By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TVBy Paula Ebben

BOSTON (CBS) – What can you expect for a raise next year? That might not be clear, but one thing that is true, the rules of who gets rewarded are changing.

One of the concerns is that women workers might be doing themselves a disservice when it comes to making a case for a raise.

American workers on average should see raises of 2.9% next year. That’s a slight improvement over the past few years. Raises averaged 2.7% in 2011 and 2012 and just 2.3% in 2010.

Increasingly, employers are using what money they do have to make a statement.

Art Papas is the CEO of Bullhorn, a Boston based company which makes human resource related software. He said employers “are presenting their top performers with higher raises, and the people who may be in the middle may get a raise that keeps them up with inflation, and the people who are the bottom performers are probably getting nothing.”

Making the case for a raise can be uncomfortable, particularly for women. A survey by LinkedIn found 39% of women are anxious about negotiating for a raise, and 25% actually avoid it.

“Men are trained early on to have high expectations for what people will do for them and of their worth, and young women in the workforce, and certainly women who have been working for years don’t have the same expectation,” explained Elaine Varelas of Keystone Partners.

In fact, men are four times more likely to negotiate for higher pay. Over a lifetime, that can cost a woman more than a million dollars in earnings.

Varelas believes those numbers should embolden any woman to advocate for herself. “You may not be comfortable, but you will be less comfortable knowing that you are not being paid what you are worth,” she says.

Her advice is to start by researching your industry and your position. Make sure your expectations are reasonable.

Next, keep a list of your contributions all year long. This will help you make a good case during a review.

Finally, make sure you remain positive and professional during all discussions.

“Find out all that information out so that you have valid data, not about what you want but about what you are worth,” added Varelas.

Executive Coordinator Amy Layne followed that approach and got the raise she wanted. “You never know until you ask,” she said.


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