high-profile task that earned you heaps of praise, it could be time to schedule a chat. Likewise, if you've just been given more responsibility — maybe someone left and you'll be taking over his or her responsibilities in addition to your own — it could be time to talk compensation, says Haynes.

Scheduling a discussion shouldn't be a spontaneous thing. "You don't want to catch your boss on the fly and say 'I need five minutes of your time,'" says Haynes. Instead, you want to pick a time when your boss is relaxed and reflective. So if the end of the month is typically hectic, choose a date that's early in the month. Likewise, if mornings are chaos, schedule an afternoon meeting. Be observant of when your boss is most engaged with you, says Challenger. "The last thing you want to do is ask for a raise when your boss is stressed out."

And what about that tried and true strategy of demanding a raise when you have an offer from another company? This tactic is worth pursuing only if you really are considering the other position. "You can't bluff," warns Steven Gross of Mercer Human Resources Consulting's compensation practices division. "Your boss could throw up his hands and say 'congratulations.'" And even if you do get the raise you want out of your employer, be aware that your relationship may be a bit worse for the wear. After all, nobody relishes being given an ultimatum.

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