An effective manager encourages an open channel of communication with employees. Open communication leads to better circulation of information and more efficient workflow. Asking your manager questions builds your relationship and helps you remain knowledgeable about your position. When you are well informed, you become an asset to the organization and the industry as a whole. Your manager can offer insight into your career because they have been in your position.
In this article, we explore 22 questions you should ask a manager.
How to ask a manager anything
Your manager has a wealth of insight into your position and possibly your career. When you are hired, whether it’s your first job or your fifth, asking them key questions can help you thrive in your new position and build lasting relationships.
Here are a few tips on how to ask a manager anything:
Try it yourself first
If your question is for assistance, try to perform the task you need help with first. This will optimize time you spend with your manager and give you context with which to ask questions. If you find yourself working well past work hours to complete a task, you may need help. They will have more experience with your assignment and be able to offer ideas on how to approach it.
Prepare the questions you want to discuss ahead of time to ensure you gain the most helpful information. If you have concerns about your work environment, gather examples and data before the meeting so that you can make the most efficient use of the time.
Ask directly and politely
The best way to ask your manager for a meeting is directly and politely. If they have a few moments alone in the office, you can approach them or choose to send a short email. Briefly outline what the meeting is about and how long you estimate it will take.
Related: How to Write a Professional Email
22 questions to ask your supervisor
Asking the right questions can help you become a valued employee and gain essential knowledge to progress your career. Questions related to new hire expectations, goal setting and reverse engineering a manager’s success can all guide you on a path to a fulfilling career.
Here are 22 questions to ask a manager:
1. What are your expectations of me as an employee in this position?
Achieving goals requires clear intentions. Understanding specific expectations removes any ambiguity in the relationship between manager and employee and clearly defines your role. Employees and managers are able to set actionable performance goals that bring the organization the most value.
2. How can we create an ideal workflow?
Personality differences require unique approaches to the manager/employee relationship. Some managers may prefer constant collaboration while others are more hands-off and flexible. Understanding the differences between how you work best and how your supervisor works best will help you develop a workflow that maximizes both of your potentials.
Related: Guide: 16 Personality Types
3. Can you recommend any books or media?
Ask this question to gauge how your manager gained their success. Often, those in leadership roles are well-read because it improves their work. Daily reading inspires new thoughts, improves memory and reduces stress, all of which are beneficial to building a fulfilling career.
Education can improve your skills and assist you with carving out a niche in your field.
4. What performance goals should I be setting?
Ask your manager specifically what objectives you should set to offer the most value to the organization. Employee evaluations are a great time to track your performance and adjust your targets as needed. Ask for informal meetings periodically to ensure you are on track to your goals.
5. How can you help me work toward my personal goals and objectives?
Your manager may be in a position you hope to hold in the future. Asking them for advice on achievement toward your own goals enlists them as a mentor. A mentor can make your journey to your professional and personal goals a smoother, clearer journey. Also, asking for advice on your personal goals helps to establish a professional relationship that lasts your entire career.
6. What are your personal career goals?
Asking your supervisor about their goals can give you deeper insight into their philosophies and workflow. They may be on their own track to get a promotion or wanting to start their own business. Understanding their short-term and long-term goals can help you identify how you can best perform your job.
7. What career achievements are you most proud of?
Like the question about their goals, asking about your manager’s past achievements can give you insight into their leadership philosophies. It can also give you inspiration for steps to take for your own career. Their major points of pride shows you what your manager’s strengths are and how they gained or use them.
8. If you had an influx of cash for the company, how would you spend it?
This question shows you what your manager values most. Many professional and personal projects need a monetary investment to move forward. When money is no object, you gain foresight into where the company and industry are headed. Typically, the answer will point to the area of greatest need or potential. This can tell you what your manager would like to achieve with the business according to their own vision.
