This not only shows that you’ve thought through the issue on your own first, but also that you’re not asking for a handout—you’re trying to get the job done together. Asking for help can be a challenge, even outside of a pandemic. The helper must take responsibility for helping. Research on pro-environment appeals suggests, for instance, that liberals prefer phrases such as “care for the natural world” and “prevent the suffering of all life forms,” whereas conservatives respond better to “show your love for your country” and “take responsibility for yourself and the land you call home.”. He began to emphasize in every interaction that they all shared the goal of pleasing the customer to ensure repeat business, creating a strong sense of in-group with the sales team. The first step to asking for help is to make sure you actually need it. Especially at work, we often strive to appear competent and capable, and seeking out help is an admission that we can’t do our jobs alone. Copyright © 2020 Harvard Business School Publishing. This isn’t an ego thing. That same morning, I’d turned down a request to review a submission to a scientific journal, ignored an e-mail from my daughter’s school asking for parent volunteers to help with an ice cream party, and grudgingly said I would do our family’s laundry but refused to fold it. Next, you need to understand that some common and perhaps intuitive ways of asking for help are ultimately unproductive, because they make people less likely to want to give it. A classic error is asking for help via group e-mail. It only takes one time for your manager to ask you, “Why didn’t you try X?” to realize how much it pays off to check the simple solutions off your list. When you just keep giving and never ask for anything, people would want to reciprocate it. Cross-functional teams, agile project management techniques, matrixed or hierarchy-minimizing structures, and increasingly collaborative office cultures require you to constantly push for the cooperation and support of your managers, peers, and employees. Suddenly it was clear that everyone was on the same side. He was describing the procedure of running into a burning house, and I interrupted (wide-eyed, of course) to ask if he had to break the door down to get in. Be honest with yourself. Another is that I’m weirdly good at such projects (owing less to my construction prowess than to my ability to interpret poorly written directions), and for years I’d been her go-to gal for help with them (effectiveness). 2. All rights reserved. By building … And admitting one’s failures and shortcomings, even as subtext, stings. Your request could be rejected. The first step is getting over your reluctance to ask for assistance. If I can’t figure something out after I’ve exhausted at least three other solutions on my own, it’s time to admit I need a little inspiration. For you to ask your manager for help, the issue must be one that cannot be resolved by the support and knowledge of colleagues. In other words, they didn’t understand why their help was needed. People are busy, and not all of them have the skills or the resources to help you. Admitting you need help can be really hard, especially when you’re being paid for your competency. June 27, 2018 / by Rohina Tags: help, help at work. (2) Positive identity: Create or enhance people’s recognition that they are uniquely placed to provide assistance and that they routinely come to others’ aid. However, it’s virtually impossible to advance in modern organizations without assistance from others. For example, you can say: “I appreciate how much you value my potential here, and in order to invest more time in becoming the leader the firm needs me to be and to continue to create the results I do, we need to find another source to do X.”. Employees knew that the revenue they generated supported jobs in another department, with which they’d previously had no contact. Reinforcements: How to Get People to Help You, Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, No One Understands You and What to Do About It. It wasn’t until I had a team of my own to manage that I realized that there’s real value in admitting “Hey! This is particularly true for people in negative moods or positions of relative power over others. I’ve seen situations play out the same way in professional settings. How to Ask for Help at Work Take an objective approach. He responded, “Try first, then pry.” He went on to describe how—in what I imagine must be part of some hazing ritual—the crew let him throw his shoulder at a door for what seemed like an eternity before someone simply turned the doorknob to open it. Why should I care? Finally, whenever salespeople did what he asked and included him in the work proposal process, he made a point of following up with them to say how important it had been to the ultimate success of the delivery. Keep these tips in mind when you find yourself a little over your head, and you’ll guarantee your manager and colleagues won’t be uttering any four-lettered words when you need their help. Human beings are, as a rule, preoccupied with their own affairs. Use the "foot-in-the-door" or the "door-in-the-face." Sometimes people fail to offer help not because they don’t see the need but because they’re worried that they’ve misconstrued the situation or that you prefer to go it alone. Asking for help involves uncertainty and emotional risk. Perhaps the easiest way to overcome the pain of asking for help is to realize that most people are surprisingly willing to lend a hand. You might also cite a common goal, enemy, or trait, such as the desire to exceed your team’s sales targets, rivalry with a competitor in your industry, or a love of superhero movies. I remember staying in the office until well past 1 AM one time, trying to resolve a particularly nasty issue, and although fatigue