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Ask HN: What do you talk about in 1-on-1 with manager?
15 points by throwaway86861 on Dec 19, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 11 comments
I work in a company that has suffered from many organizational issues in the past and present (basically bad management making bad decisions and slowing them company down). The issues I would report in a 1-on-1 could only be fixed at the C-level, so it's not productive to talk about them. Everybody knows what the issues are but there's a lot of inertia and I'd rather focus on the technical.

So I don't have much to talk about in 1-on-1's. It's clear what work I have to do. If that benefits my career or not, it still needs to be done, so what then? I get along with my coworkers (sure, they have weird ideas from time to time but I'm one to call them out in a 1-on-1 or demand something be done, it feels arrogant).

I'm told 1-on-1's should be more than just status updates but that's all I have to talk about.

Manager starts 1-on-1 with "What you got?" and I'm dreading these meetings.

I'm going to assume you don't have anyone reporting to you. If you do then there'd be stuff to add to this.

Start with what you've accomplished since the last 1-to-1. Go onto things that you expected to accomplish but didn't. Explain why without griping.

Then go to what you're expecting to do by the next meeting. Highlight any concerns you have with achieving those things. If you have seen any issues that might get escalated, point them out. I prefer to know things that might go wrong and don't than be surprised by stuff.

Fundamentally, you should be letting your manager know what's going on and what might come up. BTW just because something is obvious to you, it doesn't follow that it's obvious to them. They can always tell you that they don't want to know about something.

Periodically, say every couple of months, ask for feedback on how you're doing, what you can do better etc.

If you have expectations for promotions, salary changes etc if can often be better not to wait for year end reviews. Even if your manager can't do anything with the info early, it's just another form of the no surprises rule.

One of the manager's biggest jobs is helping employees be as productive as possible.

I think one of the most important topics to talk about in a 1-on-1 is what parts of the business are conducive to you doing your best work, and what is hurting your ability to do your best work, or as much work as you think you can do.

Obviously you shouldn't be a diva, but I think these meetings are the time to talk about distractions or interruptions to your work that your manager can fix.

I do a thorns and roses with my manager.

1. What I have observed and liked since the last 1x1

2. What I have not liked since last 1x1

3. What I've been working on to move things from 2. to 1.

Unless there are some glaring work performance issues that need to be fixed, I talk about about hobbies and how they're spending their free time. I'm interested in their mental health and want to know if they're able to do what they want to do.

In my 1:1's, I talk about what I'm working on, any challenges I'm facing, and what I want to work on in the future (some combination of those three). You might be able to talk about the issues you mentioned if you can frame them as directly impacting your day-to-day work.

1:1 is more about personal and career growth.

My typical 1:1 goes like this

5mins - What's completed or achieved on the work side.

5 to 10mins - Career goals, training, new initiatives, poc, new tech stack, and other tech discussion

5 to 10mins - non-tech and about family, vacation, movies, sports etc...whatever applicable on non-tech.

1-1 is good time to talk about personal growth , promotions , salary increments , inter-personal issues etc. be prepared for it (at least few hours) and have clear-cut actionable items to follow up or put the agenda in meeting invite itself, otherwise it will be just a random talk.

Out of that list, I only feel comfortable talking about personal growth but that also gets tiring. My personal growth goals don't change every week.

Promotions & salary increments, maybe when the time come but it's a once a year talk?

And inter-personal issues, I get along fine with my coworkers. Should I complain about them more often?

Nope don't wait for last minute. have an agreement in 1-1 that this is what you are planning to do this year and then have a regular follow-up with him on progress(once every month for ~15 minutes). Normal manager needs clarity on what exactly you are doing with quantifiable data. If you can present that to him , it make his life much easier ...then yon can negotiate that with some perks.. i know we(as engineers) feel very uncomfortable with these discussions but fact of matter is this is what needs to be done in any company where there is a "manager" title.

I would highly recommend reading the short book The Coaching Habit. The seven questions and their discussion have been instrumental in improving the 1 on 1s I have with my team of developers.

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