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Ask HN: What agenda do you have for 1:1 meetings with your supervisor?
288 points by DictumMortuum 15 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 112 comments
I recently changed managers and I haven't been doing 1:1 meetings with the previous one. Since the new manager seems to prefer a more systematic approach, I figured I could ask you guys - do you have a plan before going into these kinds of meetings? What kind of talking points do you often have?



I'm going to try and add a different angle to this because most people here have covered what I wanted to say (performance, compensation etc.)

I would use this time to find out how your manager is doing in his/her role. Find out how you can help them. Talk to them about their frustrations and how they are feeling. Just because they are your manager doesn't mean you need to treat them like a boss all the time. Show them some care and empathy. It can go a long way for your career.


I have pretty bad work-related anxiety and I recently started seeing a therapist who specializes in it. She recommended I start thinking of my role as solely "to make my manager look good". This changed my whole mindset from trying to be a better/more efficient developer to trying to look out for what's on my manager's plate and how my behavior would reflect on her and her team. It's really helped me and I know my manager appreciates it. I can expand on this more if anyone thinks it'd help them too.


This is great advice. As an employee, I've found success with the following:

- Send an agenda beforehand. This gives your manager an idea about what you'd like to discuss, so then they can prepare themselves and/or not get caught off-guard.

- At the end, I try to ask, "do you have anything for me?", which typically opens the door for them giving you feedback/thoughts if they have it. It also is a nice way to prep myself for receiving feedback vs. it coming without me "opting in."

I wrote about some other ideas on 1-1s in this guide...not sure if useful: https://www.friday.app/p/employee-1-1-meetings


This sounds good if your organisation is political. However if the coding work is below par it’ll probably get found out sooner or later. Schmooze the boss but wax on wax off make sure the basic job function is being done well enough.


In fairness, schmoozing your manager arguably makes your manager look worse, as it makes them look like their team considers them schmooz-able while producing good code automatically helps your boss look better, as it shows they, at least in part, are managing their team effectively.


Sure, would love to know what a change your actions would take with this mindset, thanks.


For example, we're changing some of our server infrastructure. This was supposed to be a huge project and was anticipated to take at least 6 months. I found and modified a script that will do it in ~30 seconds, took me a few hours. Instead of presenting it at our team meeting, I sent it to my manager and let her present it to her managers. Everyone was very impressed with her work writing it. I don't really care about getting credit for it since:

(1) if I want to stay here and get a promotion or raise, it'll be my manager approving that.

(2) if I decide to leave (the much more likely scenario), I don't care about how much credit I got here. My close coworkers know what I do/have accomplished which is all that matters for a reference.

After learning this, I've been trying to go to my manager with potential issues and solutions preemptively. I'll present a few solutions like "would it be helpful to you if you had ___ or ___?" and let her micromanage which one.


This is kind of ridiculous that a manager would take credit for something you wrote on your own initiative and present it as hers.


I've had a manager take credit for my work, gaslight, and fire me when he was getting in trouble for underpreforming. I had no relationship with his bosses; I kept my nose down and did my work. I documented the craziness, but it happened so fast I could not defend myself. I learned to toot my horn some too. But really I should have left that department/company sooner. Yrmv. I don't think a good manager will take full credit for underlings work.


An old quote I found from 20 years ago:

"When you're heads down in your work, some other asshole is running around behind you taking credit for your accomplishments"


Don't hate the player hate the game.


IMO, that a manager would do this is pretty messed up. Even if YOU don't care, if this continues this manager will start to develop a reputation for taking credit from others. Then it will be much harder to recruit people internally to their team.

The best managers constantly are talking up people on THEIR team. They are responsible for creating an environment where people can excel. This makes them look good at a manager ("Everyone on my team consistently over-performs!"), everyone on the team looks great and it makes it easier for them to get recognition and promotions, and it makes it a very desirable team to work on which makes recruiting internally much easier.


> if I want to stay here and get a promotion or raise, it'll be my manager approving that

Is this truly solely up to your immediate manager? In a lot of (most? almost all?) cases, it takes people above your manager approving it too. And if those higher-ups think that your manager did the things that are being used to justify your promotion/raise, you might not like the outcome.


Did your manager mention you at all when presenting this? That's kind of a no-go in my opinion.


I am just curious how is that helping you?

Aren't you pidgin holing yourself into a 'person I can't promote as I would have no work to steal from'?


As a manager i would fight this approach because the 1:1's i schedule are for an exact flip of the relationship you describe. I certainly appreciate and encourage these feelings across all my teams, but unlike ICs it's my job and I'm given the time and resources to make these changes, it's not fair to expect someone to both execute well and put all the required effort into pushing for organizational improvement


The only reason I'm in the organization is to push for organizational improvements. That's why they hired me over somebody else. That's the source of momentum in my career path and the best thing for me as well as the org.

If that isn't the case, then I'm a cog in a feature factory and that's not the job that I want to be in. I know that some companies/teams/managers approach work that way, but that's a very strong counter signal to me.

When I'm going on to my next job, do you think they want to hear what my responsibilities were or what I did at the company that made it succeed? This ties into why I think hiring is broken -- we hire for one set of skills and tend to expect delivery of another.


>push for organizational improvements

doesn't pay the light bill

> a cog in a feature factory

pays the light bills.

YMMV


Disagree. The answer is somewhere in the middle.

