Why Is Hand-Holding So Bad?

May 21, 2021

I was in a company where I was starting to take on assignments as a new member on the engineering team. The codebase was in React which I didn't have as much experience in unlike Vue.js (working on this). Despite my internal pessimism that I was going to blow my assignments, I continued at it. During my first 1-on-1 with my manager, they said that they were impressed by my work and how quick I was to jump in.

One of the things they said to me that stood out was "I was worried there would be some hand-holding involved." There was relief in their voice that I didn't need help to do my work.

This term "hand-holding" has come up now and then in my career. It's usually not directed to me, but what I've always noticed is that it's constantly used as a demeaning term. As if it's shameful to need to be guided or eased into understanding a new concept.

According to Merriam-Webster, "hand-holding" means "solicitous attention, support, or instruction (as in servicing clients)". So giving support to others is seemed as extra work, really?

I think these negative cogitations of helping others are what makes it harder for people to ask for help. It goes without saying that being knowledgeable and reliable are serious factors in succeeding in a company, but no one learns anything without asking for help or clarification.