How To Ask For Help at Work

Every company is contemplating their corporate wellbeing strategies, every company will tell you that your wellbeing is at the heart of everything they do. So, why is it then that asking for support and getting the support you need often feels like an uphill struggle?

Part of the reason is that managers and senior leaders are humans and there will inevitably be a wide range of emotional awareness, the skills to put that awareness into place, or interest in supporting people if they themselves are also dealing with challenges.

Not everyone is going to be lucky enough to be surrounded by colleagues and managers who are willing, or even know how to support, despite what your company’s wellbeing messaging might be trying to say.

So, without blaming or judging yourself, there are some things you can do to help those conversations go smoothly…which all starts with understanding what support you are looking for.

Understand what type of support you are looking for

  1. Reassurance: Sometimes we just don’t feel like we’re doing a good job and want to hear evidence from someone else that we are.

DO: Pro-actively ask for feedback in a constructive and positive way. You might want to highlight the areas you think you are doing well in and ask your manager for their thoughts. Or you could set up some time to talk about the goals you want to achieve this year and ask your manager about your strengths and weaknesses that will get you there. Invite your manager to give you feedback in a way that encourages them to think about your strengths and where you are adding value.

DON’T: When we’re feeling under pressure it can be easy to start with the negatives. But telling your manager you don’t think you are doing a good job and that you’re concerned about your ability to carry out the role is more likely to raise concerns for your manager (especially if they think you are doing well!) than get you the reassurance you are looking for.

2. Resolving a mistake: Well all make them, this is normal

DO: Spend some time analysing the mistake without judgement and without spiralling into a pit of despair. Consider how it happened as a series of neutral actions and results, not from a point of blame. For instance “I said/did x, which led to y happening. In order to fix y, I suggest we now do z.” Or if you aren’t sure how to fix it, approach it something like this: “In order to fix y, I could do with your help in brainstorming some ideas”

DON’T: Hiding mistakes nearly always makes things worse, both for your mental health (which has a huge knock-on effect to the rest of your work and life) and the issue at hand, so share what has happened and you will already be on the route to resolving it.

3. Understanding your job: We all need support, especially at the beginning

DO: Remember that you aren’t meant to be an expert on everything and when other people know more than you it is beneficial for EVERYONE that you ask for help. If you are working on a new area of the business for instance, and you realise most of what they are talking about is going over your head, reach out to someone in that area to give you the basics and point you in the direction of more information. This will be mutually beneficial, especially when the positive results start to be seen. Don’t sit alone procrastinating, work out who would have the answer and speak to them.

DON’T: No-one minds being asked for information, they just don’t want to be asked the same thing repeatedly. So WRITE IT DOWN. This is critical. You need to find a way of recording what you are learning in your job so you don’t have to ask the same questions twice. When I train a new starter the most jarring thing is when they don’t take notes. Take notes on everything, draw diagrams, pictures, whatever it takes for you to have a record to go back to when you come across the same question.

4. Overworked and overwhelmed: Unfortunately I think we have all been here

DO: Spend some time understanding what you think would help you. If you are not sure speak to someone you trust first, or a coach, someone who can help you start figuring out what could make the difference. Understanding what a good result would look like for you is really important. If you go to your manager and say you are struggling with workload they might take you off your favourite project or begin micro-managing you – to them this might feel like they’re helping, to you it might feel like punishment.

DON’T: Don’t expect your manager to know exactly how to help straight away. It is likely there will need to be multiple conversations, open communication and trial and error to establish what is going to work best.

If you would like help putting in place a strategy for asking for help or a safe space to discuss what outcome you want from any wellbeing conversations with your workplace then get in touch, I know I can help

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