Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
WORK-LIFE BALANCE / MAY. 17, 2015
version 3, draft 3

Why Men Struggle To Ask For Help At Work

We’re living in an age where organisations are increasingly hoping to be collaborative and innovative and are therefore encouraging employees to work together and share their knowledge with one another. Central to this is, of course, being able to ask for help when you’re struggling with something.

See Also: How asking for help makes it easier to accept it

Except, asking for help is something many of us struggle with. After all, isn’t the request in itself an admission that you’re not capable of doing the job yourself?  Is it therefore a negative reflection on your abilities?

Why we struggle to ask for help

A recent study conducted by researchers at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, discovered that the symptom mentioned above is particularly strong among male employees. The study also found that one of the main reasons for this is that male leaders are regarded as less able when they reached out to others for assistance.

"Frequently, in the context of leadership, we think of males as being advantaged because they represent the prototypical leader," the authors say. "But what are the conditions under which this may not be the case, and male leaders are disadvantaged? That is focus of this work."

The paper, which was published in the Leadership Quarterly journal, saw participants undertake a number of leadership building activities, including things like hiking, biking and sailing in a range of challenging environments. Each participant was asked to lead a group during the exercise at some point, and surveys were used to understand how the group regarded the competence of each leader. The survey was also designed to dig into how frequently the leader asked for help from their team.

A second element of the research consisted of an experimental study.  This time, participants were asked to picture themselves as an employee at a fictional company. They were instructed to evaluate the performance of the CEO of that company based upon a simple description of a meeting held at the company. The CEO used for the study was evenly described as being either male or female while there was also an alteration in their willingness to ask for help.

Do we expect male leaders to know it all?

The results were very consistent across both the experimental study and the field data. In both, it emerged that when the male leaders asked for help from their team, they were subsequently rated as less competent than their peers who survived without asking for assistance.  For women, whether they asked for help had no bearing on their subsequent ratings as a boss.

The authors suggest that the findings may have consequences for the careers of male leaders.

"When a person is perceived as though they are not competent because they are asking for help, that could probably have some long-term career implications with regard to promotions, appointments and evaluations," the paper says. "Most importantly, these perceptions may serve as barriers to men’s willingness to ask for assistance when needed. Regardless of whether we acknowledge it or not, these various biases creep into our decision-making processes. Perceptions matter."

How asking for help can help you

Of course, it isn’t all bad news.  A 2010 study found that there are various ways that you can suck up your way to the top of your organisation, with one of the best ways of doing this being to ask for advice from the person you wish to flatter.  Now you might say that if you’re in a leadership role then you don’t need to flatter anyone above you, in which case a second study may be of interest.

See Also: How asking for advice can help your career

It found that the more often we offer to give help to those around us, the easier it then becomes to ask for (and accept) help ourselves.  Maybe the key for male leaders is therefore to be more forthcoming with help and advice themselves.

Do you find it hard to ask for help? Do you think it is all in your head or a legitimate concern?

Get our FREE eBook!
'6 Steps to Landing Your Next Job'

LEAVE A COMMENT

0 comments

 

RELATED ARTICLES

Why Retail Therapy Won't Help Us Overcome Setbacks At Work
WORK-LIFE BALANCE / FEB 05, 2015

Setbacks are an inevitable part of working life, and they can provide quite a blow to our self-esteem and sense of self. How we respond to negative events in life is...

Kim Kardashian and North West
WORK-LIFE BALANCE / SEP 03, 2015

The definition of "having it all" is being able to have a career that you enjoy while raising a family. And we all want that, right? Of course there’s nothing wrong with...

Is Work Life Balance Only For Men?
WORK-LIFE BALANCE / APR 12, 2014

There is no lack of successful female executives in the hallowed corridors of the American professional world. The US, and indeed the world, has given us a long list of...

john cena and the rock
WORK-LIFE BALANCE / DEC 02, 2015

Fans of professional wrestling, particularly of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), are truly one of a kind. We find entertainment in grown men, beating each other up...

Transgenders in the Workplace: UNL Graduate Struggles to Find Work
WORK-LIFE BALANCE / MAR 15, 2014

“I thought that my skill set would speak for itself. But I have to play the game in order to get a job. I have to represent as male, and it's frustrating because I don't...

Get our FREE eBook!
'6 Steps to Landing Your Next Job'
G up arrow