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Need to ask for help at work?

7th April 2015

5 Top Tips on how to ask for help the right way

Stories about the daily stress and challenges faced by teachers in the classroom appear all too often in the press.

I saw an article in the Guardian on 19th March commenting on the teacher’s demanding workloads and the pressures and stress involved with looking after the progress of each and every child.  As a result, many training places left unfilled as potential teachers are concerned about the negative stories associated with the job.

As John Hawson says in the article, “As we’ve become more concerned about the progress of every single child, the job has become more stressful. The government should look at how it can help teachers with that burden. He continues,  “That will undoubtedly reduce the negative stories that are going around. We need to work with the teacher associations to see what can be done to improve workload, in such a way that teachers feel they’re not overstressed.”

You may not be a teacher in a school or college when you read this blog, but many of the issues faced by teachers in the education environment will also be shared in a business workplace. If you’re struggling with your workload or a particular task, it can be difficult to ask your boss or colleagues for help.

But asking for help in the right way can make you look like you are in control, and can help you seem focused and dignified.

And by equal measure, asking in the wrong way could make others think that you don’t have control over your emotions or that you’re unable to handle the stress of your job.

So with all this in mind, here are 5 top tips on how to ask for help the right way:-

  1. We all need a helping hand

Seeking help makes most of us feel uncomfortable, vulnerable or weak – and especially if we’re in a management role. We may think that seeing help undermines our independence and our ability to cope. But be realistic and recognise that no one can completely go it alone – we all need to cooperate together and we all need a little help along the way. Even the CEO of a multinational needs help!

It’s essential to learn how to ask for help when you need it, especially when risks are involved.

Would you rather get the help you need, or jeopardise your credibility by missing key guidelines, producing poor-quality work or letting your colleagues down?

Asking people for help is often a sign of good judgement. It shows that you care about doing your work correctly, so your team or organisation succeeds.

  1. Watch words and emotions

Control your words and emotions – only ask for help when you’re fully in control of your words and emotions.

If you become anxious or emotional it may not only damage your reputation but make the other person reluctant to help.

  1. Think of solutions

Show responsibility. Explain what steps you’ve already taken or tried before seeing out help.

Try to identify some possible solutions, especially if you’re asking your boss or senior colleagues for help.

For example, don’t simply say, “I can’t handle my workload.”

Instead say, “I think that handing over Project A to Richard will help me put my full focus on Projects B and C.”

Developing potential solutions shows that you’ve tried to solve the problem yourself. It’s also more flattering too, because the other person will feel that you’re asking them for advice, not to do your job.

  1. Be specific

Be specific about what sort of help you really need, from whom and for how long.

Don’t make a vague request such as, “I need help with this report,” or “I just can’t cope with these customers any more.”

Instead, explain precisely what you need. “I’m having difficulty creating the statistics for this report” or “I would really appreciate your help in how to manage a complaining customer. Can you please help me with that?”

  1. Be timely

Many bosses operate a ‘no surprises’ rule – they’d far rather be alerted to a problem early than be surprised by (and perhaps embarrassed by) a missed deadline.

By asking your boss for help in a timely and appropriate manner you will show that you respect this.

If you ask for help soon enough, what seems to be a problem may turn out not even to be a problem! But if left long enough, something small may turn into a huge problem.

Get help as soon as possible.  And asking for help almost always means that you will learn something new.


Want to read the rest of the Top Tips on how to ask for help at work?

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