How to ask for a favor at work

Asking for help or a favour is a normal part of any professional setting. In fact, seeking assistance when genuinely needed can demonstrate humility, resourcefulness, and a willingness to collaborate. But it can become overwhelming if your professional day-to day revolves around asking for favours.

In some industries, it is common for people to cancel last moment, leaving the organisation with a sudden need for replacements. Especially busy organisations with hectic schedule are always in a favor crisis. Some projects just have a hard time to accurately predict their need sin advance. As a result, they might end up seeking last-minute support and requesting favours to fill any gaps.

And it can very stressful to be person in charge of sourcing those last-minute favors.

Why do professional favours feel personal?

Volunteer coordinators are a good example of often having to go around asking for favours. This is an activity which can pretty quickly turn personal. It can quickly feel that you are personally running out of favors to ask.

If it’s always you asking someone else to do something, it is only natural feel the need to return the favor. And because your professional success depends on a “yes”, you are in a vulnerable position.

How to deal with rejection

If your request gets rejected, you might feel uneasy asking for a favor the next time. You might wonder if you are asking for too much. You might doubt their commitment to your project, or feel bad about having to delegate tasks instead of doing them yourself. 

Volunteer coordinators often struggle with this fear of rejection. Of course it’s clear that they will not be able to reciprocate every small favor. Of course they’re not responsible for all planning mishaps in their organisation. Obviously their core job is to source for volunteers who can grant their cause a favor.

But it is very easy to feel like professional favors are also personal.

The Benjamin Franklin effect

Although requesting a favour is a challenge, it can lead you to build better relationships. A person who has done a favour is more likely to develop a positive attitudes toward the person they helped. This is a psychological phenomenon called the Benjamin Franklin effect.

The effect runs contrary to the common belief that we do favors for people we like. Instead, it suggests that we like the people for whom we do favors.

This effect has implications in various aspects of human interaction, including relationships, negotiations, and social dynamics. It also suggests that asking for a small favour can build rapport and establish a positive connection.

How to ask for a favor professionally

It’s a good idea to distance yourself from the requests. Even if people say no, asking for favours will help you to build confidence and resilience as a coordinator. Learn to understand that people have their own priorities in choosing which favours they will and will not do.

Learn how to distance yourself from asking favors by changing how you approach this activity. A professional approach helps keep your personal feelings out of the equation. You can set up internal processes to request favors, and standardise ways for reciprocity.