Every time some failing startup does a large layoff round, there's always questions of "why does X need Y many engineers?". Too many cogs in a broken organization is just burning dollars and electricity.


do things manually for as long as possible until you need to automate it.


At some point automating becomes a full-time job. And that's literally what I do.


Your concern makes sense if it's all they do. Status updates and talking about your managers needs would be a crappy 1 on 1 if that was every time. It's supposed to be the employee's meeting.

However, if you mix up what you talk about a lot, then spending some of it on managing up would be pretty smart, just like you likely only talk about their long term career sometimes.

A lot of topics and ideas to discuss here https://getlighthouse.com/blog/one-on-one-meeting-questions-...


This is really good. A lot of the other replies do talk about how bad managers will take credit for your work, but the good and okay ones will appreciate this and it will work out. Assume your manager is a good human being, or go find one that will reward this kind of behavior.

Being a manager, especially mid level, can be really lonely. Your boss is often not very available, and then you have a team you're trying to help, but with little training on how to do your job (hence the Peter Principle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_principle).

So with that in mind, having an employee that actually cares about what your perspective, and wants to help where appropriate will be very helpful.

And this all ties back to being good at managing up, which is a really good skill to develop in your career; if you find the right leader it will lead them to taking you with them as they level up in better and better roles.


A supervisor is in a position of power over you, it's their job. What's the upside for me for potentially opening up a can of worms where I discuss their performance - that's negative? We are not friends, it's a professional relationship. If they need to talk to someone about their job, they have their boss to talk to.


The upside for you asking your boss: 'what do I need to do to make your job easier' should be obvious. The reason your manager can justify employing you is because you, by working, accomplish some goal that was set for them by their manager.

If your manager has any self-interest, and isn't an idiot, they will reward people who help them look good. If your manager is an idiot and a sociopath who will instead reward people who aren't helping them look good, obviously don't try this advice.


Good question.

I am under the impression my manager is trying to get the next role.

If I am able to understand, and perhaps even address, my manager's concerns, then I can help them manage themselves onto the next level.


Then you should have their job :) I see what you are saying here, but it's a very fine balance and the potential downside is greater than the potential upside here so just be careful.


This is a terrible plan by the way. No one try this at home.


> We are not friends, it's a professional relationship.

We are not friends, it's a feudal relationship.

FTFY.


This is the opposite why to have a 1:1.

It's like going to therapy and trying to analyze the therapist. Save your money.

Edit: grammer


Except the therapist in this case has a significant impact on your career progression. You don't have to show empathy and help them but don't be surprised when the team member who does gets promoted rather than you.


This attitude works if you have a leader for a manager. Notsomuch if s/he's a boss.


Those types do build a wall between themselves and others true. But if there is ever a time when you can break that and engage with the real person underneath I think 1-1 are it.

Those people would try not to show real weakness / vulnerability before groups of people - but just one? Maybe.

I’ve managed to build many a close relationship with people that others considered “the devil wears prada” types this way.

So strongly agree with the parent comment!


Sure it does, baring sociopaths they are still human with the usual sense of empathy. And even sociopaths have a sense of self-interest. You can trigger that sense of empathy and there's many books on it (starting with the classic How to Win Friends & Influence People). And most everyone likes someone who makes their life easier rather than harder. Hell, bosses in my experience promote sycophants (not saying you have to go that far) a lot more often than leaders do so it's likely to work even better on them.


I tried this approach and it didnt work out well for me because my company ended up doing a matrix organization and i had two managers. It turned out that being an ambassador for my current manager's concerns and wanting to make them look good in the larger org didn't work out. They just got upset when they weren't directly a part of the success I was having with the other manager and pushed me away.


This can really backfire if your superior is doing their job poorly. Sure, they will be happy to deligate tasks onto you that they are incapable of performing. But unless you make it known to their superiors that you are doing those tasks, you only end up with doing someone else's job but without their pay.


Don't do this


If I am joining a new team or company and therefore getting a new manager, my 1:1 meetings generally support my onboarding. I would ask about the team's current processes, how they got there, who to ask about learning the system architecture, etc. I also try to get a feel about what the new manager's style is. How does the manager want to stay apprised on my work, what is his/her approach to career development, etc. And very importantly, I ask how often we should have 1:1s.

If the new manager is joining my existing team as my manager, 1:1 meetings now support my manager's onboarding. The topics are very similar, but I have to be a little more tactful to avoid appearing arrogant or patronizing. I will ask what he/she thinks of the product we work on, or about the system architecture. Once again, I will try to get a feel for the manager's management style, and I will ask about the approach to career development and future 1:1s.

In either case, my number one goal early on in 1:1s is to build rapport. I don't intend this as a "winning favor" type of thing, but rather I need to do my best to build the relationship from my side so that I feel comfortable raising concerns and I can understand where my manager is coming from when inevitably he/she starts making new requests.

I don't like to share a 1:1 agenda until it's clear that the manager respects 1:1s. Otherwise there's a risk that the manager preemptively invites other people to help answer the topics in the agenda.

I try not to rant or complain in 1:1s anymore. I found that my managers' reactions were rarely predictable. Some managers try to solve the problem immediately, and some managers do nothing. Some managers would move me onto another project. Now that I have more experience, if I have a complaint, then I also try to propose a solution.

