Q&A: When requests for help go unheard
Ensure your requests are reasonable and lines of communication are open.
Q: When I ask co-workers for help, they seem receptive but never follow through. What now?
First, ensure your requests are reasonable, says Debbie Allaben Gair, CVPM, a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and a management recruiter and coach with Bridging the Gap in Sparta, Mich. Is the team member capable and available? Are you allowed to delegate? Are you respectful? All of these factors determine whether others will follow through, she says.
"Perhaps your team members can't say no, even when their plates are full," Gair says. Be patient and kind, she says. Assign tasks face-to-face, and read team members' body language when you ask, "Can you accomplish this?" To encourage an honest assessment, ask them to respond later, suggest you'll solicit someone else, or offer to help them. "When we feel our co-workers care about us, we're more willing to help," Gair says. If the co-worker accepts, set a deadline and follow up.
Finally, remember that everyone forgets sometimes. So probe to find out whether your request got lost in the chaos of emergencies and daily chores. A gentle reminder often will help, Gair says.