In Employee Engagement, Work Life

Even the best workplaces have challenges. In a new study of more than 1000 professionals, new research from LinkedIn illuminates the top complaints:

  1. Finding a work-life balance (38%)
  2. Managing workloads (31%)
  3. Dealing with coworkers (26%)
  4. Workplace politics (25%)
  5. Dealing with managers (23%)
  6. Growing their careers (22%)
  7. Being passionate about what they do (19%)
  8. Not having somebody to turn to for help (16%)
  9. Equal pay and negotiating salaries (15%)
  10. Answering all of their emails (13%)

In her article in Fortune, Rachel King writes:

“Beyond just this snapshot, one of the common themes among LinkedIn’s findings is how much trouble employees—especially younger professionals in the workplace—have trouble asking for help at work, whether it be fear of feeling or looking incompetent. Approximately 84% of professionals surveyed said they have needed help at some point in their career. . . Yet one in three employees (35%) overall admitted they’re afraid to ask for help at work, and as much as 60% of employees regret not asking for help at those times. Such anxiety can result in overworking and possibly loss of productivity from exhaustion. At least a third of professionals surveyed said they’d rather work an extra six hours per week than ask for help in fear of looking weak or less knowledgable.”

It should shock me that people are so afraid of asking for help, but it doesn’t. When we created Givitas, software that makes it easy, efficient, and safe for people to ask for and offer help at work, we thought we’d have to cajole people into being generous.

It hasn’t turned out that way. Every day, we see thousands of people wanting to offer help, happy to share experience, connections, advice, vendors, examples, introductions, and information. On average, we see about four offers of help on every request.

What is harder, and this is reflected in the LinkedIn survey data, is getting people to ask for help. Even when they’re willing to ask for help, 16% don’t know who to ask.

There are a few ways to tackle this challenge, but we’ve seen the most successful efforts have two key components:

1) Support and modeling from the top down. We talk to a lot of leaders who want their teams to be more collaborative and more willing to ask for help when they need it, rather than spinning their wheels and wasting time trying to make it work by themselves. Billions of dollars are lost every year when people refuse to ask for help, and smart leaders are shifting away from “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions” to “know what you know, know what you don’t know, and know when to ask for help.”

But it’s one thing to talk the talk, and another to walk the walk. Sometimes those leaders are themselves reticent to ask for help when they need it, worrying that it makes them look weak or ineffectual. Yet most of us have examples in our own lives of strong leaders who were willing to admit they needed help–and it made us think more of them, not less. Research bears this out–a willingness to ask for help (whether you are a leader or not) makes people like and trust you more.

If we want our employee to feel safe asking for help, we have to show them how to do it by doing it ourselves. This is a non-negotiable.

2) Offer your team a purpose-built platform specifically designed to make it easy and safe to ask for help. What do I mean by purpose built? I mean that its technology and functionality intentionally and mindfully supports people in asking for help. Here are a few examples:

  • Asking should be public and not done solely via private email or instant message. When asking for help only takes place privately, people who are more reticent may not be aware of just how many people are asking coworkers and mentors for advice or resources.
  • People who are willing to ask for help should be recognized and celebrated, held up as examples of the kind of employee behavior we support and encourage.
  • Employees should have equal access to the experts. Too often, business success is perceived as a secret club or insider game, where only certain people can mine the expertise and intelligence of leaders at the organization. We should be giving everyone access to that expertise and intelligence, via technology that puts mentors, leaders, and co-workers at everyone’s fingertips. Experts may not be in the same group or city, so the ability to cross silos is important.
  • It should be easy to ask for help, meaning it should be quick and it should result in high-quality offers of help that save time or money or grief or some combination of those three things.

General-purpose platforms (e.g. Slack, Yammer, Microsoft Teams) are wonderful tools for collaboration, especially in small teams or subgroups–I use Slack now and have used a variety of similar tools in the past. But they don’t really address these specific issues–they don’t necessarily create a safe space to ask for help, they don’t usually cross silos, and they tend to be so noisy and busy that it can be hard to keep up. And no matter how much leaders encourage their team to use a general-purpose platform, there’s nothing about that platform that will encourage or teach them how to do it.

So keep your collaboration platform in place, and add a purpose-built tool like Givitas that was designed to empower employees to easily, efficiently, and safely ask for help. Givitas integrates with most popular collaboration platforms. I think you’ll find that when your employees ask for help, there will be more than enough people willing to offer it. The biggest leap is making it easy to ask.

We have a free ebook on how to help your team get better at asking for help:

Download the Free Ebook: How to Ask for Help at Work

Or, if you’d like to check out Givitas and see how we designed the platform to encourage workers to ask for help, we’d love to give you a demo.

Request a Demo
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Asking for help is hard