When You Ask a Colleague for Help, Be Clear and Specific

Here is another valuable Management Tip of the Day from Harvard Business Review. To sign up for a free subscription to any/all HBR newsletters, please click here.

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Asking for help can be uncomfortable, so most of us avoid it, or do it awkwardly. But you can’t always tackle a full plate of work alone.

o To get support from your colleagues, figure out what you really need. What task can someone else do that will save you a ton of time and that doesn’t take a lot of explaining?

o Next, identify the right person to hand it off to. Choose someone who actually can help in the way you need.

o Then make a clear request, being specific about what you want them to do, and when. This is where most of us bungle it: Because asking for help is awkward, we say something vague (“Would you like to…” or “If you have time…”), which undermines the request.

Accept whatever help your colleague offers — even if it’s not exactly what you asked for. And don’t forget to say thank you.

Adapted from “Drowning in Work? Here’s How to Ask a Colleague for Help,” by Heidi Grant

Here’s a direct link to dozens of other Management Tips.


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