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Questioning your neighbors

Before you just barge into your colleagues office to have your problem solved, there are things you must do. Getting help from more experience colleagues is a great informal learning strategy and one that you should put into your informal learning tool chest. However, if you over use the tool, it will lose its effectiveness.

Why this tool is not used more

There are a number of reasons why people have a difficult time asking others for help.

  • People feel unqualified if they do not know the answer and do not want to look inferior in front of their peers. [1]
  • Senior leaders do not ask for help because they feel they are supposed to know the answer. [1]
  • Individuals are afraid of being rude and interrupting others at work. [1]

How to be a good neighbor

Here are some recommendations for being a good neighbor especially when you are seeking your colleagues help. Asking others for assistance, is especially important when you are new to a job or function. [2] Colleagues who have been in the position for a while bring a lot of experience to the table.

  • Don't simply barge into their office or cubicle, always, knock and wait to be invited in. [3]
  • If your colleague is not available, busy, or away from their desk, leave a note, send an email, or leave a voice mail indicating that you had stopped by. [3] Do not hover around their door.
  • Timing is everything. Choose the right time to ask for assistance, if they are obviously busy, wait until a better time. [4]
  • Accept a negative response as a professional. If your colleague can not assist you, accept that and move on. [4]
  • We should be encouraging others to speak up when they are stuck, otherwise a considerable amount of valuable time is wasted. [1]
  • People appreciate being asked for advice or help. [5]
  • You should also ask colleagues for feedback on how you are doing or what they perceive that you should be focusing on. [2]

Asking questions on online forums

Online forums are essentially neighborhoods where community members help each other out by answering questions posed on a specific topic. Community members are often a gracious crowd willing to assist, but they also have a specific protocol they like to have followed.

  • Provide details - If you are having software issues, then provide as many details as possible. [6] The more information you can provide the greater likelihood that your question will be answered.
  • Conduct research prior to asking questions - Just as in face to face questions, you will be more respected if you exhausted your attempts at research first. There is nothing more aggravating than find an answer for someone in the first Google search query. [6]
  • Do not repeat questions that others have asked. [6]
  • Be patient - It takes time to formulate an answer, and the individuals providing an answer are often working their own issues. [6]
  • Be a good community member and help others - As Walsh says, do not be a sponge, help others. [6]

More information on this topic


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Weissenberger, B. (2010). How to ask for help at work. Bloomberg Businessweek Retrieved from
  2. 2.0 2.1 Jones, E. (2010). Learning from Your Colleagues. An Apprenticeship Retrieved from
  3. 3.0 3.1 Martin, C. (2001). Cubicle etiquette: Dos and don'ts for today's soft-wall office. Achieve Solutions Retrieved from
  4. 4.0 4.1 Communicating with colleagues (2006). Department for Education and Skills. Retrieved from
  5. Kjerulf, A. (2006). Monday tip: Ask a co-worker for advice. Chief Happiness Officer Retrieved from
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Walsh, D. (2012). Asking for and giving help. David Walsh Blog Retrieved from

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