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Action Tip

4 tips to obtain backup

Do you have mixed feelings about asking for help? Remember that the people you approach are more likely to lend a hand than you think… but trying to force or browbeat them into helping you will not get you the results you want. Learn how to press the right motivational buttons!

Based on

Reinforcements – How to get people to help you by Heidi Grant (Harvard Business Review Press, 2018)

Create a favorable context for your request

Your requests for help are more likely to be accepted than refused – on one condition: your request must be loud and clear.

  • Be explicit. If you need help, say so openly and unambiguously. The people you approach are not focused on your problems – they have their own – and will notice subtle messages (not due to lack of solidarity but rather lack of attention).
  • Be straightforward. Let people know that their help is welcome and even desired. Your professional circle cannot read minds. Even if your employees and peers can see the difficulties you are in, they won’t know if you want to manage them by yourself or would like them to act. Out of sensitivity, they will not intervene spontaneously, especially if you are the manager: they may not offer help out of fear of hurting your ego.
  • Do not make your request to too many people – Sending a group email, for example, dilutes the responsibility for each individual. State clearly from whom you would like help, otherwise no one will feel accountable and you will not receive any answers.
  • Specify concisely and precisely the type of help you need to save everyone time.
  • Accept that you may not be at the top of the list in your contacts’ busy schedule. They may take some time to answer your request. If they are not able to give you the help you want, be open to alternative support solutions that they (hopefully) offer.
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Marianne Gerard
Published by Marianne Gerard
Marianne graduated from HEC in 1998 and is now a freelance journalist specializing in management and higher education. What really fires her up is the human dimension and she is c taking a psychology course at Rennes 2 University.