The Right Way to Ask for Help at Work
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... activates the same brain regions that physical pain does. And in the workplace, where we’re typically keen to demonstrate as much expertise, competence, and confidence as possible, it can feel particularly uncomfortable to make such requests.
The key to a successful request for help is to shift the focus to the benefits of helping. You want people to feel that they would be helping because they want to, not because they must, and that they’re in control of the decision.
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Don't try and convince someone how much they will enjoy helping you. It reeks of control and is presumptive. It drains their joy out of helping.
How they feel is for them to decide.
One common tactic is to portray the help we need as so small, that it is barely a favor. "Would you add these updates to the database? It won’t take you more than five minutes.”
It is conveying that you think the work the other person does is easy, quick, trivial and not very taxing. That’s not a great way to enlist help. You might also underestimate the size of the favor. Do not presume it won’t take them very long the next time you ask them for help.
While reciprocity does make people more likely to comply with the request, it also makes us feel controlled, which takes all the fun out of it.
Reminding someone that they owe you a favor does not create good feelings. Scorekeeping is fundamentally bad for relationships.
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It’s best to ask one person instead of a group. Pick someone who you think can help you the most, or at least send individual requests to several people at once instead of dropping a li...
... be specific about what you want.
Don't use phrases like “Can you do me a favor? ", because they are manipulative - they force someone to commit before you tell them what it is you need. A simple “Can you help me with [specific thing]?” will do.
When you ask for help, give the person some kind of timeframe or soft deadline. Phrases like “whenever you can” put more pressure on the person who is already doing you a favor.
It’s also nice to offer them a way out if you know they’re busy. It ensures your request for help doesn’t feel like a demand.
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