It's important to get to know your employees and colleagues, whether you are the manager of a big team, or a new employee. Asking your workmates questions can help you build workplace relationships, making you both feel more comfortable in the office and open up opportunities for collaboration. In this article, we'll discuss the importance of ‘get to know you questions' and when to ask them, and then provide a list of useful questions that you can use as prompts.
What are get to know you questions?
Get to know you questions are questions that you can ask your employer, employees or colleagues about their professional and personal life. The questions should demonstrate that you are showing an interest in the other person, and they should help you form a positive workplace relationship.
The specific get to know you questions that you ask will vary depending on who you are asking them to, your normal relationship with that person and the overall atmosphere of the office. They will sometimes be about work history, but you will likely also touch on some light personal topics, including holidays, hobbies, and education.
Get to know you questions typically work well with new employees as they can act as an icebreaker, but you could also use them with colleagues that you have worked with for a while but want to improve your professional relationship with.
Why should you ask get to know you questions?
There are multiple reasons why you should ask your colleagues and employees get to know you questions. Primarily, get to know you questions help you to foster a friendly workplace atmosphere where the staff will feel comfortable. Generally, when employees feel comfortable, they are more focused and productive. Showing an interest in your coworkers' lives often results in them liking and respecting you which can, in turn, reap more productivity and workplace loyalty.
Learning about staff members' hobbies and interests can help you get a good idea of their strengths and weaknesses, which is useful information when delegating workplace tasks. Other reasons why you should ask getting to know you questions are:
- These types of questions help new employees settle into the team quicker, which can positively impact their work.
- You could find things in common with some of your staff members, which may help you relate to each other better.
- You may discover employees' hidden talents, which can help to understand why they are in their position and then consider them for future promotions or additional project work.
When should you ask get to know you questions?
There are a few instances when asking getting to know you questions could be appropriate:
At the start or the end of the day
A great time to ask a get to know you question is if you and another employee are in the office early or working late, without many other people around. If it is a Monday or a Friday, you could ask them what they did on the weekend or what their plans are for the upcoming weekend. This should give you an indication of their hobbies. You could then further the conversation by asking questions about their hobbies or, if the hobby is something you are familiar with, adding your own insight.
When you're at their desk or cubicle
If you visit your a coworker's desk or cubicle for any reason, you could use the time to ask them some quick questions. If they have any photos on their desk - for example, their family on holiday - you could ask them where they went on holiday, or how old their children are. These are generally positive topics and are easy questions to answer.
You could include ice-breaking activities in some briefing and debriefing meetings. These meetings will generally involve only a few people, so you could ask everybody the same question.
A typical question in these types of meetings is ‘tell me an interesting fact about yourself', although some people can find this question vague and difficult to answer. An easier alternative is something more specific like ‘who is your favourite band or singer and why?'.
Asking questions like this in a group setting can help you all find common ground. It will also get the meeting off to a friendly start.
Some workplaces like to ask more personal questions in their interviews to assess if the interviewee has the right personality for the job. Asking casual questions in an interview such as ‘tell me about your hobbies' or ‘what's your favourite animal?' also helps potential employees feel relaxed and comfortable and could give them more confidence to demonstrate their experience.
If you end up hiring the interviewee, you'll already know some facts about them and will find it easier to strike up conversation in the office.
What to avoid when asking get to know you questions
It is crucial to be sensitive when asking get to know you questions, as some people may not feel comfortable discussing particular topics. It is generally advisable to stay away from the following topics:
- Politics: You may eventually learn what your team's political affiliations are, but it's best not to get into political debates. This, of course, depends on your workplace, because if you work for the government or certain media outlets, you may be well aware of that person's political affiliations.
- Religion: This topic is best approached with caution initially, unless you know that you share a religion with your teammate due to your profession, or if they are eager to talk about their faith and you are interested in learning more about it.
- Medical issues: These kinds of questions are generally too personal, unless the medical issue in question impacts your coworker's work and they need to talk to you about it.
- Relationships and dating: Employees will likely discuss a steady partner or spouse with their workmates, but may choose to keep this information private.
Of course, some workplaces are much more casual than others and colleagues may end up discussing some of the topics mentioned above. However, it's important to keep it light when asking get to know you questions until you can assess what your new employee or colleague is comfortable talking about.
It's a good idea to plan what questions you are going to ask in advance. This way, you can make sure that the conversation stays respectful and comfortable for everybody. If you are unsure whether or not to ask a question, it is best to avoid it. Try to put yourself in your colleague or employee's situation and ask yourself if you would feel comfortable answering that question if you were them. If the answer is no, then you should avoid it.
Examples of good getting to know you questions
If you are struggling to think of some appropriate yet interesting workplace questions, here are some examples:
Workplace related questions
These questions will generally be asked between colleagues, as managers should know the answers to them already:
- What is your job title?
- What are your main workplace duties?
- Who is your mentor in the office?
- What is your favourite part of this job?
- Have you had a job like this before?
Hobby related questions
These are useful icebreaker questions that you could ask a group of people:
- What is your all-time favourite book?
- What do you do in your free time?
- Do you watch or play any sports?
- Do you like travelling? What is your favourite place to travel to?
- What would be your dream holiday?
- Do you have any pets?
- What's your favourite season?
- What sort of music do you usually listen to?
- Have you watched any good movies or tv series recently?
- Have you ever played an instrument?
These questions could be used for further briefing sessions when you already know your employees or colleagues a little but still want to continue asking them get to know you questions.
By now, you should have an idea of what your team members are comfortable talking about and you could expand on topics you have previously discussed to ask them questions. Alternatively, use the following prompts:
- Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
- Which six people would you invite to a dinner party?
- Which three items would you take to a desert island?
- When you were a child, what job did you want to have as an adult?
- What would you do if you won $1,000,000 on the lottery?
Get to know you questions are a vital part of onboarding any team member. Asking these questions will help them feel relaxed and comfortable in their new workplace environment and it will help you all foster a positive workplace atmosphere. Even if someone has been working with you for a while, you could ask them some more profound workplace questions to continue building a positive and dynamic workplace relationship.