January 10, 2023
In our last blog, we talked about why people are hesitant to ask for help and discussed some of the numerous reasons why asking for help is beneficial for people as well as companies. In summary, we came up with 7 major reasons why people are reluctant to ask questions; 1) people don’t want to look incompetent, 2) people don’t think anyone is going to actually help them 3) people don’t feel like they have earned the “right” to ask for help, or they are afraid they will be indebted to whoever does help them, 4) people would rather appear self-reliant, 5) people believe that “smart people” don’t ask for help, 6) people don’t feel psychologically safe to ask for help and 7) people don’t know who to ask. These will be important to keep in mind as we dive into this blog, the 3rd installment in this “power of asking for help” series.
In this article, we will discuss how specific groups face these hesitations and more. Specifically, women and minorities seem to have additional pressures that render them even quieter than the rest of the workforce. We will discuss how and why these minority groups are not asking for help as well as talk about the power of asking for help. In this blog, we are connecting the dots between the importance of diversity and the importance of asking for help. Keep reading to learn more!
First, we want to discuss a few remaining issues surrounding people’s reluctance to ask for help. While we know that many people are hesitant to ask for help, there are a few groups of people who are even less likely to ask for help.
Women in the workplace are one group that is more reluctant than the average person to ask their coworkers for help. Generally, research has actually found that women are simply less likely to speak up at all - regardless of it being to ask for help or simply put their opinion out into the open. In a study from the University of Cambridge, AJ Carter and their research team found that “women audience members asked absolutely and proportionally fewer questions than male audience members.” (SOURCE) Carter and the team reviewed observational data from nearly 250 seminars in 10 different countries, all confirming the same thing: women are less likely to speak up.
Samantha Karlin reports on another similar study that also found that women were less likely to ask for help than male counterparts. (source) This study followed up with women who didn’t ask questions and surveyed them as to why they stayed quiet. In response, women said “I was worried I had misunderstood the content,” “I couldn’t work up the nerve,” and “I wasn’t sure whether the question was appropriate.” Women were also less likely to view themselves as experts in the topic, and even considered themselves “not clever enough to ask a good question.”
Sound familiar? Like we discussed in the last article, some of the major reasons why people don’t ask for help include not feeling psychologically safe, and not wanting to look incompetent, all of which seem to be true from the research above. But all people feel these fears around asking for help, so why are women asking less? From the research above, it sounds like there are additional factors at play - including issues of confidence and maybe even some internalized “roles” that people think they are supposed to play in society.
Similar to women in the workplace, it seems as though other minorities may face the same challenges in asking for help. We believe that the lack of questions from minorities stems from minority groups not feeling psychologically safe at work.
Thinking back to our last blog, we previously discussed how people need to feel psychologically safe before they ask for help. Meanwhile, Zuhairah Washington and Laura Morgan Roberts report that minorities face major harassment in an article in the Harvard Business Review. Washington and Morgan go on to quote a survey of five large U.S. companies in which they “found that women of color are most likely to experience workplace harassment among all groups. They are often held to a much higher standard than their white and male peers and presumed to be less qualified despite their credentials, work product or business results."
Additionally, Julie Nugent’s research with Catalyst Research Centers found that repeated exclusion of minorities leaves them feeling “singled out, undervalued, or unheard, perhaps based on their membership in a particular social group (e.g., gender, ethnicity, nationality, language, religion)” and ultimately “corrodes the work environment.” Nugent’s research found that “when an employee has repeated experiences of exclusion, it can result in a reduction in productivity, engagement, and even in the employee’s own sense of self-worth. This can have costs at the individual, team, and organizational levels.”
Considering the harassment and exclusion minorities feel at work, it’s not surprising that minorities are less likely to speak up and ask for help! Moreover, this results in a bit of a “chicken or the egg” situation. If minorities don’t feel comfortable asking for help, they will not speak up and therefore never “break the mold” to set an example for other members of their minority group. Thereby contributing to their reluctance to ask questions; not only do they lack the psychological safety, they also perceive that the “norm” is for them to remain quiet.
According to Forbes, diversity is ESSENTIAL to the future and success of any company. (SOURCE). Specifically, Forbes mentions that diversity is the key to innovation and creativity. When your workforce is composed of people who come from different backgrounds, they provide a breadth of “fresh perspectives” that can help your company as a whole to approach problems creatively, coming up with new solutions that a non diverse group may not have come up with. Additionally, the diversity of perspectives also delivers on consumer’s needs - considering that the world around us is becoming more and more connected, a diverse workforce is more likely to accurately represent the diversifying consumer base. Thus, you are ahead of the game and better able to serve consumers! While it’s clear that the wide range of skills is beneficial for the company, Forbes also reports that employees are more satisfied with their jobs when they work with a diverse group of people.
And finally, let’s talk about the bottom line. Mckinsey reports that their research shows that diverse work forces enable higher revenue! Yes, you read that correctly. McKinsey research finds that diverse work groups tend to have higher employee productivity, resulting in higher revenue for the company. In short, the endless innovation and creativity of diverse groups leads to higher job satisfaction, better productivity and more revenue - it’s that simple.
From the previous blogs in this series, we have made it clear that asking for help is powerful. In short, groups that ask more questions have the ability to grow their collective knowledge, improve innovation and increase collaboration. Not only does this help employees to solve problems faster, it promotes learning and network building! Now, imagine that you have a diverse workforce that fosters inclusion by motivating people to ask for and give help - you would be unstoppable! If we know that asking questions is beneficial and that diversity is beneficial, can you imagine the power of a company who effectively brought the two together?!
Sidebar: This is how your company can grow its “social capital” - more on that to come…
Overall, workplaces are filled with people who are willing to give help. People just need the right place and the right person to ask! Givitas and the Reciprocity Ring are truly the solutions to all of the asking hesitations and can even help your company harness the power of collaboration and diversity! The Reciprocity ring exercise helps people overcome the fear of asking for help by teaching them how to ask more effective questions and breaking down the common barriers people perceive. Next, Givitas - Our purpose-built platform- removes the common barriers people have about asking for help in everyday life even after the Reciprocity Ring exercise has concluded. By providing a safe space and access to the right person, employees can feel comfortable placing their requests and receiving help from unexpected places! This not only creates new networks within a company, it also drives DEI in a meaningful way. By giving everyone equitable space to ask questions, Givitas helps everyone, including minority groups, to feel like their voice has been heard and receive the help they desperately need!
If your company is struggling to see results with the current DEI plans, it might be time to request a demo from us - we could be the missing link in bringing true equity and inclusion to your group!