Getting to know your colleagues in the workplace can cause a lot of pressure, discomfort, and ultimately stress. Lack of communication affects the overall working atmosphere and can seriously damage it. Get-to-know-you icebreaker questions are the right way to relieve pressure, start small conversations and leave a workplace with a smile.
We’ve all been there… The unaccustomed silence after a weekend. The pressure of starting a conversation with a coworker we’ve known for a long time but never had the chance to meet. Maybe it’s our first week, and we’re not sure how to start getting to know everyone. Or maybe we’ve just been promoted to a leadership position? What will all the passing small talk look like now? If there will be any at all… Getting to know your colleagues and starting a conversation in the workplace can cause a lot of pressure, discomfort, and ultimately stress. The tension between co-workers and lack of communication affects the overall working atmosphere and can seriously damage it. This can also affect work productivity and ultimately make employees feel bad about their workdays and their position in the company, leading to more serious problems later on.It may sound like a cliché, but icebreakers are the right way to relieve pressure, start small conversations and go home with a smile after work. They help you get to know a person or keep a group dynamic going. What makes icebreakers so unique is their casual and informal tone, which in most cases aims to stay on a superficial level of interaction and not get too deep into the other person’s intimate life.
Before You Strike
Remember: Body Language is the Ultimate Language!
Before you ask questions, make sure your body language is correct and aligned with the question you want to start with. Openness, smiling, eye contact, and body leaning towards the person you are addressing is important in setting the right tone for your icebreaker question. You can also show avoidance or disagreement, for example. However, you choose your tone, make sure it matches the tone of the conversation you want to start because rapport is important.
Good Morning Small Talk
A ” good morning” in the office can be rough. Really rough. Especially on Mondays when the weekend was busy or Fridays when the workweek was rough. But this may also be an extenuating situation. The weekend can be more than an excuse for small talk. It can be a legitimate starter for a longer, relaxed conversation and is an ideal icebreaker. It sounds simplistic, but in reality, getting-to-know-you questions over the weekend give a more positive tone to a day precisely because it’s so casual.
So on Mondays, without much thought, you might just engage in questions like:
- How was your weekend?
- What did you spend your Saturday doing?
- Did you visit a city/center this weekend?
- What were your favorite bars to visit?
- What do you like about the weekend the most?
- How is it that you love weekends so much?
Sometimes such a simple question about the weekend is enough to start a casual conversation. People seem to love talking about their time off work. This brings us to Friday. Of all the days, Friday can be the most stressful because it’s busy all week, while at the same time it can be the most relaxing day to work – because it’s the start of the weekend, so there’s a tension that comes off. Fridays are a great time for starting causal and relaxed conversations and find out more about your colleagues. Most people are excited about the weekend and everything they planned for after work.
You could easily break the ice on Friday morning with questions about plans for the weekend. Some of the ideas are:
- What is your plan this weekend?
- Will you be taking a trip this weekend?
- Do you have plans to go out?
- Where do you think is the best to visit around here and do you recommend any place?
- Which part of a city/town would be best for an outdoor activity?
We tend to love weekends, without any particular explanations. Just start a question about weekends and keep going; new questions will keep popping up; there’s no doubt about it. On workdays, morning icebreakers make the day easier, and it helps us channel and transform negative energy we’ve accumulated from lack of sleep or a busy previous day.
The one question some of us just give in to, while some of us seriously shy away from:
How are you doing today?
Regardless, it remains a holy grail of chit-chat. But don’t worry, there are more ways to ask a routine, everyday question:
How’s your morning going so far?
It is an excellent way to check someone out while showing them you’re genuinely interested in them and how they’re feeling. Another step would be to notice someone’s behavior or mood and say something about it.
- Rough morning?
- Are you feeling tired too?
- What is making you so happy about this morning?
Depending on the mood, these are already questions that show genuine recognition and care. They bring us closer to a person, but without invading their privacy.
Coffee breaks are a good excuse to break the ice. We can break up a busy day at work with casual questions and small talk, or despair our work situation and ask for advice.
- How’s your day going?
- Coffee for you too?
- Any sugar for your coffee?
Are all great get-to-know-you questions to soften a hurried work pace.
These generic questions are cliché questions that open up a way to get to know the people you work with. Later, the conversation will start to flow naturally. It will get deeper, and many more fun questions may come to mind. Coffee breaks are significant for a casual conversation about your current work task or a problem. You can ask someone how they usually approach a similar situation or learn more about their current position at work, especially if you’re new and trying to understand the day-to-day work routine.
