Growing your career

Feeling overloaded at work? Ask for help

Asking for help doesn’t mean you’ve failed. And if you’re overloaded at work, suffering through it is not going to benefit anyone – not you, your manager or your teammates. The longer you put off asking for help, the worse the problems can become and the fewer options there are to resolve them. 

What help do you need?

Before you approach anyone, you should work out why you need help and what exactly you need help with. Are you overworked because it’s a busy time of year? If so, be aware that everyone else is probably feeling stressed and overworked too. Or maybe it’s because you’ve been asked to do more work than you can fit into the hours in the day or are covering some of a colleague’s workload? Is a special project eating into the time you allocated to your day-to-day tasks? Taking some time to determine how long you need help for, and what tasks you can outsource to others, will be a good starting point to your discussion.  

Will you hurt your career by asking for help?

Asking for help can show strength rather than weakness. If you approach it well, it shows that you are striving for the highest quality and have the company's best interests at heart. Unless it’s clear that everyone in your team is overloaded, start by approaching your colleagues for help. If you are genuinely in need of help, most people will feel flattered that you’ve approached them for advice or assistance. However, be careful not to appear to be offloading tasks onto your colleagues and make sure when you’re asked for help, you respond positively and help others out too. 
Don’t go to your boss complaining that you can’t handle your job. When you ask your manager for help, it’s important not to appear to be surrendering or whining about how much you have to do. Approach the situation in a way that shows you want to be able to do your job effectively.

 How to ask your boss for help

  • Act quickly – the longer you delay asking for help the worse the issue can become and the fewer options there will be to resolve them
  • Create a list of the tasks you are currently working on in order of importance.  
  • Work out how long each task will take you to do.
  • Think beforehand about possible solutions – how can the work be redistributed or prioritised? How can your manager help you to solve this problem? 
This shows that you’ve made an effort to think through the issue on your own and that you’re not expecting your boss to sort it out for you—you’re trying to get the job done together. Remember, your boss might be feeling overworked and stressed too. It’s a good idea to demonstrate that you still want to be responsible and accountable for the work you need help with.
In the end, getting help shouldn’t be a big challenge for an employee. A good manager will see your request for help as an attempt to solve a problem for the benefit of the team and the company as a whole.
If you ask your boss for help, and it is not offered, that should be a huge red flag that it’s the wrong team or company for you. If you’re thinking about changing jobs, contact your local Page Personnel office now and find out how to improve your interview skills.