and frustration had been clouding my mind for hours, I still felt it was important that someone—everyone—knew how hard I was working to solve the problem. And minimizing your need—“I don’t normally ask for help” or “It’s just a tiny thing”—is equally unproductive, because it suggests the assistance is trivial or even unnecessary. Determine Your Method. If you approach it cannily it shows that you are striving for the highest quality and … People want to see the impact of the aid they give. Ask for help when you get stuck If you've been chugging along on a project and suddenly hit a roadblock that you can't seem to overcome, don't be shy about asking for help. They expect you to come to them, forgetting how reluctant most of us are to ask for help. Solve the problem on your own. A request for a colleague’s help isn’t a drive-thru task. He set up a meeting with sales leaders to talk through the product development process, realizing that most of the team had no idea what work was involved. For example, when asking a colleague to review a client proposal, you might say, “Would you please review this before I send it to XYZ? After spending some time gauging my own reactions when my team approached me for assistance—or didn’t—I’ve been able to pull out a few key tips that I now use whenever I need a little help myself. We may be reluctant to ask a dormant tie for help and assistance because we feel that they wouldn’t be receptive. You want people to feel that they would be helping because they want to, not because they must, and that they’re in control of the decision. While managers (myself included) appreciate dedication and diligence, we loathe inefficiency. Try keeping a journal. Emphasizing reciprocity—“I’ll help you if you help me”—can also backfire, because people don’t like to be indebted to anyone or to engage in a purely transactional exchange. He was describing th… The author provides three reinforcements that can be incorporated in requests: (1) In-group: Assure the potential helper that you are on the same team and that the team is important. While having a face-to-face conversation regarding your zeal for working on more challenging tasks with the boss is a good option, another professional way is to ask for the same in an email. If you ask your co-worker a … In other words, explore all of the possible solutions—including the obvious ones. Nod your head if you’ve ever had to ask for help at work, at home or anywhere else. About a year ago, a friend from graduate school asked me to help her assemble a particularly complicated one, and—this might surprise you—I eagerly agreed. One of the biggest obstacles to helping is diffusion of responsibility. Your employer might be grateful for your offer of assistance, or she might take it as a sign you think she is not capable of doing her work. A recent study by the productivity software company Boomerang of 350,000 e-mail exchanges found that “Thanks in advance” and “Thanks” yielded average response rates from 63% to 66%, compared with 51% to 54% for other popular options including “Best,” “Regards,” and “Cheers.” Even expressed preemptively, gratitude can keep people interested and invested in helping you, as long as you focus more on their generosity and selflessness—and what that says about them as people—than on how you’ll benefit from the help. I need help.” I had a few employees who were in their first jobs out of college, and, to put it bluntly, they had a lot to learn. Asking for help is not the same as commiserating with your coworkers. When you next find yourself in need of help, remember that people are willing to give it much more often than not. Plus, chances are, everyone will gain valuable experience and ultimately strengthen his or her base for a successful career. As I quickly learned, this didn’t actually earn me any points with anyone. My general rule of thumb is basically the "Three Strikes" rule. Just make sure you’re genuine when you make the request. Gratitude is another powerful way to boost helpers’ positive identity. The first step to asking for help is to make sure you actually need it. What I learned from the experience was that asking for help is a delicate endeavor—but when done right, it’ll get the job done faster or better. These are sneaky tactics and should be … After one of the beneficiaries of their work visited and spoke to them about their impact on his and others’ jobs, the call center’s sales and revenue doubled. a raise—can be incredibly daunting. The first step to asking for help is to make sure you actually need it. Over time, these strategies dramatically improved relations between the two teams, and the company saw increases in both client satisfaction and profitability. But the best way to create a strong sense of in-group is to highlight shared experiences, perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. You can allow people to experience the natural highs associated with helping. Harvard Business Publishing is an affiliate of Harvard Business School. 