Ideas on what you might ask your colleagues are:
- What is your current position here [in a company]?
- What excites you the most at your current job?
- Do you have a favorite part about a day at work, and what is it?
- What job(s) did you do before you came here [to a company]?
- How come you started working with this company?
- What would you highlight as your greatest accomplishment in your career?
- What detail of your career path makes you proud the most?
- What was the best professional advice ever given to you?
- What would you say was the worst career choice you ever made?
- How was [is] your adjustment to this job?
- Where do you see your future self five years from now?
- What lesson from your worst job you cherish the most?
- What job-related accomplishment in your current position you are most proud of?
- What do you think I should upgrade in my everyday work?
- Is there a trick you can share with me regarding adjusting to a new work environment?
- If you have made a mistake at work, how do you make up for it and improve?
- What is the most stressful part of your work?
- When can someone turn around a bad day?
- How do you recuperate yourself after a tiring day?
- What about work energizes you the most?
- What activities do you do for a hobby outside of work?
- Is there any other job you are currently doing?
- Are you reading any books lately?
Lunch break is that unique part of the workday where you can escape the dull corporate environment and elevate your conversations with a casual tone. Even if you don’t leave the office or visit the nearest hot-spot restaurant, lunch break is a time to depressurize and loosen the spikes. As we relax and enjoy our meal, the conversations become less and less purely business.The best thing about lunch is how it allows you to pick your mid-day break accomplices. It could be the colleagues you already share every second of office conversation with, or it could be a newcomer who has recently joined your team. Whoever you prefer, the lunch break is an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and get more personal with co-workers, ask deeper questions if you want to get to know them better.
You could start with a simple icebreaker, such as:
- What is your favorite place to eat lunch and why?
- What is your #1 spot to have at lunch?
- What restaurant do you usually order from?
- Is the food good there?
- But beyond that, there are plenty of other fun get-to-know-you questions that make for deep conversations:
- Do you follow sports, and which team(s) do you root for?
- What sport are you most fond of?
- What would you say is the best perk of having a job?
- What do you enjoy doing first after you finish work?
- Do you have any talents that you regret today that you never pursued?
- If things were different, would you be pursuing them now?
- What is your current favorite show TV?
- Do you have any guilty pleasures, and which ones?
- Are there any bangers from work that I missed?
- What would you say the best benefit of having a job would be?
- Have you made a trip recently and to where?
- Is there a spot you wish to visit soon however haven’t gotten the opportunity yet?
- What is your fantasy get-away?
- What do you believe is the best pressure reliever?
- Is this work your fantasy work?
- If not, what is your dream job, and do you still want to do it?
- What are the main 3 books you would recommend for self-disclosure?
- What book has changed your life?
- Did you enjoy school, and what part was your favorite?
- What trait do you think is essential in people?
- Do you think work affects our quality of life and in what ways?
- Have you been moving around a lot, and which place was the best to live?
- If you could choose, where would you move to tomorrow?
- What would you say you excel at?
- What do you think is your hidden talent?
- Who inspires you the most in life?
At a Meeting and Team Building Session
Teams tend to have problems in their workflow because the members are different and have different expertise. Meetings and on-the-job training are the moments when group dynamics can get choppy. Even if meetings are not focused on individual teams, there can be many disagreements because of the participants’ different expertise and experience. Meetings and training sessions can be chaotic and annoying as well as just plain boring. Get-to-know-you icebreakers can reduce tension and help employees, and team members better understand and improve collaboration and receptive communication.
Any group of disparate people brought together in one place for one reason or another to achieve a common goal has the potential for problems. It’s important to cool down heavy issues in a company with a meeting between icebreaker questions and get to know the people you work with and collaborate with. Chatting becomes even more important under certain conditions that force virtual communication and prevent us from spending most of our time with our colleagues in a dynamic corporate environment. It would be awkward to jump to a point or end a conversation cold. Asking get-to-know-you questions at a meeting or during a training session can increase typically reticent employees’ even engagement. This is not to say that if you’re very open, you should hold back. On the contrary, you should be a facilitator of a conversation.
Here are some get-to-know-you questions you can ask before, during, or after a meeting:
- What do you like best about your team?
- What is the biggest disadvantage of your team?
- What activity or exercise do you think your team would benefit most from?
- If you could pick one team member or staff member to work with every day, who would it be?
- Describe your team in one word?
- If you could be your boss for a week, what exactly would you do?
- Who seems to be the shyest team member, and do you think they might discover their wild side over time?
- Which team member opens up most easily?
- How do you like recent changes in a company?
