I don't want someone in a similar situation like I was to get inspired by lists like these and go into their next 1on1 wrecking havoc with the status quo. When you, your manager, his manager and the next guy up are just cogs in a machine churning for years through the same kinds of faceless conglomerates - you either shut up and put up or end up on someone's Excel spreadsheet highlighted in yellow. Then during the next round of layoffs (you know they're coming) the yellow cogs will be replaced with fresh green ones and you'll be out on the street cramming algorithm questions all over again and interviewing with A.I. HR filters for the next 6months. Understand where you work before opening your mouth, people ;)
Employment is not a boss->servant relationship, it's a relationship where both parties gain something. You offer a service, and they pay for that. End of story. They act out? Then you find someone else who needs your services.
As a programmer myself, I'm in this great position where there is a shortage of good developers, and plenty of companies searching for good developers.
When I go to my manager, I'm not going in there with "please don't fire me sir, please.", I'm going in there with "Hey, fix your shit or I'll have a new job next week that pays more from day 1, and you will search the next 6 months for my replacement and train that person another 6 months before (s)he's somewhat productive."
It is, for the vast majority of employed people.
> it's a relationship where both parties gain something.
For the vast majority of employed people, what they gain is the ability to continue to afford food and shelter.
Most jobs do not afford the economic reality necessary to allow the employee a position of being able to afford to bargain as anything approaching an equal.
It is not a strange way to look at the world for anyone who has lived for any significant amount of time as a worker in any average job. It is helpless, yes.
If you have problems/complaints and you never say anything about them, then don't be surprised if they never change.
If there is a 1-on-1 meeting happening, then a communication channel is open. I suppose you can choose to cynically shut it again, but if you make that choice, then don't be surprised to find that you don't have a voice.
A person could try hard to avoid being the squeaky wheel. They could take no curiosity about themselves, or their surroundings, or their organization's goals, or how their boss sees them, or how others see them, or how their habits affect their work, and basically stay the same for years on end, doing the same job, at basically the minimum quality and execution to stay employed.
And then "at the next round of layoffs" that person will find themselves surprisingly replaceable. Probably by a cheaper, more junior person who can do the exact same work at the exact same minimum quality. No reason to keep the guy who hasn't improved for years, and basically tells you to F-off any time you ask him how you can help him.
Guess what: Being invested in your work can make you more valuable. The cynical route often doesn't pay, and frequently fulfills itself.
It's also often true that 1-on-1's are people doing something they are required to do, targeted at quota fulfillment, where there's not actually an opportunity for either side to influence a situation at all because it's just a big chain of fulfilling requests from higher up a chain.
I had mandatory 1-on-1s at a call center doing outbound cold calls for things like FoP fundraisers, a job that couldn't actually be done cheaper legally, where the organization didn't have goals other than maximizing profit, where no one I interacted with were anything but cynical about the job and where there wasn't value to be found in getting more invested in it. My managers were explicit about them being bullshit mandatory 1-on-1s mostly geared at pressuring employees to close more.
Guess what: lots of places are like that.
important to know your contexts.
There ars a lot of things in life that are like this, IME. There's a cynical or pessimistic way to look at something (often an interpersonal thing), and if you assume that it's true, then whether or not it was true, it becomes true for you. In those cases, the only rational thing to do is act as if it weren't true.
Example: incels. Lots of people have rough lives and have a hard time developing socially in all kinds of different ways. It sucks. Sometimes that leads to guys who have a fundamentally hard time interacting with women they are attracted to, which can lead to downward spirals of rejection and misery. Some guys cope with this by becoming incels or redpillers or whatever. "Girls don't like me, I'm so sad" is transformed into "Girls don't like me because girls suck and society sucks and it makes me awesome". It's really depressing, but there's a rationality to it in that it trades pain for anger without changing the situation. But even if someone isn't an actual incel type, once they assume that identity and start to believe it, they'll become one, which is why it never does anyone any good to start thinking of themselves as incels or redpillers. But this isn't just about incels. There are innumerable self-fulfilling, self-destructive viewpoints out there, in which even if they're rooted in elements of truth, it doesn't do anyone any good to accept the viewpoint.
Other examples include the Golden Rule, taking the high road, etc. EDIT: meaning, the notion that the Golden Rule or taking the high road all the time is for suckers, therefore you shouldn't do it. It assumes the worst in people, and if you live your life that way it ensures that you have bad interactions with people that reaffirm your already-cynical viewpoint.
But, uh, I may have gone off on some tangents there. Sorry HN. TL;DR even if your 1:1's with your boss suck, don't give up on trying to make them more constructive.
They have both the authority and hopefully the management / people skills to be the one to stick their neck out and say "Hey, let's make this team be one that's honest and tries to actually create value for the company, not just keep our heads down and try to look good".
Being the young optimist who insists that everyone in the company tries to do the right thing is not smart unless management is making it clear that this is what they want.
