Why? is a very important question

Now you need to be careful with this one as we all know how annoying it can be when children ask, why, why, why, why, why?

They ask it though because they want to understand and because they are curious; because they want to know more. On the path to becoming more effective in the workplace, how would you use why in a constructive way?


  • Can you help me to understand why this has been done this way before?
  • Can you give me some of your experience on why this has worked well for us before?
  • Perhaps you could use the 5 why’s technique to get to the root cause of an issue (to objectively focus on the issue, not the person)

Why, can however still be an emotive question that puts people into a defensive position and at worst, make them think, “who is this new person thinking they can question me”. Consider using the hidden why.

  • How did that activity help us reach our goal?
  • What steps did we take that were particularly successful that I could use this time?
  • What were the reasons for us deciding on that approach last time?
  • What were the advantages of x over y?

These are all open questions that likely yield responses which help you understand why; but aren’t as direct.

And lastly, whether you use the direct why or the hidden why, always use a tone of voice and approach that says, “I want to learn, please help me understand”.

This will go a long way to increasing your knowledge, getting the support of others and importantly their acceptance of you as a trusted team member.

Happy questioning.

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