How to Ask for Help at Work the Right Way

As a new adult navigating the adulting struggle, I can assure you that knowing how to ask for help when you need it is a skill. Not only is it a skill, but it’s one you’ll use frequently as an adult—even at work.

While the first time I asked for help at work was scary, it was a valuable experience, and I’m so glad I did it. My only regret was not doing it sooner because it’s made a big difference in my career (and my ability to sleep at night).

Now that I’m on the other side of things, I assure you that getting out of your comfort zone and seeking help doesn’t have to be a hard lesson learned. Here are steps, tips, and examples for asking for help at work the right way.

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How to Ask for Help at Work

Why is it important to ask for help at work?

Asking for help at work is a good thing. It’s important for our wellbeing, our stress levels, and our future work.

  • It’s important to ask for help at work so you don’t end up overworked, stretched too thin, and burnt out. A burnt-out employee can’t perform well or do his / her job, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance is key to quality of life.
  • Second, asking for help at work saves time and prevents rework. We fear asking for assistance because we don’t want to feel incompetent at work. However, by asking for clearer instructions or suggestions on how to complete a task, we end up saving time in the long run. 
  • Lastly, the success of the company does not sit on your shoulders. This was the wake-up call from a trusted mentor that I needed. The company I work for is not going under because I don’t get this one thing done during my weekend. We put the weight of the company on our shoulders, but some tasks can wait. 

If something can’t wait, then put it on your company to find you help. 

Kara J Lovett Co.

By this point, I hope I’ve convinced you to take the courageous step of asking for help at work when you need it. It is not our responsibility to carry the weight of the company or our teams on our shoulders.

Nor should we be expected to give up our free time and wellbeing to meet unrealistic work demands. Simply put, that’s unsustainable and a work environment no one wants to be in.

But now that you’ve decided to ask for assistance, here are 9 tips to guide you through the process of asking for help and finding potential solutions for your specific issue at work.

  1. Realize asking for help is a good idea.
  2. Clearly define the problems.
  3. Develop possible solutions.
  4. Avoid the Blame Game
  5. Be Professional
  6. Be Polite
  7. Pray to God for Help at Work
  8. Schedule a Conversation
  9. Write an Email to Ask for Help at Work

1.    Believe that asking for help at work is a good idea.

Even with understanding the importance of asking for help at work, we often associate asking for help with incompetence, which couldn’t be father from the truth!

That’s why the first step to asking for help is realizing this: 

“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength.”

One time I asked for help from a classmate, and he tried to make me feel ashamed for needing help. After I cooled off, I promptly went to his desk, and told him the quote above.

I wasn’t angry that he didn’t help me. I was angry that he tried to make me feel incompetent at work just because I asked for help. 

Asking for help has nothing to do with ability. It’s about accepting our human limitations and getting clarity on expectations. 

In fact, I admire people who ask for help. It takes courage, humility, and a strong self-awareness to be able to say—“I need help with this.” 

2.    Clearly define the problems. 

Even with hard work, everyone still needs a little help occasionally. And people want to give a helping hand to their coworkers. But they can’t help you if they don’t know you’re in need of help and how they can assist.

When you ask for help at work, first state why you need help and any other factors that are preventing you from doing your job effectively. Having those identified and agreed upon at the beginning will help you to have a fruitful discussion with your team or manager.

3.    Develop possible solutions (together or alone).

This next step is about offering suggestions for the best ways someone could help you. By coming up with these simple solutions, you show that you’re not trying to get out of work and not being lazy. 

It also makes it more likely that one of your solutions will be chosen by your team and manager. With that said, make sure you know which solution you prefer most. 

Tip: If there are multiple people on your team in need of help, then host a collaborative session where you can come up with new ideas to improve the project or tasks. 

This meeting could also be used to create a safe space within your team. Talking about the fear of rejection or your need for help getting denied could lower the anxiety around talking to your boss or project manager. 

Together, you can find the right time and the right person to bring your request to in a respectful and professional way.

Remember that you don’t have to have the “right answer” before you ask for help. Here, we offer some ideas on how to deal with difficult coworkers, find success from failure, and set work boundaries.

4.    Avoid the Blame Game

During your explanation of the problem, be sure not to blame others implicitly or explicitly. Instead, focus on the situation and the problems the situation is causing for you. 

How is it impeding you from doing other parts of your job? How has it caused you rework and added time to your workday? How is this affecting your wellbeing?

5.     Be Professional

How do you ask professionally for help?

Whether it’s one of your first jobs or your last job, the task of asking for help is a delicate endeavor. When asking for help, the professionalism comes from your tone, body language, and word choice.

