Stupid questions

Written on March 1, 2023

At work I like to encourage my co-workers to ask questions.

But there might be hesitation.

Hesitation that they are a burden to others.

Hesitation that they are going to look stupid.

For this reason, I emphasize that there are no stupid questions to my co-workers.

Why do I like stupid questions?

Because there might be others who could have the same questions, but are also hesitating to ask. Which means it’s a learning opportunity for people.

Because it helps get clarity if there is confusion about something. Being resourceful is great, but if you’re churning for too long, it’s better to just ask someone and get unblocked and move on.

It also shows that their co-workers are accessible and are a resource to help them. In doing so, I hope it shows that they have a team to rely on.

Often when I get questions directly, I will suggest the person asking to ask in a more group setting. For example if you work remotely and a co-worker sends you a direct message—you could say it’s a great question and request that they ask it again in a group channel.

The reason why I do this is because, I want to foster people helping other people, but I truly believe all my teammates are much smarter than myself and want the best answer for the question.

But what if the question is unclear?

You can ask them to elaborate, by simply saying, “tell me more”. Often you’ll get more context to better frame the question or you’ll find that what they are asking for isn’t what they need.

Or, when I find a question is verbose, I’ll often ask “what’s the ask?”. This often leads to a much concise question that I can then respond to.

Whether you work with one person or many people, try encouraging them to ask stupid questions.

Likewise, ask stupid questions yourself. It’ll encourage others and you’re empowering your co-workers.

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