Naw, there's an opportunity for your boss to divide & conquer, and for you to screw over your coworkers for short-term gain. You might not _think_ you're doing that — the way it's designed it's very easy for both sides to not think that — but that's the actual dynamic of the situation.
This is why the much-maligned "do not negotiate individually" rule many unions have exists. And 1-on-1s are pretty much just that, only wrapped up in some friendly-sounding woo.
> And then "at the next round of layoffs" that person will find themselves surprisingly replaceable.
> Guess what: Being invested in your work can make you more valuable.
Experience having survived lay-offs: lol, no. Nobody puts a rating on your rants.
True. But with that sort of job you probably won't have regular 1-on-1's. You just get told to flip more hamburgers.
And it also depends on your own attitude what kind of relationship your establish with your manager.
And that is a big problem. This means it's not a free market. Power is unevenly divided, and you only operate on the job market at the mercy of the other party. This is bad.
Something is needed to even the playing field and make employers and employees equals in these negotiations, whether that's unionisation, Basic Income, worker protections of some sort, or something else.
The issue is that employees, in general, are much, much worse at the employment game than their respective employer. This makes a lot of sense: Your employers job, after reaching some level, is to employ the right people (and even beyond that to hire the right people to hire the right people). That's it. That is all they do, all day.
Which leads to them getting good at everything involving the dance, including job negotiations and manipulating the employee/candidate in a way that serves their needs.
As a worker, your entire job is to do your job. No matter how many perks your company offers, getting better at your next salary negotiation will not be one of them. Of course, as a worker participates in this game more often, they gets better at it themselves – but there is no magic involved: It's a skill that you have to learn, in a very unfair and rigged setup.
I guess I should clarify that all of the anti-worker propaganda I've been fed at college has been in the comp/sci and botany departments. Havent tried other tracks, but those are the ones where they really try to tell us that our education isnt valuable.
Getting good at managing your career isn’t very hard as things go. You can get substantial results by focusing on it for 1 hour per week over a year. And it’s not mainly that you’ll make more money — work will get more interesting and fun, and you’ll have more impact in thr world.
For example, there aren't plenty of companies with quiet offices searching for developers. When I tell my manager "The noise in this new open floorplan office is killing my productivity", they say "OK, well, that's not going to change", and then we spend the rest of the hour rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. (Or they remind me of how they're spending money on me, in other ways I don't care about at all.) If I said "Hey fix your shit" they'd say "Every other software company in town has open floorplans too now -- good luck with that".
I use a mix of brain.fm (or similar white noise) and apple AirPods pro. As a combination, they work surprisingly well at blocking out enough noise to let me remain focused on whatever problem.
They are indispensable to me now.
It's from an ad for a privacy screen filter, but unlike that, it works the other way around too, blocking out the world.
Yes, and with that attitude you are absolutely welcome to.
Difficulty of replacing developers depends very much on where you are (I suspect, and amongst a welter of other factors), and where I live it doesn't take 6 months nor anything like it.
It also doesn't take 6 months for people to become "somewhat productive". I've been nigh-on shocked to see all of our devs making useful contributions to our systems and services (many of which are not straightforward to work with) within a couple of weeks, and finding their way around pretty handily after 2 - 3 months.
I agree that you shouldn't go into every 1:1 begging and scraping for your job - that sounds awful - but, at the other end of the spectrum, neither do I think it's wise to go in with a massively inflated sense of entitlement.
Both you and your manager would be best served by acting like reasonable human beings with well-developed social skills.
But I definitely agree that you should approach your manager from a constructive point of view. That makes you even more valuable.
No, the company pays for that. A manager's job is to help ICs be effective and to help the company make the most of ICs' work.
My first manager told me something really good: don't look at it as a boss telling people what to do. ICs manage code, the manager manages people.
Maybe in other parts of the world. But at that point you need to convince them you're a "senior architect with loads of experience"
Rule #3: While working, make every effort to learn new things and improve yourself.
Second, why aren't you already at a different job that pays you more instead of hanging that over your manager's head?
Third, don't underestimate how many other good developers that are out there, looking for the next job. It might not require 6 months of training for the next person, who could be as competent, or even more than the person that's being replaced.
I'm not sure what kind of company you work for, but 6 months of training is ridiculously long, unless there is a lot of institutional knowledge that's siloed amongst a small subset of employees - which should never happen in the first place, if your manager was any good.
There's also value in being able to work on the same project over time and see it evolve, feel like you own features, etc.
There's value in staying at the same company because you don't have to move, change your commute, switch healthcare providers / doctors, etc.
I think the attitude of "well, just quit, don't make any attempt to see if you can improve the current place" is toxic. Yes, there are some places you really should quit. No, the fact that you could quit and make another $10k, but having to switch doctors and find a new daycare along the new commute, and potentially work on things less aligned with your interests... Those things have value too.
Most developers aren't mercenaries trying to find the most money. We're looking for a balance of a lot of money and a good work environment and work/projects we like.
Depends on the company. Some still want to grow at a faster pace than they can hire.
> instead of hanging that over your manager's head
You are correct that this in not actually something you say to your manager. This is the thought that should be in your head. The real conversation needs to be constructive.
