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Home  > Article

Why Smart Women Ask for Help

By Tory Johnson, CEO of Women for Hire

Quite often, women don't ask for help at work, but are more than willing to have other people's work dumped on them.

We offer our assistance to colleagues in need, but when it comes to ourselves, we worry that we will be perceived as incompetent or needy if we ask for the same help. So, we just try to do it all on our own, which is a mistake.

Asking for help is about managing your time and your career. Asking for help need not diminish your strengths or abilities in any way. In fact, there's a lot of grace in asking for assistance, and here's why:

  • Perhaps there is a specific expertise that is required on a project, and you do not possess it.
  • Maybe there is a deadline that you are in danger of missing unless you get some help.
  • You might be juggling several priorities simultaneously, and you need an extra hand.
  • You received a new responsibility at work but lack the necessary training.

By failing to ask for help, you may miss a deadline, which will no doubt reflect poorly on you. Don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it. Instead of risking failure, figure out what you need in order to produce a successful outcome, and try to communicate that need early in the process. By asking for more help, you may be eliminating potential problems.

The key is how you ask for that help. Don't approach your boss and say, "I'm so overwhelmed, I can't handle this." Instead say, "There is so much text in this presentation. I want to bring in a copywriter to make sure we deliver a flawless presentation." Keep the focus off yourself and on the benefit to the employer. You are players on the same team, and you are looking for a win. You've studied the issue and know how to ensure a win.

Handling your job this way demonstrates that you understand the critical aspects of the project and are willing to delegate some aspects of it that may be outside your core competency. Don't say, "I'm just not confident in my abilities as a copywriter." Instead, say, "We need a professional writer to really make this shine."

The next time you are working on a project that increases in scope so much that it becomes hard to handle, say, "We really need to pull two additional people into this project because it increased in scope since we received the assignment. I want to ensure we meet the agreed-upon deadline." Don't say, "I'm terrified that I'm going to miss a deadline so I really need more help." It's all in the way that you position the request. It's all in the way you ask.

Try to ask for help as soon as you see a problem. But even if trouble brews up at the eleventh hour, remember to ask for the appropriate assistance. There is minimal risk in asking for help; the real risk is in not asking.

Tory Johnson is the CEO of Women For Hire and the Workplace Contributor on ABC's Good Morning America. Connect with her at

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