How to Ask for Assistance

There are multiple times when working on a project or on a team that you reach a point and need assistance. This can be due to a lack of information, lack of experience, needing a required approval authority, or uncertainty on how to continue. In order to progress, we must approach the team leader for guidance, however we want to do so without bothering or inconveniencing them.

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, being able to approach the supervisor is highly dependent on organizational culture. In cases where culture may make it difficult asking for help, here are a few steps to ensure successful communication between you and the team leader:

1) Make the effort to complete by yourself

A quality supervisor should be willing to help or offer assistance when needed. However, instead of relying on the supervisor, the employee should make an effort to solve the problem first. The employee should use available resources, discuss with co-workers, and consider all options before approaching supervisor. By doing this, it shows the employee respects the supervisor’s time by making an attempt to solve first.

2) Understand the proper way to approach supervisor

Once decided that supervisor help is needed, the employee should consider the proper method of communication. This can vary among teams and organizations, but consider the urgency of the matter, the current availability and workload of the supervisor, and the estimated time length for the required explanation. Different communication methods could be to walk up to their desk, send an IM, send an email, schedule a meeting, all dependent on the time commitment needed to solve the problem.

3) Clearly communicate the problem and problem-solving attempt

Summarizing the problem to the supervisor is critical in helping them understand the issue. This summary should not be overwhelming with details or hard to follow which can lead to frustration. The summary should provide background on the problem, the research and work the employee has done to try and solve the problem, and the urgency. Supervisors need to be aware of how important the task is so they can appropriately prioritize.

4) Take notes on solution

In general, supervisors should be willing to show step by step how to solve a problem if it is your first encounter with the issue. However, after the supervisor takes their time to show the employee the solution, there is now an expectation that the supervisor should not have to repeat oneself. To avoid having to ask the same questions, the employee should document the solution, take notes, and be ready to apply the solution if the same problem arises in the future.

5) Thank the manager for their time

The employee should display gratitude towards the supervisor for helping them solve the problem. The employee should embrace the opportunity of working with the supervisor to display their skills and value to the team. In addition to the technical skills, being able to collaborate with a positive attitude and express gratitude will make the supervisor more willing to help in the future.

Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash