lion.jpgIt’s a bad economy so don’t expect too much from your paycheck.

That seems to be the refrain from many workers out there. Many of you never really liked asking for more money anyway and are now relieved you don’t have to make a case for a raise.

Well, that’s a cowardly career move.

Believe it or not, there are some employees out there who are asking for the big money even in the face of a recession. And they don’t even care if they work for a company that’s receiving bailout money from taxpayers.

They have balls, and they have fat wallets as a result.

There’s even a government official, aka pay czar, whose job it is to keep companies from paying these ballsy employees obscene wages.

This from today’s Wall Street Journal:

Treasury Department official Kenneth Feinberg, who has authority to oversee pay for the 100 highest-paid employees at those companies, has been meeting regularly with the seven firms to help them fix a level and structure of compensation that the government deems proper, say industry and U.S. officials.

I’m not going to get into the debate over whether they should be paid a lot of money or not. If you’ve read my blog, you probably know where I stand on the issue. The growing disparity in pay among the head honchos and rank and file employees is indeed sickening.

What I’m focusing on now is the sheer audacity of certain workers when it comes to negotiating for money and benefits, especially during tough times when employers use the economy as an excuse to squeeze their employees.

Talk about the audacity of hope. Or is it just common sense?

If you’re working for a company, or in a division, that’s clearly hurting financially, loosing tons of money and laying off a chunk of workers, you probably should not expect a fat raise this year. But what if you know your firm or unit is doing just fine, and that you were a pivotal part of its success? You deserve a piece of the action, no?

And maybe even that company that saw financial losses and cut employees is now making a turn around.

There is nothing wrong with you going into negotiations with your boss and asking for what you’re worth, even in this economy people.

When I took some time off last week and unplugged from the work Matrix, I thought a lot about whether I am in control of my job, or my job was was controlling me. Unfortunately, we all become victims of our work at times and let employers gain control over us. Often we hand over that control without a fight.

When you don’t stand up and ask for what you’re worth, that’s handing over control. When you convince yourself that there are no other options for you out in the work world then you hand over control.

Most employers don’t want to part with money in any economy. You may not get what you ask for but you need to make your case.

Coincidentally, when I was out last week, I got a great email on this very topic from Bahaudin Majtaba, associate professor of management at the Huizenga School of Business at Nova Southeastern University. He just wrote a story for HR Review titled “Getting a Raise By Asking For It.”

“Instead of seeing a recession as an impediment, you can see this as an opportunity to do more work in a creative or cost-saving manner which can enhance your opportunities for getting a raise,” he says.

Here are some of his tips for getting more money:

*Assess your value. “You get paid based on what your expertise and time are worth to others in the market,” he says. “Assess your situation to make sure you have earned a raise or promotion. The manager might ask, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ Be ready to answer this question immediately and provide the ‘value-added’ aspect of your work.” Use salary data in the city, state or industry to compare your work with others who have similar qualifications and jobs. Have data and facts to provide your manager during your salary discussion.

*Build your case. “Track your success and document it,” he says. “It will make it easier for your boss to see your contributions and consider giving you the raise.” Remember that you’re asking for a raise because you deserve it, not because you need it. “A desperate need for money does not equate to being worthy of a raise. Do not confuse what you need with what you are worth in the marketplace. Keep the discussion with your manager about your work performance, your qualifications for more income, and your overall value to the organization. “

*Choose the right time for a meeting with the manager. “A best time to ask for a raise might be when you have just received good news or if the company received good news and you had a part in it,” he says. “Perhaps Thursdays or paydays might be a good time to schedule a meeting for discussing the raise. The end of the fiscal year is probably not the right time for a raise since this might be the time when most managers are preparing their budgets for the next year or are answering for their spending of the past year. Therefore managers might be a bit too stressed in such days and weeks when they are dealing with annual budgets.”

*Ask for what you deserve. Be realistic and sincere, says Mujtaba. “Tell your boss that ‘I would like to explain some of my major accomplishments and why I believe I deserve a raise.’ Explain the facts about why you deserve a raise and then ask for a specific increase. If you do not ask for it, then the chances of getting a raise is very small. “

Hope for the best, but be prepared to hear ‘no’ and negotiate alternatives to a raise when extra income is not an option due to budget limitations.

“Keep in mind that in many cases a ‘no’ response is getting you one step closer to the affirmative answer,” he says. “The “no” answer should lead to the question of ‘Why and/or what can I do to earn a raise in the next opportunity?’”

*Set goals. “Volunteer to help when new and upcoming challenging or time-consuming projects,” he says. “Agree to work on projects and times that nobody likes to work on. “ When possible, befriend the manager as your mentor or coach and jointly set goals for the upcoming quarter and year.

Have you asked for more money recently, or were you a cowardly lion?

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