> 6 months of training is ridiculously long
I didn't mean training, I meant "to become as productive as you". My point is that the employee has the advantage on new hires: you instantly get full pay, but still need to ramp up your productivity.
Agreed on that. If your manager isn't doing his/her job, or just wants quick outs of 1:1s, that conversation needs to be had instead of the status quo
On training, I have seen companies where it just takes a few months for a new hire to get anything done. Silo-ed institutional knowledge, spaghetti codebases, too much emphasis on processes and meetings, no proper new-hire onboarding, etc. Those are usually red flags. But yes, I wouldn't expect a new hire to be completely as productive as a seasoned employee even after a few months, but should be enough to get going.
At Google there's an expectation that you won't be 'productive' for 6 months after joining, though that's not surprising considering how different everything is.
And your comment about silo’d orgs was spot on in this case
That's why you/we can afford to view the world that way. For many positions, especially those that don't require specific technical skills or other aspects where demand outstrips supply, servility is the only important trait.
For example plumbers here in Belgium make a lot of money because of the high demand.
But the point about “know where you work before you open your mouth” is wise I think.
What a strange, toxic way to look at the world.
We’re just people! People who are hopefully working at a company that has a mission they believe in, who are trying to do the best work they can.
Sometimes a manager sucks, sometimes the employee sucks, but there’s never a single person to blame, nor is it up to a single person to “figure shit out.”
The more people realize that we’re all in this together, the better.
And if you’re jaded about thinking in that way, you’re just not at the right company.
And yet you are still here. This does add up
My 1:1s became much more fruitful with directed, goal-seeking questions, or even a retro format.
As others have touched on, frequency matters. Monthly contact isn’t just a little bit distant, it’s enough time for serious issues to fester.
Newbie managers would be wise to recognise that they are Brian Epstein, not John Lennon. Enable the talent, don’t boss it,
This is why every role in a company is an individual contributor role to some extent.
You must be direct in asking what should you do to go from X to Y, than just merely talking in abstract terms like 'Performance' or 'Hard Work'.
The biggest lie ever told in all this is that management must recognize work and talent. If the world of marketing and advertisements has taught us anything at all. No one appreciates, or recognizes anything. A case must be built actively to ensure your case is high up the stack for the bosses to consider.
Firstly, did you read the actual list? They're not radical, boat-shaking questions. They're just honest, targeted, practically useful queries. They benefit your manager, and they benefit the machine.
I'll frame one of the Qs in the context you've described (cynical cog in faceless machine) to show what I mean:
- How can I make your days more fulfilling?
- As you're unlikely to get fulfilment from the product of your work or from thinking about our "corporate values", what other aspects of corporate life can we work on to make working here more palatable? (and maybe reduce attrition)
I may be going full depressed dystopian cynic here, but surely it's not hard to see the potential for mutual benefit in targetted questions?
I mean, the alternative is to quit and find something fulfilling. If that's not an option, the above seems reasonable.
That doesn't mean it's right. It's just what happens in the wild
That said, the “big list” here is directed towards managers and, for a manager, picking out one of these questions now and then as a conversation starter could uncover issues or opportunities that you could address early and make someone just a little happier at work.
I'd rather have the meeting feel like a conversation with direction and not a questionnaire.
The key, though, is to build trust first. If team members do not feel that they can trust their managers then they won't be open.
I've found that chatting about random, non-work related, things also helps building trust and rapport. Try to make the 1-to-1 an informal chat, not a formal 'interview'.
It's a more social setting, which puts you on footing to actually have a conversation.
The previous six years to that, my boss would ask the same canned questions and I would give the same canned answers. The whole process would take about three minutes and nothing would be gained by anyone.
It's the same with my manager. People don't tell him what they really think, because by experience we know it's not going to have a positive impact, and might negatively impact our raises.
I habitually complain in my 1 on 1s because it gets me what I need. Nobody has ever given me a hard time, and while doing this I went from just another cog, to irreplaceable and pivotal to the companies strategy. I've also been promoted twice in a year while doing this.
I do not use it to rock the boat. Advice to younger employees: if you want to rock the boat, do it when your manager is not taking notes. :-)
(And I have a really good manager, so not assuming any malice anywhere.)
I don't think anyone should turn it into some sort of lengthy interrogation, but turning it into something that people can't just give the same non-answers to every week or month unless there genuinely is nothing that can be improved on can be useful.
I'd see this as a list you can pick from if you're the kind of person who find it hard to just organically elicit genuine feedback from people. A lot of technical managers in particular get very little support in how to grow into management roles; even worse in startups where there often aren't anyone to turn to for support at early stages. Add on some social awkwardness for some of us, and it can be tough. The irony is that for me at least, having a few prepared questions makes me feel less need for them - they're a useful fallback option if I run out of things to talk about, but knowing I have them makes it easier to just talk.
I don't think it's even that hard to avoid.
In my case, everything could be good with the manager but I just bring up interesting topics for me to learn more from the manager.
