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“dumb question” September 30, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Definition.
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dumb question
(DUM KWES-chun)

In third grade, we were all told that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. But in the corporate world, there can indeed be the “dumb question”. It is rarely dumb, though. It’s just a turn of phrase.

The problem with working in the corporate environment is that contradicting your boss or even your co-workers can lead to you not seeming to be a team player. So why do it? I mean, you’re already probably smarter than most of them, at least in some ways. When a project is put on the table, you’ve probably already thought of a way to get it started. You don’t need your boss to tell you what to do or how to do it.

Not that that stops your boss from doing so.

But you don’t want to do it that way. You want to do it your way — which, about 70% of the time, is a better (or at least more efficient) way. You just can’t say that. Not outright, at any rate.

So you ask a dumb question.

Your boss: “Here’s a project we’ve been working on for weeks and it hasn’t really gone as planned. We’re going to do it again this week.”
You: “Have the problems been fixed?”
Your boss: “No. Corporate is promising to, but we all know–”
You: “So, dumb question — why don’t we just do it This Way, which we know works?”
Your boss: *blink of confusion*
Your co-worker: *snarky remark about why that would never happen because it’s too good an idea*

Go ahead and ask a dumb question. It allows you to say things you might not be able to say otherwise. Just know that your co-workers are probably tired of you phrasing it that way. See, the problem with asking dumb questions is they lead to more discussion, longer meetings, and eventually more dumb questions. Really, the point of a meeting is to get it over with as quickly as possible so you can go back to your desk and check your e-mail and Facebook. Dumb questions are counterproductive in that way, no matter how useful they are.

This definition is dedicated to Howard, friend of CorporateSpeak.

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