how to ask for help at work?

Few of us feel comfortable asking for help - especially in the workplace where we are eager to demonstrate our competencies and expertise. We fear that reaching out for help at work can make us appear weak, vulnerable, and ineffective. But in an increasingly connected and interdependent business world, success is often a joint effort achieved as a result of collaboration. In fact, today’s agile and cross-functional work models encourage and reward workers who are unafraid to seek help.  While the fear of accumulating social debts or people rejecting your request can be powerful deterrents,  seeking assistance or support is critical to your performance as well as career goals.

The following tips can help you overcome your inhibitions about asking for assistance – be it advice, referrals, or additional resources to complete a project or to look for job vacancies.

First, build a reputation for being helpful: Workplaces are filled with surprises, constantly pushing us into situations that are unfamiliar to us. No matter the skills or the level of experience, at some point, everyone is bound to need help. To get help, first, capitalize on the opportunities to help others. Work towards building a reputation of being helpful. Human beings are naturally wired to repay and reciprocate favours. By helping others, you are preparing the ground to get the help you need, when you need it. One word of caution though. Reputation of any kind is short-lived, so work on maintaining continuity in supporting others.

Be clear on what you need: Many a time people fail to get the help they need because they are not clear about their own requirements. For someone to be able to assist you, you need to articulate your request well. The best way to do this is by getting a comprehensive view of your current project and outlining the goals you want to achieve. At the end of the exercise, you will have a clear vision of the areas where you have ready resources available and the ones where you need assistance. It might also help to proactively list some possible solutions that you could explore when you reach out to seek help.

Avoid prejudging people’s reaction: Many a time, we shy away from asking for help because of our presumptions about how people might react. Sometimes we may need help from people we do not interact much with. The natural assumption is that our request will get rejected. This is a gross underestimation of people’s willingness to help. People experience a natural high from helping others and are often willing to help wherever they can - just because it makes them feel good. However, it’s important to ensure that you make people feel like they are in control and they are helping you because they want to. Even if the people you approach are unable to help, they can introduce you to their network consisting of many able hands that can provide the support you are looking for.

Initiate a culture of helping in your circle: Inculcate an environment of helpfulness around you by being open about the help you need and also being approachable to others. For this, you need to develop certain attributes. Set the right tone as you strike conversations, stay committed to the promises of support you make to others, and never forget to show your gratitude to the people who have hand-held you. These tiny steps can help create an environment of psychological safety around you, making it easy for you to reach out to others in the time of need.

Offering and receiving help invokes a culture of positivity and trust – two fundamental pillars to accelerate productivity. Citing a common goal, convincing people that they are in unique position to help, and showing them the impact, they can make, are some effective ways to ensure that you get timely assistance. Finally, don’t forget to stay flexible. Allow your helpers to choose how they want to help you and be open to accepting alternative forms of help. 
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