The people who should be laid off are the people who create the problems, not the ones who identify the problems and want to fix them. A good employer knows this, and will appreciate people who want to improve the company. If they fire me for speaking up, then good riddance. I'm probably better off somewhere else.
1. Fork it
2. Run npm install
3. Add your resource to questions.json
4. Run node index to update README.md with your changes
5. Create your feature branch (git checkout -b my-new-feature)
6. Commit your changes (git commit -am "Add some feature")
7. Push to the branch (git push origin my-new-feature)
8. Create new Pull Request
I know, right? No Kubernetes deployment configs to check whether it builds and runs as a micro-service in the cloud? Pff!
That is, let's just make sure we're criticising the actions required, not the number of steps involved.
For a fucking bullet list. Our industry is broken.
> I’m trying to make my 1-on-1s better and would appreciate your honest feedback on this one — what did you like about it, and what could be improved?
Make them optional or email me your canned questions so I don't have to squirm trying to think of an answer on the spot that will keep the status quo and get me out of the meeting without any "action items" for the next one.
Changing this attitude contributed as much to my doubling and then almost tripling my salary over the course of a few years as much as anything technical did.
Your managers and coworkers are human beings and engaging with them like human beings will open doors for you.
I pretty much only talk about personal stuff in one on ones, and will use maybe one out of five as a venting session or to talk about ideas I have.
You want to be someone that people, particularly managers enjoy seeing come in to work every day, and that’s not always or even mostly about being productive. Sometimes they just want someone they can talk about sports or video games with, or someone they can talk about their home life with over drinks — and sometimes I do, too. Spending 40 hours a week with people you don’t like is lonely.
It’s not just about kissing ass— I’ve started more than one project because of conversations I had over drinks where people were just venting about their jobs and I realized I could do something to make their jobs easier.
I also realize my lack of genuine interest probably bleeds into my work personality, but there's not much I can do about that. It's not like something is going to magically make me actually care about work, so faking it is the best option I have.
To be honest it sounds like you're experiencing a poor culture fit. I felt similarly to you until I went to a smaller team for the first time in my career. My team-to-be was in one of the interview phases with me, so we could all gauge fit ahead of time. It's been an entirely different feel, and I'm now genuinely enjoying work -- not because of what I'm working on, but because it's a good team to be a part of.
No, I'm not hanging out with my coworkers after work -- everyone has long commutes so we all scatter at 5 -- but I genuinely enjoy working with them. It doesn't feel like a game anymore, like I'm purposefully playing politics. Whether it's good for my career or not, I really don't care -- what I care about is the fact it's done wonders for my general quality of life.
Not everyone can find a place with a perfect fit, but you sound kind of miserable to be honest, and I just have a guess that you'd maybe have better happiness elsewhere. You say that raises/bonuses are the only job-related things you care about -- my hunch is this might change for you if you found a place where you genuinely liked the people.
Also, I can say that the more I’ve opened up at work, the more my career has improved, from finding better-fitting positions to finding interesting and meaningful work within those positions, to enjoying my time at work more, to getting paid more. It’s really worth it. You may want (or may not) want to start by seeing a therapist.
Are you wrong with any of this? Not at all.
But letting it drip over in to impacting the quality of your relationships is detrimental to yourself and everyone around you. It's also disrespecting the contributions you make to the team, project and company. You're more than just a warm body pressing buttons.
Good luck mate, wish you the best.
It's really unfortunate to spend 1/3rd of your life participating in something you don't care about at all. I'm not saying most us are better; my best answer to the question "what would make this job better for you" is almost exclusively "pay me more".
My point is, right now is a good time to find something you enjoy in tech. It's a growing field that is only getting more and more embedded into life and I'm sure you can find your area that you actually care somewhat about.
I first saw it here a couple of months ago. I am sure you will be able to relate to it ;)
You were super polite but you're pitching a one-dimensional view of engineers.
People might not want to be too close to people in case they need to get rid of them. I think being a good coach means loving your team but still being strong enough to make the hard decisions. At least it lets you make those hard decisions from a place of humanity.
If you see it that way, it's a never thing. Career development is an always thing.
I want to code and I want money, more money the better. Oh, and I don't want bulshit meetings (1on1s included).
That's basically it for my career, I don't want to be a manager, I don't want to be a tech lead (been there, hated every 3 years of it). What is there more to talk about?
My manager thinks that to be a better individual contributor (go up a ladder) I should do something outside my team, I'm not sure I want that (or know what to do outside) - so most probably when I hit pay rise wall I'll switch jobs again.
There's a role for ICs who just want to code alone, but they're always limited by not being able to be part of something bigger. And yes, while you can job hop a bit for higher pay, it will start to become apparent in interviews that you're really just a solo coder and probably not worth the money they're asking.
You won't escape one-on-ones, but if you have a good rapport with your manager, if a performance review is generally positive, you can say you're happy where you're at right now professionally, you want to continue delivering the same quality work, but you want to focus on other parts of your life. Managers are happy to have people doing good work who don't want to leave.
