Asking for help: An unofficial guide

By Ashley Pace, Generation Next Treasurer
Truck Bodies & Equipment International Inc.

This article was originally published in the April 2021 issue of Generation Next Edition.

When was the last time you heard someone asking for help? I would guess this probably didn’t occur in your workplace. I’ll be the first to confess – I like to be right, to be self-sufficient. It can be hard to admit that we don’t have the answers and need assistance. But I am here to give you permission and guidelines to ask for help.

Why it matters

First, let’s talk about why it matters to ask for help. Think about your department as a truck, with every project and goal functioning as parts working together to keep the vehicle running. Imagine one of those parts starts cracking. The cracks might not be noticeable at first, but they will be obvious once the part fails and the truck has to be towed to the shop. Now, imagine a warning light came on at the first sign of wear and tear, and the operator had time to get the part back up and running before a failure in the field – that’s the importance of asking for help. When you ask for help, you are giving your team the opportunity to pull together and keep the truck running before it’s too late.

Raise the flag

Second, here’s your blanket permission slip to ask your boss for help. It may seem scary, but I’m giving you permission to raise the flag when you need it. (You can send this article as proof!) Asking for help is admitting we don’t have all the answers, which can make us feel extremely vulnerable and may feel like a workplace taboo.

However, I would argue it should be commonplace to admit when there’s a problem. Too often when things go wrong in professional settings, you’ll hear, “Well, if they had just said something, I could have helped before now.” I’ll borrow a quote from researcher Brené Brown: “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

How to do it

Third, I have an unofficial guide for you as you approach asking your boss for assistance. These points can help you evaluate your needs and plan your conversation.

  1. Stop and evaluate your situation honestly. Do you need help? (Remember our example from above - if you see a field failure approaching, turn on the warning light before you break down in the middle of the highway!)

  2. Identify exactly what you need help with. Is it prioritizing the tasks you’ve been asked to complete? Do you have a skills gap, lack of budget, or a lack of resources? Do you need someone to help you set measurable steps and keep you accountable? 

  3. Come up with possible solutions to bring to the table – do not come to the conversation empty- handed. Write down what you’ve done already that didn’t work, include ideas of what might work, and finally, write down any additional resources you need ($, people, training, etc.).

  4. Set up that meeting and ask for help!

Admittedly, these 4 steps may seem simple for something that can be so daunting, but it really is that simple. Think about if the roles were reversed and someone asked you for help. If they were honest about what hadn’t been working and asked for your assistance, would you turn them away? Or would you pull the truck into the service station and work to get it back up and running smoothly?