By Craig Booker
April 25, 2024

Keep asking questions

Asking the right questions can unlock new options and change your perspective in the workplace.

Maybe you have been there. You land a new job and are thrilled about the opportunity. After a long and grueling job search, you accept an offer from a fantastic company. In many ways, you feel like you’ve won the lottery.

Training begins, and you are overflowing with optimism. The sky seems bluer, the grass is greener, and everything in the world seems right. Excited for what’s to come, you buy new clothes, hoping to make a great impression. On day one, your boss and the team take you to lunch at one of your favorite spots. Things are going great!

In the first few weeks, you establish new relationships, and you wonder how you scored in such a fantastic position. It finally comes time to begin the work, and you think, “I could get used to this!” The third week is rough, but you believe this is to be expected. You say to yourself, “Every job is rough starting out, right?”

In the following weeks, you struggle with tasks and responsibilities. Your boss seems to notice but encourages you to keep at it! After a few weeks on the job, you discover that the actual role does not align with what was presented to you in the interview. The excitement from the new job all comes crashing down.

Or maybe your situation is different. The tasks, people, and company are incredible, but you keep getting pressured into working hours that do not align with leading a full life. You miss your daughter’s recital one week, and the next, you have to cancel date night to finish a report. You hope this will end once you get more familiar with your new role, but what if it doesn’t?

Over the next four weeks, it becomes clear that the expectations for this position are not lining up. The interviews were full of promises of work-life balance, a family-friendly culture, and prioritizing time off. In reality, that all seems to be talk. What do you do? You desperately need this job to work out.

It might seem like the only way through this is to move on, but I want to encourage you to step back a moment. In the workplace, we will face what seem to be insurmountable obstacles. We battle with stress and feel overcome by the need to provide. At this point, you may feel like there are no good options.

In my work life, I have faced challenges and made mistakes that taught me so much about myself and how I approach things. In a past article, What to do when you hate your job, I highlighted the importance of avoiding assumptions. In this article, we will continue with why you should always ask questions.

Regardless of your specific job struggles, there are three reasons you should always ask questions. Reason one: asking questions gives you options. Number two, asking questions can change your thoughts. Last but not least, asking questions can change your perspective.

1. Asking questions gives you options

When you feel stuck in a job, it can seem like the last thing you have are options. As time goes on, it is easy to fall deep into a pit of depression. What I have found is that most people need options. The challenging part is that our minds tend to focus narrowly on our situation.

I highly recommend you resist the urge to close yourself off. Often, one can open up doors simply by asking questions. If you struggle with tasks, ask others for input and seek out ways to improve. If your schedule is not working out, you can explore options. The key here is to identify options to help broaden your perspective.

2. Asking questions can change your thoughts

Anytime I find myself in a funk, feeling hard-pressed by my circumstances, I need change! There’s a good chance I am stuck and possibly experiencing some level of depression. I can often be found rehearsing the same thoughts over and over. One of the tricks that helps me break free is asking questions. 

This can be a one-person activity, but it is far better with a trusted friend. What’s important here is to remain open and willing to field whatever questions are asked while keeping a journal close by. If you’re friends with any of your teammates, their familiarity with your work can often greatly benefit you. This activity requires a high level of vulnerability, so choose someone you trust.

If a question makes you feel unsafe, it’s good to have a signal to let your friend know when to move on. As you discover new ideas, jot them down in your journal or make a note on your phone. Before concluding the activity, read your notes aloud and ask for your friend’s input. If the activity becomes too much, scheduling another session is always a good option.

3. Asking questions can change your perspective

Perspective changes everything. It is one of those things you need, but you only see your need once someone points it out. Discovering a new perspective is often accidental but can be an intentional process. Much like the previous exercise, inviting someone you trust into the conversation is a great place to start. 

This works best with a person who is open to asking tough questions. It also helps if they know a little about your situation. In this case, it is more helpful if this person is not a coworker. Their outside eyes will prove highly beneficial in seeing the situation in a different light. 

Begin by letting them know you are stuck and seeking a new perspective. Choosing someone who knows a little about the situation will save time filling them in on all the details. If you want to take it to another level, do this activity while walking outdoors with your friend. Whatever you do, be open to whatever they bring to the conversation.

While I certainly won’t pretend that asking questions will solve all of your job woes, doing so is a fantastic way to break free from the mindset that often accompanies feeling trapped in a job. A trend you might notice is that other people play a significant role in improving our brain health. If you find yourself without those crucial relationships, I would encourage you to serve in one of Edmond’s nonprofit organizations. Serving provides an opportunity to give back while building lasting friendships. 

If you want ideas for places to serve in Edmond, check out our column highlighting Edmond-based nonprofits.

As I frequently encourage readers, please practice self-care. If you find yourself in a job that is unsafe for your physical or mental well-being, please get to a safe place.

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About Craig Booker

Craig Booker is the founder of Overflow, a community for anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges. He is a freelance writer and mental health advocate. Craig is an Edmond native with a bachelor's degree in Business Management from the University of Central Oklahoma. He is passionate about creating a safe space where people can be authentic, knowing they will find love, acceptance, and encouragement. Craig hosts a weekly podcast called, The Overflow Podcast," where he talks about mental health and personal growth. In each episode, Craig shares practical ways to positively impact mental health.