A former Facebook HR executive says that sometimes the best way to impress your boss is to admit you don't know everything

Courtesy of Sarah Wagener‘If I don’t ask for your help and you’re not aware that I’m hitting this barrier, then I can’t expect for you to help me,’ said Sarah Wagener, pictured.
  • Asking your boss for help can be a sign of strength at many companies.
  • But too many young professionals try to pretend everything is perfect.
  • That’s according to Sarah Wagener, chief people officer at DoorDash and a former recruiting leader at Facebook.
  • If you don’t seek your manager’s guidance, they likely won’t be aware that you’re running into a stumbling block.

Over the course of her career as an HR exec, Sarah Wagener has noticed a mindset that leads many young professionals to sabotage their own success.

“We want to prove ourselves,” Wagener said. “And we think that proving ourselves is doing everything perfectly.”

The problem is that “in reality, no one’s perfect and nothing is perfect. So this perfection early in [your] career actually can create blindspots and barriers for your growth and development.”

Wagener is the chief people officer at DoorDash; she’s also been the vice president of human resources at Pandora and a recruiting leader at Facebook. She said that, even though people early in their career (and people in general) tend to fear soliciting their boss’ help, it can often work to their benefit.

“If you’re trying to put on a facade that everything is perfect to your manager,” Wagener said, “they’re not going to be in a position to, A, help you or, B, keep an eye out for things that could be a barrier for you.”

Read more: A former Google HR exec says too many people make the same mistake when trying to impress their boss

Wagener recommended being candid when you approach your boss about the problem, telling them, “I’m very vulnerable right now,” but “if I don’t ask for your help and you’re not aware that I’m hitting this barrier, then I can’t expect for you to help me.”

Wagener’s advice recalls an anecdote from Beth Comstock, former vice chair of General Electric and the author, with Tahl Raz, of “Imagine It Forward.” Early in her career, Comstock was told by GE’s then-CEO, Jeff Immelt, that she needed to be more confident.

Comstock previously told Business Insider that, once the feedback had sunk in, she asked Immelt to help. Going forward, whenever Immelt saw Comstock withdrawing or hesitating to speak, he would say, “Beth what do you think?” or, “Beth, I’ve heard you express an idea about this in the past. Could you share that with us?”

That way, Comstock said, she felt accountable to Immelt. Plus, he knew she was working on the issue.

To be sure, Wagener acknowledged that not every organisation has a culture where asking your manager for help is encouraged – so you’ll have to figure out what the protocol is at your company.

But at organisations that see people managers as “there to help their employees,” Wagener said, asking for some guidance is “a sign of strength. It’s a sign of somebody who wants to grow and develop.”

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