If you’ve ever found yourself overwhelmed by your to-do list at work, you’re not alone.
And while you quietly know you’re capable of doing the things on the list, you might wonder whether you should be doing some of them—especially those things that aren’t making the biggest difference for your company or for your career.
If that’s you, then it’s time to learn how to ask for more support at work.
First, why DON’T we ask for more support at work?
Does the thought of asking for more support bring up fears of being seen as incompetent, needy, not a “team player”?
Scratch that. It’s an old-school mentality.
Today, identifying lower-value work activities and getting them handled elsewhere is an essential skill.
It helps you increase your value and contribution to your company without increasing your time and stress.
A great business right-sizes the work to match the talent. If that’s not happening for you in your workplace, here’s a thought: do it yourself to get the support you need now.
Here are three steps to take that get you started when you’re ready to ask for more support at work.
1. Know Your Value
What’s it really costing your company for YOU to do things that someone else could do? Do the math.
Let’s look at this example:
- Say you’re the primary contact for three major customers: Winken, Blinken & Nod
- Winken’s total revenue to your company is $200k. Blinken is bigger at $500k. Nod’s a smaller but significant $100k.
- That means you’re responsible for a total revenue to your company of $800k a year.
If you had more time to grow –or even retain– those customers, how much more revenue could be possible?
This is the idea of leverage–that smaller investments on one side (like investing in operational or administrative support) help bigger investments grow (by freeing your time to do the things that only you can do).
So before you request assistance, it’s good to know the dollars and sense behind why it’ll be good business.
Not sure how your role helps the company succeed? Ask your manager or peers a question like, “From your point of view, how does my role here contribute to the results our company cares about most?”
But note: If you or your colleagues still can’t see a connection, that’s a big ole flashing danger sign.
Jobs with no clear value are the first to be at risk for change or elimination. Take action now to redefine, expand, or change your role (and my book “Red Cape Rescue: Save Your Career Without Leaving Your Job” can help open your eyes to possibilities right where you are. Get it here.)
2. Know It’s Not About You
The mistake many people make in asking for more support at work is that their top reason is “Because I’m drowning.”
That’s probably true, but it’s not a useful argument.
It’s often more productive to focus on how the company will benefit first.
- Using resources smarter: “I’ve done the math, and it ends up costing us $100/hour for me to do this, but if we shift it to our analyst Bob, we end up getting it done for about $45/hour without sacrificing quality.”
- Ability to get it done faster: “Based on my current commitments, I could do this after we deliver the Johnson contract in six weeks. If that’s not fast enough, we’ll need additional support. How would you like me to proceed?”
- Connection to current goals: “I know the most important thing in our department today is to increase revenue on product ABC. The time I’m spending on X is out of sync with that. My recommendation is that I keep focusing on ABC, don’t you agree? Let’s talk about alternatives for X..”
The only time it works to make the conversation about YOU is if you’ve been identified as a high potential leader in the organization’s eyes (not just yours or your boss’).
You can then focus on the firm’s goal of retaining and growing you for the future. For example, you can say:
- “I appreciate how much you value my potential here, and in order to invest more time in becoming the leader the firm needs me to be and to continue to create the results I do, we need to find another source to do X.”
If you’ve got the leverage of being a hi-po, use it.
3. Know There Are Alternatives
If you’ve asked and found it’s truly impossible to move the work, hire, or even eliminate it altogether, don’t give up.
You still have alternatives.
One is to propose that your company pay someone on a contract or project basis.
This is done all the time with consultants and experts, so why not do it with an administrative assistant, clerk, or specialist?
The accessibility of virtual assistants and contract resources from sites like Upwork and Fiverr has exploded within the entrepreneurial world. Yet they’re rarely leveraged within corporate settings.
You can even hire someone for your own personal project (such as entering business card information collected at a trade show into your customer spreadsheet or adding graphics to a presentation, etc.)
Depending on the work, you may also be able to pay for such services on a corporate credit card, avoiding the complexity of interviewing or working with sourcing agencies.
Or, you may decide to pay for it on your own and “buy” your own time back. You’ll never want to do this if it means sharing confidential information with an outsider, but if there’s a task that’d help your work go faster or easier—and you’ve exhausted all other sources of finding help—it may be worth it to get the help for yourself.
And Don’t Forget the Work at Home
While you can often negotiate more support on the work front, you can do the same at home.
What home responsibilities take your energy and time that you could hire, trade services for, or delegate?
There are plenty of alternatives today to get support for household help, shopping or grocery delivery, meal prep, yard work and other life maintenance we all have on our schedules.
Sure, they cost money. But in the long run, what is your time worth? What is your stress level worth?
What bigger things would you do with the extra time and energy?
I’m a huge fan of getting the support you need–having learned the hard way. 😩 If the quiet voice inside you is telling you you need more help at home, get started now. Write down five activities that drain you the most. Pick one to start.
Ask your Facebook friends who they know who does that thing. Search Yelp or other local Facebook groups and forums. Abandon any guilt—somebody out there has a superpower in an area that you find energy-draining. You’re helping them use their gifts so you can use yours elsewhere.
The Bottom Line: Ask, Don’t Suffer
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need to ask for more support at work, don’t forget that it’s up to you to take control to change it.
A better you will make a better contribution to your colleagues, your company, and your community.
Want more help? Chapter 7 of my book “Red Cape Rescue: Save Your Career Without Leaving Your Job” is called “Ask for What You Need.” It includes scripts and other tools to help you ask right now! Get it on Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite online booksellers here.
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If you need a safe, non-judgmental place to support and keep you moving forward create the work and life you want, a private coaching program may be for you. Let’s talk.
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