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Why it’s So Hard to Ask for Help

Have you ever felt swamped in your work, but were afraid to ask for help? Well, you’re not alone. According to a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review, out of 500 participants, nearly two-thirds reported that they would prefer to finish their work without assistance from coworkers, even if they were drowning in their work. There are different reasons people are slow to ask for help. The same study noted that employees who don’t ask for help often worry about owing their coworkers a future favor, while others were concerned that accepting help would hurt their reputations as “high potential” employees. When it comes down to it, asking for help is often perceived as weakness, especially in the workplace. But, when done right, asking for help can actually improve workplace culture. If you ever find yourself needing help and afraid to ask for it, here are a few tips that might help: Know Your Limits It can be difficult to know when it’s the right time to ask for help. The voices in our heads can be quick to say, “try harder.” However, there’s a line between working hard to find a solution and becoming inefficient. It’s a good idea to reach out for help once you feel like you’ve exhausted all of your options and your inspiration and creativity have run dry. Explore Your Options There are few things worse than asking for help when you had the answers all along. If it’s a matter of getting things done versus figuring them out, know exactly what you need when you ask for it. A good guideline to asking for help, is sticking to S.M.A.R.T. requests. This means that what you’re asking for will be Specific, Meaningful, Action-oriented, Real, and Timely. Ask the Right Person Your boss might not always be an appropriate default resource. While bosses should always be open for communication, there might be other people who are right for the job. Mentors both in and out of the workplace can be great resources to tap into when you’re looking for guidance. If what you’re asking is more of a hands-on/ get-it-done task, then a coworker may be appropriate. Encourage Asking for Help Asking coworkers for help can contribute to improving workplace culture. When employees feel supported and safe at their workplace, they’re more likely to do their best work. Consider making yourself available to others and offering help when it’s appropriate for you.


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