You also want more money? Nope, it doesn't work that way unless you're a brilliant asshole, and no one likes those. Either be content as a mid-level coder (and paid like one) or start building relationships with people and teams and take on larger, more ambiguous projects. There isn't a right answer here, you just have to decide what you value.
All of these apply to everyone, it's just that different levels have different expectations(so for example a Junior is still expected to perform well in "leadership mindset", but for them it's enough to demonstrate willingness to discuss and negotiate ideas, convince others to their plans etc, they don't need to be a manager to have a leadership mindset).
They do have pretty formal definitions for each level and for each job title - so by telling people what is expected of them at each level it's easier to then do the final peer review at the end of the year(and no one is surprised at their score).
I don't think I can play that sort of game. I know I have to do it in order to get promoted, but my mind won't stop complaining about the facade.
You have zero interest in more money, less boring projects, etc?
The sad part is that it works. I get it, I just don't like it. Funny enough, the worst part about my job is "hey got a minute?". My heart always skips a beat and my first thought is always "Oh god, they found out. I'm fired." Oh well. Just got to make it 10 more years...
That is unfortunate, even if it is the corporate default. There should be tons to discuss about career development. Where you are, what the criteria are for the next promotion, where you need skill growth to get there, how to acquire those skills and what you can do to demonstrate that growth, And each of those items has multistep breakdowns.
That's the game. I'll get fulfillment from my kids and from books written by smart, insightful, observant people, or from walking around in nature.
I don't know if he actually cares or if it's just a way to get me to talk, but my manager and I always start with whatever I'm currently doing, just in more detail than standup allows.
When I, a manager, ask “what is the biggest obstacle facing you and how can i remove it,” I’m offloading the manager-level work of identifying blockers for my team on the individual.
And hey, that might work, your teammate might have an insight you’re missing. But then, if they do have that insight, you’ve volunteered to do a shitload of work for your team.
Thats is, in theory, good- but ive never had a manager that was willing to actually do the work when they asked the questions on this list. They'd squirm out of their offer, and try to rephrase it as something i could do. Leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
That gets a bit circular. In my mind, "asking my team members" is THE number one method of "identifying blockers for my team". Think about it - if a manager didn't ask for input from their team members, and instead assumed they can identify blockers, on their own and in vacuum, how would we portray such a manager? :-)
>> ive never had a manager that was willing to actually do the work when they asked the questions on this list
That is indeed the crucial second part; works for anything though - whether it's "lessons learned" at the end of the project, or "requirements gathering" from the client/user-base, or "soliciting feedback" from team members - obtaining information is critical #1 step; only useful if you then action it.
Just because both effective and ineffective, willing and unwilling managers ask questions, doesn't make questions themselves bad. It does depend on the actual manager and the relationship they have with a team member.
So I'd say such questions are "necessary but not sufficient" criteria for managerial success, and having a list is similarly "useful but not sufficient" :)
A smart manager can also observe things, but on top of that, in a healthy atmosphere some employees will provide that feedback on their own. If subordinates trust that voicing their concerns will have positive, or at the very least non-negative impact on how they're seen, they'll tell you all about the blockers and the uncertainties.
Absolutely; but again, such atmosphere does not come out of nowhere. It may get boot-strapped by the initial cycle of:
1. One-on-one meetings where team members are encouraged to bring up thoughts, concerns, ideas, etc.
2. Manager who reacts positively to such feedback; actions it (within the constraints of organization & reality); and communicates outcomes honestly
3. Faith & mutual trust are established and team members feel more comfortable bringing up feedback on their own.
At least in my experience, not everybody is willing to provide feedback of their own initiative to a new manager. You have to earn it...
He knew my wife and kids names, my hobbies, and even paid for dinner for my local bicycling club when we were training for a big event.
When he left the job completely changed. My job satisfaction plummeted with the new manager (who didn’t do 1 on 1s at all) and I left soon after.
As I see it, the individual who is doing the work will always have more insight into the work than an external third party. They may not be able to put that insight into context or a coherent narrative but they have it. The worst managers I've had are ones who think they know the work when they don't because they no longer do it.
There is also a difference between identifying blockers and promising to remove them. Promises are dangerous and promises you aren't guaranteed to keep are lethal.
I think this depends on the type of obstacle.
If the obstacle is something like "I can't figure out which service my code is supposed to be reading its data from" then yes of course that should be resolved immediately.
On the other hand, if the obstacle is "I'm worried that team X might not meet their promise of giving us deliverable Y in 2 months, and I can't agree with project manager Z on an appropriate backup plan" then you can probably wait for a weekly meeting.
I'm a professional and I don't need a boss who tells me what to do or how to do it: that part I'll find out by myself. But my manager needs to know what I'm doing and what issues I could use help with (like problems that need attention of upper management) and occasionally I'll ask for backing for a decision that might have consequences for our or other teams.
So this feels like a useful but very lopsided list.
