How to Ask for Help at Work

by | Mar 17, 2021

how to ask for help at work

We all need help from time to time. But asking for it can be hard, especially in the workplace. Asking for help brings a “social threat” or perceived judgment that we aren’t willing to risk. If you want to grow, improve, and advance, however, it’s time to know how to ask for help at work. 

In truth, we’re dependent on one another to be the best version of ourselves and produce the best outcome at work. Estimates suggest that as much as 75% to 90% of the help co-workers give one another is in because of a direct ask for help at work. No matter what kind of organization you work for, you need good communication and help to get things done. You need to know how to ask for help at work to optimize performance, engagement, and outcomes. 

Here are a few tips to overcome the barriers that may be preventing you from asking for help at work. 

Lean into the natural high

People like to help. A review of several studies from Cornell University suggests that people are 48% more likely to say yes to a request for help than the help seeker expected. There’s a natural high associated with helping, so people want to say yes when you ask for help at work or in life because it makes them feel good. Knowing the likelihood of this response can help you overcome the fear of rejection. 

Choose your words wisely

Freedom of choice is another important component of getting a yes and overcoming the barrier you may feel to ask for help at work. If someone feels “trapped” they are less likely to respond positively to your request. When you preface your request for help with a “can I ask you for a favor” or “I feel terrible for asking this” or “I don’t normally ask for help,” you minimize or trap the other person into saying yes. Be direct and eliminate these extra apologies. 

Invite partnership 

When you use the word “together” in your request you open the door to ask for help at work. Research at Stanford found that when people believed they were working in tandem with other participants on a puzzle solving challenge, they worked 48% longer, solved more problems correctly and were less depleted than those who thought they were working alone. Working toward a common goal and bringing others into a shared experience with you will help you overcome the fear you may have to ask for help at work. 

Meet regularly with your team

Whether it’s a daily stand-up or a one-on-one with your boss, meeting regularly with people on your team opens the door to ask for help at work. These meetings are geared toward “how can I help you” and “what are you working on” conversations. The collaborative brainstorming that takes place in these settings will help you ask for help at work. Remember that working toward a shared goal brings unity and better problem-solving. 

As you’re learning how to ask for help at work, pick one tip to try today. What other tips do you have that help you ask for help at work? Let us know!

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