How do I ask my manager for help without looking like I don’t know what I’m doing?
We all run into situations that we expect ourselves to be able to deal with, but know deep down that we’re not handling as well as we should. The fear of announcing that we may not know what we’re doing keeps many of us from raising our hand and asking for help. This is especially true when we have to talk to the people responsible for our income about our potential failures.
When faced with a situation like this, I think it’s important to keep two things in mind:
1. Nobody can do everything alone. We all need help sometimes.
2. It’s our manager’s responsibility to set us up for success. If we don’t succeed, it’s a reflection on the manager as much (or more) as it is a reflection on us.
That said, it’s VERY important to spend some time thinking about whether this is something that you should actually know how to handle. Before coming to someone to ask for help, make sure that you know what the issue is, and have a few ideas of how to handle it. Asking someone to help you make a decision is much better than asking someone to come up with a solution for you.
- Once you’ve got the issue and potential solutions clear in your mind, try to understand why you’re afraid of asking for help.
- Is this a situation you’ve personally experienced before? If not, there is no shame in asking someone more experienced to help you.
- Is this something you’ve experienced before, and remember it going very badly? Asking for outside input may help you find a way to make this situation turn out better than the previous one.
- Have you been giving the situation a lot of thought, but know that you’re missing something? Asking for an outside view can be really helpful in formulating a solution.
In short, asking for help is actually… quite… HELPFUL!
So why are you afraid to ask your MANAGER for help?
When someone takes on the role of managing people, they are officially putting their own success in the hands of their team. It is now their professional responsibility to ensure that everyone on their team is successful. If they don’t, any failures are perceived as a direct reflection on their leadership skills. This is why managers work so hard to keep their teams motivated and productive!
That said, depending on the workload of your manager, it’s likely that they can’t necessarily see that you’re struggling with something. They have to keep an eye on everyone on your team, as well as all of the teams that interface with your team. Management is a big job, and it’s hard to keep tabs on every single piece at every moment. As a team member, it is YOUR professional responsibility to raise your hand and ask for help when you don’t feel that you are on the right track.
I have found it best to schedule recurring ‘check in meetings’ with managers to talk about any issues at hand. Now, it’s not uncommon for these types of meetings to get pushed back or cancelled due to conflicting priorities, so have your agenda ready with the issues you’d like to discuss. If there aren’t any issues, cancel the meeting. When your manager knows that you’re not going to waste time in these check-ins, they are less likely to push them out, and will likely be more prepared to talk about what you need help with when you do meet.
Asking for help can be difficult at first. But as with everything practice makes perfect! Start mastering distilling the issues, coming up with potential solutions, and asking for help deciding the best course of action, and you’ll be fine.
How Do I Ask My Manager for Help?
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