Specifically: While it's important to listen to your employee's complaints about the company, it's equally important to avoid giving them the wrong impression that you're going to fix everything for them. Questions like "If you were CEO, what's the first thing you would change?" or "Are there any aspects of our culture you wish you could change?" or "What’s the No. 1 problem with our organization, and what do you think's causing it?" can make employees resentful of the company when the manager can't actually make changes.
Many of these questions can also create a false expectation that it's the manager's job to solve all of the employees' problems for them. It's important to listen to your team and work to improve their situations, but it's equally important that you work on empowering them to solve their own problems where possible. A common mistake for first time managers is to try to absorb every small issue their team encounters, which creates an unsustainable atmosphere of dependency on the manager.
Another common mistake of first-time managers is forgetting that managers must also represent the company to the employee. As a first time manager, it's tempting to think you're going to be the super manager you never had, using your powers to fight back against the company and make everything right for your employees. In reality, you need to balance the employee's wishes against the company's direction. You can't force the tail to wag the dog. Make sure you communicate what is and isn't within your power to change. Avoid commiserating with employees with employees about minutia, and instead set a tone of professionalism and reasonable boundary-setting.
Most importantly: Don't forget to reiterate the organization's goals, project updates, and other company information to employees. It's easy for managers to forget that their employees might not see or hear important developments unless their manager communicates it down the chain. As a manager, it's your job to keep your employees informed and up to date. Simple updates in the form of "Your work on X project is very important for the delivery of Y product, which the CEO identified as our top priority for retaining customers" are much more effective than "When do you think X project will be finished? We really need it." Context and relevance are critical for helping your team make the right decisions.
> Simple updates in the form of "Your work on X project is very important for the delivery of Y product, which the CEO identified as our top priority for retaining customers"
If, as a manager, you don't want me, your employee, to just smile politely and roll my eyes, make sure I can trust that when you say "top priority", then it's actually a top priority. Personally, I work better when I can identify and align myself with the goals of the organization (I'm a sucker for the "something greater"). But I hate the bullshit. "Your work on X is critical" is demotivating if I can tell that all work is described as "critical", and every project in the company is "top priority".
- Current tasks
- Career development/Goals (we have 6 week and yearly goals that the employees select for themselves with a little guidance from me)
- Special topic, different each time and very much aligned with the posted list. My question for next time is about values.
- Feedback, both delivering and soliciting (this has proven to be the hardest for me, as it takes time to think about and articulate feedback well)
I do the 1:1 at a nearby coffee shop since I think people feel more open outside the office.
It's really odd to see the level of dissection going in here as to how to have a conversation about what's going on.
Surely, there can be good practices, and some things to systematically bring up, but this is not rocket science.
If someone isn't able to empathise with other humans well enough to discover how they're doing without trying to artificially manipulate a conversation with a checklist, they certainly shouldn't be managing anybody.
Just talk. Do it often and do it honestly. That's all.
One good thing to always keep in mind:
What comes easy and effortlessly to you can be a real struggle for others.
Some people need help with things that you find utterly trivial, just like you probably struggle with things others excel effortlessly at.
IMO, if you've already covered all of the topics in other meetings then you shouldn't extend the 1-on-1 for the sake of filling time.
Let people get back to work.
Nobody is telling you to go through the whole list like a robot.
In 4 years of doing 1:1s this way, at different companies and with dozens of teammates, I have received mostly positive feedback. And I’ve definitely adapted the process to address concerns. But again, every person has their own individual needs and preferences.
If possible I do them as walk'n'talks, people are more open and ideas often flow better when walking outside the office.
And that was on Slack.
The guy just hated them, so that was my idea and made him happy.
And I don't disagree with that. Sticking rigidly to one true cadence of one true meeting is a religious ritual we can do without.
If a 1:1 adds anything to your team, it indicates defects. Everyone should be raising issues as they come up and have a close enough working relationship with their boss that a cyclical meeting adds nothing.
And most of those questions are weak: bosses annoy and lose respect of their subordinates when they go all "facilitator" and "servant leader". A leader guides, they don't ask subordinates to tell them how to do their jobs. There are plenty of traditional ways to glean improvement information than appearing weak by asking "how can I be a better boss".
TBH since the markdown is in a simple format of "# <category>" + "- <question>", having the JSON seems redundant over just reading in the markdown.
“1:1s are basics, if you don't do them you are a failed manager.”
Nor do I believe the truth is best described as:
“a 1:1 is a creepy corporate checkbox to be checked and best avoided”.
Isn't the answer always …
On the person, on the company and team? On you, as a manager?
I have had colleagues who probably would have sent me a resignation letter within days after doing a 1:1 with canned questions like that.
I've also had colleagues who thought that a regular 1:1, going through the motions, was a sign that I cared and did something formal for them. (Despite normal chats and checkins.)
Even if you have a 1:1, it doesn't mean that you need to go through an ever same set of stale questions. But structure can help you both to make sure the basics of the work relationship are covered.
