Have you ever offered to help a colleague and had an unexpectedly lukewarm reaction? Maybe received a strange look or a negative response? While an offer to help is usually well intentioned, in many cases it can fall flat. I know that sounds odd, but not everyone receives the offer of help in the same way. Time and time again, the managers I work with struggle with this basic interaction. I’m here to tell you it’s not so basic, but if you think up front about whom you are engaging, the dialogue becomes easier.
Do you guys remember when Yoplait® first introduced the Go-GURT® Yogurt? The Go-GURT made it fun for kids to eat yogurt. My sister-in-law bought Go-GURT sticks for her children all the time! They came in a long tube with a “tear here” symbol on the top, but that was a joke. The only way you could open the thing was if you used a scissor. I was with my youngest niece one day and she asked for one. Knowing it was impossible for my then two-year-old niece to open it on her own, I proceeded to get the scissor from a drawer, to which she responded, annoyed, I might add, “No Kack, I can do it.” I responded “Okay” and continued with my work. My niece walked around the kitchen four or five times before she finally gave up and asked, “Can you help me?” I quietly snipped off the top and handed it to her. She walked away happy and I didn’t say, “I told you so!” Go-GURT is still on the market today. Wonder if they’re easier to open!?
Here’s how the Playground Personalities© receive the offer of help and some tips on how managers can start their communications to get the best response:
Peacemakers – graciously. They will have feelings that people might think they can’t handle something. They might even take it personally and not accept your offer to help. Peacemakers naturally offer to help others at the risk of sacrificing their own needs; but they need to work on receiving help. Approach a Peacemaker with genuineness and say, “I would be happy to help. Let me know what I can do for you?”
Organizers – negatively. They don’t want anyone to “mess” with their processes and order. They’d rather suffer with an over-extended workload than accept someone’s offer to help. They think, “I don’t like rework and if you help me, I’m only going to have to redo it anyway!” Stay out of the line of fire with an Organizer and offer this: “Once you get your checklist finalized, assign me a task.”
Revolutionaries – keenly. They are so good at receiving help they can get people to do their work for them! Revolutionaries like it when someone volunteers to do their work, hah! They’re good at it too. They sit back and watch people spin around with their unwieldy workloads. They figure if someone needs help, he’ll ask for it! So for the Revolutionary, “Give me a holler if you need something from me,” usually works!
Steamrollers – cautiously. They ask themselves, “Why would I need help from you? Do you think I’m not smart enough to do this on my own?” Steamrollers usually resist any offer of help. It’s not worth getting into an intellectual battle with them. So choose your words wisely and stand back for their potential roar! Remember, it is important for Steamrollers to know that you respect their competence and intellect. Try, “You are the expert, so let me know how I can help.” Usually works like a charm!
Well, I’m here to tell you that my 11th grade niece today, who is smart, athletic, independent, and beautiful, rarely asks for help. And, if she does, she really wants it! Funny how that works! As managers, it’s a part of our responsibility to make sure our staff have the appropriate resources to do their jobs. So sometimes offering to help is a reasonable strategy, but remember, it can be a slippery slope. If you want to make an offer to help, just think about who you’re communicating with and go for it! While no one may take you up on your offer, your interactions will be smoother and you’ll get fewer negative responses!