The Blog

Asking Your Boss Questions – Some Do’s and Don’ts

Authors Tracy Cashman, Lauren MacArthur, and Doug Schade

Asking thoughtful questions can demonstrate an employee’s knowledge, understanding and insight, but there are other types of questions that do just the opposite. Consider the question-asking tips below to keep your boss’ perception of you and your work strong and positive.

Resist questions about the little things

Remember you have other resources and members of your team to go to for answers. These people will likely be willing to answer questions on occasion. Interacting with team members outside of your boss also shows your willingness to collaborate and helps build relationships with your colleagues. 

Hold off asking questions when your boss is busy

All good managers want to help you and answer your most pressing questions, but if they are swamped, it's just not the right time. The best way to get all of your questions answered is to save them up. Ask your supervisor for a few minutes at the end of the day – or when you know they are least pressed for time - to cover a thoughtful list of questions you have prepared. This will allow them to focus on you and better answer your queries.

Avoid asking the same question twice

No boss wants or has time to repeat themselves. If you make a habit of repeating the same questions, they may perceive it as lack of care, a lack of understanding or that you weren’t listening. If you must ask that same question twice, be specific. Help your boss understand there is a detail to the topic that you need clarified.

Don't ask questions Google can answer

If a web search can answer your question easily, it’s usually better than bothering your boss.

Don’t ask “when am I getting promoted?”

Unless you have been promised a promotion and you are curious when it takes effect, you don't want to sound like you are demanding a promotion. A better way to explore your future at your current company is to look at the role you aspire to and what the responsibilities are, and then express to your manager your desire to contribute in those areas. You can be honest that your goal is to progress in the organization, but show yourself to be valuable and able to take on additional tasks; then ask more direct questions about your career path.

Don’t trouble your boss with questions about co-workers

Bosses don't want to get involved with minor issues between you and your co-worker so avoiding asking, “Do you think she likes me?” Speak to your co-worker directly if you feel there is an issue and only involve your supervisor if the conflict is affecting your job satisfaction and performance.

Don’t ask if it’s part of your job description

This question signals you don't care about the team or the company, and you are only out for yourself. With any job, there are tasks that may fall outside of the job description, and the true team players take on those needs with enthusiasm. These questions below can leave a similar negative impression:

• Is this really important that I do it now?

• Is that my responsibility?

• Do you really think that is the best use of my time?

Don’t ask if you have the opportunity to disagree

Most managers will ask for your opinion if they want it. To ask for a forum to disagree with your manager’s request could easily put you on confrontational ground. If you are feeling upset about a request, take a deep breath and politely take your leave. Usually with a break and sleeping on it, you can get a fresh perspective and find a positive way to ask your boss questions around your concerns.

Do! Ask innovative questions

Oftentimes, managers enjoy being asked questions that make them think. Whether discussing processes, creative ways to generate new business or ideas to help the team, bringing suggestions in the form of questions is often a good approach. 

By putting thought into the kinds of questions you ask your boss and when and how you ask them, you can highlight your interest in your job, your commitment to the company and your subject-matter expertise.

Photo Credit: Snagajob