Asking? It's the Same in Business!

Francis J. Flynn, associate professor and co-director of the Center for Leadership Development and Research at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, noted for his research in the field of asking and giving reveals, "People hate asking for help. It makes them embarrassed, guilty, and fearful that they will look incompetent." In fact, those who want to ask for help "grossly underestimate how likely others are to agree to requests for assistance." What Dr. Flynn is telling us is that "individuals are more willing to help than we think."    

In the business world, Flynn tells us not asking translates to "missing out on huge opportunities for efficient collaboration" between managers and workers because each side feels pressure. We already know how hard it is to ask for help, and help-givers tend to miscalculate how many will come to them for assistance (". . . they simply don't recognize the social awkwardness people feel about doing so"). Flynn suggests, "The best way to encourage employees to seek help when they need it is to reassure them explicitly that soliciting help won't put them in a bad light." 

Flynn's research finds, "Cooperation in organizations often doesn't occur because people misconstrue each other's motives. In short, employees don't ask for help because they wrongly assume they won't get it, and managers don't encourage employees to ask for help because they wrongly assume that the employees will ask for it if they need it." 

When it comes to soliciting help, Dr. Flynn's says, "Ask and you shall receive" works like a charm" and "the direct approach works best." He found that people who were going to ask for help consistently predicted a 50% increase in the number of requests they'd have to make to achieve their goal and get the help they wanted. People are much "more likely than expected to offer help." What is most important is "how you make your request is likely to be more significant than the magnitude of what you're asking."