It is almost instinctive to understand the knowledge of two people is better than one, and the knowledge of three is better than two. Yet, it can be scary to ask for advice at work. You don’t want to seem foolish or weak. However, a study by the Harvard Business School of 1,500 employees found that if you ask questions the right way and approach getting advice from a certain perspective, you are actually admired rather than seen as incompetent.
Figuring out the right way to approach different situations is the biggest part of the equation, though. Navigating this work technique will set you apart from your peers and may help you get ahead in your chosen career. Below are four scenarios and how to ask for advice in each.
1. Drama at Work
You’re facing a situation where a particularly difficult co-worker is making your life absolute misery. Perhaps this person is proving difficult to get along with or is even being a bit of a stalker outside of work. Improper communication is one of the biggest problems when it comes to difficult co-workers, but knowing how to approach different personality types can be tough.
The best way to handle this situation is to go to your immediate supervisor. A good supervisor will know each worker and their personality. If your supervisor has a lot of experience or education in management, they’ll understand different personality types and how to handle them.
Here is the tricky part: Don’t just go and complain about the difficult co-worker. Instead, speak in general terms about the issue you are having without naming a name and ask the supervisor’s advice on how to approach the problem in an efficient way. You’ll likely get ideas on how to handle this situation, and if the problem escalates, you’ll already have started the complaint process in a proactive way.
2. Making Mistakes
Did you make a huge mistake at work, and you’re scared to death they might fire you? Although that is always a possibility in an at-will work situation, you probably aren’t the first or last person to make a mistake. Remember, what we say in our Time Management Training: Human, Not Superhero! Executives are people, too. More than likely, your upper management has made mistakes along the way.
Instead of hiding out at your desk and spending sleepless nights fretting about your mistake, own up to it and figure out how to fix it. Go to your boss and let them know you realize you made a big mistake. Share what you think led to the mistake and what steps you are taking to make sure it isn’t repeated.
Then, take the time to ask management what they think you should do to prevent this type of error in the future and ask if they have any advice for you so you can grow and learn from this situation. Your sincerity is more likely to impress than to put off those above you at work. It shows a willingness to grow, learn and become a better employee.
3. Get Input From Others
No one should try to make major decisions in a vacuum. Imagine you are a marketer and you’re asked to come up with promotional products for new hires or new clients, or maybe both. In this case, you want to make the absolute best impression possible. It’s important to make sure the ideas are stellar.
The best way to come up with the best idea is to ask co-workers what types of products they would be interested in having. How can the brand best be represented?
It’s okay to ask for help and input when you need it. There is no need to do things on your own when you really do need the help. Just make sure you’ve already done the legwork. Go to your co-workers with some design ideas ready to show them. You aren’t asking them to do all the work for you. You are simply asking for some guidance.
4. Feeling Stuck
Do you feel as though you’ve been working the same job without any promotion or raise in sight? Do you just feel stuck? This is the time to seek out a mentor to help you take your career to the next level. An obvious place to start is with those who are above you at your company. Your immediate superior can likely offer you some advice. Plus, asking for that advice puts you on the radar as someone who wants to move up in the company.
Approach your boss and ask if you can have a few minutes of their time to ask for some personal advice about your career. Offer to take them to lunch or for coffee, for example. If your boss agrees, go prepared with questions such as, “What skills would I need to develop to get a promotion?”
If your boss isn’t willing to mentor you, try to find someone through a networking group or in your network of friends who will teach you the skills you need to succeed.
Asking for advice isn’t a sign of weakness. Instead, it shows you recognize when you need help and you are willing to take input from others. Every person in this world has something unique about them, and you can learn from them, even if it is just to learn how you don’t want to act. Take the time to find mentors and to seek out advice from those you admire, and you will be seen as smart, savvy and determined.
By Lexie Lu
Lexie Lu is a freelance designer and blogger. She enjoys researching the latest trends and always has a cup of coffee in close proximity. She manages Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.