Why you didn't get a raise and how you can fix it

Stacy Rapacon, special to

Raise your standing and your salary

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The job market has been steadily improving, but you might not be able to tell by . Average wages have grown at a sluggish pace of about 2.25 percent over the past two years, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. That's slower than the average wage growth over the past two decades.

But whether you get a raise is not about skills, talent or the number of years on the job, said Cynthia Shapiro, author of "Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn't Want You to Know—and What to Do About Them." "It's about how they emotionally feel about you, and that is squarely within your power by your behavioral choices every day."

Employers tend to favor, financially and otherwise, the people they like, regardless of whether they're the best or most productive workers. "More often than not, your attitude and behavior form an unconscious bias in the manager's mind when making pay decisions," said Kim Seeling Smith, founder of human resources training and consulting firm Ignite Global. "So of course your behavior as an employee is going to factor into [pay]."

How can you boost your standing, and salary, at work? Start by changing the following behaviors.

— By Stacy Rapacon, special to

You're negative

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At work, sad sacks can suck the life out of a good team, and bosses know it. "Attitude weighs on everything, and salary is just one part of it," said Shapiro. "It determines your job security, your relationship with the boss, whether you get the best assignments and whether you're the first to get laid off."

While negativity can hold you back in your career, positivity can give you a boost. Shapiro recommends publicly vocalizing what you like about your company and talking openly about your team's accomplishments. Be a voice of optimism and support, and you're bound to find yourself in the good graces of the higher ups, she said. "Cheerleaders do get paid more."

If you're feeling down at work, instead of complaining, Shapiro suggests remembering why you chose the job in the first place and making a list of all the company's good qualities. "Sometimes all you need is to reconnect with what you loved about it," she said. "If you cannot think of anything … then it's time to go. You're not going to be successful there no matter what you do."

You raise problems without offering solutions

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While it may be good to note what's not working, simply pointing it out is not enough — and may just be creating more work for your boss and co-workers, which surely would not be appreciated. To get ahead, go the extra mile and figure out how to fix a situation, Seeling Smith said.

"Coming with solutions instead of problems is one of the principle behaviors that can move you from being a problem child to a critical person who your manager relies on," she said. "People who are solutions-oriented rather than problem-oriented more often than not will be recognized."

You forgo new opportunities

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Skipping out on extra work or new assignments might get you through the work day faster, but it can really slow down your career.

Whether it's taking on more responsibilities while a colleague is on vacation or maternity leave or stepping up to a new project, Seeling Smith suggests volunteering to help with whatever extra work you can handle. Not only will doing so build up your experience and provide you with learning opportunities, having done more work than required will also be the perfect argument for why you deserve a raise.

You don't support your boss

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You may have your own priorities at work, but helping your boss with her priorities should be at the top of your to-do list.

For example, you might think taking care of your biggest client is the most important part of your job, but if your employer is focused on bringing in new business, shifting your priorities to support hers is a smart move, Shapiro said.

Find out three things your boss truly cares about and make them your top three priorities each day, she said. If you can give your boss that kind of support, the law of reciprocity should draw her to supporting you in kind.

"If you want loyalty, support and rewards, you give it first," Shapiro said. "We are just psychologically inclined to even the scales and give you something in return."

You ignore your colleagues

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Again, supporting the people above you encourages them to lift you up. And lending a hand to those around you or who are just starting out can also give you a boost, said Seeling Smith. It shows that you have initiative, leadership skills and are able to work well with others.

"Helping or mentoring co-workers and colleagues is certainly looked upon favorably," she said.

You require hand-holding

Business people holding hands
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Of course you should seek out guidance when necessary, but being too needy can create extra work for your manager and make you seem more like a burden than an asset.

Be sure to prove you can work independently and be "relied upon to do work, on time, with little fuss or muss," said Seeling Smith. "Once you have direction and you know how to complete a task or project or how to accomplish the goals that have been set, do it well, do it on time and do it consistently."

You vent on social media

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All your positivity and productivity at work can be undone with a single bad Facebook post. You always need to be mindful of what you're saying online and in public because you never know who might be watching and listening.

Even if you think your privacy settings are tight, you're better off airing any frustrations you have privately and offline.

"You can't be a team player and someone the company trusts and values at work, and then go get on Facebook and bash your employer," said Shapiro. "Today, everything is all connected, and you have to manage your image. You are always representing your company, and the higher you go, the more that's the case."

You deviate from company culture

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Be sure you understand what the company values and what is expected of employees, preferably before you even accept a job offer. Today's job market offers a wide variety of corporate cultures, and finding what best fits how you work will make your job easier, Shapiro said.

For example, if you work best with flexible hours, you would probably struggle at a company that has strict rules about working from 9 to 5.

It's like gardening, Shapiro said. "If you're a full sun plant, and I plant you in the shade, there is no amount of water, love, talking to and fertilizer that's going to make you healthy," she said.

"If you find the corporate culture that matches your style of working, then everything you naturally do will be enjoyable, rewarded, promoted and protected."

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