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No matter how knowledgeable and skilled you are, there will be a time when you’ll encounter an issue at work you simply can’t handle on your own. You may be reluctant to ask for help because you may think others will perceive it as a weakness.

“Asking for help makes many people feel vulnerable, and they may hesitate to inquire out of fear of rejection,” explains Vanessa Bohns, associate professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University. “But those concerns are overblown.” Here are some situations where it’s okay to ask for help at work.

You’re Not Sure What You’re Doing

Whether it’s a single task or a large-scale project, the details may be a little murky, and you may not fully understand what you’re doing. Rather than agonizing over it and risking a potential disaster, you’re better off asking for help. The trick is to go about it the right way by being personable and professional.

For example, you might say, “I’m sorry, but I’m a little confused about the specifics of this project. Do you have a minute to explain the details so I can make sure we’re on the same page?” 

You’re Overwhelmed

In an attempt to please your boss and be a team player, you may end up agreeing to work on a project even if it stretches you too thin. Maybe it seemed doable at first, but once you’re faced with the reality of it, you quickly realize you’re completely overwhelmed. At the end of the day, you’re just one person and can only handle so much.

A good way to ask is to say, “At first I thought I could handle this project on my own without any problem. But it seems I bit off more than I can chew, and I’m totally swamped. Is there any way you could lend a hand?”

You’ve Made a Mistake

No one’s perfect, and even the best and brightest employees make a mistake every once in a while. So you shouldn’t beat yourself up when it inevitably happens to you. The worst thing you can do is to act like nothing’s wrong because it will likely compound the problem.

Instead, you could say something like, “This is a little embarrassing, but I messed up on the project. I’m sorry to bother you, but could you help me out to get things back on track?”

Asking for help at work isn’t always easy. But it’s something everyone needs to do from time to time. Knowing when you should ask for help and the right way to go about it will ensure you get the assistance you need to keep moving forward.

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