Admitting you need help can be really hard, especially when you’re being paid for your competency. But the reality is, we all need help sometimes, and learning to ask for it at work will make things better for everyone.
We don’t control who our co-workers are, for the most part; if you’re lucky, you’re part of a good team that supports each other. If not, you might be worried that showing any vulnerability will have the rest of the pack turning on you. However, Quartz writer and CEO Andrea Goeglein makes a convincing argument for why it’s worth the risk.
Workplace culture varies widely across fields, but most people would agree that there isn’t a lot of room for human weakness in most offices. For the emotionally intelligent person, however, a little vulnerability can actually give you a surprising amount of power.
Most Fears Are Internal
We tend to manifest our anxieties by imagining catastrophic consequences to our actions. At the most basic level, remember that you’re probably afraid of rejection. If you ask for help and someone says no, it’s gonna suck. Goeglein writes that we should instead consider the consequences of not asking:
At a minimum, rejection will feel miserable and will most likely add to the pressure you’re feeling. These might all seem like good reasons not to ask for help, but they are not. The cliché, “You can make excuses or achieve your goals but you cannot do both,” needs to guide you. Consider what will happen if you don’t ask for help. Burnout ensues.
Your fear may be preventing you from solving your problems, so let go of them.
You’re Building Trust
Showing vulnerability builds trust — you’re showing a new side of yourself to someone. If you’re always withholding and aloof, your co-workers won’t know if you have their back. Someone has to take the first step, and reachin out can be a chance to get closer:
Rather than viewing asking for help as a sign of weakness, see it as an opportunity to grow. You will also be developing an opportunity to show gratitude to a co-worker. Gratitude not only makes the receiver feel good but enhances the positive emotions of the giver.
The next time your co-worker needs help, they’ll also feel more comfortable coming to you. Then it’s your turn to soak up the gratitude. That’s how we build lasting networks in our careers, as well as the office.
Maybe you just need to share the burden on projects, but it’s also great to ask for help with things you really don’t understand or have the capacity for — yet. Swallowing any pride or anxiety means being open to learning which in the end makes yourself more valuable in your field.
Consider How You Ask
If you’ve accepted there are benefits that outweigh the risks, Goeglein offers some language for how to get the help you need. You can’t come at someone with emotion or a chip on your shoulder, she writes:
Frame your request with a statement such as, “I need your help. I have tried these solutions and they have not worked. Do you have a suggested course of action?” Or say, “I need your expertise. I know you have faced a situation like this before, will you share with me what has worked?” Make the request short, clear, and free of emotional upset. Language matters.
It may be difficult for you, but the more neutral and to the point your request is, the less of a big deal it will be to the person you’re asking. Because it’s really not a big deal to need help at all.