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How to Ask for a Raise (Even When the Boss Doesn't Like You)

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Anyone who has ever held a job has wanted more money for doing it. But discussing a pay raise can be a delicate subject, especially if your boss doesn't like you.

Fortunately, all hope isn't lost just yet. There are ways to improve your chances of getting that raise, but it's going to take some careful planning and plenty of patience.

"Preparation is essential for making that persuasive, polished presentation to your boss on why you deserve a pay increase," says Dianne Marsch, the director of the Etiquette School of Manhattan and an expert in professional imaging.

"If you and your boss have a strained relationship, be the first one to make the necessary adjustments in your business connection," Marsch advises. A few of her suggestions include showing warmth, offering to stay late to meet deadlines, and "just simply going beyond the call of duty."

Those first steps are imperative, Marsch explains, because regardless of whether your employer likes you or not, you must first demonstrate why you're valuable at the company. Once that's accomplished, you're in a much better position to bargain with the boss.

The next step is to set up a meeting. "Request an appointment of at least 30 minutes, but be prepared to make your presentation in 15 minutes to give your boss time to respond," Marsch advises. She adds that it's not necessary to disclose the topic of discussion (your raise) ahead of time, unless company policy dictates otherwise.

"If your boss absolutely refuses to meet with you to discuss a raise, ask him if it is acceptable to put your request in writing," suggests Marsch as a last-ditch effort. "I strongly urge a person not to go to HR, the union or higher-ups until all possibilities of a resolution are completely exhausted," she adds.

Once your appointment is set, it's time to start refining the presentation for your audience:

#1. Be professional (and dress accordingly). "You should have some idea whether [the boss] is a person that prefers bottom-line results, and dislikes a lot of details and small talk," Marsch says. "A boss who is less concerned with others' feelings won’t be impressed or persuaded to give you a raise if you show too much emotion."

That said, it's best to stay professional at your meeting. Dress accordingly, and don't plan on comparing yourself to your co-workers, threatening to leave, or raising your voice.

#2. Discuss your value and enthusiasm. "Begin by pointing out your positive traits, which have been beneficial by increasing the company’s profitability," states Marsch. "It is quite acceptable to discuss how you maintain enthusiasm … and are passionate about your job responsibility," she adds.

#3. Provide specific examples of your value. Transition into your current or recent accomplishments, making sure to list the steps you took to achieve them. Marsch advises you briefly mention your "strength in decision making, problem-solving, delegating and motivating" as well as any management or leadership skills, if applicable. Discuss how you plan to apply these skills to any upcoming goals, too.

#4. Don't get greedy. When it comes time to discuss money, remember to be realistic. "Refrain from asking for an outrageous amount that you know the company is unable to afford," says Marsch. If your ideal raise isn't approved, try asking for a cost of living increase, which is "usually accepted as being reasonable and not greedy," she explains. 

#5. Brush up on your negotiation skills. If all else fails, the expert suggests you be ready to compromise. "Be prepared to propose a counter-offer if necessary, such as a change in working hours, more vacation time or an end-of-the-year bonus."

Hopefully, your boss will respect your professionalism and willingness to compromise — and agree to at least some of your requests. If not, Marsch would have you request a written agreement to review your salary in three months' time.