- Is there anything you think should be changed around an office?
- Who gave you the best piece of career advice ever?
- In a charisma competition, which manager deserves to win?
- Who would you say is the most charming person in the office?
- Who would you say gives the best compliments, and what is the best one you have received?
- Do you enjoy working from home?
- What do you find most problematic about working from home?
- How would you upgrade remote work if you could?
- What quality is of most importance for the person who does your job to have?
- If you could, what would you tell your boss right now?
- If you could choose and set any frame of a workweek, what would you do?
- What would you say was the worst job you have ever had?
- Of all the employees, who had the most entrepreneurial spirit?
- Have you ever tried karaoke?
- What is your favorite karaoke song?
- What reality show TV do you follow and why?
- If you could choose to live one celebrity’s life and change it with yours, who would it be?
- What is your favorite genre of music?
- What is the best food you have ever eaten?
- If you could say anything to your unemployed self, what would it be?
- What question do you usually use to break the ice at work?
- If you could trade places with any colleague, who would it be?
Remember, though, that this is not a lunch or coffee break. It’s also not a casual chat with colleagues you pass by. This part of the workday is more formal and expects you to be discussing the quality of work or projects and team issues.
However, when a project or corporate team-building has reached its peak, casual, fun conversations usually conclude this type of meeting.
Newcomers and Awkward Silence
There’s only one type of employee we need to give special recognition to when talking about getting-to-know-you issues. And that is, without a doubt, newcomers. Whether you’ve just done a few months of internship, you’ve just landed a job at the company, or you’ve just been transferred to a lower-level position, your sudden appearance is going to be awkward sooner or later. And there might be silence. Awkward silence.
The new environment may be as much of a shock to you as it is to yourself.
While it may take you a while to adjust, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for it. This article is here to help you overcome such unfamiliarity and uncertainty. You can apply all of the getting-to-know-you questions mentioned here as well. Start with the first day in the morning and work on your charm and confidence.
The same concerns the opposite party as well. The new colleague may be shy or confused.
Make it easy for him or her and break the ice block standing in the way for both of you. Choose one of the above questions, and don’t be afraid to get to know your new co-worker. Involve the rest of a team or collective. Prevent environmental stress and create a good rapport with your new colleague.
Icebreakers are also a good tool for managers.
These roles tend to create awkwardness in a room, and many things could suddenly go unsaid. If a team leadership position puts you in a conversational conflict and you’re not sure if you should be authoritative, and you don’t know how to start a casual conversation with your team, this article is for you too. Think about it, if you get to know your employees or team members better, especially newbies, you might learn about their work strengths and weaknesses. Or you accidentally find out what troubles them or what they think needs immediate change. Communicating properly can bring you better results in the future because you can improve your team’s productivity.
Be Aware of Boundaries
While it’s always a good thing to use witty or in-depth icebreakers to get to know people we work with better, it’s also important to be aware of boundaries.
Just because we unknowingly hold personal space by talking or asking questions doesn’t mean we can’t cross a line with a simple question. Invading a conversation partner’s intimate zone with a simple wrong problem can be more damaging to a working relationship than physically invading a space.
It’s important to know which questions are just enough and which are too intimate and could intrude on someone’s privacy.
It’s hard to evaluate every single issue for every single person. Still, it is possible to keep in mind that work is always working and requires us to keep relationships orderly to maintain a healthy work environment and avoid conflict. There isn’t any pressure on us to make friends. No one expects you to find a new beast in your office.
The work environment is safe to keep it on the surface levels of acquaintance.
Showing sincere interest in a person is just enough to make it enjoyable and collaborative. Some questions might seem too edgy or intrusive to a person. Stay within a framework of questions you just read about. Some people might still find some questions too personal. If that happens, make sure you apologize and explain your true intentions. In this case, ask the person if they like small talk and what topics they usually prefer when they do. Just make sure you stick to work-related and everyday topics.
It’s important to respect others’ boundaries as well as your own.
If you feel uncomfortable with an issue, remember that you too have the right to maintain your privacy outside of work and decide for yourself what you want to share. In this case, be sure to let a person know about your attitudes and how it makes you feel.
Last but not least, be wary of appropriation.
It’s always a good idea to use body language tools first and mirror the other person’s behavior. You’ll notice if someone seems disinterested or is in a hurry. When making small talk, make sure to remain subtle and not slip into the realm of flirting.In the end, when things really ” click” with someone one way or another, it will be apparent to both you and the person. Yes, it is possible to find your new bestie at the office. But as with everything else, the best things come unexpectedly.