Finally, I try to avoid using 1:1s for status updates or escalating blockers to my manager. In my mind, these are best done as needed or as soon as possible.


This is really good advice ^

Measured, and with good variation.


* Performance (e.g. challenges, obstacles, short/long term goals, feedback, productivity)

* Professional development & engagement (e.g. professional goals, training, engagement, coaching)

* Contribution to company growth (e.g. process improvement, supporting colleagues, training pilot/ buddy programs, any other activities)

* Things done / achievements since last 1on1

* Feedback for the manager (e.g. what he/she could have done better/differently since last 1:1, what you/the team is missing)

In summary: What can be done for you, the team and company aside from just "correct individual contribution".

Try to avoid discussing things related to lifecycle of ongoing projects. Those should be handled within your team's standard execution flow. If there's need to talk more on a 1:1 then probably you have a gap there.

Of course in an ideal world in a company that supports ongoing feedback and people are not afraid to raise any issues on a daily basis it should be just: "Hey, do you have anything to talk about? - Nope, everything we discussed on a daily basis. - Ok, same here".

In the real world, there are always things which "there's never a good time for" and periodical check-up is useful for that just like a team retrospective.


Good point about feedback for the manager, I forgot to mention it. Depends on how well you get along with your manager, but I went as far as to say "you were joking about thing X (usually hiring/firing/PTO/performance etc. topics) which I didn't like".


Yes, I realize not all of us have the luxury of being part of organization where direct, open, constructive feedback whether it's positive or negative is just a thing people do. (Many organizations will boast about values but not live them. If you live them there's no need to even talk about them.)

1:1 or not, good manager should not only make everyone safe with giving him/her and everyone feedback but also ask for it if he/she takes the responsibility of taking care of the people seriously.

Even if that's not a part of the culture then it seems to me it makes sense to try to be the leading example (with a clear, expressed explicitly if needed intent of doing this to make everyone's life and cooperation better) if it doesn't put your job at jeopardy.

However, if it is, maybe it's worth considering what future lies ahead for you in the company? This of course depends on personal goals.


Reading a lot of comments here people have a very wide range of what they try to cover and I think it’s unnecessary on an every week basis.

Let’s start with the basics. Your manager’s number one job is to unblock your success. Whatever the fuck you need to do your job, the 1:1 is when you discuss it (assuming it can wait until 1:1, sometimes things are more urgent and you just need to grab manager right then).

Be sure to bring proposed solutions not just problems

-bringing a problem: “billy the director from marketing keeps direct messaging me asking for help. I want to help but it’s taking too time” -bringing a solution: same as above, plus “...given the xyz support process, I’m going to send billy an email and cc you, reminding them to follow the process and to reach out to so and so with these issues. If there’s any pushback can you back me up?”

You can also share accomplishments / progress but usually there are other channels for that.

Then as needed the other stuff here makes sense eg build rapport, ask about them, career dev etc


Various commenters have interpreted this in two different ways:

a) this is a performance/compensation review meeting

b) this is a weekly/biweekly/whatever infinitely repeating meeting

I think most managers who ask for 1:1 meetings are talking about case (b). I do.

I don't schedule 1:1 meetings for local employees unless they ask; I do schedule 1:1 meetings for remote employees. My feeling (which I have mentioned to everyone) is that people I see most days have the opportunity to ask questions and bring up concerns any time they feel like it, but a person I can't bump into in the corridor deserves extra time for that.

My 1:1 agenda is loose: tell me if anything isn't going the way you want. Concerns about your work, other employees, the strategic direction of the company... this is an excellent time to bring it up. I can help with technical problems, or discuss the issue and refer you to the right person. Want to go to a conference? Want to tell me about the conference you want to? Anything vaguely company-related in on-topic, and I don't mind diverting off-topic much, because we'll have another meeting next week.


I understand your PoV, but I like to stronnnnnngly encourage 1:1s every week, with each team member. I think it's really easy to let that slip if it's not in the calendar, and I've learned so many important, small things from people in those meetings.

Especially since some people don't really feel comfortable coming to their manager out of band. That makes the structure of "I have a block scheduled you with every week, in perpetuity" super valuable.

Agree with the loose agenda. I try to follow-up on things that came up in previous weeklies, and to make sure we don't forget about commitments, but so much of the value comes from a simple "How are you doing?"


I agree. My 1:1 invites explicitly frame them as an opportunity to point out where I'm failing in supporting your goals, things you want to accomplish and questions you have about anything from the trivial to the strategic.

I don't use a formal agenda but our 1:1's do produce explicit action items with one of us assigned and a due date


I think you would miss a lot of important things with this approach. You’re basically asking other people to take the entire initiative to raise problems, which will only work for things they are 100% comfortable bringing up with you, and which they feel is in their interest for you to know about.


Exactly; my current manager works this way (no 1:1) and is surprised how in 3 years nobody has ever come willingly to talk about this stuff.

Nobody wants to be the one coming to his boss with problems; nobody wants to be the only team member to go talk about things that probably bother him given that he never asked about them.

Then obviously he has no idea about the day-to-day work that most of us do, the difficulties we're facing, the lack of motivation of some members, the career or personal aspirations of them, the growing idea of leaving the team of others…

If you never ask, there's a lot you'll never know. It doesn't need to be weekly, but you need to reserve some time at least every few months at the bare minimum.


