Bob Goldman

Gather around, children. We're approaching the end of the year, and Uncle Bob is feeling nostalgic.

Don't worry. Uncle Bob is not going to regale you with stories about office parties "in the day," when the chief financial officer danced the funky chicken on the desktop. But speaking of poultry, he is a mite sentimental about the Christmas turkeys management handed out to every employee -- a wonderful tradition, now banned by the human resources department and their crazy obsession with political correctness. Do you really think that giving out turkeys is a practice that discriminates against vegans?

No, what makes Uncle Bob weep in his wheat beer is the memory of another dearly departed end-of-the-year tradition -- the annual raise. (For those of you who have not been in the workforce for long, a "raise" is an increase in salary.)

Raises have been in short supply for some time now. In January of 2010, nearly two-thirds of companies had a pay freeze in place, according to Buck Consultants. Today, only 9 percent are in pay-raise Siberia, which is the good news I glean from a recent "Your Money" column by Tara Siegel Bernard in The New York Times.

The bad news will be instantly clear when I give you the title of Tara's column -- "How to Make the Case for a Pay Raise." Yes, it's true! These days, if you want a raise, you need to ask for it.

But does putting in for a raise put your career at risk? Not according to Mike Zwell, a consultant and author of "Six-Figure Salary Negotiations." Mr. Zwell insists that there is zero risk for " a good-performing employee who is contributing." As Zwell sees it, "the worst that will happen is that they will say no and give you some reason for it."

Unfortunately, this is a risk that you want to avoid. As a poor-performing employee who is contributing squat, you must fly under the radar. Raise your head and it could get lopped off.

If you do decide to risk your safe sinecure, don't expect the massive 4 or 5 percent raises that were typical in 2006. The article cites Stephan Mork, another Buck Consultant honcho, who reports that recently, "the typical merit increase has been 1.9 to 2 percent on the average."

Risking your job to get a teeny-weenie raise makes you a weenie in my book. It's much safer to skip the confrontation and give yourself a raise by pilfering a fancy laptop or 12 from Mahogany Row. Or just drive off with the boss's Bentley. These are items that are easily pawned, but make sure you avoid those pawnshops that are the scene of reality TV shows. And don't be greedy. If hocking the boss's Bentley represents more than a 5 percent raise, steal the boss's Maserati instead.


Bob Goldman

Bob Goldman is a business humor writer.

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