How to Ask for Help at Work – 5 Tips

help at workOne of the best skills you could possibly have to ensure a successful career is knowing how and when to ask for help at work. So many people are afraid of failure or being seen as incompetent that they often attempt projects or tasks just trying to improvise instead of asking for help. In a truly professional work environment, asking for help doesn’t necessarily mean you are dumb or hopeless, it just means you care about the quality of your work and how you represent your company.

Asking for help at work is one of the healthiest things you can do for your career but so many people are afraid of being ostracized or picked on because of it. Here are 5 tips on how to ask for help at work effectively that can help you come off as professional, mature, and willing to improve yourself as an employee:

1. Don’t Act Like an Expert if You Aren’t

When your boss or manager asks you to do something you are unfamiliar with let them know right off the bat that you have little or no experience doing that task and ask if there is someone who can walk you through it once. This shows that you are humble, honest, and willing to learn something new to be a better employee.

2. Asking a Co-Worker

Never be afraid to ask for help from your more experienced co-workers. Approach a fellow employee and ask them if they can show you how to do something if they have time. If they are busy ask if there is someone else that can help you or if there is a more convenient time for them, provided there isn’t an immediate deadline. If your peers tend to be more of the hazing type, the best thing you can do is be perfectly honest and put your co-worker on the spot. If a less than friendly co-worker is the one you absolutely need to get help from go to them and just say “Hey, I was asked by (Boss) to do (task) and I really haven’t done much of this before. I know you’re especially good at this sort of thing and was hoping you could help me when you get the chance.” Put them on a tiny pedestal and let them show you how good they are.

3. Use Outside Sources

Most software tools can be figured out by a quick search on the internet or reading the instructions. People with little experience working in an office or with computers often struggle with using tools such as Microsoft word, Adobe, or even their email account. More often than not if the task or tool you are struggling with is office technology there are plenty of tutorials online that can be helpful if your co-workers or boss are unavailable.

If the help you need is not technology related, then look to your friends and family who are in the same industry and function you are and ask them to help you with the new assignment you got.  Just like when you ask your co-workers for help, be respectful of their time and proactively follow up.  More likely than not, your friends would be happy to help you and you will get to shine at work as a result. 

4. Remember to Say Thank You or Acknowledge Others Help Publicly

You never know when you may need help again so it always good to show your appreciation by thanking the person or letting your boss know who assisted you.   If it’s from outside of work, a nice thank you note to let them know the outcome of their help and maybe cookies would be a nice touch.  Also remember the favor, plan on doing something to help them whenever an opportunity arises.

5. Return the Favor or Pay it Forward

Even if someone who helped you doesn’t need assistance at the present, make it a point to help someone else out at work to pay it forward. A good work environment is one that values learning and working together to make ourselves better.

Remember, everyone was a beginner at some point and if you are lost it always best to ask for help in getting back on track than risk becoming more lost and potentially doing inferior work.

Your comments:  What is keeping you from asking for help at work?  Do you have other useful tips to share around asking for help.  Share your comments below

Guest Author: Owen Oliver is a writer and designing consultant for American Graphics Institute. He enjoys helping young workers learn the hand skills in the office AGI with Adobe training, HTML classes, and Photoshop tutorials.

This is a Guest post with edits in Italics by Lei Han.  If you would like to submit a guest post to, please follow these guest post guidelines.

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