From Creativity Inc, by Pixar cofounder Ed Catmull:

“My door had always been open! I’d assumed that that would guarantee me a place in the loop, at least when it came to major sources of tension like this.

Not a single production manager had dropped by to express frustration or make a suggestion in the five years we worked on Toy Story.

…Being on the lookout for problems was not the same as seeing problems.”

Source: https://getlighthouse.com/blog/ed-catmull-quotes-leadership-...


I suppose it's possible that I'm a terrible manager, but the actual situation is that the non-remote team members find ways to talk to me face-to-face three or four times a week apiece, and via private chats nearly as often.


I dont know why this isn't a thing with developers, but a 1:1 is more than an opportunity to "bring up problems". Its a time when you can talk to the people who report to you and help them develop as professionals. My wife a business analyst every week talks with her boss about her career goals. Honestly I've been jealous. I tried asking my boss about career development, hes made it pretty clear he has no interest in helping me develop in any way that's not an additional technical skill.


#1- calling out anything co-worker related. I try to always bring up some good things. Ie: this new guy is getting up to speed really fast and I'm super impressed, here's some quick examples. Or negative: the guy in the remote team and I keep having conflicts, not sure what to do about it, any thoughts?

#2- my career. I'm working towards promotion X, I've made these steps lately, what do you see that I can be doing?

#3- ask for feedback. Has anyone given you any feedback that I need to hear? I can't grow without it.

And then give half the 1:1 time to the manager for things they've brought. Their time is often even more limited than mine.


Good stuff. I think this is a good general template once you've established a relationship with your manager. If the manager is new, I don't expect direct answers to #2 and #3, so I would ask more meta questions-- how they approach career development and feedback, etc. and get them thinking about those topics for future 1:1s.


I prepare the agenda on my own, it's usually 2 to 5 points. My issues, worries, what I struggle with, what I plan to do in the long run, I ask for general feedback every few months.

Sample agenda:

* I did X in situation Y; could I have handled this better?

* I have too many things to do, so which is the priority: A or B?

* I'll do this big thing over the next month, wdyt? etc


Wdyt = what do you think


Whatever bullshit comes up to justify the meeting.

I’ve seriously never had 1:1s go anywhere useful. But that’s also because I believe that 75% or more of people are bad managers (it is hard to be a really good one).


That's really unfortunate. They can be incredible meetings to fix problems, work on your career, grow skills, give and receive feedback, and a lot more.

Unfortunately though a lot of managers don't know what to do as you suggest, but some of them can be shown a better way.

Putting some things you want on the agenda is a great way to make that change. Then you can take the temperature to what they will be open to.

Working backwards though, this is why you should interview your future manager really hard before signing on to the job...to make sure you have one of those 25% that are good (based on your number)


I definitely agree with everything you said. I have had some productive 1:1s where they led to interesting changes to my work.

But those enlightened managers are rare.

And then the flaw with interviewing your manager is that you often can’t control your manager once you’re hired. I’m currently on manager number four, just one year in to my current role. The other ones all quit or were interim managers.

So for me, it just seems so much more likely to fail than succeed that it’s hard not to take it as a probable waste of time. I wish I could just say no thanks, I don’t want to have 1:1s.


Sounds like you're not in the greatest work environment if so many managers have quit. Curious why you think that is? Also, if you have such strong feelings about management, maybe try it out? Based on what you're saying, managers are dropping like flies and it might be helpful to promote from within.


It's pretty much just talk about whatever is going on in the week. Some weeks are busier than others.

We usually talk about what's going on around the office, how the current project is going, what's going on with coworkers and what the plans in the future are. I will bring up blockers/promotion talks/holidays anything that I need his help with. We're pretty informal about it.

It all depends on the manager and their personality. I find it's better to be casual and not have a strict agenda though.


From a manager's perspective, what I think is a great 1:1 is two things:

1. Delegate up. If you have blockers that we haven't talked about already out of 1:1 cycle, bring that first so that we can figure out how to knock it down.

2. The MOST valuable thing is for you to educate me. When I was a manager, it was impossible to stay current on every technical topic I needed to know. The IC working with the tech every day learns that all naturally -- boil it down to the most important and tell me that. That is the information that I crave, and will also use to educate the next level up. (Oh, BTW, if your organization seems to be allergic to this kind of upward-flowing education flow, that is a Bad Sign(TM).)


Every company has its own template, but basically:

- the most important: prepare in advance! Summarize all what you have done during the year.

- if the template has graded items, think of a realistic grade, then add one, everywhere. Usually in my copy of the template I also answer some of the questions that were for my manager :) I do that completely naively. Sometimes your manager had no time time to prepare, so you are actually helping.

- during the interview be positive: you are fine, work is fine, ... prepare a few points where improvement is needed, but nothing really serious.

- usually your manager has limited freedom when it comes to your salary (contrary to HR), so do not annoy him with this. In my company I do not even talk about money with my manager. Keep your discontent for HR and your manager on your side.

With that method in my current company I got good raises.

The golden rule is: say positive things about yourself and your work. If you do not, nobody will.


I wrote something internally a couple of years ago, and it is precisely a thought piece on why 1:1s exist, for whom, and how to get the best from them.

As it's too long for a HN comment I hope you don't mind my "publishing" it on Google Docs: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1R4j84c7gHRn1Q3xmwg5h18La...

