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1-on-1 meeting questions (github.com/vgraupera)
1030 points by yankit on Feb 16, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 296 comments

My 1on1's at a 100k+ international corporation always went like this: Manager: so how's it going? Me: great Manager: any issues? anything you want to discuss? Me: everything is fantastic! I'm very happy with my job :D Manager: cool cool... well let's do this again next month. Me: yay!

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 ;)

What a strange, helpless way to look at the world.

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."

> Employment is not a boss->servant relationship

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 your boss is taking the time to give you a 1-on-1, then there is an opportunity for both sides to listen to each other.

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.

This is often true.

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.

I agree, some of the negativity I'm seeing about 1:1's seems to come from 1:1's not being useful, or even being a negative thing, but the person complaining about it seems to put all the blame on the other person in the 1:1. "My manager doesn't really want me to bring up anything", etc. Which I'm sure is true sometimes. But in my experience, you really can't ever be 100% certain that that's true, but if you just assume that it's true and you act accordingly, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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.

I will assume the worst in a manager if they haven't gone out of their way to disprove the notion.

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.

That just makes it sound like your company has terrible recruiting. If it's not true, you're creating your own problems. If it is true, get out, obviously.

> If your boss is taking the time to give you a 1-on-1, then there is an opportunity for both sides to listen to each other.

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.

I gotta agree that I feel the same way. I've survived layoffs where I pretty much saw all the "most valuable" people (plus one or two people who we probably shouldn't have hired in the first place) laid off while us underpaid suckers got to keep our jobs. Layoffs are a cost saving measure and unless you're cheap to retain or have built up too much of a "bus factor" around your skillset, your work is probably not good enough to save you. Someone with 15% less skill and 30% less pay will replace it.

> It is, for the vast majority of employed people.

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 whether or not you have similar interests outside of work.

> "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."

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.

It's a realistic depiction of how this thing works (albeit for different reasons than the opposite of what you imply).

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.

It’s also, generally, much more harmful for an employee to lose or be passed over for a job than for an employer to fire someone or pass over an applicant. Most employers, if a single position goes unfilled for six months it may be annoying and even costly but they’ll be basically fine. Employee out of work for six months? Very different story.

This really depends on where you're living. I'd guess that in very few countries firing an employee has no consequence for the employer. Generally, there's an actual financial cost in firing (compensation), plus the loss generated by the lack of manpower later, and the money lost on-boarding a replacement.

We rig the game when the kids are in school, and brainwash them even further when they get to college. Most of the internships my college promotes are actually illegal, and they keep bringing this recruiter around who keeps trying to tell us that we deserve minimum wage when we get out and that he'll just find someone else if any of us have a problem with that.

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.

Your generation is probably the most highly educated in history - so yes, your education is less valuable than at any other time in history (i.e. supply/demand)

You forget that the demand for education has also drastically increased.

True. Most likely, over-education is less valuable now. An undergraduate engineering degree is still highly valuable while a liberal arts masters degree is arguably less valuable than the loans taken out to procure it.

In some sense, it’s unfair that everyone isn’t automatically expert at everything.

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.

I agree with you, and therefore I made that post. Because in my opinion, most of that disadvantage is in the employees head.

You are fortunate that the problems with modern software shops happen to align with the types of problems you can deal with.

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".

What about remote? It's kind of an offshoot of that (quiet place for productivity).

If a company does not have a culture of addressing developers quality of worklife issues (developer: the noises are killing my productivity. manager: well, we aren't changing our office setup to accommodate people who want it to be quiet ) then it is extremely unlikely that the company would allow remote.

Yep, this is exactly my situation. However, I'm seeing signs that part-time remote is going to happen in the next couple of years.

Surely there are other options your manager and you can look at that fall between having an open floorplan and not having one. Get them to buy you noise cancelling headphones or something.

Noise canceling headphones don't do a good job of canceling the kinds of noise you hear in an office environment, though (conversations, ringtones, people across the room suddenly erupting in loud laughter).

I work in an open floor plan where managers frequently shout and have long conversations next to me with each other.

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.

Just be conscious of the effect long-term exposure to constant loud noise can have on your hearing, even if you're able to concentrate. Drowning out loud sound with louder sound is not particularly good for your ears.

mynoise.net does a pretty good "busy cafe/restaurant" noise generator with burbling unintelligible voices that drown out conversations. I used it extensively when directing an animation series where the production staff insisted on having Heart FM playing loudly the whole day.

Agreed. I'm dealing with hearing issues from exactly this type of situation.

Visual noise is as bad as audible noise. What's next, horse blinders?

Well there was the idea of the third picture here: http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/2012/3m-privacy-for-your...

It's from an ad for a privacy screen filter, but unlike that, it works the other way around too, blocking out the world.

