Here is an excerpt from an article written by Vanessa K. Bohns for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.
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People dread asking for help from colleagues and strangers in the best of times. They worry about looking bad, being rejected, imposing on others juggling family and work responsibilities or taking up valuable resources.
Now that we are working through a pandemic, many of these fears feel supersized. But the reality is that many of us need flexibility and support like never before — to reschedule a meeting at the last minute, to gain an extension on a deadline, or for a referral to someone who might be hiring. Although our impulse right now may be to hold back from asking for or accepting help unless it is absolutely necessary, thinking this way can create norms where people are even less likely than usual to seek help and that’s counterproductive during these challenging times. Instead, we should be creating a culture of help-seeking.
But comfortably and confidently asking for help requires refuting a number of misperceptions that have been uncovered in research – myths that are likely to be heightened as a result of the ongoing crisis.
[Here is the first of three myths.]
We often worry that asking for help at work is a sign of incompetence or weakness. Plus, in a crisis it might feel safer to keep your head down and not make waves. However, the research finds such worries to be largely unfounded. In one study, asking for help with a simple task had no negative impact on perceived competence. More than that, in the same study, asking for help with a difficult task actually resulted in higher perceived competence. So, not only is it a myth that asking for help makes you look bad, in some cases it can even paint you in a more positive light. While it’s true that seeking help can expose our vulnerabilities and limitations, people are less likely to judge us negatively for revealing our imperfections than we think.
Here is a direct link to the complete article.
Vanessa K. Bohns is an associate professor of Organizational Behavior at the ILR School at Cornell University.
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