04/10/2012 06:51 pm ET Updated Jun 10, 2012

Raising the Bar to Get A Raise

Women don't get as many raises or earn as much as men, and I feel it's largely because we don't ask for what we deserve in the first place. Instead, we buckle down to do better work, waiting to be recognized instead of stepping up. The fact is that most raises come from direct requests, and most managers I've talked to admit that they give more raises and promotions to men just because men ask. And when they ask, they add what they have contributed with examples of how they have worked outside their capacity, noting specifically how much their work has meant to the organization and why it should be compensated. You can follow suit and step up to do your part for yourself.

What's stopping you? Most of us are afraid that our bosses won't want to hear from us -- the opposite of what is true. By recounting what good work you have done, noting its relevancy and your ideas for doing more, you can inspire your bosses to reframe their opinions and open new possibilities which neither of you have already thought of.

Before asking for the raise, you do have to prepare your case, paying attention to the kind of presentation or interaction that your boss is comfortable with -- charts, graphs, a written summary or casual conversation. Mirror your boss's style of decision-making. Start with a brief, friendly conversation and then assertively state your purpose: "I asked for this meeting to talk about my salary and my value in this company." Arrange your points in dramatic order and review your duties to your boss. You'll be amazed at how fuzzy these points are to your boss, who is certainly not spending time thinking about you. It's up to you to provide a friendly reminder.

When it comes time to make your pitch, don't ask for too little. While it's better to ask for something instead of nothing, you want to be competitive. Find out your value by comparing your salary to what your colleagues or other people in the profession are making. Do an online search and discreetly ask colleagues whom you trust how much others like you are earning. If you are a member of a professional organization, you can usually find out average salaries based on the type of job and your experience level.

As a former labor negotiator, I found that if you ask for exactly what you want, you'll only get less. The other party will use that number as a starting point and negotiate down from it. To get what you feel you deserve requires that you ask for more -- a lot more -- leaving room for the other side to play their part of the game. I call it the "X Plus" theory. Legitimize asking for more because in reality, you deserve it. Get out of feeling like you're begging or asking for something that you haven't earned by making it all about the value of your contribution to the organization, as opposed to needing more money for bills or to support your kids. As a coach, I rehearse clients to ask out loud for many times the salary they want so by the time they come down to the amount they will request, it seems minimal, askable -- a trick that helps our female fear.

Now is the time to change your attitude. Once you courageously ask, your boss can only say yes or no. If you are shot down, instead of walking away in defeat, ask what else you could be doing differently to merit a raise, and use that feedback to move forward. You will gain more leverage for when you re-approach the topic again -- which you will, thanks to your newfound awareness of your value and worth.

Make your luck happen!