Building relationships with colleagues can sometimes feel challenging. In fact, a 2020 LinkedIn survey found that 46% of professionals in the UK find building workplace relationships difficult. But why is this the case, and what can we do to overcome these barriers?
One reason is simply new ways of working. With more and more people working remotely or flexibly, there are fewer opportunities for spontaneous interactions and social connections. In addition, the pressure to be productive and efficient can sometimes lead to a culture where socialising is seen as a distraction or a waste of time.
People can also feel anxious or uncomfortable when it comes to socialising at work. They may worry about saying the wrong thing, being judged by others, or simply not knowing what to say. For instance, a survey by Monster Jobs found that 18% of UK workers said that cultural differences made it hard for them to build relationships with colleagues from different backgrounds.
Fortunately, there are ways to overcome these barriers and build better relationships at work. One effective strategy is to use icebreaker questions as a way to break down social barriers and build connections. By asking open-ended questions that encourage others to share more about themselves, it can help to create a more inclusive environment, allowing individuals to feel more comfortable and confident as they navigate their work relationships.
Why Are Icebreaker Questions Useful?
Icebreaker questions can be an effective tool for breaking down social barriers and building connections, particularly in situations where people may feel awkward or uncomfortable. Let’s take a look at specific groups and scenarios that would benefit from icebreaker questions:
For New Starters
One of the most common situations where icebreaker questions can be useful is during the probationary period in a new job. Starting a new job can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially when you don’t know anyone and are still learning the ropes. Icebreaker questions can help to create a more welcoming atmosphere, allowing new starters to feel more comfortable and confident as they navigate their new workplace.
Icebreaker questions can also be beneficial for introverted individuals who find it difficult to build workplace relationships. If you’re someone who tends to keep to yourself or struggles with small talk, icebreaker questions can provide a helpful framework for engaging with others in a more relaxed and natural way. By asking open-ended questions that encourage others to share more about themselves, you may find that it’s easier to connect with your colleagues and build meaningful relationships over time.
For Language or Cultural Barriers
Icebreaker questions can also be helpful in situations where there may be a language or cultural barrier. For example, in a workplace with a diverse range of employees from different backgrounds, icebreaker questions can be a great way to learn more about each other’s cultures and experiences. By asking questions that encourage others to share their unique perspectives, icebreaker questions can help to promote understanding, respect, and empathy among colleagues, even if they come from very different backgrounds.
In addition, icebreaker questions can be useful in team-building or group settings, such as workshops, conferences, or training sessions. When people are brought together for a shared purpose, icebreaker questions can be an effective way to break down barriers and establish a sense of community. By encouraging participants to share more about their backgrounds, interests, and perspectives, icebreaker questions can help to create a more collaborative environment where everyone feels heard.
Top 30 Questions For Breaking The Ice
Here are some of the best icebreaker questions to start breaking down those walls with colleagues.
- Do you have any pets?
- What’s your favourite thing to do when you’re not at work?
- What’s your favourite way to recharge on the weekends?
- Where do you live? What’s there to do locally?
- Where did you grow up, and what was it like living there?
Hobbies and Interests
- Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of work?
- What’s your favourite book/film/TV series?
- How do you like to relax after a long day?
- What’s your favourite type of music?
Food and Drink
- What’s your go-to restaurant nearby?
- What type of takeaway food is your favourite?
- What’s your favourite type of food?
- Where’s the most interesting place you’ve ever travelled?
- If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
- What’s your favourite holiday?
- If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
- If you could have dinner with any historical figure, who would it be and why?
- What’s the weirdest dream you’ve ever had?
- If you were a cocktail, what would you be and what would be in you?
- If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
- What’s your favourite thing about the company culture here?
- What’s your favourite thing about working in our industry?
- What’s something you’ve always wanted to ask someone in the company but haven’t had the chance yet?
- What inspired you to pursue your current career path?
- What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
- If you could switch jobs with anyone in the company for a day, who would it be and why?
- What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
- What’s the most unusual job you’ve ever had?
- What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on?
- What’s your favourite tool for staying organised?
What to Avoid Asking
Icebreaker questions can be a great way to get to know colleagues and build relationships in the workplace. However, not all questions are created equal. Some questions can be insensitive, inappropriate, or even offensive. In order to ensure that your icebreaker questions are well-received and inclusive, it’s important to be mindful of what to avoid asking. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Avoid personal questions that are too intrusive
While it’s great to get to know your colleagues, it’s important to remember that not everyone may be comfortable sharing personal information with their colleagues. Avoid questions that are too intrusive or personal, such as asking about someone’s salary, relationship status, or if they are planning to have children.
Avoid questions that could be seen as discriminatory or offensive
It’s important to be aware of potential biases or prejudices when asking icebreaker questions. Avoid questions that could be seen as discriminatory or offensive based on someone’s gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. For example, avoid questions that assume certain gender roles or make assumptions about someone’s cultural background.
Avoid questions that could be triggering
Be mindful of the fact that some people may have experienced trauma or have sensitive topics that they do not wish to discuss. Avoid questions that could potentially trigger someone, such as asking about past traumatic experiences or personal struggles with mental health.
Avoid questions that make assumptions
Be careful not to make assumptions about someone’s lifestyle or beliefs. Avoid questions that could be perceived as judgmental or insensitive, such as asking about someone’s dietary choices or political beliefs.
Avoid questions that could be seen as unprofessional
While icebreaker questions are meant to be fun and playful, it’s important to strike a balance between being light-hearted and maintaining a professional tone. Avoid questions that could be seen as too flippant or unprofessional, such as asking about someone’s personal dating history.