You’re starting a brand new job. It’s exciting, but it’s also intimidating. 

You barely know how to navigate your way to the office bathroom and back, and you still haven’t found where the coffee filters are hiding. You’re enlisting the help of some mnemonic devices (and some strategically-placed sticky notes) to try to remember everybody’s name. 

Despite those early hurdles, you’re eager to make a great impression on your new boss and team members and lay the foundation for a positive working relationship. But, that’s tough to do when you already feel so lost and overwhelmed.

The good news is you can make it happen (even when you still get lost on your way back from the water cooler). Like any other relationship, it all starts with something relatively simple: getting to know the people you’ll be working with day in and day out. 

Obviously, here at Truity, we’re big believers in personality testing for getting this task accomplished. However, we also recognize that a team-wide assessment might not be a realistic suggestion to make when you’re brand new in the office—you don’t want to rock the boat too much.

So, in place of a detailed personality assessment, we’ve pulled together some questions you can use right away to get to know your new colleagues and manager better, and kick that working relationship off right. 

1. Can you tell me more about what you do here?

Who to ask: Your colleagues

Why it’s important: Sure, you know that person’s job title and what department they’re in. But, beyond that, you don’t have much visibility into their day-to-day work life—or how it fits into the broader picture of the company. 

It’s always better to operate with facts than assumptions, so don’t be afraid to ask for your coworkers’ takes on their own positions. You’ll get some insider insight into what tasks they work on all day, while also getting a better grasp on how all of the pieces of the puzzle fit together. 

Potential follow-up questions:

  • In what circumstances would I come to you for something?
  • What led you to this career?
  • What’s the biggest misconception people have about what you do here? 

2. How would you like me to keep you informed about my progress?

Who to ask: Your manager

Why it’s important: One of the most important relationships you’ll have in the office is with your direct supervisor. But, far too often, misaligned expectations can run things off the rails.

That’s why it’s important to get clear on the basics right from the outset, so you both move forward with a shared understanding.

Will you have a weekly, in-person check-in meeting when you can discuss progress, goals, and frustrations? Would they prefer more frequent, informal status updates? Are they someone who likes to be looped in on every detail, or only the big-picture stuff?

Find out what your new boss is thinking and how they typically approach this relationship, and then have a candid conversation to land on something that will work well for both of you. It’s far better to be proactive. 

Potential follow-up questions: 

  • Are you the best person to approach with simple questions as I get started here? 

3. How do you prefer to receive feedback?

Who to ask: Your colleagues and your manager

Why it’s important: Feedback isn’t a one-size-fits-all, and failing to recognize that can be a big point of contention in the workplace.

Some people love receiving public praise or constructive criticism, while others prefer a more private setting. Some people don’t mind off the cuff remarks, while others work better with a set discussion time so that they can come prepared.

Finding out how your team members and even your supervisor (yes, upward feedback is a real thing!) prefer to hear from you is one of the most important things you can learn when you’re starting a new position. 

Doing so will help you communicate more effectively with everyone, and also avoid future headaches—and probably even some hurt feelings. 

Potential follow-up questions:

  • How often do you prefer to receive feedback?
  • What’s your biggest pet peeve related to feedback? 

4. What’s your biggest office pet peeve?

Who to ask: Your colleagues and your manager

Why it’s important: We’ve all known that coworker who eats tuna fish sandwiches in the breakroom every day or insists on clipping their fingernails at their desk. They seem like minor office-related grievances, but they can sneak up on us and quickly turn a team or work environment toxic.

You want to know what grinds the gears of the people you work with. Do they hate being interrupted in meetings? Do they immediately distrust people who miss deadlines? Do they loathe the people who don’t replace the toilet paper roll in the bathroom? 

Simply ask what drives the people you work with nuts, so that you can be more mindful of those behaviors yourself. 

Potential follow-up questions: 

  • If you could change one thing about our office, what would it be?

5. What’s one thing I should know about you that will help us work together more effectively?

Who to ask: Your colleagues and your manager

Why it’s important: Even without a detailed personality assessment at your disposal, your new team members might just surprise you with their level of self-awareness. They likely already have a lot of information they can share about their own approach to work.

This question gets to the heart of that, and challenges people to give you some unexpected insights into how you can help your working relationship thrive.

As an added bonus? It demonstrates a high level of interest and engagement in who they are and what they value. That goes a long way in proving that you’re aiming to be a positive addition to the team. 

Potential follow-up questions: 

  • Are you an early bird or a night owl?
  • How would you describe your working style in three words?
  • What makes you feel excited at work?
  • What makes you feel drained at work? 

Skip the generic questions and get to what matters

Sure, it’s fun to know somebody’s go-to coffee order and what three items they’d want if stranded on a desert island (and, there’s definitely room for those types of icebreaker questions too!).

But, if you really want to lay the foundation for a successful working relationship, you’re going to need to ask your new manager and team members some deeper questions that help you better understand how to collaborate effectively. 

The five we shared here (plus the follow-up questions!) are a great place to start. You can ask them in a team meeting, one-on-one over lunch or coffee, or even create a simple template that people can fill out on their own time (which you can keep as a resource to refer back to later). 

Asking some of these might seem a little bold, especially if you’ve become accustomed to the surface-level get-to-know-you questions that don’t offer much insight. But, rest assured that your new team will more than likely appreciate your efforts in finding out more about them before you jump into that new role with both feet.

Kat Boogaard
Kat is a Wisconsin-based freelance writer who focuses on careers, productivity, and self-development. She has written content for The Muse, Trello, Atlassian, QuickBooks, Toggl, Wrike, and more. When she's not at her desk, you'll find her spending time with her family—which includes two adorable sons and two rebellious rescue mutts.