Why Does Asking for Help Make Us Feel like a Burden?

It may have something to do with company culture.

Guest post by Brynne Labuzan - Content Writer Intern

Do you ever find yourself hesitant to ask others for help? Do you sometimes fear that others will interpret your need for help as inadequacy or weakness? Do you try to answer all the questions on your own, often becoming overwhelmed and confused in the process?

If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions, you are not alone. Many of us struggle to ask others for help, both in our personal and professional lives. We hide behind a composed exterior, internalizing our doubts so as not to appear vulnerable. We may think that others will make assumptions about our competency or use the thing we need help with against us. Whatever your personal fears may be, the reason many of us struggle to ask for help is the same: We exist in an individualistic society that fundamentally values the needs of the individual over the needs of the collective group.

What does it mean to live in individualistic society?

In contrast to collectivist cultures which employ interpersonal relationships to achieve mutual success, individualistic cultures rely inherently on competition. Each individual is responsible for achieving their own success and are expected to be capable of overcoming any challenge that arises along the way. As such, asking others for help is looked down upon and considered a sign of weakness within individualism.

The implications of living in an individualistic society can be felt on a personal and professional level. When it comes to our personal lives, many of us have difficulty reaching out to others when we are in a vulnerable position. Whether it be mental health or financial struggles, the shame that surrounds these personal challenges often deters us from seeking the support we need. In terms of our professional endeavors, many of us become overwhelmed by our workload because we take on more than we can carry. Afraid to let our guard down by asking colleagues for help, we struggle to produce quality work and can find ourselves falling behind on deadlines.

In a 2007 New York Times article titled “Why Is Asking for Help So Difficult?”, author Alina Tugend spoke with Garret Keizer, author of “Help: The Original Human Dilemma” (HarperCollins, 2004). Speaking on peoples’ fear of requesting assistance in the workplace, Keizer shared the following:

“There is a tendency to act as if it’s a deficiency. That is exacerbated if a business environment is highly competitive within as well as without. There is an understandable fear that if you let your guard down, you’ll get hurt, or that this information you don’t know how to do will be used against you.”

While western society as a whole remains individualistic by nature, there has been a shift in the way our businesses organize themselves over the past few decades. Rather than applying individualism uniformly, many companies have started internally cultivating their own unique cultures. For most, a growing emphasis on collaboration and team building has proved to be incredibly lucrative. This was the case for Porsche AG Worldwide, the world’s largest sportscar manufacturer that was forced to reimagine its company culture when it faced collapse in the 1980s. Retired CEO Peter Schutz shared the following sentiment regarding the company’s cultural shift:

“The biggest challenge was to restore a dying organization, which was losing money, to growth and profitability. The first steps were not: Cutting costs, developing new products and/or services, inventing clever new marketing concepts, or clever advertising! Instead, the first steps were: Rebuilding a culture where all employees were a family, striving for a ‘shared’ success! The basis for this success turned out to be winning major races again.”

We may not be able to choose our society's culture, but we can choose the culture of our workplace.

Unfortunately, the fundamental culture of our society cannot be reframed overnight. The process of reversing harmful individualistic ideologies must occur gradually and collectively. The good news is that we don’t have to just sit around and wait for that to happen. In the meantime, we can begin to overcome our own limiting beliefs by immersing ourselves in a company culture that aligns with our values, what energizes us, and what we are naturally good at. When we are surrounded by like minded individuals who support our goals, the process of asking for help becomes empowering.

If you’re like I was, you may not have a clear idea of how to identify your ideal company culture. Moreover, you may not even know where to begin looking for guidance (and if you do know where to look, your fear of asking for help may be preventing you from getting answers). Prior to discovering the CareersKitchen program, I was in the same boat. I was approaching college graduation and had no idea what type of company I wanted to work for or what position I wanted to fill. All I knew is that I didn’t want to wake up with a sense of dread before work each morning – I wanted to be empowered by my career.

As cheesy as it may sound, completing the program was an eye-opening experience. With each activity, I learned something new about myself and my career. CareersKitchen prompted me to identify my values and their origins, to understand what motivates me to succeed, and to recognize my inherent skills and how to apply them in the marketplace. The program then provided me with detailed results to serve as a guide as I search for the companies and positions that are personally aligned with me and my goals. After completing the program, I can now say that my vision of success is clear, and I have begun working on the short-term and long-term goals I set out to achieve it.

While the society we live in sways us to believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness and incompetence, we don’t have to allow this limiting belief to suppress our potential. If you feel uncomfortable or ashamed to ask your colleagues for help, it may be time to evaluate the culture of the company you work for. If this is your first time learning about company culture, don’t be afraid to seek guidance as you discover your ideal fit. Whether that guidance comes from friends and family, a career development program like CareersKitchen, or somewhere completely different, it’s important that you prioritize your success and find the company culture that’s right for you.

When you are working in the company culture that is right for you, you will feel empowered and energized by those around you. When this happens, asking for help no longer feels like a burden – it feels like a step in the direction of success.

How do you find the opportunity that is right for you?

@CareersKitchen, we would love to hear how it is going for you!

Our program is designed to offer a full spectrum of support when it comes to finding and pursuing your dream job. You may not even know what that dream job is, but we can help you to find out. We will help you to understand your strengths and motivations better, and with our data-driven tools and personalised coaching at your disposal — we can begin to narrow down the search for industries, companies or even specific roles that interest you.

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