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. 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. But the reality is, we all need help sometimes, and learning to ask for it at work … Instead take the time to ask potential helpers directly and with unique appeals. The helper must take responsibility for helping. 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. Dear [Your Supervisor/Boss’s Name], 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. Copyright © 2020 Harvard Business School Publishing. Now, nod again if you’ve ever felt shy or silly when doing so. is the tacit question hovering in most people’s … Determine Your Method. To ensure that your potential helpers know that their assistance will matter, be very clear about what you need and its projected impact. How to Ask for Help at Work Take an objective approach. Harvard Business Publishing is an affiliate of Harvard Business School. In other words, explore all of the possible solutions—including the obvious ones. When I explain to people how these strategies work in practice, I often give an example from my personal life, involving an IKEA bookshelf. How to Offer Help to Your Boss. People want to see the impact of the aid they give. This is an all-too-obvious step that’s often overlooked. I’ve seen employees become discouraged and frustrated when I’ve done work … While managers (myself included) appreciate dedication and diligence, we loathe inefficiency. 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). Plus, chances are, everyone will gain valuable experience and ultimately strengthen his or her base for a successful career. Gratitude is another powerful way to boost helpers’ positive identity. 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.”. 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. We may be reluctant to ask a dormant tie for help and assistance because we feel that they wouldn’t be receptive. I once dated a firefighter, and he imparted a piece of wisdom that I keep in mind to this day. Admitting you need help can be really hard, especially when you’re being paid for your competency. 2. Asking for help involves uncertainty and emotional risk. 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. This is particularly true for people in negative moods or positions of relative power over others. 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. 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. 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. You can allow people to experience the natural highs associated with helping. One reason is that the person asking was a long-standing friend with whom I enjoy spending time (in-group reinforcement). 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, … Don’t be afraid to ask for support- but do so at critical junction points. 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. 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. Enclosures – Always provide documents, if you have, in … Try keeping a journal. Even if you’re right, you should still ask for help, because doing so helps your employees grow. Few of us enjoy asking for help. 1. 4. If possible, also allow people to choose how they help you, and be willing to accept alternatives to your original request. He was describing th… 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? Clift... Stay engaged with your helpers. Just make sure you’re genuine when you make the request. Another group of people we often overlook are dormant ties, relationships that we had in the past. In other words, explore all of the possible solutions—including the obvious ones. Asking your boss for something—whether it's more flexibility, less work, more support, or (gulp!) 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. 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. This isn’t an ego thing. Asking for help is not the same as commiserating with your coworkers. The only way to get your need for support heard is to ask for it. Suddenly it was clear that everyone was on the same side. Clearly, people are much more likely to be helpful than we think they are. This isn’t an ego thing. 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. The best thing you can do is to come armed with a few potential solutions (even if you have no idea where to start). 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. How can you impose upon people without making them feel imposed upon? 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. Human beings are, as a rule, preoccupied with their own affairs. Somewhere, I had picked up the idea that asking for help was tantamount to admitting weakness, and ultimately, failure. By building … The first step to asking for help is to make sure you actually need it. Of course, all parties felt they were doing what was best for the company, but in their own ways. 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. However, it’s virtually impossible to advance in modern organizations without assistance from others. And finally, whenever we work together in this way, my friend always wraps up by saying something like “Heidi, thank you. The first step to asking for help is to make sure you actually need it. Solve the problem on your own. 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. You’re human, so mistakes are pretty much inevitable. 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. Over time, these strategies dramatically improved relations between the two teams, and the company saw increases in both client satisfaction and profitability. Asking for help can be a challenge, even outside of a pandemic. If you approach it cannily it shows that you are striving for the highest quality and … It won’t always work, but you’ll want to be damn sure you know it doesn’t before your boss tries it herself. As I’ve discovered, asking for assistance can be a powerful tool if you employ it strategically. 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. 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. OK, well, it technically is, but you know what I mean. Consider a study that Wharton’s Adam Grant conducted at an outbound call center in an educational and marketing software company. Eventually, the frustrated executive decided to take a fresh approach to getting the cooperation he needed from his colleagues. When you encounter a roadblock, try to get around it yourself before reaching out. My general rule of thumb is basically the "Three Strikes" rule. One of the biggest obstacles to helping is diffusion of responsibility. 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. She translates her 14-years of corporate combat experience to help others navigate their own careers, and become advocates for their own success. When a large assignment hits your already-full to-do list, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed,... Focus on priorities. The moral of the story? 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. The helper must realize that you need help. During the conversation, refer back to your priorities list and ask for help in triaging. In other words, they didn’t understand why their help was needed. It rarely ended well. This taps into the innate human need to belong to—and ensure the well-being of—supportive social circles. Reinforcements: How to Get People to Help You, Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, No One Understands You and What to Do About It. Asking for support … The first step is getting over your reluctance to ask for assistance. Establish your credibility. Say, “Have you noticed that we get interrupted all the time?” (shared experience). Be Reasonable – A request letter does not permit you to ask or demand for things that are not possible. Studies also suggest that we underestimate how much effort those who do agree to help will put in. 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. Career advice for women, Best careers for women, Career tips for women If I’ve learned anything during this past year at work, it’s this: You can and should ask for help. The helper must believe that you want help. They expect you to come to them, forgetting how reluctant most of us are to ask for help. That’s by using what I call reinforcements, or cues, which you can incorporate in specific requests. But you can ask for help in a way that avoids these pitfalls and instead gives people agency over their responses, allowing them to experience the natural highs associated with helping. 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. I’m sure some of you reading would have nodded twice! It brings out the best—and the best feelings—in all of us. Finally, you must learn the subtle cues that motivate people to support you and how to deliver them in the right way. 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. The first step to asking for help is to make sure you actually need it. People want to see or know the impact of the aid they will give. In fact, estimates suggest that as much as 75% to 90% of the help coworkers give one another is in response to direct appeals. 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). It’s even OK to admit that you can’t, in fact, do it all and do it all well. We may also worry about imposing on our coworkers if they say yes, and feeling awkward if they say no. Nod your head if you’ve ever had to ask for help at work, at home or anywhere else. Utilize your teammates, and ask questions. But without support from others, it’s virtually impossible to advance in your career. They saw their help land and felt its effectiveness. 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. … So how can you effectively ask for help? 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. 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. Earn responses to your requests by generously helping others in the first place. 3. So the first step is making people aware of your problem. 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