9. What advice would you give me at this point in my career?
While you may have your own career goals, you may not be able to adequately assess the next steps. Gain an outside perspective by asking someone who has already been through your current career position. They can add clarity and direction and give you actionable steps to take. This is especially true for those that are only a step or two above your current position. For example, if you are at an entry-level position and aspire to one day be CEO, the steps to get there requires hundreds of small actions. These can seem more theoretical than concrete. A position closer to yours gives you a visible short term goal to work toward.
10. Who are your biggest inspirations?
Who your manager looks up to and models their actions after may reveal a lot about their personality and motivations. You are also exposed to a new list of leaders you can adopt as mentors. Learning your manager’s favorite author, business professional or entertainer can lead to hours of materials you can take inspiration from for your own career.
11. What is your personal definition of success?
Success can be described in qualitative or quantitative terms. This question offers another insight into what your manager is motivated by. Before asking them how to be successful, gain a clear idea of how their description of success differs from yours. Understanding your supervisor in this way helps to understand their leadership style and personal philosophies.
12. What kind of skills and training should I seek out?
As industries change and grow, new technology will make skills acquisition necessary to progress. Gaining new skills will increase your value in the workplace and may provide a different perspective from which to view your work. Your manager may have a deeper insight into what skills are valued in your industry and help you shape the next few years of your career.
13. What advice can you give me on work-life balance?
The 24-hour availability of work and information can make it difficult to balance personal life with professional duties. The higher you move in your career, the more strategic you will need to become with finding balance. Older colleagues typically have families and have had to contend with this challenge. They can offer you a new perspective and advice on an improved workflow.
14. How can I help you do your job better?
Help your manager do their job better by finding out what their performance goals are. This common goal can help you operate more effectively in the company. Knowing your role in their success helps you see your position as part of a bigger picture.
15. What’s the best way that I can offer feedback or ideas?
This question will help you understand the best way to contact your manager when you have concerns. Open lines of communication build teamwork and a positive company culture. Your manager’s personality and leadership style will dictate whether they have an open-door policy or prefer questions to be sent in email form. Understanding this from the beginning helps you build a functional relationship that gets results.
16. What do you love most about your job?
An organization is a collection of personalities, professions and working styles that work toward a common goal. Learning about your manager’s passion for the job offers insight into their personality and motivations. This can make the vision for the company clearer and help you perform your job better.
17. What is your least favorite part of the job?
Like the previous question, asking your manager what they enjoy least about the job helps to inform you about their personality and motivations. For example, a manager that loves giving customers the most value for their money and helping employees succeed but dislikes having to micromanage or discipline may indicate that they process things with intuition and enjoy a flexible, hands-off approach.
Learning that an extroverted CEO has a fear of public speaking may give you perspective on what they had to accomplish to advance their careers.
18. How often should we schedule one-on-ones?
The amount of one-on-one time you get from a manager will vary based on their schedule, workload and personal leadership style. Some managers will have regular, informal meetings with you while others prefer an as-needed basis. Ask this question upfront to ensure you get time with your manager to track your performance goals.
19. Can you recommend some networking events and organizations?
Building relationships is an essential step in developing your leadership skills. Connections help you gain insight into your career field and help with moving to positions with more responsibility. Your manager may have knowledge of places to meet new people in your field outside of work. You may discover that your organization hosts seasonal, non-mandatory events that pose great opportunities to network and meet influential people.
20. How’s your day going?
This question recognizes your manager as a human who faces challenges and triumphs like everyone else. Asking it helps you build a stronger relationship and encourages an open flow of conversation. Genuine moments like these establish a foundation for a positive business culture to grow.
21. What made you hire me?
The answer to this question can help you understand what your supervisors recognize as your strengths. Knowing these can help you build on them and explore them with more intention. They also help you identify how you can best use your strengths to add value to your organization.
22. What can I improve on to take me to the next level?
Constructive feedback for your performance is key to moving to the next level and accomplishing your goals. Uncovering a weakness can indicate if you need to seek out training and further education. For example, if your feedback is you should speak up more in meetings, this could point to a personal fear you have of public speaking. Taking public speaking courses can turn this fear into a powerful skill.
Talk about improvements you are making at your performance evaluation and during informal meetings with your supervisor.