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. How to Ask for Help at Work Take an objective approach. The key to a successful request for help is to shift the focus to these benefits. This taps into the innate human need to belong to—and ensure the well-being of—supportive social circles. 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. Consider a study that Wharton’s Adam Grant conducted at an outbound call center in an educational and marketing software company. Use the "foot-in-the-door" or the "door-in-the-face." It brings out the best—and the best feelings—in all of us. Plus, chances are, everyone will gain valuable experience and ultimately strengthen his or her base for a successful career. 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. Another group of people we often overlook are dormant ties, relationships that we had in the past. Solve the problem on your own. That’s in part because saying no or helping only halfheartedly carries a psychological cost that we tend to discount. Be Reasonable – A request letter does not permit you to ask or demand for things that are not possible. People are surprisingly willing to give support—if you ask for it in the right way. Determine Your Method. And finally, whenever we work together in this way, my friend always wraps up by saying something like “Heidi, thank you. 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. 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. Nod your head if you’ve ever had to ask for help at work, at home or anywhere else. 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. The first step to asking for help is to make sure you actually need it. Copyright © 2020 Harvard Business School Publishing. Asking for help can feel vulnerable. He was describing th… People want to see the impact of the aid they give. June 27, 2018 / by Rohina Tags: help, help at work. How can you impose upon people without making them feel imposed upon? 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. The trick here is knowing when it’s time to suck it up, swallow your pride, and admit you’re stuck. Career advice for women, Best careers for women, Career tips for women 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. 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. Studies also suggest that we underestimate how much effort those who do agree to help will put in. Not anymore! 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. When I explain to people how these strategies work in practice, I often give an example from my personal life, involving an IKEA bookshelf. The best way to reduce work-related stress is to ask for help from your co-workers. You don’t just place your... Be precise in your ask. 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. ... Offer solutions. And there is no better way to make someone feel good about himself or herself than to ask for it. A classic error is asking for help via group e-mail. Asking for help can be a challenge, even outside of a pandemic. So how can you effectively ask for help? Your supervisor may perceive you as incompetent. 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. During the conversation, refer back to your priorities list and ask for help in triaging. As I quickly learned, this didn’t actually earn me any points with anyone. 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. We may also worry about imposing on our coworkers if they say yes, and feeling awkward if they say no. Just make sure you’re genuine when you make the request. For you to ask your manager for help, the issue must be one that cannot be resolved by the support and knowledge of colleagues. The first step to asking for help is to make sure you actually need it. You’re human, so mistakes are pretty much inevitable. 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. Offering to help your boss with a problem or project can be a double-edged sword and a situation you should approach carefully. When you next find yourself in need of help, remember that people are willing to give it much more often than not. Your input really helped my previous pitch to ABC succeed.”. To ask for help at work and lend the same is very quintessential key for success at workplace. 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. So why was the DIY request an easy yes? 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. Employees knew that the revenue they generated supported jobs in another department, with which they’d previously had no contact. First things first, you need to determine how you should approach … Full Information – It is always required to provide all the information related to your issue. 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. Now, when you know you need to ask for help, don’t just go knocking on your manager’s door to surrender. These are sneaky tactics and should be … People want to see or know the impact of the aid they will give. 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. There are several ways to do this. People are busy, and not all of them have the skills or the resources to help you. 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. The helper must be able to provide what you need. 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. All rights reserved. Hence, be both — a giver and a taker at the same time. They saw their help land and felt its effectiveness. Jennifer’s your girl. Asking for support … But, it’s … The only way to get your need for support heard is to ask for it. You are always so helpful and generous” (positive identity). It wasn’t until I had a team of my own to manage that I realized that there’s real value in admitting “Hey! 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. The helper must take responsibility for helping. 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. Your request could be rejected. But it’s also because most helpers know—even if only subconsciously—that giving freely and effectively of themselves has emotional benefits. 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. When you just keep giving and never ask for anything, people would want to reciprocate it. 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. Dear [Your Supervisor/Boss’s Name], One reason is that the person asking was a long-standing friend with whom I enjoy spending time (in-group reinforcement). 4. 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. 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. However, it’s virtually impossible to advance in modern organizations without assistance from others. Be honest with yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for support- but do so at critical junction points. To ensure that your potential helpers know that their assistance will matter, be very clear about what you need and its projected impact. 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. Now, nod again if you’ve ever felt shy or silly when doing so. 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. 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. Need help negotiating that raise or writing the perfect email to your boss? 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). When it comes to asking for help at work, some approaches are more fruitful than others, experts say, and what you ask for matters less than the way you ask it. 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. That’s by using what I call reinforcements, or cues, which you can incorporate in specific requests. If you’ve got the leverage of being a hi-po, use it. 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. Lack of support often comes from lack of effective communication. In fact, estimates suggest that as much as 75% to 90% of the help coworkers give one another is in response to direct appeals. How to Offer Help to Your Boss. I once dated a firefighter, and he imparted a piece of wisdom that I keep in mind to this day. It’s even OK to admit that you can’t, in fact, do it all and do it all well. Before you start banging your shoulder—or head—against a door, make sure you’ve tried to open it the old-fashioned way first. 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. My general rule of thumb is basically the "Three Strikes" rule. Establish your credibility. You can allow people to experience the natural highs associated with helping. 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. 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. Few of us enjoy asking for help. 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. Gratitude is another powerful way to boost helpers’ positive identity. Ask for Help at Work Overcome your reluctance and discover how kind other people are. The first step is getting over your reluctance to ask for assistance. For example, if a senior management team includes only two women, don’t just say, “We’re the only two women on the team” (emphasizing the trait). 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. The helper must believe that you want help. This is an all-too-obvious step that’s often overlooked. When you encounter a roadblock, try to get around it yourself before reaching out. The moral of the story? Finally, you must learn the subtle cues that motivate people to support you and how to deliver them in the right way. Enclosures – Always provide documents, if you have, in … Even if you’re right, you should still ask for help, because doing so helps your employees grow. 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