Ice breaker questions for the workplace

When you start a job with a new company or even transition departments, it can be hard to get to know your new coworkers. However, getting to know your colleagues is an important part of establishing yourself on a new team. For managers, helping everyone get to know each other on more than a name-to-name basis can be integral to team building.

That is why many people turn to ice breaker questions to help kick-start the conversation. These open-ended questions are designed to invite people to share more about themselves. Ice breaker questions span an array of topics. Regardless of what you ask, the goal is the same — to understand more about the person answering your questions.

If you are looking for creative ways to get to know people in the workplace, check out our guide to the top ice breaker questions, along with tips on how to ask questions that invite others to open up.

Why you should use ice breaker questions in the workplace

While there will be people on your team that are easy to get to know — those colleagues you immediately hit it off with — sometimes getting to know people doesn’t come quite as naturally. For managers, it can also be a challenge at times to get a team to interact on a more personal level than simply swapping project notes.

However, understanding more about who people are and what makes them tick is critical for the success of any business team. The following are all reasons why you should use ice breaker questions in your office:

  • Find out more about people’s personalities: Everyone has a unique approach to life. When you understand everyone’s personalities better, you can handle projects with a different set of insights. For example, through ice breaker questions, you might find out that your colleague Taylor is motivated by data and spending time working on detailed projects. This will help you understand why Taylor avoids joining group meetings and instead focuses on spreadsheets.
  • See past the daily frustrations: It is normal for personalities to clash or for opinions to converge in the workplace. However, as you get to know coworkers or employees on a personal level, you can see past these frustrations to understand the person behind the opposing idea or approach. This can help you to resolve conflict in a meaningful way.
  • Make lasting connections: Often, as you get to know colleagues, you might find out that you share a lot more in common than you first realized. Many coworkers go on to be long-term friends or business connections. Networking at your job can help you immensely down the road.

Popular ice breaker questions

Ice breaker questions are all about getting to know someone. Whether you are a manager hoping to establish better camaraderie on your team or you are a new hire hoping to get to know your coworkers, you can use any of the following questions as the perfect jumping-off point for a friendly, fun conversation:

  • How long have you worked here?
  • What are your main job responsibilities?
  • What drew you to this company?
  • What is your dream job?
  • What motivates you the most at work?
  • Do you enjoy traveling? If so, where’s your favorite place?
  • What are your hobbies outside of work?
  • Do you have any pets? If so, what are their names?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • What is one topic you are most passionate about?
  • What is the best meal you have ever eaten?
  • Where did you grow up?
  • What’s your favorite book or movie?
  • What is your greatest skill set?
  • Do you enjoy playing sports? If so, what sports do you play?
  • What’s your favorite outdoor activity?
  • If you could meet any famous person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
  • If you could be any animal, which animal would it be and why?
  • If you could plan your dream vacation, what would it look like?

These are just a few examples of ice breaker questions. Feel free to get creative and create your own questions. The goal is to find open-ended questions to invite the other person to share a little more about themselves. Avoid strictly yes or no questions.

How to ask ice breaker questions to get to know colleagues

Having a list of questions to ask is just the start. In order to help your coworkers or employees open up, use the following tips:

  • Listen: The point of asking a question is to learn more about the other person. However, it is easy to get excited about someone’s answer and wind up talking over them or interjecting. Make sure to slow down and listen carefully to the other person. People love to share about themselves but will become quickly discouraged if you don’t stop to listen.
  • Ask clarifying questions: Once someone tells you a little bit about themselves, take the time to ask more to fully understand their responses. For example, if you ask someone about their current job responsibilities, and they tell you a quick synopsis of what they do, push further and ask for more details. This is a great way to learn more than just surface-level information about someone.
  • Hold back any judgment: When you ask a question, someone might have an opinion or taste that is entirely different than your own. Make sure that you hold back any judgment and instead use the experience as a learning opportunity to expand your own viewpoints.
  • Respond with openness: If you are asking someone questions and they ask you another question back, make sure to respond with your own personal insights. This will help open up a two-way street of communication.
  • Dedicate time to getting to know others: Day-to-day life in the office can be hectic. It isn’t always easy to find the time to get to know others. To mitigate this, set up a specific time each week you will spend interacting with coworkers or employees. For managers, a great time to implement an ice breaker question is during a weekly or monthly meeting. If you are trying to get to know teammates, consider stopping by their desks each week or chatting with them via digital channels if you work remotely.

If you want to learn more about how to transition into a new job or how to become a better manager, be sure to check out our Career Advice Resources page. Here you can find helpful insights into managing your life in the workplace.