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The Right Way to Ask for Help at Work

By | Jennifer Winter |

I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but at some point in my career, I started to believe “help” was a four-letter word. OK, well, it technically is, but you know what I mean. Somewhere, I had picked up the idea that asking for help was tantamount to admitting weakness, and ultimately, failure.

It wasn’t until I had a team of my own to manage that I realized that there’s real value in admitting “Hey! I need help.” I had a few employees who were in their first jobs out of college, and, to put it bluntly, they had a lot to learn. 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. It rarely ended well.

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. Plus, chances are, everyone will gain valuable experience and ultimately strengthen his or her base for a successful career.

After spending some time gauging my own reactions when my team approached me for assistance—or didn’t—I’ve been able to pull out a few key tips that I now use whenever I need a little help myself.

1. Try, Then Pry

The first step to asking for help is to make sure you actually need it. In other words, explore all of the possible solutions—including the obvious ones. It only takes one time for your manager to ask you, “Why didn’t you try X?” to realize how much it pays off to check the simple solutions off your list.

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