I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question,” right? It may be true, and of course it’s important to be curious and seek clarification, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put any thought into the questions you ask—especially at work, where time is valuable and everyone is focused on their own tasks. If you want to be as effective and efficient as possible in your question-asking, here are a few strategies sure it impress your boss and grow you as an employee.
Do Your Research
Before running to your supervisor every time you encounter a question about an assignment or project, try doing a bit of research first to see if you can’t find the answer on your own. Explore online—there’s a good chance Google will know. If it’s a question someone else has already asked, the answer you’re looking for might be in an email chain or your notes. Take the couple of extra minutes to search your inbox—you don’t want to waste your supervisor’s time having to repeat information when the answer was already available you.
Make a Plan
Determine exactly the information you need before you ask your question. Have a purpose for what you are going to ask, and then do so efficiently. Is your question clear and concise? How much background information is actually necessary? Don’t beat around the bush, either, and don’t ask too many questions at once. Also find out what time of day is most convenient for your coworker or boss. Be respectful of their schedule so you’re not interrupting phone calls, meetings, or crucial work time. Make a plan, practice in your head, and then ask away.
Keep it Professional
Only ask questions you really need the answers to. Nosy, personal questions are distracting, unnecessary, and unprofessional. Ask questions relevant to the projects you are involved in and need to know about.
Only ask questions you don’t know the answer to, and don’t use questions as an opportunity to push your opinion. If you have an opinion to share, state it openly. Don’t try to obscure it behind a question mark. Save asking questions for things you don’t know.
Your supervisor will notice if you have taken the time to craft a quality question. Such thoughtfulness will demonstrate you are not only a capable employee, but are also respectful of their time. These well thought-out questions will also show your ability to iterate and improve your thoughts, as well as your ability to tackle challenges from every angle. So take the time to think about the topic at hand, figure out what you need to know more about, and then ask the appropriate question.
By following these principles, you may ask fewer questions, but you’ll find the more careful and intentional you are with your questions, the more you will ultimately learn. Such intentionality will help you to think critically and deeply, as well as impress your employers. Curiosity leads to improvement and growth, but only if you ask the right questions at the right time. So keep asking… after you think.