Feel free to give this to your manager to help them consider how to use the 1:1 and make it better for the both of you.


I am in the middle of planning my first 1:1 with my first direct report and this is incredibly helpful. My bosses never did this. Thank you!


You may find this helpful too then for you to get started on them and see where you may want to learn more deeply: https://getlighthouse.com/blog/one-on-one-meetings-template-...


My manager and I usually go over my production real quick then talk about shows we both used to go to back in the day and upcoming shows our old butts are thinking about going to. This time of year we'll probably talk about looking forward to going out and getting some morels in the woods soon.

She's not the typical manager though. I feel like if I ever get another company interested in me I'll have no idea how the real world really reacts because the opco of my company moves to the beat of its own drum and my office even more so.

Our 1:1 meeting are just monthly "here's your production from the last month we've completed the data on" which we get weekly via email from the team leads anyway, we sign it and never get a copy and it gets filed away to never be seen again as per standard bureaucratic make-work. Mangers just use it as a chance to point out any errors you are making repetitively and see if you have any questions or concerns.


I've had a few roles with regularly scheduled 1 on 1s, the best were with bosses I worked extremely closely with, and those sessions were generally like, tech heavy heart to hearts, I still years go to a few of those bosses I no longer work with for advice. With the bosses I wasn't as close to or did not have a mutually respectful relationship with, it was usually a waste of time. Empty promises, mindless chit chat, casual gossip. The absolute worst was a role where we got scored on these chats as part of an attempt to quantify every aspect of the job. With that being said, when I want to meet one on one with a boss now, I ask them out to lunch and discuss whatever matter at hand.


I try to use the one from the Manager Tools podcast but we have a hard time sticking to it. https://www.manager-tools.com/manager-tools-basics#


Why do you have a hard time sticking to it? What do you end up doing instead?


My goals for such meetings are simple.

1) Determine if I am still meeting expectations

2) Figure out what I should be working on. This sounds dumb, but if you work on a varied set of projects/tasks that change all the time like I do, then figuring out priority isn't always obvious. I like to use these sessions to help refocus me to make sure I'm on whatever path my manager feels adds the most value to the business. Because everyone can drift into things over time that are interesting, but not necessarily what is needed by the business.

3) What new stuff can I do? Are there any new projects coming up? Any new skills I should be trying to get or things I should be studying up on?

Essentially, these three things are making sure my career goals are at least somewhat where I want them to be and they are in line with what the company needs/wants from me. Those items are how I get there. It may vary depending on the specific position a person has.


Your 1 on 1s are going to evolve over time with them.

At the start you want to simply build some rapport and get a feel for their work style. Ask them about how they prefer certain things like project updates and how to handle problems that arise.

Then, as you get comfortable, your 1 on 1s can and should cover a wide variety of topics: - Your Career Growth / areas of interest you have - Suggestions for improving you/your team's work - Problems you want their help with / what they think of the solution you came up with - Personal issues that could affect your work (babies, funerals, long term sickness of loved ones, divorces, etc) - Praise things your manager did you like so they do more of it (They're human too...let em know) - If they're open to it, feedback you have for them - FYIs that you may know about that they may not have visibility to and will want to monitor (see Andy Grove's "Black box of management" https://medium.com/@iantien/top-takeaways-from-andy-grove-s-...) - Things you want to lobby for (changes, class you want to take, a project, a certain assignment, etc)

More detail on how to approach your 1 on 1s that I've sent to employees here: https://getlighthouse.com/blog/effective-1-on-1-meetings/


I have had many managers and no two conducted 1:1 meetings the same.

In my experience it depends greatly on what sort of rapport you have with this manager. Can you read his personality? If you barely know the person and think he might be a stickler for detail and protocol, then keep your agenda to positive topics. Focus on your accomplishments and anything you plan that has a direct contribution to the company. Avoid anything negative, it might come back to haunt you. This is the safest path.

If you have reasonable rapport then I would suggest to still stick to being positive, but you could very diplomatically raise any issues that might be negatively impacting the company. What I mean is that instead of saying something like "This open plan office is too noisy and I can't concentrate" say: "Sometimes the office gets quite noisy. Perhaps these conditions could be distracting for some of the staff and impact upon productivity." If you get asked how it affects you then you could say: "I use noise cancelling headphones to minimise the impact and maintain my workflow." Of course that presumes you have such headphones. The above is merely an example of how to recast comments so that you don't look like a complainer. If in doubt, don't.

The next 1:1 will be much easier because you have the experiences from the first one to guide you.


In most teams, the manager's raison d'être is simply to make you more productive. This means unblocking problems when you are stuck, aligning vision (to avoid wasted work), to motivate and prioritise work when overloaded.

The advice of avoiding bringing "negative" things and using the session as almost a celebration of your success is massively missing the potential usefulness of these sessions!

If your boss doesn't know about impedance to your productivity, how can they possibly help you?


The OP has a point, though. Perpetual complainers are such a drain. I hate being around them. They drag everything down.

Everything doesn't suck all the time.

There are pockets of good and bad. Be pragmatic. Don't nucleate a culture of defeatism and make everyone think you only care about your paycheck and not your coworkers and their own struggles.

Not everyone is like this. But I can point to a number of examples of this.


What in your opinion is the intent for such meetings? It's not the review kind, is it?

