“A little help over here?” Asking for assistance can be really hard for some people. It opens up the opportunity to be vulnerable and possibly rejected. Sometimes co-workers are so competent at busting through their to-do list that it can be received as an insult to offer your help.
In this blog we will be exploring Language #3: Acts of Service. This series is based on Gary Chapman & Paul White’s book, “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.” The book defines “Acts of Service” as providing assistance to one’s colleagues.
I have heard Acts of Service people say, “I shouldn’t have to ask, people should offer to help.” To be fair, coworkers may not know that you are in need of assistance until you let them know. Some responsibilities can’t be delegated, many can be. If a colleague is stressed because he is coming up on a deadline, a simple offer of “I’ll grab you a sandwich when I’m out so you can stay focused” can communicate value. It says that YOU are important enough to get MY hands dirty for.
If you want to get your hands dirty for a colleague, here are some tips from the book that will make your Acts of Service effective:
1. Finish YOUR Work Before you Volunteer for Mine. Make sure your responsibilities are covered before you volunteer. I don’t want your help if you are neglecting your responsibilities. That puts a burden on me. You can say, “I finished my report early and have some extra time. What can I do for you?”
2. Ask Before Doing. Some people want control over all the details or they don’t trust people to complete the task. Taking the initiative can back-fire. “Can I take anything off your plate?”
3. Serve Voluntarily. To begrudgingly serve after someone had to beg or you were forced to is not an act of service. Being Volun-TOLD would sound like, “The boss said I have to come help you.” The attitude of generosity matters. I don’t want your help if you don’t really WANT to help me.
4. There is a Plan, Follow it. I care about the end result. If your “help” is going to create more work for me, I’m not interested. Ask, “how would you like me to do this?” Follow the instructions.
5. If you Take it, Finish it. If you remove something from my to-do list, you are accepting responsibility for completing it. I feel relief when the weight of another burden is lifted. Don’t return that burden when I thought it was gone. Tell me your limitations so I can adjust my expectations. “I’ve got about 30 minutes before my ride is here. What can I do to help?”
When I took the online assessment to find out my Language of Appreciation, Acts of Service was my secondary. The report listed actions co-workers can take to help me feel valued.
- Assist her with projects she is working on (even if it is not their responsibility to do so.)
- Help her accomplish tasks that will assist in getting the overall project done more quickly.
- Work enthusiastically on a requested task.
Some Other General Recommendations:
- Stay after hours to help me complete a project.
- Offer to do some menial task that will allow me to focus on higher priorities
- Bring me or my team some food when we are working long hours to complete a project.
Not everyone feels comfortable asking for help or communicating they are in need of an extra pair of hands. The next time a co-worker looks overwhelmed and is hitting an important deadline, empty your hands and ask, “I’m ready to help, what can I do?”
Reflect & Share: (a) What act of service resonated with you the most? (b) Identify two colleagues and ask, “Is there anything I can do to help make your work easier?” Implement appropriately and observe the response.
1. Take the assessment to find out what specifically YOU need to feel appreciated. ($15 or free with purchased book). There are specialty assessments for school, medical, non-profit/ministry, military, and long-distance.
2. Buy: The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace (book)
3. Learn more by watching videos