How to Effectively Ask for Help at Work

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

In this day and age, I find it so odd that people are not comfortable with speaking up at work when they need help.

I get that competition is high and that whether intentional or not, “leaders” end up pinning people on their teams against each other. (I put leaders in quotations because I don’t think REAL leaders pin their people against each other.)

I also understand that people don’t want to be singled out and treated like they are lacking in knowledge or skill to do their job correctly.

I can also admit those small business owners are overworked and tired and hire people to relieve some pressure. But none of us are all-knowing. None of us have a perfect day, every day.

So knowing all that, isn’t it still better to do the job correctly or better than doing a poor job? Why do we accept that Leaders can have mentors or coaches, but it’s not ok for anyone else? Whether you are a top dog or brand new to the workforce, we all will need help at some point in time.

Here are my thoughts on how to ask for help:

1. Create Relationships — Before anything, you should be creating strong relationships with your peers. That way help and support come naturally through conversations. Building relationships pull people together so everyone has the desire to see each other succeed

2. Don’t be Lazy — Don’t ask for help if you haven’t looked for the information yourself. Do your due diligence and look for the answers

3. Prepare to ask — I’m not saying make a plan or anything, but when you ask for help you need to complement the request with where you looked already or how you tried to solve the problem yourself. This narrows down the conversation so you get right to the point. (You aren’t wasting their time, by saying “tried that”.)

4. Preface your request — Make the statements prior to your request for help, even though it should be obvious:

  • “To avoid going down the rabbit hole…”

  • “I would prefer to do this correctly….”

  • “I think it’s important to have a second opinion…”

5. Challenge the challenger — Whether if it’s a senior person or peer, if you come up against a snarky doubter, try some of these statements:

  • “I don’t know that everyone can say they know everything and this is my opportunity to learn.”

  • “Not knowing isn’t a weakness, doing things incorrectly due to fear is a weakness.”

  • “I understand you feel I should know this, but would you prefer I learn the correct way or do it wrong causing re-work?”

  • “Asking a second time is my way of double-checking.”

  • “I value my team and my work and I believe asking for help is the right way to go.”

I know it may be difficult, but you should never fear asking for help. It doesn’t mean your weak, un-intelligent, that someone else is better or smarter than you or that you are lacking in any way.

Keep the thought that you want the best outcome for yourself and your team front-of-mind. If that means asking for help, then that’s what it means.