Recently we've had a slew of "How do I ask for " questions e.g. asking for promotion to manager or asking for commission

While these may be workplace concerns, in general the answer is going to be one of "just ask him!" or "we can't answer without knowing you, your boss, the company, your employment contract and/or a slew of other detail".

My question is: are these questions still valid, and if not how do we cope with them?

  • 1
    see How do I explain ${something} to ${someone}? at Programmers meta
    – gnat
    Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 11:45
  • 1
    That's a good answer, but it's about explaining a concept to someone, not interpreting their individual situation to provide useful advice. For instance, it suggests "Make sure you understand the subject you are trying to explain, at least to the level you are going to try to explain it to and one deeper." - that's simply not possible in the questions I'm referring to.
    – TrueDub
    Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 12:04
  • yeah it doesn't directly apply to the question you asked here, only somewhat related
    – gnat
    Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 12:10

2 Answers 2


in general the answer is going to be one of "just ask him!"

Most of the "how do I ask?" questions could easily be rephrased as "when I ask, how can I best be prepared, and what arguments can I use, in order to achieve my desired result?".

  • rephrasing like this suggests that asker provided an explanation what does "desired result" mean for them, right?
    – gnat
    Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 14:08
  • @gnat - probably not. Not all OPs know how to construct effective questions in English. Thus they say "how do I ask" when that's probably not what they actually mean or need to know. Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 16:01
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    I see, thanks. What would you recommend in case when "desired result" part appears to be missing in the question?
    – gnat
    Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 16:03
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    @gnat - I recommend Comments seeking clarification from the OP. Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 16:40
  • Sounds reasonable Joe, thanks - I find them frustrating as questions, but when you think about it the way you've suggested, the questions have more worth. I would still think a little more thought from the questioner might prevent the question having to be asked! :-)
    – TrueDub
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 13:50
  • @TrueDub - I find it frustrating too. I think the OPs need help, they just aren't sure how to ask for it properly. Rather than just close the question (which would lead them to leave, frustrated), I'd like to help them anyway. I tend to leave comments requesting clarification when needed, or just answer the question as I think they meant it. Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 14:11
  1. By the volume of questions that we get in this format, clearly this is a topic of interest for many folks in the workplace
  2. Most seem to be practical answerable questions based on actual problems people face
  3. If you think the answer is simply, "just talk to X about Y" then you probably aren't grokking the real problem

These questions are common

Clearly there is an audience for these questions, and people tossing words in to a Google search is bringing them here, but not giving them the answer they are looking for. That is what this site was created to solve. I would highly encourage looking for ways to accommodate this demand, rather than to toss the baby out with the bathwater in trying to prevent them, because...

These are good questions

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

These are definitely practical (who at some point in their career doesn't need to talk to their boss/coworker about something that they don't feel comfortable talking about). They are definitely actual problems that people face. They also tend to be things that you learn through doing (and screwing up) several times in your career, which is why many of the people posting on meta here who have been in the workplace for a few years think that the answer is obvious, but...

The answer isn't 'just talk to them'

Think of your audience. People asking these questions may legitimately not know everything you do. Maybe they don't realize that work is work, and that their boss is a human (and probably recognizes that they are a human too). Perhaps they don't realize that it's okay to quit a job and not feel bad about it.

Try to read between the lines of the questions. Leave comments to try to dig out the real problem. And then make an edit to the question to better phrase what the person is really trying to figure out.

And then answer it. With gusto. And yes, maybe when you re-read it you may feel that it reads a lot more like a pep talk than it does an authoritative manager-esque "this is the proper procedure when bringing up a raise to your boss", but sometimes the procedure is less important than understanding the attitude you need to carry it out.

These questions have value because people keep finding our site and thinking we are a good place to ask them. So why don't we channel our inner new employee and help people solve their problems?

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