I understand the initiative is from the boss's side. Is it just a formal way to align with policies, or a way to keep everyone on their toes, or a genuine two-way communication channel?

If it's a formal thing, then just play along, whatever style this boss is expecting.

There're even ridiculous cases, when a boss decided to project 'openness' by putting a jar of candies in his office... with the expectations that people would have this as a reason to come in. Not a bad idea in general (taught in trainings) ... except the candies were mostly subpar, halloween kind, the boss won't eat these either. Still, the game was clear, and his employees were showing up for 'a candy', those that did made the boss happy.

If it's 'I'm the boss' kind, then it's kinda formal too. So either come up with a question that would highlight his expertise or you own humblness.

The easiest part is when it's two-way. Almost no pretense needed. His time is as much or more valuable to him as yours. So the meetings will have some practical reason to them. Either assign, solve, retro, or 'address' something. Make sure you're aware of the reasons to meet, if needed probe in advance.

Also use this to your advantage - _ask_ sometimes to meet. There're should be plenty of ways to find a practical topic to discuss. As an example, with a new boss a possible topic could be 'aligning priorities'. If possible, find ways to establish such a two-way channel.


I never have them with my manager. I actually just learned yesterday that he has them every two weeks with other members of my team, though


My boss and I create a Slack thread each week for 1:1 topics.

One thing to remember is that 1:1 time is YOUR time, not your boss's time. They can schedule a meeting with you any time for their topics, but 1:1s are always your chance to have face time alone with them.

It's up to you what to talk about, but as a manager, I don't need status updates. If I'm a good manager, then I already know what you're up to, so let's talk about something _you_ want to talk about. You don't need to inform me of your day-to-day work, unless that's what you want to talk about.

My boss and I talk about a lot of things, but rarely status updates on projects. The topics tend to revolve around organizational changes, obstacles that my team and I are running into, personnel issues, or company strategic/tactical considerations.

My 1:1 is also a great time to talk about career development. Every other 1:1 I ask my boss how I'm doing, and if he says "You're great", I push a little bit more on something I can improve. He usually comes up with _something_.

I know a lot of ICs feel it's rude or inappropriate to bring up raises or career direction, so I try to bring it up for them every other month or so. Things like "How do you like the direction of your role? Is there something else you'd like to work on? Have your career goals changed? Do you want to talk about that?"

I also take the time in 1:1s to get to know them on a personal level. One of my team members is having a baby in a few weeks, another one is competing in an Ironman in a few months, and a third is going through a divorce. These kinds of things don't directly apply to the job at hand, but it does have several benefits, such as letting them know that I care about them personally and giving me context that might explain aberrant behavior. Plus, it's just nice when someone asks about how you're doing, right?

Like I said at the beginning, I'll make a Slack thread with my boss. This week's looks something like this:

- <employee> performance plan

- <project> pivot

- <employee>'s annual review is coming up, compensation adj?

- <project> budget exploded, what happened?

- <another manager> seems to struggle with <project>. How can I help?

etc, etc.

Hope that helps. Good luck.


This is awesome. I bet your team really loves working with you.


Hope so...


I keep a little private git repo with markdown files for each meeting I've had with my supervisor (academic setting), and one file for the one in the future where I write down agenda items as they come up. I always have "Project Progress Summary" as a line item, where I give a short summary of what I'm working on.

Sometimes I've nothing but that "Project Progress Summary", sometimes I've got some road blocks I'd like to share, other times I've got a bundle of miscellany or brainstorming items on it.

I take notes on a pad of paper during the meeting, take photos with my phone, and if anything of substance happened in the meeting, I might transcribe them so that I can find them with a quick grep of the meetings folder.


I like this blog post's framing of partnering with your maanger and using the 1:1 to maintain that.

https://lethain.com/partnering-with-your-manager/


We faced a similar problem. We've got a strong 1-on-1 culture in our startup but often struggle with what to talk so we created an ultimate list of one-on-one questions (500+) with a social flavour https://www.peoplebox.ai/t/one-on-one-meeting-template-manag...

These are for managers but can be flipped to find agenda/ questions for direct reports.


shouldn't a 1:1 be more free-flowing than agenda-based? Let the chat go where the conversation takes you. I find structuring such conversations, confines and probably counter-productive.


It's easy to forget what's on your mind if you don't have at least some points you want to want to discuss.


You can do both. I like to have some points written down, and just make sure that at the end we covered everything. But eg the order is not always important.


5 sections.

1. Personal chit-chat. 2. Review of your work commitments and what your boss can do to help you. 3. Review of personal development commitments and what your boss can do to help you. 4. What questions do you have for your boss about your business, department, or team. 5. Share specific feedback for your manager, ask for specific feedback.

It's very important to have those commitments set quarterly or at worst annually. You should set double-length 1:1s for those sessions.


I keep a running list and discuss whatever I've added to it since our last meeting (1:1s are weekly). I do this for my manager and for my reports.

Most of the list will be about whatever the issues of the week are.

In terms of recurring items, the only thing that stands out is that I try to have a career conversation with my reports at least once a quarter.

(I also time-stamp the list so I can see when we had conversations historically, which is occasionally useful)


One of the better managers I have had in the past, when he setup weekly 1:1s, said that the agenda for our weekly 1:1s would be “about whatever you want to discuss”.

Key word: you. Key point: the agenda was employee-led, and it encouraged open and honest feedback.

