The Last Person You'd Ask for Help

Last Updated Mar 4, 2010 1:14 PM EST

Who do you turn to for help? Well, it looks as if one person you'll go to great lengths NOT to seek help from is your manager.

A survey of 2,000 adults by the Chartered Management Institute and the British Library found that 85 percent would rather find their own answers than ask their manager for help.

Why? Some (23 percent) just don't trust their managers' judgement, others don't want to appear incompetent or be judged incapable of sorting out their own problems. But the big excuse is also in some ways the most telling -- 48 percent just don't want to bother their manager.

Despite the fact that it's a manager's job to support and guide team members, the fact is that most are perceived as unapproachable or incapable -- probably a sign of the times. If your workplace is one of the many worldwide where headcount has been cut, there's every chance your manager really is busier than before.

Yet wherever people are looking for help, only a small proportion are reading it in books. The CMI survey -- which is promoting its Management Book of the Year competition -- found only five percent turn to business books in their manager's stead.

But when they do, the subjects speak volumes -- most seek advice on better balancing work and home life; on how to get a pay rise or promotion; or on how to manage people... not, perhaps, something you'd tell your manager you're reading up on.

It's not such a bad thing to foster a culture of independence, where people seek out solutions from colleagues -- but it should be in the knowledge that your boss can help if you're struggling, and is there to guide your initial path. Steering clear of your manager because they are busy is one thing; but it's another to avoid your boss because you deem them incompetent. (Wouldn't even the most insensitive manager notice if no-one ever sought their advice?)

So where do people go for help if not to their boss? Do the CMI findings reflect your experience at work?

(Photo: Andres Valenzuela, CC.2.0)