4

I've recently started a new internship and my team is composed of a few people (5-10). They're all nice, including my supervisor, but he tends to avoid helping me.

For example, I've asked him for help via our company chat, no reply, then when I talk to him about it half an hour later he says he can fix it and will come right away (he really seems to mean it). He didn't and I eventually had to go talk about it again for him to come. When other colleagues ask him a question, he usually goes to them the second later.

My problem is that I evaluate my learning skills to be pretty good and I'm more than willing to get better in my field, only I don't want to look like someone who can't do anything on his own.

What would be a possible way to reduce the number of times I have to ask for help and maybe take more of his time for me to be able to do my work correctly ?

  • Are you doing the same work as anyone else on the team? Would someone else be able to help you? – Onyz May 25 '18 at 15:26
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In these situations, I have learned that going to the supervisor every time you need help should not be the first choice. In the past, I used to go to my team lead for every question I had (because he is the smartest guy around and I didn't want to bother other co-workers). Eventually, he got fairly annoyed with answering every little question and wondered why I didn't talk to my other co-workers first and spend some time with them?

Personally, I was intimidated. Fresh out of college and the youngest person by 20 years. Most of them were brilliant to the point of giving off a very condescending vibe. I didn't want to bother them with my trivial questions and appear to be not up to the high standards I had in my mind. After expressing how I didn't want to bother my co-workers, my team lead would walk me over to people's desks and ask them to help me (and help break that awkward ice). I realized that most of my co-workers are a lot more friendly than I thought and were usually more than willing to help even when swamped.

Establishing going to my co-workers first did a couple of things:

  1. It allowed for me to bond with my co-workers and helped me become a part of the team on their weekly lunch outing (previously was avoiding going).
  2. It allowed for me to not ask my supervisor questions every couple hours and only going to help when my co-workers had no idea what to do, or when it was a serious enough matter that he(and she) needed to be involved in.

You mentioned that your team is rather friendly, so use them as a resource! Show that you are able to do your own research, use co-workers, and you may find that your team lead comes to you on his/her own because they see you have found ways to get the info you need.

So try talking to your teammates first. Then, if you still need help, you can go to your supervisor and say:

Hi Bob, I was wondering if you can take a look at this issue I am having with X and Y subjects. I talked to Jon and Lindsey already and they weren't sure how I should proceed with handling it and thought it would be best to ask you. I tried looking up the issue and found that several forums mentioned the issue can be solved in these 3 ways. Can we set up a meeting to discuss this or are you free now to talk?

This shows your supervisor that you aren't using him as a crutch (which is fairly frowned upon in most industries especially software development). Shows you did research and tried to seek help elsewhere, and that those people concluded that you also need the input of the supervisor. Then you follow it up with respecting his time by asking to set up a meeting (most supervisors in my working experience are in meetings virtually all day) so that you can get help at a time that is convenient for him, and then you also ask for help right now should they be free to do so. This way you have everything covered and I found that this method to work the best when looking for help from a team leader.

4

I had a similar problem when I first started my job. I was eager to learn and to work, but whenever I asked my boss for help, he'd take a while to respond or not respond at all. As a result, my first few weeks working for the company were a bit rough.

Here's what I did to overcome that:

  1. I googled everything I could before I brought an issue to him, making sure it was a problem or question that he had to resolve.
  2. I asked my other coworkers for help whenever I needed it. One of the worst things you can do when you don't know something is not to ask. They should understand that you need their help, as you are new there.
  3. When I brought an issue or question I had to my boss, I did so personally, so he couldn't avoid me. You won't be ignored if you're right by him. (Note: when doing this, please make sure to do the preceeding steps first so you're not constantly pestering him. If done too much, this step will make you come across as a nuisance)

Ultimately, what it all boils down to is taking some initiative yourself to solve the issues or questions and then asserting yourself when you can't find the answer. Whenever I train my trainees, I always look for people who are willing to ask questions, because the people who aren't afraid to ask are a good fit for the job.

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One thing I do not see here is: what are you asking your supervisor for help with?

I'll give some basic IPS advice for working with others. I've managed people before, and it drives me absolutely batty when people come to me looking for basic help or for things that their teammates can help with. I love helping with things that I, and only I, know about. But showing people how to do something that there are YouTube videos, StackOverflow posts, Technet articles, and just plan tips on the internet about is a waste of everyone's time. I expect my staff to, when they have questions, engage in a bit of basic research on their own. If you're coming with questions and no research whatsoever on things that your supervisor doesn't need to be the one to solve, he/she is going to ignore you in favor of things that they need to get done. That's an interpersonal issue and not a workplace issue, IMHO.

We want to encourage others to be independent, so I'd approach the supervisor from the perspective of saying, "I'm looking for information on [x]; here's what I've found in my research." Present answers, not questions. Present attempts, not problems. If you do have a question, ask for a specific thing. An excellent interpersonal skill is to, when there are questions, do some basic research and see what others have said or done. That makes you someone who can work independently and not someone who needs constant hand-holding. This increases your standing with others in the team and with your management.

You can't make anyone else do anything, so don't focus on that. Appeal to the other's need, not yours. When I need someone's specific help, I present them with this:

  1. What I'm trying to accomplish, relative to my assigned work
  2. What I've found out
  3. The result I'm getting when I try to implement my research
  4. How that result varies from the desired result
  5. A request for specific help or where I can do further research

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