How to Ask for Help

October 3, 2021

Overwhelmed?  Experiencing work overload?  Up to your neck and can’t seem to tread water?  In the weeds and no way out?

There are tons of expressions to describe that feeling.  The gnawing, knowing feeling that you have too much work on your plate.  So, if we all experience it, what is the solution?   That depends.

If this is on-going and constant, then a heart-to-heart talk with your boss is in order.  Go prepared with the facts.  Explain exactly what is happening and be prepared with specific examples.  It may simply be that your job has grown to the point that it’s no longer just one person’s job but morphed into something more.  That is something you and your boss (and the company or organization) will ultimately decide.

On the other hand, if this feeling of too much work and not enough time is temporary in nature there is a simple solution.    Ask for help!  That’s right just let other(s) know you need their help.

We all have a natural reluctance to ask for help.   Asking for help may be perceived (by ourselves) as a sign of weakness or inability.  That is simply not true.  There are times when special projects or circumstance require us to ask for help.  Following these simple guidelines will help you to become a better requestor of help.

  1. Ask in person.  Face to face.  It’s simply better.  Try to avoid asking for help via email, etc. Asking in person allows you to fully explain the exact reasons you need help and specifically what help you need from the other person. 
  2.  For the person being asked of help, it can become a great experience.  They may have an opportunity now to share their expertise or skills or maybe they have the change to learn something new.  No matter what it always just “feels good” to help someone else.   Plus, it shows them that asking for help is okay to do.
  3. Don’t apologize for asking for help.  If it is truly needed, there is nothing wrong in requesting assistance.  In fact, it shows that you care about your work and are strong enough to speak up.
  4. It’s not transactional.  Don’t make it “If you do this, then I’ll help you in the future…”  Simply ask for their help with no obligations for future paybacks. 
  5. Once they have started on the task requested of them, check on them and see if there is anything more, they need from you.  Plus, you can make sure they are headed in the right direction and fully understood what you were asking of them.   It’s not intended to be “checking on them”, but more importantly to make sure you have supplied them with the right info they need.
  6. Let them know the outcome.  When it’s all said and done be sure to follow up with them and let them know how things turned out.  Maybe buy them a cup of coffee or a lunch is in order to say thanks and let them know how the project came in on time due to their help.
  7. Don’t make asking for help a regular habit.  If you always ask peers for help that can be a signal that you are not “carrying your load” or maybe that your job is more than you can handle. 

Leaders this applies to you and your team.  Pay attention to the signals they are sending you and their workload.  Some folks will truly try to tackle anything, and everything given to them and NEVER say a word.  They want to be the superhero.  Pay attention and check on them.  Make sure you haven’t overwhelmed them with new tasks, responsibilities, etc. 

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