Second Most Common Mistake People Make at Work

asking for help is a strengthIf you want to succeed, you need to be able to accomplish everything on your own.  Is this true? I don’t think so, but this is a common misconception, especially among recent college graduates.  School was all about doing your own work.  If you turned in a test or homework after asking someone else for help, it is considered cheating.

After 16 years of conditioning at school to make sure you do everything on your own, no wonder many people join the work force and still carry with them for many years the notion- asking for help is bad or a sign of weakness.  This is NOT true!  It’s great if you can handle the work and don’t need help, but most people take jobs that has a ramp up time and a learning curve or jobs that have constant new challenges throughout.  A job is suppose to challenge you and help you learn.  Inevitably, at some point, you are going to need help.

As you struggle to figure out how to succeed in any job, don’t do it alone and no one expect you to.  Here is why

  • If you do well,  your manager also looks good. No one cares about how you became high performing as long as you get there.  If you need to ask your team to help you ramp up on knowledge or your boss to give you advice on certain situations, do it.  They will be glad to help as long as you drive the process.
  • If you screw up, you just dumped the problem on your manager.  It’s a lot worse to struggle lone and suck at it and then your manager is forced to be brought in to clean up the mess.  Now your manager has one more problem to solve.  Prevent this from happening by asking for help before you get too lost.  It’s okay to admit you don’t know everything.  I much rather manage a person who knows when to ask for my help than one who wants to be perfect and then surprise me with a big “mess” later on.  The person that asked for help shows me that he is still in control and on top of the problem at hand.  I only need to give him the parts he needs to continue forward.
  • It’s less costly for the company to develop people than to hire a whole new person. Once a company hires you, it’s in their interest to help you succeed at your job.   Hiring a new person takes time, money, and has it’s own risk.  This is especially true if you have been at your job for a period of time already.
  • Asking for help shows maturity and strength. You show that you are not giving up and you have the self-awareness to know that you have limitations.  It especially helps if you are very specific about what help you need from which people – again showing you are driving the process and have a plan on how to get through it with other’s help.

Don’t make the mistake of struggling alone at work, either out of ego or pursuit of perfection.  It’s a fool’s journey.  Produce results any way you can.  If you ask for help at work the right way and still take ownership of the overall work, you will be perceived as being resourceful and proactive instead of weak.  So, if you are struggling at your current job, figure out where you need help, from whom, and how to ask others to help.  Ask more questions and ask for advice.   Good luck at your job!

Your comments: Do you agree that not asking for help is a common mistake people make at work? Do you want tips on how to best ask others for help?   Add your comments below and let’s have a discussion.

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3 thoughts on “Second Most Common Mistake People Make at Work

  1. Cally

    My husband said his role as an employee is to make hiss boss look good.
    So when you can fit it into an answer during an interview, then you have another point in your portfolio –more chances they will hire you.

  2. Lei Han Post author

    Thanks Emily. Always glad to hear the blog is helping. As for your question, it’s always okay to ask for feedback. Sounds like you are doing great, so just make sure you don’t want to do the meeting just so you can be praised again. I would just set up a 30 min on her calendar and title it sth like “feedback / advice” and include an agenda with an intro.

    sample agenda – would love your advice and feedback
    – what is working well with my work?
    – what areas can I improve?
    – communication preference (am I keeping you posted enough? anything I should change around how we communicate?)
    – frequency of feedback – is it reasonable to ask for feedback every quarter?

    If she is too busy or think it’s too soon, she can opt to push out the meeting. Either way, sounds like you are doing great if she is already asking you for your advice. I wouldn’t worry at all. Take a deep breath and accept that when they say you are doing a good job, it is TRUE 😉

  3. Emily

    As always, thank you for creating this blog. I don’t send a note to you often, but know that I read it every time you write something. In one way or another, it helps me with my current situation, or identifies areas that I could be on the look out for OR get in front of a problem before it becomes one.

    I totally agree with this last entry. Now that I’m in a new role, I find myself navigating through a whole new and different world. I often ask my manager for her input/help but position it so that she knows there’s a good business reason (i.e., helps to understand different personalities within the organization, helps me figure out their way of doing things, etc.) instead of simply looking like a complete idiot. I’ve been lucky to get such a receptive boss :).

    Question though, it’s been 1 month since in my new role, and I’m dying to know from her point of view how I’m doing. I mean, often times, she says I’m doing a great job and she actually leans on me for advice as well, but I want to know (formally, I guess) REALLY how I’m doing. Would it be fair to set aside some time with her to talk about my performance so far? Is it too soon/am I being too anxious?

    Thanks in advance for your advice.


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