Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

4 Times You Just Need to Suck it Up and Ask for Help at Work

people working

I get it—there are some people out there who would rather stroll into work completely naked than suck up their pride and ask for help. For some reasons, many of us perceive a request for assistance as a sign of weakness, when—in reality—I think it’s actually a sign of great strength. Hey, it means you’re self-aware and self-assured enough to know when it’s time to call in some reinforcements.

But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that asking for help is easy. Nope, approaching someone in your office to ask him or her to lend a hand can actually be pretty anxiety-inducing.

So, here are four instances when it’s definitely time for you to bite the bullet and ask—along with a suggestion for what to say in each scenario. Because the last thing you want to do is muster up your courage only to stammer your way through a rambling and unclear request.

1. When You Have No Idea What You’re Doing

OK, so this one should be pretty obvious. But, if you have absolutely no idea what you’re supposed to be doing for a particular work project, it’s time to approach someone in your office for some clarification and assistance.

There’s no use torturing yourself by trying to blindly navigate a challenging project that you don’t understand. If you do that, chances are it won’t turn out as expected, and you’ll have wasted your own (and everyone else’s!) time. Plus, you’ll look stubborn and incompetent. So, take a deep breath and approach your supervisor or one of your co-workers in order to get a better understanding of the particular task and goals.

Try This: “Hey, I’m feeling a little confused about the details of the XYZ project. Could we set a time to sit down, talk through the nuts and bolts of this assignment, and make sure we’re on the same page?”

2. When You Have Too Much on Your Plate

It happens to the best of us. You kept enthusiastically answering “Yes!” to every project that landed in your lap, and now you’re completely buried under work. You’ve reached your limit, and you know that there’s absolutely no way you’ll finish everything by the deadline—even if you pulled all-nighters for the next three weeks.

What’s your next step? Request some assistance from your other co-workers. You may feel like you’re shirking responsibility. But, everyone has been in this situation at least once in his or her life. Just be sure to repay the favor the next time your co-worker is feeling overwhelmed!

Try this: “I hate feeling like I’m trying to pass off work on other people, but I’m totally swamped right now. If you have any extra time, would you mind helping me with the XYZ aspect of this project? I know that’s your area of expertise, and I’d really appreciate your help and insight!”

3. When You Made a Mistake

You’re human, so mistakes are pretty much inevitable. But, it’s not exactly about what you did, it’s about how you react to it. The worst thing you can do is attempt to sweep it under the rug without anybody noticing. And, if you try to remedy your error by getting involved in areas or departments where you don’t really belong, you could very well make your problem even worse.

Sure, it’s embarrassing. But, if you need help fixing your slip-up, make sure to approach the appropriate people in your office immediately. You’re not the first person to make a mistake at work—and you certainly won’t be the last.

Try this: “I’m so embarrassed, but I completely messed ABC up, and now I need XYZ done in order to fix it. I’m so sorry for the confusion and extra work. I really appreciate your help!”

4. When You Need Additional Expertise or Insight

Even if you’re an extreme control freak, you already know that your focus should be placed on turning out the best work possible—not just something that has your name all over it.

So, if you’re working on a project you think could greatly benefit from the additional input of your co-workers, never hesitate to ask them to lend their advice and talents. It fosters collaboration among your team members, and also helps to make your project the very best it can be. Talk about a win-win.

Try this: “I’m working on XYZ project, and I’d love your expert insight on this particular area. Can we set up a time when we can chat and bounce some ideas off of each other? I really think your input could take this project to the next level!”

Asking for help isn’t always easy. But, sometimes it’s downright essential. If you find yourself in one of these scenarios, take a deep breath, swallow your pride, and approach others in your office for some much needed assistance. I promise—it’ll be better for you in the long run.