How to ask for a favor at work without making it awkward

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Yes, we know asking for favors can be awkward at times.

But sometimes the only way to get something done is to ask for help—and if you’re at work, that means asking a colleague.

Asking for a favor at work is like anything else: it takes practice, preparation, and confidence. If you learn the art of making the request, you can confidently ask for what you need without feeling embarrassed or like you’re imposing on someone else.

In this article, we will walk through everything you can do to make sure your favor requests are successful. We will talk about preparation and timing, making your request clear and concise, setting reasonable expectations of the outcome, and much more. Let’s get started!

Consider the timing

When it comes to asking for a favor at work, timing is everything.

If you catch your coworker at the wrong place at the wrong time, you risk potentially appearing impolite or aggressive.

It’s best to try and ask for favors when both of your schedules are clear and you each have enough time to discuss what it is that you need help with. This way, the person knows that your request isn’t intrusive and that you respect their time.

Choose your language wisely

It may seem simple, but the words you choose to explain your request have a significant impact. 

Start by explaining that you’re asking for a favor—this sets the expectation correctly. Then, explain why you think they are the best person to turn to for help, that is because they have specific skills or knowledge relevant to the task. Be sure to recognize what they bring to the table.

Finally, let them know how much time and effort it will take so they can decide if they are able and willing to do it. Once you explain which of their resources are needed, express your appreciation for their help in advance—this will show your respect and make them more likely to say yes.

Give something in return
giving someone a gift

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Another way to make sure you don’t feel awkward when asking for a favor is to give something in return.

You don’t have to physically give something, and it could be as simple as offering to return the favor. Your colleague will appreciate that you are willing to reciprocate the help they are giving you.

But if you can, expressing your gratitude is one of the best ways to show appreciation after they help you out. Offering up a thank-you note or treat can go a long way in making the favor-asking process comfortable for everyone involved.

It doesn’t need to be expensive either—even a small snack or chocolate bar can do the trick! But if you’re asking for a particularly big favor, it doesn’t hurt to offer up a sizeable type of “compensation.”

Have a clear direction

Asking someone for help is great, but you don’t want your request to be open-ended.

Having a well-defined goal will help set expectations and alleviate any confusion between you and the person you are asking for assistance.

Here are a few tips:

  • Be direct and concise with your ask. Explain what it is you need help with, what the timeline is, and any special instructions that may be involved in the task.
  • Come prepared with written instructions if needed. Make it easy for your coworkers to understand what exactly they need to do and how they can go about doing it with things in black and white.
  • Anticipate potential problems that may arise when asking for the favor, so you have a plan of action in case something doesn’t go as expected.
Know when to give up
colleagues talking behind a glass door

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As we come to a close, know that there comes a time when you should give up and move on.

If your colleague has already told you no, don’t keep pushing it—there must be a reason why they said no, and pressuring them more won’t get them to change their mind anytime soon.

Nobody likes an annoying pest. Sometimes even if you’re as polite and professional as possible while asking for a favor, things may not work out the way it was expected.

That’s why it’s wise to acknowledge that the other person might not be able to give what was asked for. Just thank them for their consideration and apologize if necessary. This will keep things from turning sour and leave things on a positive note.

Asking for a favor can be an intimidating proposition, especially when it’s at work. Building strong relationships with your colleagues is key and being respectful and thoughtful when asking for a favor will go a long way. If a favor is denied, thank the person for their time and consideration. There may still be other ways to get what you want, such as finding a different person to ask, or approaching the task differently. With practice and patience, asking for a favor at work can become less intimidating and more efficient.

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