Career

At Work: How to Ask for Help

We’ve all been there. The feelings of overwhelm; of confusion; of not even knowing why you feel the way you do.

In these times, do you reach out for a life buoy?

I’m definitely guilty of a negative answer to that question. I usually think I can do it all myself, or I worry about being a bother and so I just attempt to figure it all out on my own. But being able to ask for help is just as important as being self-sufficient.

If you’re a little like me, and you struggle to reach out, then read on. I’ve shared here some of the ways I have learned (and am still learning) to ask for help so that maybe it isn’t quite so daunting next time you feel like you’re drowning.

When you’re stuck

One of the more difficult situations we find ourselves in at work is when we’re struggling, but we don’t even know what the problem is, let alone the solution. It doesn’t feel like there’s a way forward; the classic “I’m stuck”.

I struggle in this situation. I hate presenting a problem to someone without a suggested solution. Weird, I know, but that’s me.

I’m learning that sometimes it’s OK to go to someone and say, “I need help” without any idea of the answer. Talk through your problem and describe why you’re struggling. We can lean on our team’s collective knowledge and experience to help us first identify and describe the problem, and then find a workable solution.

When you’re busy

We all like to have purpose and enough on our to-do list to keep us happily occupied. But when that to-do list turns into a beast and brings tears to your eyes just thinking about it (guilty), do not think it is weakness to ask for help.

Although I’ve learned the hard way, I think it is important to voice your concerns to your manager, even if it is to have a discussion regarding your workload. If you feel overwhelmed but also unsure if it is a rational feeling, have a chat, go through your to-do list, and ask for support to get through your tasks if you need it.

When you don’t know something

It’s OK to not know something. In fact, I’d be surprised if you told me you knew everything and most likely accuse you of being an alien life-form.

I know it can be hard when you feel there are expectations on you and your assumed knowledge, but if you’ve had a go yourself first, if you’ve already done a little research, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying you don’t know, you don’t understand, or you’re unsure. As they say, there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

Asking for help builds relationships, breaks down invisible barriers, and shows that you aren’t too proud to try and do it all yourself. It can be hard, but we’re meant to work together, not alone.