With that in mind, I see sets of questions such as this as a toolbox. Sometimes it's a good thing you can just look at the toolbox, try a few tools out, see how they fit and choose the right one for the job at hand (situation, person). I think it's great those exist.
If you're doing a 1:1 to check a box, then it doesn't matter. If you care and want to use a 1:1 as a tool, then it doesn't hurt to try out different approaches.
"Grandparents are dead. Parents are divorced. Father is a roaring alcoholic, mother is on a death bed with cancer. Also they are both A-grade assholes that made my childhood miserable."
Really sets the mood for the rest of the interview, doesn't it? In other words, stay the hell away from any personal questions.
"So how was our weekend?"
And then if people, and most of them do, say things like "oh cool I took my son to the park / watch the game" or "my parents are in town", then what you do next week is ask:
"So, how's your son?"
And if they start talking, and most of them do because most parents like to talk non-stop about their kids, then you ask:
"What's his name, how old is he?"
That's how it usually works. Now, back to the first question, if they never touch the topic of family, anyway people talk about their hobbies, activities they do, things they learned. It is in fact very hard to meet someone every week and not learn about their life, and most people are open to this.
Just remember, most doesn't mean everybody, so just use some common sense and understand the boundaries. But let me tell you as a manager who had dozens of reports over the years, I never met a single person who has refused to talk about their spouses, children, or hobbies. And if they do, it's alright.
How often do your subordinates say "no" to you in general?
"I don't want to talk about that"
"Subordinate! You will do as you are told. How. Is. The. Wife"
"She's struggling with depression right now".
"Glorious! Tell me more. Does she not eat?"
"No, she has lost her appetite and have trouble getting out of bed"
"I FEED ON THIS INFORMATION! I presume you don't have sex then. How. Does. This. Make. You. Feeeeeeel. Screeeching"
Yup, you need to get a new job.
Really, I am telling you. People love talking about their kids, pets and hobbies. In fact, a lot of times I have a hard time talking about work, because people can talk about their children for hours and hours.
This isn't a secret. Relationships develop at work, you get to know them, they get to know you, you talk about stuff. Sometimes they don't want to talk, sometimes you don't want to talk, but most of the time those conversations happen naturally.
Do you have anyone you are close with to talk about things?
Is there anything going on in your personal life you need to deal with which may be impacting your work?
IE: I care about more than just the work you do, I care about you. I'd like you to be happy and know more about your life to ensure when you turn into an ass I can justify the behavior and dismiss it. "His dad died recently. His dog died this week. People have been taking at him due to projects being behind and he was on vacation the week all hell broke lose retiring his involvement"
Shit happens, if you're looking for happy things from your employees don't ask them these questions.
If your quote is truly what's happening in your life, I'm sorry. That sounds miserable, in posting here: I can't tell why you shared that. If I was your manager, is this a recent development and you need time to process? If not what prompted you to be so honest with me? Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I was a manager for a few years. People vary. Some people don't want to talk about their personal lives, and having their managers try to drag it into a work scenario can be anywhere from annoying to infuriating. Some people don't want another therapist. Sometimes work for those people is therapy, is a kind of escape.
My advice: don't ask about your reports' personal lives at all, unless they are brimming with it. Keep a professional distance. Don't try to become close friends if your relationship starts off as report/manager. You can tell them up front a version of this that is not standoffish. "I'm your work manager. If you are having any out-of-work issues you want to talk about, you can, but don't feel obligated, please. I am going to respect your privacy and not proactively ask." Professionalism is the default. They will respect that.
Resist the urge to be a terrible psychologist.
But, of course, do watch for warning signs.
Do you always expect us to lie or spend emotional energy on making it sound happy?
Real shit happens and if you ask something personal like about family, don't pretend to be stupid and think this doesn't happen.
My response tries (though based on your response failed) to answer both questions while staying supportive of the person in responding to.
Your are correct, and I'm confused by the part you choose to quote however. As my sentence preceding it
>Shit happens, if you're looking for happy things from your employees don't ask them these questions.
It feels like we're agreeing, but it feels like our tone is getting lost over text and comes across as disagreement.
I can relate the to sentiment. I moved away from my family, avoid taking to them when possible, and generally do not want to talk about family at work. My manager does not ask these questions, and when I'm struggling I don't know how he covers for me when I turn into an ass.
“They’re all dead.”
Doesn’t set a great tone for a friendly conversation. Nowadays I use euphemisms like “they’re out of the picture” and pray they’re not curious.
I just cannot understand how a technical block is saved for 1-1 meeting.
I would love 1-1 meeting is more about:
- personal life: where thing that block you are person/family duty and manager can help with your schedule such as flexibility of wfh.
- vision/long term goal: some wish list you want to implement or improvement. But even so, I already created google doc for these and 1-1 are just to discuss more about them.
So when 1-1 happen too frequently, I'm out of question and feel stress and don't know what to ask/talk. Any advice for people like me?
Some of question on this list is just bad because they cannot be asked more than one. Example: "How do you prefer to receive feedback?"
I sucked up. And quit the job when the right opportunity came.
