How to Ask for Help Without Annoying Your Coworkers
Seeking your co-workers’ assistance is OK. Passing the buck is not.
Imagine this: You're working on a big project for your boss when suddenly you realize you're never going to meet the deadline of getting the report to her before the meeting the next day. You should ask for help, but how can you ask your colleagues without seeming like you're incompetent or trying to dump your work on them?
Too often employees don't know if asking for help will be perceived positively or negatively, so they avoid asking. Lots of times, the reluctance to ask for help at work stems from employers that discourage the practice.
It doesn't have to be that way. Before you ask for help at work, here are a few actions to take that can increase your chances that you'll actually get help when you need it—without having your coworkers resent you.
Help Others Often
Lending a hand does wonders for building goodwill and being a good team member. By willingly helping others, you show you genuinely care about the team around you.
It's also the key to maintaining your reputation for competence. If you regularly offer to assist others, your occasional request for help won't undermine their confidence in you. Coworkers will figure that if you are asking a question, it's because you want to do the task correctly, not because you're unqualified.
Solve the Problem on Your Own
When you encounter a roadblock, try to get around it yourself before reaching out and asking for help from someone else.
Try coming up with three potential solutions and, if feasible, testing them out on your own. Then, if those approaches fail, present both the problem and solutions when you ask for help.
This keeps your helper from wasting time on things you already know didn't work and keeps you from coming across as lazy.
Find Solid Resources
Nobody has all the answers, but some people get to them quicker than others. From dictionaries to maps to money converters, it's good to have an online resource or two (or more) bookmarked to help make your life easier.
Stay Engaged with Your Helpers
A request for a colleague's help isn't a drive-thru task. You don't just place your order and wait until it's done.
You need to stay engaged with the person helping you while they're trying to solve the problem. Watch what they're doing, ask questions, and take notes. By observing how your colleague handles the problem, you're more likely going to be able to tackle the same issue in the future. That way you won't have to ask for help for the same issue twice.
Be Precise When Asking for Help
If you ask your coworker a broad or vague question, it may appear you're dumping the entire project at their feet. If there are 27 steps in your project and you're stuck on step 14, tell your colleague you need help with that one item, not the whole thing.
Asking specific questions reinforces to your colleague that you're totally engaged and actively trying to resolve the issue alongside them. After getting the help you need, be ready to step in and reclaim the project immediately—it's your responsibility and your colleague has other things on their plate.
Ask for Help Quietly, but Praise Loudly
Keep your need a little close to the vest. If you broadcast to everyone that you're stuck, you could be seen as a whiner or complainer. You don't want to come across as spending more time complaining than actually getting your work done.
Pick one or two people you think are the best resources to help you, rather than publicizing it to lots of coworkers. This reduces the possibility of too many people forming a negative opinion about your ability to do your job.
However, once you get the help you need, go ahead and share praise for your coworker with their supervisor. Your colleague will get credit for their teamwork, and you'll look confident enough in your ability to praise others for helping you.
Need Career Help? Ask Away
Asking for help can feel awkward, but when it comes to your career path, there are lots of answers right here on Monster. Want to know more? Check out all the free resources available to you, whether you want to find great companies to work for, or need tips on dealing with an annoying co-worker. We're always ready to help.