Guest blog by Julie Chakraverty, Founder of Rungway
We all know the phrase ‘a problem shared is a problem halved,’ but when it comes to issues at work it is one that is too often ignored. At least, that is what we discovered when we asked UK professionals how they cope with problems at work, with almost half (49%) of UK workers saying they never seek help for problems in the workplace.
In an ideal world, everyone’s work lives would run smoothly with no problems or issues. The reality – everyone has times when they are stressed at work, whether feeling burnt out, dealing with a high workload or struggling with tasks. Yet, despite this, employees may not seek help, even if these issues are impacting their health and keeping them up at night. Almost one in five (19%) UK workers admitted that work issues affect their sleep on a weekly basis.
Why don’t employees ask for help?
The simple answer – they think they can’t.
The problem is that many workers think that they shouldn’t or are unable to seek help. Employees can be afraid to speak up, fearing they will be seen as a pest. Or they believe that asking for help shows weakness. Even if they do wish to talk to someone, our research revealed some feel that they have no-one to turn to (one in 10) or that other people are simply too busy to care (17%).
Yet, employees need to realise that this is far from the case. On Rungway, a new app I have launched where people give and get help, we see how everyday people are offering their advice and sharing their experiences. So many people are in fact willing and happy to help and employees should learn to reach out when they need to.
Why should employees speak up?
Far from surrendering or conceding defeat, asking for help at work is a sign of strength. Employees are demonstrating that they are self-aware, recognising they could use some support. The first step towards a solution is acknowledgement. If you have no idea that employees are facing a problem, how can you know that there is an issue needing to be resolved? Rather than shutting down communication, it should be opened up, bringing issues to the surface and ensuring they are resolved quickly.
Not seeking help, on the other hand, can be the sure-fire way to fail. If employees ignore issues and bottle up emotions, it will just make things worse, allowing a problem to escalate.
Opening up communication channels and sharing problems can help employees be better informed as well as offer comfort and reassurance in these uncertain times. They may worry that no-one will understand their struggles but stress comes in many different forms and any problem is valid. Though, more often than not, the chances are that plenty of others are tackling the same stress. They will not know or be able to learn from others’ experiences, if they do not ask.
It can be an immediate assumption for employees that talking to someone about workplace issues means having to speak to their manager, but anyone can help – colleagues, friends or, even better, people outside an employee’s usual network. They have more options than they think and an outside view can put issues into a wider context, offering more objectivity. An outsider can better assess what an employee is capable of and when struggling to complete a task, for example, can help break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks. When people are too close to a problem they often cannot see any possible way out, but talking to someone else grants a fresh perspective. It helps employees realise that not hitting that deadline really isn’t the end of the world.
How can HR Managers help?
The best means to encourage employees to seek help is to lead by example. Companies need to think about creating a safe environment where employees feel comfortable opening up and having honest conversations. HR and line managers can also facilitate these conversations, enabling employees to connect with others, particularly those they would not normally have the opportunity to speak with.
Asking for help is also not a one-way relationship or benefit. To help themselves, employees should be encouraged to help others – everyone can offer advice, no matter their experience. This not only helps boost employees’ confidence but makes them happier to speak out when facing their own issues.
Everyone has a few minutes to spare to help or be helped, even just a few words can make a real difference. So, before a problem is doubled, why not halve it – make sure your employees feel empowered to talk to someone.
About the author
Julie Chakraverty is the founder of Rungway, the new mentoring app to give and get workplace advice. She also serves as the Senior Independent Director at Aberdeen Asset Management where she is Chairman of the Risk Committee, and former Chairman of the Innovation Committee.
Previous non-executive roles include Mitsui Amlin where she chaired the Remuneration Committee, and Spirit Pubs. Julie is also a Trustee for the Girls Day School Trust.
During her executive career Julie was a Board Member of UBS Investment Bank where she held a number of global leadership positions. She chaired the UBS Women’s Network, “All Bar None” and won industry awards for innovation every year between 2001-2009 for her “CreditDelta” technology product.
In 2006 she was named in Management Today’s ‘Top 35 Women Under 35’. In 2013 she was recognised in The Times newspaper as the youngest female director of a FTSE-100 company, aged 41.