4. We may also worry about imposing on our coworkers if they say yes, and feeling awkward if they say no. This includes prefaces such as “May I ask you a favor?,” which make people feel trapped, and profuse apologies such as “I feel terrible asking you for this,” which make the experience seem less positive. Lack of support often comes from lack of effective communication. So how can you effectively ask for help? Full Information – It is always required to provide all the information related to your issue. Need help negotiating that raise or writing the perfect email to your boss? Plus, giving your boss a “menu” of options enables her to quickly assess your ideas, and, if needed, come up with a few of her own. One reinforcement you’ll want to give a potential helper is assurance that you’re on his or her team and that the team is important. When participants working on puzzles alone were told that they were doing so in tandem with people performing similar tasks in other rooms and could later exchange tips, they worked 48% longer, solved more problems correctly, and said they were less depleted by the task than those allowed to believe they were working fully independently. People are surprisingly willing to give support—if you ask for it in the right way. That’s in part because saying no or helping only halfheartedly carries a psychological cost that we tend to discount. This isn’t an ego thing. And studies show that most people are surprisingly willing to lend a hand—if you ask in the right way. The best thing you can do is to come armed with a few potential solutions (even if you have no idea where to start). Your performance, development, and career progression depend more than ever on your seeking out the advice, referrals, and resources you need. When you encounter a roadblock, try to get around it yourself before reaching out. Earn responses to your requests by generously helping others in the first place. You want helpers to give what they can—and what will make them feel most effective. Another group of people we often overlook are dormant ties, relationships that we had in the past. She translates her 14-years of corporate combat experience to help others navigate their own careers, and become advocates for their own success. (3) Effectiveness: Be clear about what you need and about what impact the help will have. Jennifer Winter is a freelance writer, editor and career consultant. If you’ve got the leverage of being a hi-po, use it. When colleagues provide you with major help at work, lend a hand when you're in a jam, assist with a challenging project, or generally go above-and-beyond what's required, it's a kind gesture to send a letter of appreciation.You can also send a note or email message to a colleague who has covered for you while you were out sick or on leave. is the tacit question hovering in most people’s … Your supervisor may perceive you as incompetent. Now, when you know you need to ask for help, don’t just go knocking on your manager’s door to surrender. Somewhere, I had picked up the idea that asking for help was tantamount to admitting weakness, and ultimately, failure. Promise to follow up afterward, and do so. The trick here is knowing when it’s time to suck it up, swallow your pride, and admit you’re stuck. Dear [Your Supervisor/Boss’s Name], Try It Now. How can you impose upon people without making them feel imposed upon? Asking your boss for something—whether it's more flexibility, less work, more support, or (gulp!) 3. Instead take the time to ask potential helpers directly and with unique appeals. Asking for help can feel vulnerable. When You Made a Mistake. Ask for Help at Work Overcome your reluctance and discover how kind other people are. As research in neuroscience and psychology shows, the social threats involved—the uncertainty, risk of rejection, potential for diminished status, and inherent relinquishing of autonomy—activate the same brain regions that physical pain does. 3. He pleaded to be included in discussions with clients but was often ignored; the people in sales believed that he would slow them down and be an obstacle to their success. Few of us enjoy asking for help. I’ve seen employees become discouraged and frustrated when I’ve done work … If I’ve learned anything during this past year at work, it’s this: You can and should ask for help. Enclosures – Always provide documents, if you have, in … While there’s definitely something to be said about trying to resolve an issue yourself first, torturing yourself for hours—or days—before finally admitting you need help is almost never productive. To ask for help at work and lend the same is very quintessential key for success at workplace. Now, nod again if you’ve ever felt shy or silly when doing so. Studies also suggest that we underestimate how much effort those who do agree to help will put in. Asking for help can show strength rather than weakness. Many psychologists believe that feeling effective—knowing that your actions created the results you intended—is the fundamental human motivation; it’s what truly engages people and gives their lives meaning. Perhaps the easiest way to overcome the pain of asking for help is to realize that most people are surprisingly willing to lend a hand. Career advice for women, Best careers for women, Career tips for women So why was the DIY request an easy yes? When Vanessa Bohns, a professor at Cornell University and a leading researcher in this area, recently reviewed a group of experiments that she and her coauthors had done, she found that compliance—the rate at which people provided assistance to strangers who asked for it—was an average of 48% higher than the help seekers had expected. But it’s also because most helpers know—even if only subconsciously—that giving freely and effectively of themselves has emotional benefits. Here’s a sample Email that you can use as a reference source and customize according to your needs. Not anymore! I didn’t expect them to know everything—yet, somehow, they always seemed to think that I did, and, by consequence, that they shouldn’t ask questions. That means avoiding any language suggesting that you or someone else is instructing them to help, that they should help, or that they have no choice but to do so. First, know what you want. With this approach, you’ll effectively turn what could’ve been a cry for help into a collaborative session with a senior member of your team—and that’s always a good thing. Find out more about her services on her blog, 10% off Career Coaching | Use code NEWYEAR10 thru Jan 17th |, staying in the office until well past 1 AM, a collaborative session with a senior member of your team, co-workers talking courtesy of