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'Tis the Season… for Your Performance Review. How to Do It Right

The end of the year doesn’t just mean New Year’s resolutions, it also means annual reviews. Wait, is that a lump in your throat?
Businessman meeting with board members.
To ask for a raise, practice saying what you feel you deserve, what you've done to get it, and that you want to bring what you're earning in alignment with the value you're providing.Hans Neleman / Getty Images

The end of the year doesn’t just mean holiday decorations and New Year’s resolutions. It also means annual reviews and, in some cases, that fateful conversation where you ask your boss for a raise. Is that a lump in your throat?

According to a survey by PayScale, just 43 percent of respondents have ever asked for a raise in their current field, and 28 percent are uncomfortable negotiating salary. But the payoff is there: 75 percent of people who ask get some sort of salary increase.

“It’s a scary conversation; it’s an uncomfortable conversation to have, but at the end of a day it’s a few minutes — and it has the potential to severely impact your earnings,” says millennial money expert Stefanie O’Connell.

Think of it this way: Your future raises will be negotiated as a percentage of what you currently earn, so if you’re aggressive now, your future income goes up as well. Inspired to take the plunge? Here are the four steps to take.

Set a Meeting

Tell your boss you’d like to set up a meeting to discuss your performance and — this is key — goals for next year, says Jennifer Grasz, spokesperson for Career Builder. That way, you can address the raise as part of a broader discussion. The approach should be: “Here’s where we are today, here’s what I was able to accomplish this year and here are our goals for next year.”

Do Your Research

“You don’t want to walk in and ask for more money without having spent some time thinking about how much you’d like to earn and why you should get it,” says O’Connell. Put yourself in your boss’s shoes — you’d likely need to be convinced and shown concrete reasons in order to up someone’s pay.

Do research on sites like Glassdoor and PayScale that have comparable salary ranges for employees based on location, position and organization, and bring a copy of those reports with you. Once you know the salary you're going to ask for, back it up with your quantifiable performance. What is it you’re bringing to the table that your employer needs? What is the progress you have made?

Lay out numbers that allow your employer to see how you’ve contributed to the bottom line, whether it’s sales or other metrics. “It’s hard to argue with the bottom line,” says O’Connell. “It’s hard to argue with meeting and exceeding a target metric for your company.”

Related: Company That Makes Performance Review Software Ditches Performance Reviews

And if your role has significantly expanded beyond what you were originally hired for, that’s something you want to call attention to. Two things to avoid: Don’t make the reason for the raise about something personal in your life, like financial hardship or a recent lifestyle change. That’s not relevant to your salary from your employer’s perspective.

Also, don’t use time served as either a justification or a limitation. Instead, make it about your added value over time.


Stand in front of a mirror and talk through your points. Out. Loud. Practice saying what you feel you deserve, what you’ve done to get it and that you want to bring what you’re earning in alignment with the value you’re providing. And remind yourself not to say the numbers sheepishly.

You want to own them. “We want to be able to say the salary range we’re requesting with a period — not a question mark, not an ellipsis,” says O’Connell. After you feel good going through it yourself, bring in a trusted friend to listen and go through it again.

And, once you’ve stated your desired salary and your contributions, let the silence lie. Really. You don’t want to undercut yourself with too much justification or — worse — by recanting and negotiating against yourself.

If It’s Not on the Table…

If cold, hard cash isn’t an option, think about other negotiable aspects of your employer package. That could look like development programs, education reimbursement, stock options, the ability to work from home, flexible hours, telecommuting options, or more vacation days.

Related: Five Signs It's Time to Change Your Career

And remember — the act of asking in itself is beneficial since it shows higher-ups your determination and lays out in detail the value you’re contributing. “Even if the conversation doesn’t end with a pay increase, there’s still an opportunity there to showcase yourself as a valuable asset to the company,” says Grasz.

And for Next Year...

It's a little late this year, but for next year's meeting, Grasz recommends starting an “I’m Fabulous” file. In it, keep your wins, accomplishments, praises, and things you’ve done to contribute to the organization’s success — especially concrete numbers and monthly metrics.

That way, it won’t be a scramble to come up with months’ worth of information when you finally get that performance review with the manager on the calendar. It’ll be more accurate, too — it can be difficult to backtrack and remember successes from last January or February.

With Hayden Field