We've all done it - played that movie over and over in our minds of our confident entry into the boss' office and asking for - no, demanding - that elusive pay raise. However deserved, however, reality often plays out far differently, with many relegating themselves to their boss' budgetary discretion.

Yes, asking for a raise can be tricky. There are so many factors that come into play: the business culture, company policies regarding regular job assessments and wage reviews, and the subjectivity of your boss. I've actually heard a boss say he wasn't giving a good performer ( a very good performer) a raise because of the way she dressed. This shouldn't ever happen - but the reality is that it does.

But asking for a raise can be more than anxiety provoking...it can be downright depressing. So, what are the best actions to take? Here are a few tips I recommend:

1. For those employed in companies with policies regarding wage reviews - be proactive:

  • First, find out how frequently they are supposed to occur. In most large companies, it will be an annual activity with the HR department providing supervisors with guidelines for how to appraise individuals, and what type of increases are appropriate based on how the employee is rated for performance, attitude and potential growth on the job in the future.
  • If you're involved in this type of organization, take advantage of the formality and regularity of the wage/performance review annual event by preparing a self-assessment of your own job performance.
  • This self appraisal should be honest - if you have areas that could be better, you should exactly what, and how, you intend to improve, including recommendations for any additional training that could enhance your performance.
  • It is also important you note any and all accomplishments along with specific measurements and dates in case the boss may overlook or forget about those highlights.

2. But many companies - particularly small or new ones - don't have formalized policies regarding annual assessments and/or pay raises. This can be great. And bad.

  • It's great if the company is led by someone who is enlightened and recognizes individual contributions, and rewards or compensates employees accordingly.
  • However, those who are not lucky enough to have such intuitive bosses and feel they are not making the kind of money they should be should request a meeting with the boss to specifically discuss performance and commensurate compensation.

3. Don't lose it. Even if you feel slighted - It's important not to get over-zealous and storm in to the boss' office demanding a raise (as empowering as that fantasy is), as doing so will put the boss in a defensive mode that is not conducive to a positive discussion...outcome.

Simply tell the boss you would like to discuss the subject, and ask when it would be convenient for him or her to do so.

4. Then, prepare... Before the meeting, create a complete record of what and how you've done since the last raise, wherever possible citing specific metric results related thereto, with dates, to show that your merit is not subjective, but rather based on performance fact.

  • Some may feel this next piece of advice is counter productive - I recommend that you offer to give this self-assessment to your boss before the meeting so he or she can understand your point of view and prepare accordingly.
  • By no means is this telling the enemy your strategy, rendering your defeat inevitable. Rather, in any negotiation - and this "is" a real negotiation for you - it is best to lay out your cards in an honest and forthright manner.

5. If the boss wants to keep you happy - your information will help him or her understand your value in undeniable terms.

6. If, on the other hand, the boss has no intention of rewarding you in a manner that you feel is fair and appropriate, he or she will always find a way to justify that decision.

So, providing the boss with your input prior to meeting will only make it easier to find out the ultimate, final outcome.

And then you can make an educated decision regarding your future with that company, accordingly.

Here's to your future!