If you want to strike fear into the hearts of many working Americans, it’s by suggesting to them that they should ask for a raise at work.

Ask for a Raise

Reasons why they don’t want to ask for a raise

Just thinking about asking our employers for more money – especially in this economy – gets our palms sweaty and our blood pumping in an uncomfortable way. Why? According to Salary.com’s annual “Do You Negotiate?” survey, more than 60 percent of the respondents listed getting fired or the fear of rejection as the reasons why they don’t want to ask for a raise. And they gave this response even though 95 percent admitted that they had never been fired or demoted because they asked for more money.

What not asking for a raise does do, however, is significantly lower your chances of getting one. In fact, according to the same survey, 84 percent of employers said that they expect their staff members to negotiate their salaries.

Has it been more than a year since you received a raise? If so, it’s time to think about asking for one to at least keep pace with the average raise in base pay that is expected to be 2.9% in 2014, according to survey results from Mercer, a global financial services company based in New York City.

Here are five steps you can follow to help your chances of getting the increase you deserve:

1. Time it right. Just like with most everything else in life, timing when to ask for a raise is critical. Know what your company’s policies are in term of salary reviews. If you have a performance review coming up, it’s probably best to wait and plan to discuss your pay then.

If your firm does not have a timetable in place, then a good time to approach your boss is after you have successfully completed a big project or have agreed to take on more responsibilities.

Although you can still negotiate a raise during an economic downturn, be careful not to be insensitive or just plain annoying by asking for a raise right after other employees have been laid off or after some other crisis at the company.

2.  Do research. Be prepared with plenty of information. Discuss how you have contributed to the company, showing bottom-line results whenever possible.  List specific accomplishments to prove what a valuable employee you are.

It’s also a good idea to gather comparable market data for your position, so spend some time researching what other companies pay someone like you. Be sure to keep in mind variables such as company size and location as well as your education and years of experience when you make these comparisons, or you will defeat your purpose.

Here are a few free online resources that provide salary data: Getraised.com, Salary.com, GenderGapApp and Payscale.com. You can also check salary ranges and salary projections at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, bls.gov/bls/blswage.htm.

3. Be specific. Based upon you research, decide how much of an increase you feel you deserve. Be careful to set a reasonable amount. if you ask for a 30 percent raise after just three months in the job you probably will not be taken seriously, for example. However, if your work has dramatically increased company profits over the past year, you can feel justified in asking for a substantial increase.

Be sure to include any new responsibilities you have taken on as well as any education, certifications, or awards you have completed while at your position.

It’s important to keep your request based upon your job performance not on need. This is not the time to mention that you want to buy a new car or that you need more money for your child’s college fund, for instance. Also avoid comparing yourself to your co-workers whenever possible. Stick to the general research you have done about your profession.

4. Be professional. Set up a meeting appointment with your employer. Don’t just bring up this topic in the hallway or after a meeting. If you have a time frame in mind in which you would like to have the raise go into effect, plan your meeting time accordingly. Allow plenty of time for your boss to review your request and to act upon it. Depending on the size of your company, it could take six to eight weeks, or even longer, for your raise to go into effect

Approach the topic in a friendly, yet business-like manner. Have any pertinent notes on your accomplishments, your credentials and the amount you are requesting neatly printed out and present them to your employer at the end of the meeting.

5. Anticipate a yes but be prepared for a maybe or a no

If you have partner or close friend who could role-play the meeting with you ahead of time, think of ways you could respond if your employer says there is not enough money in the budget right now.

Is there a way to upgrade your position?  It might be easier to negotiate more salary if you have more responsibilities. Consider asking your manager when you could bring up the topic of a raise again. Perhaps after the next earnings statement or at another reasonable interval, you will be able to give your request another attempt. It doesn’t hurt to ask as long as you are courteous and respectful.

Write down any specific feedback your boss gives you so that there will be no misunderstanding later. Ask him or her to clarify any comments you do not understand.

Unless you really mean it, do not threaten to quit as a negotiating tactic. It could backfire and could easily cause ill will. No matter what happens, try to end the meeting on a positive note. Thank the manager for his or her time and consideration. Remain calm and polite.

Finally, if you feel that you were denied a raise or at least a reasonable compromise and feel you have been treated unfairly, you may have some serious thinking to do. It may be time to look for another job.