  • In your tone, you want to speak confidently, clearly, and avoid whining. Take deep breaths before the conversation and practice what you want to say in the mirror.
  • Concerning body language, maintain eye contact and watch your facial expressions. You don’t want your face to say something before your mouth does.
  • Be careful with your word choice. Use “we” and “let’s” to convey that you want to work with your manager to come up with an appropriate solution. 
  • Don’t exaggerate – choose the words that you really mean – and avoid ultimate words such as “always” and “never” – which usually make statements untrue. 

6.    Be Polite

How do you politely ask for help at work?

After working on the professional cues above, the next step is to be polite and take the emotion out of the request. If you’re frustrated, angry, or tired, don’t have a conversation about asking for more support. That’s the wrong way to ask for help.

Instead, write down what you’re feeling or vent about it to a friend to get it out of your system. When you do have the conversation, this will make sure you’re focusing on the problems at hand and not letting your own reactions and emotions color your view of the situation or your words.

How do I tell my boss I need help at work?

There’s no easy way to get over the fear of feeling incompetent at work or losing your boss’s respect. But a good boss will support you in your work and your career goals

Put aside the shame that tells you you’re a failure for asking for help. Because what’s more likely is that you’ll fail because you didn’t ask for help when you needed it.

7.    Pray to God for Help at Work

In addition to your boss, you should also be asking God for help at work. Your Heavenly Father cares about you and the struggles that you are going through. 

No problem is too small for God, and he encourages us to bring our anxiety and fears to him. He wants to equip you and strengthen you as you navigate the adulting struggle and the work-life balance struggle

If you’re ever stuck and wondering how to ask for help at work, start by getting on your knees and praying. 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)

While asking God for help at work isn’t a magic wand to fix all of your problems, it will encourage you and help you overcome the fear of asking for help at work. 

8.    Write an Email to Ask for Help at Work 

If you’re not sure how to craft your email or how to ask for help at work, here’s an email example based on a recent situation of mine.

Dear <Manager>,

For the past two weeks, I’ve been working about 25% overtime to keep up with the pace of my work since my teammate left the project. Even though we have less people on the project, the work level remains the same. 

Working this much overtime is unsustainable for me. It’s negatively affected my well-being, my work-life balance, and my own time. I fear it will eventually impact the quality of my work.

I’d like to schedule a conversation next week to discuss some possible solutions for my project. One suggested solution is adding another team member to the project to rebalance the workloads. We could also extend the deadlines of my other tasks. 

If these options don’t work, let’s prioritize my work tasks so I know how you’d like me to allot my time across my different job responsibilities.I look forward to discussing these potential solutions further. Thank you. 

Notice in this email that I did not blame any team members or my boss and focused on the situation. I also stated the problem up front and was specific with the details and the timeline for a future conversation. Lastly, I suggested three solutions for me to get the help I needed, which will serve as a baseline for our future conversation.

Key Tips for How to Politely Ask for Help in Email

You can apply these tips for politely asking for help in an email. 

  • Remember that the written word cannot be erased or taken back, so proofread your email carefully. 
  • Read it out loud to see what tone is conveyed in the text.
  • Ask your mentor or a fellow employee to review the email and give you feedback. 
  • Consider whether you should have a one-on-one conversation with your manager before or after sending the email. Especially since it’s easy for things to be misunderstood in emails.
  • Be specific in your ask and the details of the situation. For example, when conveying the urgency of the situation, mention the time period. Do you need help today, tomorrow, next week, or next month? Do you need extra time for a deadline or do you need more direction?
  • Be careful with your word choice, as mentioned in the how to ask for help at work tips above.
  • Don’t bury the lead. Be upfront about the fact that you’re asking for help and why.

9. Schedule a conversation

Set aside dedicated time to speak with your boss about your situation and ask for help at work. The best way to ask for help and discuss work overload is face-to-face. So much gets misread and misunderstood over electronic communication.

After the conversation, follow it up with an email that recaps the main points you addressed in the conversation.

One female colleague asking for help at work to another female colleague while they stand over a wooden desk

The Best Thing about Asking for Help at Work 

We live in a world that treats weakness as something to be ashamed of. Work-life balance seems to be disappearing more and more in corporate culture. As is having a personal life.

But you don’t have to follow this work culture tide. You can be honest with yourself, a senior member of your team, and your boss about needing help and better work-life balance.

Asking for help and then having a coworker offer help is the best feeling of relief and gratitude. 

By not being afraid to stand out and ask for help, you’re encouraging all the people around you who don’t know how to ask for help at work, too. 

How do you ask your boss for more support?

Leave me a comment below!

Don’t miss this! More posts about Working and the Young Professional Lifestyle:

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