Asking for Help, Communication, Soft Skills, Interpersonal Skills, Millennials in the Workplace, Workplace Relations
WORKPLACE SUCCESS / 14 December 2016
The Right Way to Ask for Help in the Office
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Randy Han

Picture this: As you’re packing up your belongings and getting ready to leave work, you notice a packet on your desk and the title reads, “April 2016 Report”. You remember that your boss tasked you with that report and wanted it on his desk by May 1st and you think to yourself, “I’ve got plenty of time.” You pack up the rest of your belongings and start to head out the door when you take a glance at your calendar and realize that it’s April 30th.

Looks like you won’t be going home for a while.

It’s not unlikely that unexpected things like this happen. Whatever the case may be, whether we’re too proud, too independent, or just too afraid to ask, sometimes we really can’t do everything on our own and we need to ask for help. The good thing is, no one ever said you couldn’t ask for help. If you’re like me and you don’t like to ask for help, keep these simple things in mind. 


When I talk about prioritizing your tasks, I’m talking about prioritizing what you will need the most help on. There’s a good chance that you’ll need more help on your fifteen page report that’s due in two days than on a few documents that you need to sign (especially since you have to sign them yourself). Looking at it in a more objective perspective, getting help is like acquiring another resource for you to use, so why not use that resource to its fullest potential. There’s no rule that says if someone agrees to help you, you have to give them the easiest thing to do. Let’s face it, if that were the case, we might as well not ask for help at all. It’s perfectly fine to have someone help you on a big project as long as you let them know the situation. Remember, if they didn’t want to help you, they wouldn’t have agreed to in the first place. 

Don’t Feel Like a Burden

If you’re like me, then you hate asking for help for one main reason: you feel like a burden to others. This is pretty common for people to feel like when they ask for help simply because when people ask for help, they start to feel like they’re dragging people down with them. They feel more like a liability than anything else. It’s a perfectly normal way to feel, but it needs to stop. The best way to get over this feeling is simply to just accept the fact that you’re only human. Just like how people are allowed to make mistakes, you’re allowed to ask for help. Obviously if you could finish the job on your own then you’re going to. But if you put in your best effort and you really can’t finish it on your own, then who can blame you? Don’t sell yourself short because you need help. Once we start to feel better about the idea of asking for help, the next question is, how do you go about it? There are two points that I want to address. 

The Situation

No, I’m not talking about Mike from Jersey Shore. I’m talking about the actual situation you’re in. When you ask for help, you always want to let the person you’re asking know exactly what’s going on. 

There’s nothing worse in a business setting than miscommunication. You could be working as a janitor, in a restaurant, or even working as a senior partner for Apple. If there is no communication, then you will be doomed to fail. Make sure you always fully explain your situation to whoever you ask for help. Whatever message you’re trying to get across, make sure that by the end of your conversation, the person who you ask for help knows what’s going on. Not only will that person understand the current situation, but that person will also know whether or not to make any adjustments to his or her current schedule in order to fully help you. Keep in mind that if you’re hiding something from the person who’s helping you, not only is that hurting your chances to finish whatever project you’re working on, but also shows that you don’t fully trust your coworkers who are willing to help you. 

Be Professional

When you ask for help, always keep in mind that you are the one who is asking for help and that if someone agrees to help you, they are taking time out of their schedule (this applies even if you are asking your friend or mentor for help!). It’s important to respect that. No one has to agree to help you, but they do because they ultimately care about you and don’t want to see you fail. But that doesn’t mean you should take advantage of them nor does that mean you can start taking it easy. If you start doing any of these things, remember this: they don’t have to help you all the way. It’s a simple thing to remember, but it’s also very easy to overlook. 

Some important things to note when you ask for help are to always accommodate to them and to respect their own work as well. When you ask for help, always make sure to accommodate to their schedule; they should never have to move around their schedule for you, it’s just common courtesy since you’re the one who needs their help. This also ties into respecting their work. They have deadlines too, don’t forget that. They need to have time to do their own work as well; don’t take advantage of their time.   

So Now What?

 We’re only human; we can’t do everything by ourselves. It’s perfectly fine to ask for help from time to time. My advice: work on developing better relationships with your coworkers. I’d rather ask for help from a good friend of mine rather than ask Bob in Human Resources 20 floors below me. That stronger friendship yields a deeper trust and it’ll just make asking for help when you need it more comfortable. Not only that, but they’ll understand the importance of your asking them for help because of how close you are; they know you don’t ask for help often and when you do it’s because of something serious. 

Just remember to keep it professional and ask away!   

Want more tips on how to conduct yourself professionally in a workplace? Read here!