Many managers focus on what ‘they’ want to discuss in 1:1 meetings, but the best people managers, in my experience, also ensure that the employee’s views are represented.


I do weekly 1:1s with all my reports. We have a google doc that we maintain that has notes from every one of our 1:1s. We use the same format every week, asking the same 4 questions of each other.

- How are you feeling?

- What are you excited about?

- What do you have the most anxiety about?

- What could we do better?

Then we discuss any administrative things, blockers, and there's a "What else" section at the end.


I always have a plan. If you don't, you will just be chatting randomly. These meetings should be for your benefit and address workplace issues that your manager can solve somehow. You should beforehand have a good idea of what a successful resolution should be to the issues you bring up.


Every meeting should start with:

1. What am I doing that I should continue?

2. What am I doing that I should stop doing?

3. What should I start doing

If manager is open, you can say same things about her.

More succinctly:

1. Start

2. Stop

3. Continue


I cannot see the benefit of this meeting in a typical large or similar to governments-owned company


Then you haven't had a successful one.

The manager's job is to unblock and empower as much as anything.

Managers need insight into the health of their teams and how their reports think, feel, and operate. 1:1s are a fantastic sounding board for this.


This is the same ‘no true scotsman’ argument used with scrum. Over 15 years I’ve very rarely had anything productive come out of 1:1s. I think some people just require more support than others. I personally find them to be an enormous waste of time.


Ideally, it’s to create and maintain a human connection.


I prefer 1:1 when there is something relevant to discuss (merit increases, onboarding, significant problems). Personally I believe this is the best way the manager/employee relationship should function. Email and daily interaction should be more than enough to maintain communication on projects, work, etc. The clear sign of a good manager is the less 1:1's the better. That means the manager is respected enough by his subordinates to know what is going on with his team and the team can collaborate enough to solve problems without constant involvement from the manager.

When a manager has weekly 1:1 meetings, time to find a new job...and fast. That is a major red flag if the manager unable to keep track of the team OR upper management is getting ready for layoffs.

In fact, when go through the interview process once question I ask is are their views on 1:1 meeting, how often are they, are they mandated by upper management or just the manager's preference.


1 on 1s as status updates are horribly inefficient, which is why managers should not use their 1 on 1s for them.

However, when a manager uses 1 on 1s for what they're actually for (career growth, feedback, blockers, coaching, praise, etc) they have the best teams and best performance, because they make sure the employee stays motivated and the team as a whole operates better.

I've uncovered so many problems that would have otherwise blown up later, as well as found tons of ways to better motivate team members from them, I can't imagine not having them, nor ever working for someone who doesn't do them.


How do you feel about monthly 1:1's? This was my approach though the topic was less about keeping up to date with what the team/person has been doing, and more about how they are feeling, if there any roadblocks I could help them with, if they are interested in the work they are doing, etc etc...

I think of my job as a manager as supporting and empowering my team to be productive and making sure they are happy with their work, this was just one way for me to do so.

Given your preference for less 1:1's, I would be interested to hear your take.


I was not expecting that downvote. That must be a manager ;)

Anyway, I think monthly would be fine as long as it focused on career growth, goals, etc. I am a tad bit of biased since I have had bosses who use 1:1's to stay up to date with projects and work while ignoring the entire team and was on the golf course the rest of the week.

Of course I am not talking about deliberately keeping your boss in the dark, that is a problem for another thread. I am not for 1:1s being used for "phoning it in" from a lazy manager.


Usually as much as we have the time to discuss:

- status of current projects and resources that I manage (I am a manager myself)

- priorities and direction changes

- help needed, in any kind: escalations, resources, etc

From time to time, about every 3 months:

- feedback and intermediate performance review

- work plan updates

- strategy updates


Can't you give most of those status update-y things another way? Seems like most of that would be covered in a standup, or email.

Your 1 on 1 could be so much more: your career growth, situations you want help with, feedback and ideas for them, things you want coaching on, any issues they should know about (like say a sick/dying family member), etc


Most of the status update is somewhere in the 200+ emails each of us get daily; the weekly 30 minutes are to talk the most important points, not to inform, that is done upfront.

The last time we spent 15 minutes to discuss my idea of re-engineering the technical platform I own; my manager does not have the deep technical knowledge to understand the details and implications of the change, but I need his support to make it happen (to convince others, to allocate resource, etc) so I had to explain and convince him it is the right thing to do. The discussion was based on the 10 slides with diagrams that I sent a week before.


I don't have regular reports but my 1-1s are with my technical team.

For a standard 1 hour 1:1

15 minutes for anything from the previous meeting that needed my action.

15 minutes for them to speak

15 minutes for me to speak

15 minutes for any sort of HR action or performance feedback


Used to have a structured one: - what have I done; - what I am going to do - misc/additional information/personal development


Despite intentions by my two previous managers, I try to minimize and avoid '1-1' meetings. Why? Because I want a relationship with the manager where we can talk whenever we need to, instead of having a weekly 'meeting' with an 'agenda', etc. in my long work life, the best experiences have always been where I had no 1-1.

The common argument I hear (from managers and others) is 'but we just want a time that's guaranteed reserved, in case you need it'. But that's a calendar problem, not a 1-1 problem. If a manager needs to put me on the 'calendar' to be sure that they can talk to me, they've failed as a manager.

