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Not All Questions Are Created Equal in the Workplace

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Ashley Kim
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Published on August 24, 2015

We all know the common saying, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” but are all questions created equal? When it comes to asking questions in the workplace, there is no doubt that your curiosity can help demonstrate your engagement, intellect and genuine desire to learn and grow in your position.

However, there are ways to improve the questions you ask that will help you appear like an employee with a promising future rather than someone who doesn’t have what it takes to get the job done. Here are four tips to tailor your workplace questions:

  1. Ask questions you can’t find the answer to on Google. Asking basic questions in the workplace that you can easily find the answer to online may make you appear like you don’t know what you’re doing. If you have a question that does not need to be answered in the moment and can wait until you get back to your computer for a quick Google search, hold off on asking it. You don’t want to take up time in someone’s busy schedule and come off as lazy or unknowledgeable.
  2. Ask for people’s opinions and personal experiences. Any question that begins with, “In your experience…” or “What’s your opinion on…” is a great question to ask because it shows that you value your mentor’s opinion. Gathering advice from your coworkers is invaluable and allows you to learn things that you can’t find in a textbook. People are often happy to answer questions, especially if the questions are personally tailored to them. Everyone likes to talk about themselves!
  3. Ask questions at the right time. A question is more likely to be well received and more thoroughly answered if it is asked at the right time. If you notice that the person you are trying to ask is in the middle of doing complex calculations or is preparing for a meeting, hold off on approaching them. Wait to engage them until they return from lunch or do not seem distracted.
  4. Ask questions that demonstrate what you already know. When constructing a question, try to incorporate some of your previous knowledge on the topic. It will help you appear thoughtful and allow you to come across as someone trying to build on his or her already existing knowledge, not someone who is completely uninformed. For example, “What should I put in the subject line of these emails?” does not sound as good as, “In order to increase the open rate of these emails, what would be most effective to put in the subject line?” The former wording sounds like you have no ideas on the topic; the latter is more specific and sounds more informed.

When it comes down to it, not all questions are created equal. Luckily, these tips will help you form questions that will make you appear inquisitive and engaged, like you’re expanding on what you already know.

Ashley Kim

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