How to ask for help at work

Chances are, if you’re reading this, then you are knee-deep in the dilemma of how to approach your boss and ask for help at work. First off, it’s not an easy thing to ask for help – regardless of where you are. Asking for the help of another person takes a bit of vulnerability that not everyone is comfortable expressing.

My advice? Manage your fears, suck up your pride, and ask for help. With that said, I understand that there are very clear reasons why you don’t ask for help. You’re either scared of being seen as inefficient, thus afraid of being replaced with someone you perceive as better OR you legitimately don’t know how to approach the subject.

As someone who has been the one to build in-house marketing teams from the ground up, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to ask for help. I’ve collected my strategies from over the years and outlined those methods below. I hope they are as helpful and effective for you as they were for me.

Write down everything you do on a typical day

1. Write down everything you do on a typical day

While you won’t necessarily be submitting this list to anyone in particular, it will be helpful for several reasons. For starters, it will allow you to really think about opportunities where you could be more effective with help. You’ll also be able to use this list in the future if you get pushback on your requests for help.

Sometimes, when you are an incredibly efficient employee who often wears many hats, managers can get used to your high levels of production. Unfortunately, it’s quite easy for managers to rely heavily on good employees like yourself and forget that you could eventually burn out without assistance.

Writing down all the items you do on a typical day can also be very validating – especially when management sees everything you do listed in one place.

How to ask for help at work - start small and never underestimate part-time help

2. Start small

Once you begin to realize that you could, in fact, use help, start small by speaking with your manager and/or your HR department about any internship opportunities available to help you or your team. While interns aren’t always the perfect choice, they can be quite helpful in assisting with some of the more routine parts of your job, allowing you to focus more on bigger projects.

Local colleges and high school organizations like DECA, are great places to find students interested in internship opportunities.

Never underestimate part-time employees

The next step up from a great intern is a solid part-time employee. Much like the energy that often comes with an intern, a good part-time employee can offer you the help you need to breathe life back into your team. Part-time employees have the benefit of not being stuck in the day-to-day grind of work and are often a great resource to rely on during the days they work.

Write a job description for a new position and meet with your boss

3. Write a job description for a new position and meet with your boss

This is one of my personal favorites and has really helped me several times. When writing a job description, refer back to the list you made in suggestion #1 above. Before I began growing my first team, I agonized for months over the decision to ask for help. I didn’t want to be seen as not good enough, but I finally reached a point where I couldn’t be as efficient as I needed to be by myself.

So, I created a new role for the marketing department that would absorb a lot of the tasks I just couldn’t get to in a single day, along with a handful of other responsibilities that I had as goals for the team. With a single new position, I was able to both get help AND acquire talent that I knew would help us to reach our future goals. Win-Win

Set a meeting with your boss. Be sincere. Tell him/her that you’ve been feeling overwhelmed and you believe the team needs help. Bring along your newly-minted job description and your lists of daily tasks to refer to if needed. Unless your boss is completely dismissive, you should be able to have a good dialogue about getting help. Your boss might even applaud your initiative and see you as an even more valuable part of the company because you care enough to not let your work suffer because of a lack of help.

It’s important to note here that you are most likely not going to get help right away. Your boss will need to review your work and evaluate the true need for a new hire. If approved, the hiring process can take some time. While you will quite certainly be excited at the proposition of getting the help you need, it’s important to manage your expectations.

How to ask for help at work - Find a financial reason that more help would benefit the company

4. Find a financial reason that more help would benefit the company

Does your job or department have a measurable effect on the success of the company? For employees in Marketing or Sales, this will be a little easier because you can determine data like closing ratios, customer acquisition, and ROI for the current team and then make your projections based on adding another team member.

For employees that serve more in operational roles, such as customer service and account management, you’ll likely have a harder time determining an actual ROI. However, this type of personnel is an invaluable part of any team. As sales and marketing efforts increase the number of customers, you’ll inevitably need more employees to service the additional accounts. Take a look at the typical amount of customers handled by each serviceperson to see if you can determine an average. This might be a useful number to have when you approach your boss about getting help.

Meet with your boss and present your findings. If it makes sense to bring on a new hire, the proof will be in the numbers.

So, how do I ask for help at work?

You ask & make it happen.

Quite often, you will have to be the instrument of change. Unless you speak up and tell your boss that you need help, it’s unlikely that your situation will change.

Here’s a fact: Nothing happens unless you make it happen.

  • You need help?
    • Ask for it.
  • Your team needs another developer and a designer?
    • Put in the request.
    • Write the job description.
    • Look for interns who can support the team for much less than a full-time employee.
    • Discover opportunities to make the company more money by adding an employee and becoming more efficient.

I hope these few strategies help you as you’re trying to work out how to ask for help at work. They worked for me and helped maintain my own sanity. I wish you the best of luck and I’d love to get feedback on which of the strategies worked for you.