I'm a long-term employee at a relatively small company working as a software engineer. I've been seriously contemplating quitting for a few months and right now I'm absolutely sure that this will be the right move for me. I've been actively researching a few companies in the past 2 weeks and was about to start interviewing with some of them but I was recently informed that I have an annual review coming up soon. I'm a top performer at my company and I believe that management has probably sensed that I'm about to leave and is willing to give me a (substantial) raise at this review. Yet, I strongly feel that any (possible) raise will only provide me with temporary comfort and that staying in the same company will be a huge mistake in the long run. Basically, my market research shows that my current salary is definitely below what I can get at other companies and my company-research shows that new hires (to some of whom I have served as a mentor in their early days in the company) are getting more than me as well. On the one hand this makes me feel that negotiating a raise at the review is justified, but on the other I would like to leave my current employer on good terms. How should I go about it?
For what it's worth the top management of the company is absolutely despicable, but I have an uttermost respect for my direct manager, who has always supported me in getting raises and promotions (although, obviously below market-level ones) and is generally a great guy. I even have to admit that I'm pretty disappointed by the upcoming review as I believe the best option for me would have been to simply quit and (possibly) get a a very good reference from this employer.
So my question is how I should handle the review. Can I still negotiate my raise or should I just start looking for a new job and accept whatever they offer?