Unless you’re in grade school learning about a science experiment, in real life, there are wrong questions. I’m sorry. I know this will upset some of you, but that’s the truth. You can ask the wrong question.
Last night, while having dinner with my wife, the topic of asking questions came up. My wife is a practicing Clinical Psychologist so I’m always curious to get her take on things. Are there really no wrong questions? Is this axiom true and incontestable even in a business environment? I don’t think so my friends.
You can ask as many questions as you want. I’ll answer them all day long – if I have the answers (and I often don’t). Some of our team members ask a lot of great questions which make us rethink a strategy or even a project entirely. The right questions force you to think outside of your comfort zone. I encourage you to be a critical thinker and question the status quo. I’m not going to placate you however. In a business setting there is a threshold of how many stupid questions you can ask. If you’re new to the company, new to a project, new to a department, you get a few passes. But I can promise you after a while even the most understanding manager will raise her eyebrows and wonder how you were put on that project.
Wrong questions do a few things for a manager. A good manager will allow you to ask all the questions you want. But you’re always being judged by the kind of questions you ask. Consider that you may have asked that question before, or it was explained to you a few weeks ago during a training session, or it may make you look like you’re not resourceful, or even worse these wrong questions may oust you. They may make you look unintelligent. You may not be, but odds are if you keep asking bad questions one of three things are happening. 1) You are not thinking critically or comprehensively about the task at hand, or 2) you are not being resourceful enough, or 3) you are simply not grasping the project.
If the issues are number one and two, that’s easy to correct, albeit you should not ever let it get to that point – but that’s another post. The third one is tricky because it shows that you are either not intelligent enough and that the project is outside of your capabilities. If you are not resourceful enough to learn what you need to be a player on that project, then you are not intelligent OR you are too lazy to learn. In either case, I don’t know anyone who would hire you or keep you for long.
I’m very compassionate, but I’m not very PC. Being PC forces you not to talk about things that are important.