Fear of asking questions

Have you ever held back a question or an idea because you were afraid of how your leaders and colleagues might react?

If you have, you are not alone.

Research from Harvard Business School shows that 70% face barriers to asking more questions at work.

But what are the barriers?

When I do workshops on how to cultivate a reflective and curious mindset in large organizations, people say they:

  • Find it hard to ask questions
  • Intuitively counter-argue rather than ask
  • Don’t have time to frame good questions
  • Are afraid of asking bad questions
  • Feel vulnerable when asking questions
  • Only ask questions in safe environments
  • Don’t know how to prioritize what to ask
  • Are afraid of asking selfish questions
  • Only know how to ask leading questions

It seems like good reasons not to ask questions.

But be careful ⚠️

My research shows that when we don’t ask questions, we:

  • Confuse relevant and irrelevant problems
  • Lose trust in ourselves and each other
  • Forget our responsibility to help solve important problems

I strongly believe that the reasons for asking questions are better than the reasons for not asking questions.

But I also believe that we must help each other overcome the barriers.

So, maybe the question we must ask ourselves is not whether we have ever held back a question because we were afraid of how our leaders and colleagues might react.

Maybe the question we must ask ourselves is:

What can I do to make it easier for my leaders and colleagues to ask questions?

Subscribe to Pia's Question Log

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.