I have fantasized about draping a thick black curtain around my workstation to try to focus. Do you think that would fly?

We had a guy who used his lifted desk to build a little box for himself (out of carboard)

Improv cubicle... yeah. These are sad times when cubicles are a hallmark of the good old times.

How did the management feel about this?

Let's say 'not well'

Noise cancelling headphones don't work for this type of work and gave me tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

> "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."

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.

I fully agree with you. My comment was pretty much leaning towards the other end of the spectrum to make my point clear.

But I definitely agree that you should approach your manager from a constructive point of view. That makes you even more valuable.

I think the post above yours was an exaggeration for the purpose of illustrating a point.

> You offer a service, and they pay for that.

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.

IC = ?

Individual Contributor, i.e. someone that produces, not manages.

Individual Contributor

Individual Cog.

Only in high end fields: tech, finance, engineering. Even then, it really just depends. I've worked at a lot of companies (I have terrible job loyalty) and I see what's good and healthy and what's not. I've only lost two jobs and both of them were places where people were expected to work 70+ hours a week. I could get let go and be fine, because I'm an in-demand engineer with lots of experience. But I'm in a very unique position; one most people are not in.

Whoa at the work hours, if you don't mind me asking, just curious to know what kind of work entails such long hours? Also I'm assuming it paid equally well for the time devoted to it, frankly the hours itself is a big turn off regardless of the quality of work.

A lot of tech startups and game dev companies work at this pace. People really need their jobs, or are sure they will be millionaires. Long ago I worked at a game company where one of the perks was free burritos at midnight.

How would your response change if the shortage of "good" developers stops? Or when they decide 2 "bad" but cheap developers cost less than 1 "good" one?

Or when your constraints change as you age and develop your private life. Programming jobs are plenty until e.g. you have a spouse and a kid to provide for, making your salary demands higher and relocation more difficult.

I'm 40 and have 4 kids, so no problem here.

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"

I hope it would not. I'd rather spend my time becoming better and still have ability to choose good place, then learn how to act 'right' just to keep my job.

Yeah or if, as non-technical people, bad and good are indistinguishable to them!

Rule #1: Do not work at a company that can’t appreciate how good you are.

Rule #2: Do not work at a company that can't appreciate or value how good you can become.

Rule #3: While working, make every effort to learn new things and improve yourself.

First of all, if your manager is any good, (s)he will already have replacements in the pipeline, given the musical chairs nature of the industry.

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.

> Second, why aren't you already at a different job that pays you more instead of hanging that over your manager's head?

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.

> replacements in the pipeline

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.

> This is the thought that should be in your head. The real conversation needs to be constructive.

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.

> 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.

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.

That really means 6 months till you are completely ramped up, at full productivity. If you are actually not productive, not producing anything of value, for 6 months...

How are these things actually measured or scaled?

Likely its all relative to your co-workers and your managers experience with the employees who have come before you.

I’ve been in companies where they stayed early it would be 1.5 years before I could meaningfully contribute. A big red flag.

And your comment about silo’d orgs was spot on in this case

>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.

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.

I agree. But in that case you still have the option to re-educate and move into a more lucrative job market. As long as you are either smart or handy, there are very good jobs out there.

For example plumbers here in Belgium make a lot of money because of the high demand.

I think the approach you take comes down to your individual characteristics - personality and circumstances - how meek you are, how much you voice your opinion, whether you can risk speaking out or conversely can’t/won’t risk losing or disrupting the steady income stream. In the past i’ve been both of these enployees at different times mostly due to different levels of self confidence and frustration with the company.

But the point about “know where you work before you open your mouth” is wise I think.

> “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."”

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.

Know that your situation isn't common and have some empathy towards people that can't treat their employment the way you do.

Employment is actually, as a matter of law, a boss -> servant relationship.

A friend of mine once told his manager: "you are not my boss, you are my employer. My boss is at home" (referring to his wife). I guess he has the same mentality as me :)

I'm self-employed, and as such, my work relationship is legally required not to be a boss -> servant relationship. My client is my customer, not my boss.

"I'll have a new job next week that pays more from day 1"

And yet you are still here. This does add up

I call these “waiter questions” and only once I became a manager, discovered how poorly they invite feedback. And as with, “how’s the meal?”, it is basically an invitation to lie, unless there is something so totally egregious that it probably should’ve been raised by interrupt not polling.

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,

>>My 1:1s became much more fruitful with directed, goal-seeking questions, or even a retro format.

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.

As a current cog in a 100k+ international corp, I could not disagree more with this post.

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.

I think OP is merely pointing out that in the majority of corporate environments upper management isn't really looking for feedback or how to improve etc. Any thoughts or suggestions for improvements will oftentimes not be shared upward, because of the risk it will be viewed as a criticism and make your manager appear weak.

