Why is asking for help so hard?

Some people seem to do it naturally; others become a pest because they’re always asking for help when they should know how to do it themselves. But, as research and studies show, the majority of us hesitate to ask for help when we really need it. We wait until we have no choice and the problem has become so much larger.

Yet, people are surprisingly willing to help. Studies tell us that people are 48% more willing than expected to help complete strangers.

Asking for help has proven benefits, writes Wayne Baker, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, and author of All You Have to Do Is Ask. In an article for SHRM, Baker lists several including contributing to the success of new hires, relieving stress, better job performance and contributing to innovation and creativity.

In light of all that, why don’t more of us ask our co-workers for help? Baker says there are 8 main reasons:

  1. We underestimate other’s willingness to help. We fear being rejected.
  2. An ingrained sense we need to solve our own problems.
  3. The social costs of asking for help; being perceived by others as weak or incompetent.
  4. The work culture is such that it actually is unsafe to admit you need help.
  5. The organizational structure makes it difficult to know whom to turn to for help.
  6. We’re not clear what help we need or how to ask for it.
  7. We worry we haven’t earned the privilege — built up the “credits” — to ask.
  8. We don’t want to appear selfish.


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Green Key