Avoiding Binary Questions

Avoiding Binary Questions

April 20, 2024

Binary Questions are ones that is are firmly closed question, that can only be answered yes or no. They may seem assertive and efficient to the party that proposes to use them. Unfortunately, they have a nasty knack of landing poorly.

Let me give you an example of a binary question in the context of an employee asking their boss for a raise.

“I’ve been looking at rates for my job in the job market and I’d like a raise please”

Here the manager may feel like responding to the suggestion they have been looking at other jobs, they may feel that the person has already left psychologically so what’s the value in offering further reward. If the employee wants to stay they certainly haven’t communicated with this question.

Where what is heard is a binary question the manager hears no suggestion of a discussion.

It’s such a firmly closed question that depending on how delivered it could sound like a demand rather than a question.

Let’s reword that question in a way that may get a better reception.

“I’m keen to advance and I wonder whether we could have a conversation about how we could work towards that happening here”

Can you see how different that might sound to the manager?

By rewording the question this opens up the conversation to one where the parties can explore together what plan can be looked at for that to be achieved.

Why does the style matter?

It’s respectful to the manager and to yourself. No one wants to be spoken to in a way that leaves them feeling cornered. Your team would not expect to be spoken to like that, so why should you team think you want to be spoken to like that. Afterall we are all human.

Further employees would do well to recognise that the reason some managers decline their requests is not what they have asked but the way they have asked.

We talk a lot about the changing employee relationship and one of the things I also say during talks I give on the subject is that employment relationships are still relationships. We respect our partners that give us the opportunity to be our whole self. Let’s do the same in the workplace and foster an environment where your team can bring their whole selves to work as well.

If you need assistance with any aspect of management please give us a call on 01527 909436.

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