Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Lessons from Generation Z: It’s OK to Ask for Help at Work

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If you’ve been paying close attention to your colleagues, you will most likely have observed the great difference between the habits and attitudes of millennials as compared to those of genzers, a.k.a. the young, new hires. The oldest members of generation z (aged 18-23 years old) entered the workforce not too long ago, yet their presence have created ripples within offices and other working communities where they are present.

And perhaps this is because of the very unique circumstances surrounding their entry to adulthood. Unlike the generations before them, genzers are blessed with literally the world’s knowledge. The internet provides them with easy access to just about anything–from everyday life skills like how to properly wash a mirror and cook your own food, to other, more specialized ones like how to master Excel or take the perfect product photo using nothing but your iPhone and some props. 

Genzers are also the most diverse generation to date–not just in terms of race, but background as well. And when you think about it, maybe this is the reason why they are so open to embracing and celebrating their individuality. Compared to generations past who were always taught to fit a certain mold in order to be successful, genzers understand that they can do things without having to compromise their individuality. 

Definitely, this generation has a lot that they can teach previous ones. And among them is the importance of asking for help at work.

As a millennial raised by very strict and capable parents, I was always taught the value of always being one step ahead. “Thinking ahead can make things a whole lot easier for you,” my dad would always say. And for the most part, this mindset has helped me achieve a lot of things and advance my career. But it also led me to develop some very nasty habits.

Being always prepared, naturally made people in my workplace see me as a leader. And where I come from, leaders do not normally ask for help. They give orders. They don’t ask questions. They just know things–or so I was made to believe.

Last year, we received two new hires in our team. They are young ladies fresh from college, genzers. They had style. They had grace. They knew things. Two months into the role and I was very impressed by the two’s consistent performance and progress. They handled projects really well–in fact better than some of my contemporaries. They have great taste, which I would attribute to the fact that they spend a lot of time finding pegs for events and packaging on Pinterest. And they are always one step ahead.

Two months in and they have already established themselves as competent ladies who, despite their youth, are very well on their way to become leaders.

Out of curiosity, I took their third month evaluation as an opportunity to ask them how they manage to do things with so much ease. Their answer, to sum it up, is: We ask help from almost everyone in the team. We ask a lot of questions. We ask for their opinions on certain circumstances. We ask for assistance on things that are beyond our capability. We know our strengths and weaknesses and help each other in those areas. 

It was only after that that I realized just how many times they asked for my assistance, and I so willingly gave it to them. It was only natural as I am their boss, and they are new hires. But what I never realized was how easily one can make progress if they only asked for help. I looked back at the many times I had a hard time understanding things and finishing tasks; the many times I felt so overwhelmed but didn’t talk to anyone about it. I sacrificed a lot of personal time–family dinners, out of town trips with friends–because I always thought I had to finish everything by myself. When in fact, I didn’t. I could have easily asked for a hand, and my colleagues would have provided it.

This small talk changed my perspective so much. From that day on, I started asking more questions both towards my bosses as well as my subordinates. I asked for help to accomplish reports, to coordinate deliveries, to complete tasks that would’ve taken me forever if I were to work on it alone. And things have been so much better since. I also got to know my colleagues more, and have built better relationships with them.

If I were to sum up all the benefits of asking for help at work, I’d break it down into four:

  1. It helps you learn more things, not just about specific tasks or roles of people, but your colleagues as well.
  2. It boosts everyone’s productivity because workload is shared and is therefore executed faster and a lot easier.
  3. It allows you to maintain focus on the bigger things that need your attention by freeing up your hands of extra tasks.
  4. It builds trust between colleagues. 

If you’re a millennial or a member of gen x who has developed the same habit of doing things by yourself. It’s time to change that. Asking for help opens up a world of opportunities for you to do even better. Practice that today.

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