Since then, I made sure to not bring any personal stuff in conversation with any colleague, including my manager for whatever reason.
”So, what’s keeping you busy these day’s?”
People always have things keeping them busy, work project, home project, personal project.
This question is much more inviting to conversation than “how is it going” or “what’s new”
I have never asked this question and received “nothing” in response
Now they say that they are amazed how much information people are willing to share to find support and solve common problems in work, which managers have no ideas about. I’m one of those who thinks that 1-on-1 meeting is a great tool to make workplace better. Surely, everyone has to understand its goal.
Remote work feels like the ideal job when your happy with your position long-term. I don’t know how to do it working remote.
Do you have any feedback for me? Feedback.
Do you think that you receive enough feedback? Feeback.
Is feedback helpful for your personal development? Feedback.
What can I do to help you get the feedback you want? Feedback.
All replicants will be detected.
So wrong if not put the right way... I'd prefer : I see you're struggling, maybe we could make your life easier by removing some work, accepting the quality to be a little less good, maybe we could just accept that some things will be late...
I usually get :you're late, tell me why. Then I explain. Then my manger says : "I don't understand"... Then I fail to explain the obvious : I'm f*in overloaded.
Questions like the above (though not all of them) can help spark discussion and get them to open up. I've personally seen a number of times where team members have a lot to say about something and didn't realize I wanted to hear their ideas on that topic.
Obviously, delivery matters, and choosing a good question is important. If you have a foundation of trust already built (see Psychological Safety research) then a lot of those questions can help.
I'm a strong technologist who has inherited people management responsibilities for some junior technologists and I definitely consider people management to be the thing that I suck the most at in worklife.
having a mentor and doing regular self reflection is the way to go.
Of course, if a shitty manager asks you that 3 hours before the deadline then ha ha ha good luck
But I find it to be of a totally different caliber than "Hey, what’s going on?" or "How are you? How is life outside of work?".
Vide asking "How was your last medical checkup?" in a personal conversation. Well, if it is good or OK-ish, it may be fine. In all other cases, it may turn a conversation into much more emotionally instense and sterssfull.
In previous places I've worked, "are you on schedule?" would be an implicit attack - but in my current workplace checking in on people and making sure they're not silently struggling is a regular and casual thing.
If you (as a manager) haven't spent time figuring that out before the meeting, then you haven't done your share of the work. You'll be wasting your staff's time and energy in awkward 1-1 meetings.
"How is it going with [obstacle that has already been identified]?" is what I would expect a vaguely competent manager to say in place of this.
Seriously, I think this list is a potent illustration of modern management bullcrap.
Come on guys, don't do this to your team, they are not children...
I think 1on1 is great. I was at the receiving end and now at giving end. When I did 1on1 with my manager I always felt good afterwards but I was always 100% honest in my answers. The issues I see are if one of the two is not completely honest and that is a completely different issue not solvable by 1on1 but needs to be addressed within orgazination.
A 1:1 is inherently a meeting of minds where there is no power imbalance and genuine trust can develop
The way you make it sound is like the CIA giving mandatory lie detector tests where one person is strapped to a chair and the other is taking notes
I'm calling false corporate bullshit as a human being
Would you tell your manager that you are hoping to learn all you can to get a better paying job in a year?
Also, I’m at a level now that I need to come to a manager with both problems and proposed solutions.
And, more importantly, you should not delegate the responsibility of flagging it when something is wrong. You should know without asking.
The substance behind some of the questions could be useful IMO. One would need some rapport and context to use them. If they were reworded and delivered in ways that made more sense for those people, it could be helpful.
There is no more powerful form of ensuring manager/employee alignment than 1:1 meetings.
As a manager, I never felt the need to bother anyone with 1:1 meetings.
I think it is very easy to shoot yourself in the foot with feedback, this is a difficult art.
And I think the best strategy is to use feedback only to deal with outliers, ie exceptional or catastrophic achievements.
In other places where there were no 1:1 but a lot of 'hallway conversations' that seemed to replace them. So they had an 'finger on the pulse' of the team. That was pretty great - because of how informal it was and it worked.
I've also had great 1:1s though. So YMMV I guess, but it's hard to generalize. I think a lot depends on the company culture - some companies might benefit from them while others don't. There's no golden rule.
Just to be clear, I've never been in the manager position here. Always the engineering position, so I can't really speak for a broad set of people.
How do you collect feedback then?
But even barring that, “just don’t work for anyone else” is not actionable.
In my opinion, the so-called 1 on 1 meeting should only be used when an employee is clearly on the wrong trajectory and a course correction is needed.
Good feedback is difficult, what I've seen was very often high noise and low signal. Forcing feedback when not necessary will not lead to added value for the company, only mildly boring and stressful waste of time, in the best case.
Feedback comes because you’re talking on a regular (weekly or bi-weekly) basis. If the employee is on the wrong trajectory, you’ve waited far too long to talk!
But not before.
I'd like to see an organization where the manager role consists of whipping boys for leadership who can be pummeled gladiator style for fun or profit