(Money Magazine) -- You kept a stiff upper lip when your company froze salaries in 2009. At least you were still employed. But if a year of dutifully doing your job -- and someone else's -- has left you eager for a step up, you may be in luck.
Worried about losing workers, 83% of large employers plan to give merit increases this year, up from 52% in 2009, says HR consulting firm Hewitt Associates.
Want to snag a bigger boost than the paltry 2.5% average? Prove you're a better-than-average employee.
No matter how stellar your work, if your company is struggling financially, this isn't the time to ask for more. "Not only will you be unsuccessful, but you'll raise doubts about your professional savvy," says executive coach Cheryl Palmer.
If your firm's economic health is not a matter of public record, look for clues: Has your manager continued to slash the budget? Or are expunged line items making a comeback?
Next, make a date with HR to try to find out if raises are capped at a certain percentage or if there's a set salary range for your position, suggests career coach Lisa Spahr.
She notes that many companies are more transparent in light of executive pay scandals. Start off by saying, "I'm not as aware of our policies as I'd like to be, and I'm interested in learning about opportunities here." The response can help you develop a realistic request to take to your boss.
Your talking points should focus on your tangible achievements (vs. your long hours, which the boss may be pulling too). With businesses hyper-focused on the bottom line, you'll want to show how you've made or saved the company money, says Palmer.
Not in a position that directly affects revenue? You could note how you capably finished a key project early or how you transitioned from managing two employees to eight.
"Prepare as if you were pitching a client," says Spahr. Anticipate responses and be ready to negotiate -- for instance, if you're offered less than you'd like, you might ask for more vacation days.
If your boss denies you outright, ask what goals you'd have to hit to change her mind. If she says she doesn't have the money, ask to be reassessed after, say, divisional sales top a certain number -- then do your part to get those sales up.
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