Shutterstock. They saw their help land and felt its effectiveness. To ensure that your potential helpers know that their assistance will matter, be very clear about what you need and its projected impact. Clift... Stay engaged with your helpers. I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but at some point in my career, I started to believe “help” was a four-letter word. Consider the head of product development at a learning software company who wanted more input with the sales department, which was making his team’s work difficult by agreeing that highly customized orders would be delivered according to near-impossible schedules. He also started describing sales leaders as the protectors of customer experience and talked about the power they wielded in determining the future of the company’s brand, which gave them a strong positive identity and motivated them to see and approach their work in a slightly different way. It’s even OK to admit that you can’t, in fact, do it all and do it all well. Even if you’re right, you should still ask for help, because doing so helps your employees grow. If your boss sees you beating yourself up over something, she’s more likely to be thinking, “Why didn’t you come to me sooner?” rather than view you as an industrious and dedicated employee. You’re human, so mistakes are pretty much inevitable. But learning how to ask for help at work is necessary, not only for you to succeed but for you to become a productive member of your team. This is an all-too-obvious step that’s often overlooked. A second cue for potential helpers involves creating or enhancing their recognition that they are uniquely placed (by virtue of their attributes or role) to provide assistance and that they are not merely people who might help you but helpful people who routinely come to others’ aid. But without support from others, it’s virtually impossible to advance in your career. Before you start banging your shoulder—or head—against a door, make sure you’ve tried to open it the old-fashioned way first. When Vanessa Bohns, a professor at Cornell University and a leading researcher in this area, recently reviewed a group of experiments that she and her coauthors had done, she found that compliance—the rate at which people provided assistance to strangers who asked for it—was an average of 48% higher than the help seekers had expected… One reason is that the person asking was a long-standing friend with whom I enjoy spending time (in-group reinforcement). In fact, estimates suggest that as much as 75% to 90% of the help coworkers give one another is in response to direct appeals. ... Offer solutions. If you are given a work to complete and from the very onset if you start asking for help, then it will show your incompetency, but when you ask for help at work after completing a major part of the work, then it will prove that you know your job well, … Be Reasonable – A request letter does not permit you to ask or demand for things that are not possible. I’m sure some of you reading would have nodded twice! We’re often reluctant to ask for help because of the social threats involved—uncertainty, risk of rejection, potential for diminished status, relinquishment of authority. First things first, you need to determine how you should approach … The helper must believe that you want help. Remember, however, that people don’t all have the same vision of positive identity, so tailor your message. 1. And in the workplace, where we’re typically keen to demonstrate as much expertise, competence, and confidence as possible, it can feel particularly uncomfortable to make such requests. I once dated a firefighter, and he imparted a piece of wisdom that I keep in mind to this day. Few will think less of you for needing assistance. In other words, explore all of the possible solutions—including the obvious ones. Perhaps more important, you can also use them in day-to-day interactions to prime the people around you for greater helpfulness. It brings out the best—and the best feelings—in all of us. Establish your credibility. The only way to get your need for support heard is to ask for it. Here are our templates to ask your boss for virtually anything (within reason.) When I explain to people how these strategies work in practice, I often give an example from my personal life, involving an IKEA bookshelf. But the reality is, we all need help sometimes, and learning to ask for it at work … Asking for support … So the first step is making people aware of your problem. The best way to reduce work-related stress is to ask for help from your co-workers. For example, research by Priyanka Carr and Greg Walton (a graduate student at the time), of Stanford University, shows that simply saying the word “together” can have an effect. You are always so helpful and generous” (positive identity). The helper must be able to provide what you need. Your input really helped my previous pitch to ABC succeed.”. As I’ve discovered, asking for assistance can be a powerful tool if you employ it strategically. If possible, also allow people to choose how they help you, and be willing to accept alternatives to your original request. Consider a study that Wharton’s Adam Grant conducted at an outbound call center in an educational and marketing software company. Hence, be both — a giver and a taker at the same time. But you can make any request seem more manageable by being explicit and detailed about what you are asking for, keeping the request reasonable, and staying open to receiving help that is different from what you asked for. And there is no better way to make someone feel good about himself or herself than to ask for it. Often it’s … A Swiss study published in 2017 found that people who simply pledge to spend even a small amount of money on someone else feel happier than those who plan to indulge only themselves.