12 Questions To Ask Employees When You Are a New Manager

Updated June 24, 2022

Starting a new job as a manager means taking on the responsibility of leading a new set of team members. Every employee has unique preferences, skills and styles that you must consider to help build a strong and effective team. You can gain clarity on what your new employees need and how you can best lead them by using specific questions to get to know them. In this article, we provide a list of 12 questions you can use to get to know and understand your employees as a new manager.

Related: How To Manage a Team

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Why is it important to ask questions as a new manager?

When joining a team as a new manager, you gain the responsibility of leading a group of employees. Your objective is to create a productive and positive work environment that enables your team to succeed and meet its goals. You can begin this process by meeting with team members and asking them questions that will give you insights into how to support them effectively. Listening to your employees' opinions can help you understand them better and build stronger connections. Making this effort can also demonstrate that you value their perspectives and want to create the best possible results for them.

Related: New To Management: 20 Tips for New Managers

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12 questions to ask employees as a new manager

One of your priorities as a new manager should be to learn more about your employees and understand how to best work with them. You can use the following list as guidance for effective questions to ask your new team members:

What are your professional goals?

As a new manager, getting to know your employees also means understanding their professional or career goals. These goals can help keep employees motivated and engaged at work, especially when you provide opportunities to meet or work toward them. By helping your employees find ways to progress their careers within the company, you can help reduce turnover on your team. Employees may also feel more appreciated when they feel like their manager is working as an advocate or goal for their professional development.

When possible, you may consider asking the employees where their last manager left off on their goals. This information may include steps the prior manager had taken with an employee or activities they had given them. Gaining these insights can help you assess the employees' progress toward their goals and keep them on track rather than disrupting that progress.

Related: Developing Work Objectives: How To Help Your Team

How can I help you?

To show employees that you want to be a supportive leader, you can ask them to describe how you can help them at work. You may frame this question in either general or specific terms. For example, you may ask how you can help them feel happier at work or achieve their goals. While all the questions you ask should provide insights into how you can better support employees, this question allows them to provide specific details regarding what they would like to see. Furthermore, it demonstrates your genuine interest in their needs and can help them feel valued.

What do you enjoy working on most?

By asking this question, you can assess what tasks most excite the individuals on the team. These insights can help you assign work more effectively, ensuring that these employees will have opportunities to do what they enjoy as often as possible. When employees have assignments that excite them, it can make them more eager to perform their work and more productive. This information can also help you provide growth opportunities to your employees. They may not mind receiving additional responsibilities as long as the tasks or projects align with their interests.

What challenges are you facing?

You can ask your new employees about the challenges they believe are hindering their work performance or ability to achieve goals. These challenges can vary and may be personal or professional. For example, individuals may cite issues such as a lack of resources, team conflict or problems outside of work. Once you understand employees' challenges, you can begin working to develop solutions that give them more support or ease those concerns.
You can also ask them about what aspects of their current environment or role are not working for them. For example, an employee may not enjoy collaborating on all their tasks and would prefer more opportunities to work independently. These insights can help you understand your new team members and their work styles. You can then assign work or make adjustments as needed to best suit their needs.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Asking this question can help you gain an initial understanding of your new employees and how they perform. It can also help you determine how to assign tasks and utilize your employees effectively. Knowing employees' strengths allows you to give them appropriate roles and tasks within projects that maximize their potential. Relying on those strengths can potentially help boost the productivity and strength of your team as a whole.
These insights can also help you understand what tasks or roles could hinder individual and team performance based on their weaknesses. However, you can also use perceived weaknesses as professional development opportunities. If you identify a common weakness on the team, you may decide to implement a training program for everyone to boost those skills. You can also do this on an individual level, giving employees chances to take on smaller tasks that improve those weaknesses with less pressure.

What worked well with your previous manager?

Asking this question is an effective way to learn what your new team appreciates from leaders. It also demonstrates your desire to be a good manager for them. Their answers offer a view of their preferred working relationship with managers. For example, they may enjoy a hands-on managerial approach or having more independence. These insights help you determine the best way to work with individuals moving forward. You may also identify patterns amongst your team to develop your overall approach. Using your predecessor's positive qualities as guidance can help you maintain productivity and morale on your team.

