How to Ask for Help at Work


The work place can be a tricky setting when it comes to asking for help. Primarily, it is because there are often no clearly defined rules as to how, when, and who to ask for some assistance. Of course, there are exceptions, for instance, when an employee is new, and it is acceptable and even expected that he or she will ask for help on his or her first few days.

On the other hand, the tricky part comes when, for instance, you have been in a job for so long that no one expects you to ask for help. The predominant mentality is that people who have been in a job for so long are expected to have mastered their line of work already.

Help at Work

Determine what you need help on

Then again, there are fields and settings that learning absolutely everything is not possible. There are always novel circumstances that no other thing could have prepared you for. There are always new trends that they did not teach in school. There are always tricky situations with brand new twists that you have not encountered before. And unless you lie and say that you’re perfect, asking for help at work is inevitable.

The uncertain relationships at work can be a hindrance to asking for help. The fact that you have to act professionally around people means it is hard to gauge them as to how receptive they will be in giving you help. And you will certainly not ask for help if you know you won’t get it in the first place.

Try everything yourself first

The moment something arises that appears to need someone else’s look, the first thing to consider is whether you have exhausted all efforts to solve it yourself. The belief that there are no stupid questions comes into play. There is nothing more bothersome than a co-worker seeking your help unnecessarily or with a subject that he or she could have resolved himself or herself.

If the issue is in terms of content or general information or you just need to answer a quick trivia, it is usually online. Use search engines to figure out answers to some of your questions, if it does not pertain to procedural or work-specific matters. A few minutes lost to such useless question can pile up and amount to a significant amount of time lost.

Also, companies often provide manuals or general guidelines for your line of work. If you’ve been in the job for so long, it can be advisable to consult that for that detail which you may have forgotten already.

Determine who to ask and then ask

Once you figure out that you definitely need help, the next thing to determine is who to ask. The rule of thumb is to ask someone with the same designation but has more seniority and has been in the job longer. Also, it is normally not advisable to ask someone who is above you in the organization tree, but this is acceptable if no one in your level can work out the problem.

When you are convinced that it is proper to ask and you are approaching the right person, ask. Do not be defensive but at the same time admit that you need help. Remember that while it is not party of anyone’s job description to help out a co-worker, almost everyone has gone through the same stage when they needed help at the office so do not be defensive or overly apologetic. Finally, take note of their input so you don’t have to ask for the same information repeatedly.

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Filed Under: Work & Careers

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About the Author: Vanessa Page works a career counselor in one of the leading firms in Los Angeles. She is also a blogger and gives tips on how people can tackle their work and career issues. She has 8 years of experience in this field.

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