How to Ask for Assistance at Work
When applying for a new job, you spend weeks trying to convince the company in question that you are seven feet tall and bulletproof. You can’t show any signs of weakness, and you have to convince everyone involved that you could probably do the job with your eyes closed.
Six months down the line, you’re established in the office, you’ve remembered most people’s names and you hit your first hurdle.
When the time comes to ask for help at work, it can be difficult to let your guard down and take the steps needed to resolve the problem.
The fear of showing weakness at work often prevents individuals from having honest and frank conversations with their bosses. This is unfortunate, because you can only imagine how productive and stress-free your work day would be if you had an opportunity to open up about the support you need!
A bad experience with a poor management figure is often enough to stop people from wanting to ask for help again in future.
If anyone has even made you feel like you aren’t qualified enough because you’ve asked for help, you will be familiar with this feeling. The onus is just as much on the employer to ensure they provide a construct that allows criticism and room for improvement.
You might have a formal review process that allows you to voice any worries about your work, but if this only comes around once a year, you might need to schedule a chat sooner.
If you’re worried about asking for help at work, make sure you can answer these questions before you open your mouth…
1. Do you need help or a rant?
It’s easy to get frustrated with work. We’ve all been in situations where we feel powerless and worry that our bosses are asking too much of us.
If you feel that your health is at risk or if you are frequently stressed about work outside of the office it might be time to have a conversation with your employer. However, if you are just tired of the red tape or processes, this might not be a situation your employer can help with.
They are unlikely to want to change processes just because they frustrate you. Have a think about if you need to speak to your boss in the office or rant to your friends at the bar.
2. Do you know the outcome you want?
Walking into an HR meeting to demand something that you can’t put into words is a surefire way to get yourself labelled as a difficult employee. Before you walk into your meeting, make a plan about what you would like to achieve.
If you complain about your workload but can’t offer any constructive ideas for how your boss could ease the pressure on your shoulders, then you aren’t likely to get very far.
You will need to decide if your problem is internal or external, meaning, is it something to do with your ability to do your job, or are external factors impacting your work?
If you need help handling a difficult colleague, or if you feel that you need more training to be able to do your job effectively, your employer may appreciate you taking the initiative to ask for help.
3. Is it really something your boss can help with?
If you are struggling to work with a particular colleague then it might be something you just have to deal with.
Asking for help in this way can be seen as a thinly veiled complaint, and not getting along with your colleague isn’t something that your boss can really help with.
Unless your colleague is acting in a way that is illegal or damaging the company, it’s unlikely that your boss will care that your personalities clash. If the person in question clashes with multiple people or is a big disruption for the team, this could be a wholly different situation.
4. Have you tried to solve the problem yourself?
There’s a fine line between looking for a solution and being a martyr. You should always give yourself time to investigate ways you can solve the problem yourself, but once you’ve exhausted all ideas, it’s time to ask for help.
This can also help to steer the conversation as you will be able to outline what you have done to solve the problem. Your employer will appreciate your initiative, and it can help them to find a solution if you’ve already tried a few different ways to solve your problem.
5. Have you kept a record of your attempts?
A problem many employees face when trying to escalate a problem to higher levels of management is that they don’t keep accurate records. If your performance is brought into question and you defend yourself by saying that you have asked for help, this can be difficult to prove without a paper trail.
A lot of people feel the need to ask for help because they fear that their work performance is suffering. If this is the case and your performance is criticised in a professional manner, you will be much more likely to keep your job if you’ve kept accurate records of your attempts to get help.
Even if you only ever speak person-to-person, always send a follow-up email to thank them for their time and confirm the issues you raised.
6. Are your rights being infringed?
Understanding the difference between keeping up with the demands of a busy role and having your workers’ rights infringed is essential.
If you are asking for help in the form of flexible working, you may have a legal right to do so, and any requests of this nature will need to be given due attention by your employer. If you aren’t satisfied with your employers response to your request, you may have ground to make a legal complaint.
Speak to a local dispute resolution solicitors if you are unsure about your rights.
While we’d all like to think that we would get the help that we need if we ask, but it isn’t always this simple.
Some employers simply don’t want to know if their employees are struggling because they believe they should only be paying people who won’t struggle.
This is a horrible situation to be in, but if your employer doesn’t want to support your needs, you might be better off finding a new place to work.
There are plenty of companies out there who will value your skills and insight, so it might be time to start looking!
On the other hand, try to form healthy friendships at your place at work. Research has shown that employees who have friends or spouses at work are much happier and 7x more likely to be engaged.
Our friends at Good&Co created this inforgraphic below on workplace friendships to show the impact of building friendships at work, how it increases job satisfaction, engagement and reduces staff turnover.