(MONEY Magazine) -- Another year, another piddling pay raise? For some, sure.
The average increase in base salary is expected to be just 3% in 2012, up only a hair from last year's 2.9%, according to human resources consulting firm Mercer.
Still, managers are concerned about retaining top talent, which explains why the best performers will see a brighter 4.6% on average. And if you're among the office MVPs, you've got a decent shot at persuading the boss to give you even more than that. Use these strategies:
Most companies planned for 2012 salaries by the end of 2011, says Catherine Hartmann, a principal with Mercer. "But finalizing the budget seeps into January and February," she adds.
So speak up now. By the time your performance review comes around -- in February or March, for most workers -- the cash could be committed to somebody else.
Execs are under a lot of pressure these days, so starting the conversation with money can doom your case. Engender a positive feeling by immediately emphasizing your commitment to the employer, advises Kate Wendleton, president of career coaching firm The Five O'Clock Club.
"Say how much you love the job, that you're excited about the direction of the company, and speak to how you see yourself as a devoted contributor," she says.
As you come up with your talking points, highlight responsibilities and accomplishments that align most with the firm's priorities.
"If you're the key contact for the biggest clients, you have leverage," says Caroline Ceniza-Levine of New York career coaching firm SixFigureStart.
Keep in mind that juggling multiple jobs also affords you power, says Wendleton: "If you left, they'd have to replace you with two or three people."
She advises writing on the left side of a piece of paper the things you were hired to do, and on the right what you're doing. Provide this as evidence of your growing role, being careful not to appear resentful.
Conventional wisdom held that you should wait for the boss to throw out a dollar figure.
"But on average, the first person to make an offer gets closer to what they want," says Northwestern management prof Adam Galinsky, who has done research on the subject.
Further, a recent study by University of Idaho psych professor Todd Thorsteinson found that those who requested implausibly high raises -- teasingly asking for $1 million -- ended up with 9% to 10% more on average than those who didn't.
Still, in this economy, a really bold request could annoy your boss. So use payscale.com and salary.com to find the market value for your job. Then, says Thorsteinson, ask for an amount 7% to 10% higher -- a meaningful jump but not so big that your boss will think of you as a joke.
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