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Dear Anna,
I can see a team member is struggling with their workload, and I’ve offered to help several times. They don’t seem to want to accept my help.  What can I do differently?

Most of the time when we think about helping another person it’s because we can see a need and want to make things better.  Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just making the offer, especially if you are more senior or more experienced that the person you are offering to help. This is one of those rare situations where being reactive and waiting to be asked has more positive benefits than being proactive and offering assistance that hasn’t been requested.

Offering help without being asked has been labelled anticipatory in a recent Academy of Management article by Harari, Parke and Marr. Consider the last time you were carrying a heavy package.  Asking someone to help lift it because you have concluded it’s too heavy for you alone is different to lifting it with effort and having someone ask if they can then help – you are much more likely to say “no thanks” in the second situation, this research suggests.  What can you do to increase your offer being accepted?

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