If your paycheck doesn't reflect the extra effort you've been expending, it may be time to take actions into your own hands. Most organizations expect to pay workers a fare compensation, so if the reward for your hard work hasn't been presented, ask for it. But, how do you go about asking for a raise? Here are a few suggestions for what to do, and what not to do.

Pay Raise Checklist

  1. Do Your Research
    Know what you're worth. Pay rates for a given job can vary by region, type of company and the skill level of workers. Find out what your counterparts are making by reading online salary survey reports from websites like cbsalary.com. Knowing the range of salaries and where you currently stand will help determine how much extra pay to ask for. Take the time to understand your company's salary or promotion rules. Is there a waiting period for salary increases? Who has the power to make decisions regarding salaries? Does everyone in your salary grade earn the same raise? Use this information as justification for increasing your pay. (Learn more in Fatten Up Your Take-Home Pay In 4 Easy Steps.)

  2. Build Your Case
    The fact that you deserve a raise should not come as a shock to your boss. He should already see you working hard, overachieving and taking greater responsibility within the company. This is not the time to be modest. List your accomplishments and relate them to continued progression. Show that you are committed to continuing to delivering a high level of performance.

  3. Advertise Your Successes
    Express your value to the company. List all of the extra activities you successfully perform in addition to achieving your assigned tasks. This might be common in an era of layoffs. Understaffed work environments mean you may already be performing the duties of two or three workers. Estimate the value of those duties and suggest an upgrade in your pay to match.

  4. Be Flexible
    Suggest a range of dollars to add to your monthly check if that's what you want. However, be prepared to negotiate and consider all the benefits your employer offers, from insurance to tuition reimbursement to paid vacations.

  5. Time Your Request Carefully
    If your organization has a defined budgeting season, that may be a good time to make your pay raise request so that it is included in compensation discussions. Depending on your company's financial situation, your new perks may have to wait until next quarter.

Pay Raise Don'ts

  1. Don't Give an Ultimatum
    Pay raises are for people who intend to stay with the company, and severance packages are awarded to cocky former employees. If your company calls your bluff, you may be left pounding the pavement will all the other unemployed Americans. Expressing discontent at a time when your employer may be struggling financially only portrays you as a threat fighting against the company instead of for it. (If you must leave your job, go out fighting for the best benefits you can get. Read The Layoff Payoff: A Severance Package.)

  2. Don't Even Joke About Unreasonably High Salary Increases
    Gradual pay hikes are easier to justify. Unless you've been promoted to a new position, pay raises within the normal range for your job description are more likely.

  3. Don't stage a revolt. Concentrate on your own situation.
    You don't need a buy-in from co-workers. Ambushing the boss with multiple demands only confuses the situation. Unless you actually work in the compensation segment of Human Resources and are proposing sweeping salary changes for groups of workers, stay focused on you.

If you are a star, the boss is probably already making sure you're happy to keep you from being recruited by competitors. A pay raise is a reasonable motivator to maintain high quality employees. You just need to ask for it in the right way.