TL;DR: '1-1' meetings are unnecessary when you have a manager who understands communication and realizes their job is to help you succeed, not 'supervise' you.


I love these meetings. When I am in one of these, we are both at the same level for me. We (or at least I) talk as if I'm talking to a friend about the good stuff and bad stuff in my experience of the last 2 weeks. Mostly related to work, but even stuff outside. I used to have these at my previous company, and when I moved to another one I asked to do this again, because it was something they were not doing already. I will ask in every company I work with if this is not already something that is done.

I'll just paste here my notes for the meetings I've had with my manager/CTO for the last few months. It's a running note so start from the bottom. Some items are more clear than others but it's my own notes. You will see some items like asking for access to something, asking their/company's opinion about things, suggesting ideas for better workflows, complaining with no solution yet, asking to clear up genuine confusion, comments about certain recent events, etc.

---

Involved in Machine learning, with employee Y

What raise will I get?

--

how Can we use our product as a client

Dubai 3 weeks remote

holidays minus. not paid or next year

standing desk for sharing

working less hours or days

okrs

https://twitter.com/notbrent/status/1159935844888637440?s=21

Bandung. progress as user story lead

yeh cheez

external therapists for devs

how do you handle time and requests and work

---

talk RN EU

still under a lot of work with travis

Friday off for a month?

month open source

Friday morning open source

--

sentry access

demo?

-----

I Became gql head somehow?

proud of purge

react native pr for crashes

review cool

-------

slack repo, we can archive it for slack questions, check the numbers doc.

budget for react Amsterdam?

————

Prs for small things lead to small things not being changed. Maybe I need a better way to work. Maybe we all need one. I find things to fix while working. I can’t create an issue, wait, create a pr, wait, then keep going.

Too many slack channels, everyone talks privately. Delete old.

Too many branches. Delete old.

strange. what does employee X do? not complaint, just curious.


First of all, if you want to talk about something, you don't need to wait for the next scheduled meeting, you can just talk. Therefore the system of scheduled one on one meetings is nothing but bureaucracy. Therefore the question is "is there anything you discuss with the manager, ever?" And the answer to that depends on the manager's competence. If you can delegate your task to the manager and they are actually able to solve it, then you can use it to keep the progress rolling. If they aren't able to do anything meaningful, there's nothing to talk about, really. Which is usually the latter case and it comes down to "want something done, do it yourself".


> If you can delegate your task to the manager and they are actually able to solve it, then you can use it to keep the progress rolling

Managers are supposed to delegate tasks to you, not the other way around.

If you are delegating tasks to your manager, (as opposed to your manager saying something like, "I'm going to assign this task to XXX," or "I'm going to go try and get team YYY to do ZZZ,") then your manager isn't really managing.


> Managers are supposed to delegate tasks to you, not the other way around.

In software engineering? Not really. They aren't engineers, they can't delegate anything because they have no idea what to do or how to do it.

In SE, the best managers can do is be helpers in non-technical tasks, like manage the attendance system for you or talk to other departments when your issue tracker goes down or if there's an internet connection problem in the office, and so on. Make sure nothing distrupts your work, in other words.

> If you are delegating tasks to your manager, (as opposed to your manager saying something like, "I'm going to assign this task to XXX,"

Managers cannot, without any input from the engineers, assign tasks, because they have no idea what the task affects, the impacts, the risks, difficulties etc. Their so-called decisions that touch on the technical side are 99% based on the engineers' input. The engineers say this is critical and explain why and the manager says "oh well, then you and you should fix it asap!".

Sometimes a manager is useful for aggregating the data flowing in and out of the team, as the team's single point of entry for various people, kind of like a reception or secretary in a sense. Again, to let the engineers work on their stuff.

Or, the manager could present some business requirements, although for that you should have a PO, but suppose it's the manager. Even then, they're not delegating as in commanding the people to do something, they're just asking the engineers to work on a solution, something which the manager has no idea how to do. It's like, if I call a plumber to fix something, I'm not delegating the work to the plumber because I have no idea how to do it myself, I'm simply asking the plumber to provide a service. I'm not the plumber's "boss", the plumber is the expert, I'm simply asking their expert opinion on how to proceed.

> then your manager isn't really managing

They are never managing anything, at least from my oh I don't know, about 16 years of experience working at companies big and small.


> Managers cannot, without any input from the engineers, assign tasks, because they have no idea what the task affects, the impacts, the risks, difficulties etc. Their so-called decisions that touch on the technical side are 99% based on the engineers' input.

Which makes it very easy for the engineers to BS the managers. If the manager doesn't understand technical details and gets all the information from the engineers, how does the manager tell who is actually getting the difficult work done so he can promote the right people? I guess that explains another reason why promo/review systems and the "career ladder" are almost always dominated by corruption.


This is not a model of working I’m familiar with. I work as collaboratively as possibly with my reports and my manager. 1:1 meetings are my most important. If I’m not discussing the non-obvious challenges we face, we are sharing our goals or tuning our shared vision.


Little bit of a contradiction there. You say collaboratively, yet you share your ideas one on one, instead of with the entire team. It's either one or the other.

Next, assuming the challenges you speak of are technical, the manager is no use talking to because they're not an engineer. The manager of course should know of technical difficulties to understand risks of delays, but that works through inviting them to engineer meetings where the team presents its consensus on the matter.




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