Asking the wrong questions at the wrong time can demotivate and disengage employees. You can avoid certain questions by simply restating them. Here are common questions and more effective ways of asking:
“What’s the problem?” This focuses on weaknesses, not strengths.
Alternative: What are we doing right, and how can we improve on that?
“Whose fault is it?” Employees see this question as a search to blame someone.
Alternative: What can we do to prevent this from happening again?
“Haven’t we tried this already?” Depending on the tone, this can come across as condescending.
Alternative: What can we do differently and how would it change the outcome?
“What kind of question is that?” That says the employee’s query is invalid and doesn’t make sense.
Alternative: Can you help me understand your question a little better?
“Can’t you work faster?” This starts a potentially sensitive discussion about productivity by essentially calling the employee a slow worker.
Alternative: We appreciate your contribution, but is there anything that is impacting your ability to be even more productive?
“Why don’t you listen?” Employees can feel chastised and tune out.
Alternative: What can we both do to communicate more clearly and understand each other better?
“Why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?”
Alternative: In the future, can you please communicate the most important information so we have time to act on it?
“Why are you so negative?” It’s a tempting question to ask employees who often criticize, but it can alienate them.
Alternative: Can you offer some suggestions for improving the situation?