Back to Basics: Asking for Help at Work

Why is it so difficult to ask for help, especially at work? Maybe you worry about appearing weak or incompetent. Perhaps you think you’ll wind up owing favors that you’ll need to pay back.

The truth is that your reluctance to reach out for assistance could have a negative impact on your career. You could be missing out on opportunities to learn from your colleagues, develop valuable relationships, and enhance your job performance.

Stop trying to tough it out alone. Run down this checklist for when and how to ask for help at work.

When to Ask for Help at Work:

1. Seek clarification. If you’re unsure about how to complete an assignment, asking for help is more effective than trying to bluff your way through it. Any temporary embarrassment is less risky than making a serious misstep.

2. Starting a new job. It’s natural to consult others when you’re a recent hire. You may even make friends faster.

3. Tackle an unfamiliar project. One of the greatest benefits of reaching out is the opportunity to learn. Ask your boss for some one-on-one time to discuss strategy together. Invite more experienced coworkers to join you on a high-profile venture or engage a consultant who can show you the ropes.

4. Fix a mistake. If you take enough risks, you’re bound to have a project that turns out differently than you hoped. A wise boss will evaluate you based on how you handle the situation. Impress them by acknowledging your errors promptly and looking for a solution, even if that means bringing in additional staff members.

5. Manage a heavy workload. Maybe there’s too much on your plate. Arrange with a coworker to cover each other’s calls on days you have back-to-back meetings.

6. Promote collaboration. Even if you excel at a certain task, it can be illuminating to see how someone else would handle it. Develop a reputation for being a team player.

How to Ask for Help at Work:

1. Try it yourself first. Before telling anyone that your computer is broken, check that it’s plugged in. Test the obvious solutions before you approach others, especially your boss.

2. Act promptly. On the other hand, once you know you’re stumped, seek help quickly. Minimize delays and downtime.

3. Be specific. Make your request clear. Let your colleagues know what you need and any related details and deadlines.

4. Exude confidence. Rehearse your request if you feel nervous. You can feel comfortable about asking for help because it shows that you are strong enough to be vulnerable and you care about your work.

5. Show respect. Let others know that you value their time. Be brief, and tell them that you’re happy with whatever method is convenient for them. Respond graciously even if they turn you down.

6. Know who to approach. Figure out who is likely to have the answers you’re looking for. Consult the staff directory or use your network to find a referral.

7. Express appreciation. Thank others for their assistance. Follow up so they know how their efforts made a difference.

8. Be willing to reciprocate. Giving generously is a powerful way of showing your gratitude. Volunteer your services before a colleague even has to ask. When you’re consistently eager to lend a hand, your coworkers are more likely to do the same for you.

Knowing how to ask for assistance is a vital soft skill that’s just as important as any official credential on your resume. Transform yourself into a more valuable team member by giving and getting help on a regular basis.