What could your previous manager have done differently?

You can also ensure you serve as an effective leader for your new team by asking about your predecessor's weaknesses. By identifying the actions or behaviors that made it difficult for employees to work with them, you learn what to avoid. For employees who had a bad experience, your willingness to improve the work environment can boost morale and make them feel more optimistic about coming to work. Encourage your employees to give you honest feedback about what does not work. You want to demonstrate that you have their best interests in mind and want to be a helpful leader.

What is your preferred communication style?

When joining a new team, you want to ensure that you understand how to communicate with everyone effectively. You can use employees' responses to develop individual and team communication procedures. For example, you can identify whether they enjoy face-to-face or virtual interactions, such as email or instant messaging. They may also provide insights into whether they prefer managers who employ active communication and check-ins or managers with a more passive approach. You can also use these conversations to identify employees' respective communication styles to assess how they align with yours.

As a manager, you often receive important information that you may need to share with your team members. You can also ask about their preferences regarding transparency. Some may enjoy hearing every piece of news about the organization, while others only have an interest when it impacts them directly. Knowing this information can help you determine whether you give your employees too much or not enough information. When you adhere to these preferences, it can help your employees feel more respected in the workplace.

Related: 4 Communication Styles

How do you like to receive feedback?

Giving feedback to employees is a critical responsibility as a manager. However, receiving constructive feedback can make some employees feel uncomfortable. When meeting your new employees, you can determine how to best deliver such messages by asking about their preferences regarding the format and timing. Some individuals prefer in-person feedback, while others would rather read it in an email or other written form. Timing can also vary, whether they prefer real-time feedback or receiving it on a scheduled basis, such as weekly or monthly meetings.

Taking this step early in the relationship can help you develop methods that preserve positive connections between you. When the time eventually comes to give constructive feedback, you will already know how to offer it in a way that the employee will appreciate. For example, you can avoid the mistake of giving someone feedback via email when they would rather hear it in-person during a one-on-one meeting. Employees appreciate it when their manager makes the effort to respect and follow their preferences.

Related: The Importance of Giving Employees Constructive Feedback (With Examples and Tips)

How do you like to receive recognition?

Recognizing and praising employees' achievements can help create a positive and productive work environment. Similar to feedback, everyone has preferences when it comes to receiving recognition at work. Asking about these preferences can help you understand what methods you can use to reward employees for their good work and motivate them to continue. Some individuals enjoy public praise, while others prefer to receive it privately. For example, knowing those preferences can help you avoid the mistake of publicly praising an introverted employee who feels uncomfortable about the attention. Again, respecting these preferences can help demonstrate appreciation for your employees.

Related: Employee Recognition: Definition and Its Importance

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Asking questions related to your employees' lives outside of work can help you build rapport with them. Rapport represents a positive and meaningful relationship. It helps ensure that you have trust with these individuals and can work together effectively. Learning about employees' interests can help you build more personal connections with them. As you build that connection, employees may start to feel more comfortable coming to you with issues or concerns.

Further, when you know about their interests, you can also potentially find opportunities for employees to utilize them during work. For example, an employee who enjoys writing in their free time may appreciate taking on tasks that allow them to employ those skills. Or an employee who practices yoga and mediation may appreciate the chance to run a wellness activity for your team. Incorporating their interests into the workplace serves as an effective way to show your appreciation for employees and attentiveness to their needs.

Related: Building Rapport: Tips and Examples

What is something you do outside of work that is important to you?

This question is somewhat similar to asking what employees do in their spare time but focuses more on their priorities outside of work. These priorities can vary, from participating in a sports league to picking up their children from school or having family meals. As a manager, you want to ensure that your team remains productive and avoids burnout. Understanding employees' priorities outside of work can help you find ways to accommodate their work-life balance and keep them engaged at work. For example, you may find opportunities to offer flexible work hours or the ability to work from home.

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