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 ask for more support at work.
Why We Don’t Ask for Support at Work–And Why We Need To
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 in increasing 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, do it yourself and ask for help.
Here are three steps to take today. Use them & share them with those you love who need 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.
For example, if you’re being paid $70,000 a year to serve three major customers, what’s your total work worth to the company in their revenue, repeat business, referrals? (Hint: over the course of a year, it’s likely a lot more than $70k.)
If one of those customers went away, how many dollars would go away, too?
Or, if you had more time to do the great work you do for one more customer, how much more money could the company gain?
Before you request assistance, it’s good to know the dollars and sense behind why helping you be more productive will 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.
2. Know It’s Not About You
The mistake many people make in asking for assistance is that their top reason is “Because I need it.”
As true as it may be, it’s significantly more productive to focus on how the company will benefit, not how you will. For example:
- 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
One is to propose that your company pay someone on 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 world of virtual assistants and contract resources from sites like Upwork and Fiverr have exploded within the entrepreneurial world. Yet they’re rarely leveraged within corporate settings.
You can even hire someone for a very small 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.
And Don’t Forget the Work at Home
Finally, if you find nothing can budge on the workfront (and you’re not interested in a change of job), consider increasing your support on the homefront. What other 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 homekeeping, shopping and meal prep, yard work and other life maintenance we all have on our schedules. Yes, they cost money, but what is your sanity worth? What bigger things would you do with the extra time and energy?
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, Angie’s List, or other local boards. Think how it will feel to have someone else do that energy draining work. Then choose someone and get started.
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 always makes a better contribution to your colleagues, your company, and your community.