That doesn't mean it's right. It's just what happens in the wild

Agreed with parent to take 1 on 1’s lightly as just an avenue of conversation. If there is an adjustment you’d like to see, try to suggest it constructively and you don’t have to wait for a 1 on 1 to do so.

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.

If my manager asked me all these questions every 1-on-1, I would be always feel unprepared and would shun future 1-1s. Sure one or two, to get the conversation going is ok.

The last thing I'd want is for 1-on-1's to start feeling like open-ended CS interviews where you know the question they just asked is one they pulled from a list verbatim and they just want a good enough answer from you.

I'd rather have the meeting feel like a conversation with direction and not a questionnaire.

I find myself doing those exact kind of 1:1s with my reports and I HATE it. This at least provides, I think, maybe some inspiration on some better questions to ask.

It's perfectly fine to have nothing much to discuss in a monthly 1-to-1. Those meetings are just to set time aside to discuss and to give the opportunity to raise issues or give feedback.

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'.

My one on one conversations with my boss became significantly more productive when we started just going and grabbing a cup of coffee for them.

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.

I'll go take a walk and sometimes have lunch with people, sometimes I get the same canned responses.

Sounds like they don't trust you.

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.

Why do you think they hate it?

I don't know if they hate it, but I know I do.

Did you even read those 1 0n 1 questions? They couldn't be used to identify under performers, they're "geared" towards ensuring your manager is being helpful and that you have what you need.

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 use my weekly 1:1 to brainstorm, sometimes to vent, and to discuss anything on the near horizon that affects my job, my pay, or life in MegaCorp generally.

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'm not a people person. For me doing 1-on-1's when I have teams reporting to me are helpful because it's very easy for me to just forget to ask questions about how people are doing. At times I've varied sets of questions to prevent people who'd otherwise not speak up from letting me know what was really happening. Sometimes that has been the difference between losing valuable people and keeping them happy.

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.

Some people have already optimized their careers never to work at a place like this.

I don't think it's even that hard to avoid.

I really see that big list as just ideas to think about. I don't think just because it's there, the person is going to wreak havoc. (But it is a good point to say "hey, there's these questions here. Don't go nuts thinking you SHOULD ask all these questions")

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.

I see it as part of my job to do my part to improve the work environment. That includes identifying and addressing problems when I see them.

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.

Sounds like a horrible way to do a 1-on-1. I understand that you may not care and that may work, but the problem with a lot of companies is the lack of communication perpetrated by this. Sometimes this is the only opportunity to really inquire and ask questions about what's going on. And unless you've been solving the same problems and doing the same job for years, you're not really taking advantage of the time and neither is the manager.

If you have grievousness with your work environment, as a good employee you should make yourself heard. How you deliver that grievousness to your boss or upper management is on you. If you end up getting fired or let go for doing it in the right manner, maybe it's for the best anyways.

Sounds like a sad place to work at. I always find 1:1 as great chances to push for things that are convenient both for ourselves and for the company as a whole.

In a study that was done by the guys at Manager-Tools, they found out that a 1o1 every 4 weeks is worse than no 1o1 at all.

Don't happen to have a link, do you?


This is basically learned helplessness - the idea that you're powerless to change your own situation for the better. I suspect it happens to most of us, but yes, it's holding humanity back in many ways.

Love your cynicism bro but you gotta realize that's only the beginning of the realization you still haven't decided which pill you're going to choose

Questions aside, I honestly thought the steps to submit a new question was satire...

  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 honestly thought the steps to submit a new question was satire...

I know, right? No Kubernetes deployment configs to check whether it builds and runs as a micro-service in the cloud? Pff!

Oops, I must have just cut and paste from another project. Yeah, all this is not necessary in this case. I will update it.

This has been changed, and it's a much simpler, less ridiculous list now: https://github.com/VGraupera/1on1-questions/commit/b90e94f6b...

While making no comment on whether it is ridiculous, I'll point out that steps 1 and 5+ are the same as I'd do to send a PR anywhere, so it's really steps 2, 3, and 4 we're talking about.

That is, let's just make sure we're criticising the actions required, not the number of steps involved.

That's only really necessary because of the weird (imo) decision to manage the questions via a nodejs script instead of just having people edit the README. What's the actual benefit to creating these extra steps?

> 2. Run npm install

For a fucking bullet list. Our industry is broken.

Or maybe inform yourself before jumping on the hate train. The script is necessary to convert the json file to markdown. The source format is json so that these questions can be easily loaded in other mediums such as mobile apps. I don't really see what's the problem with it.

I visibly grimaced when I saw this. This is straight up ridiculous.

If they ever make a website for the collected data, consuming JSON is less brittle than parsing a README file.

It's Markdown, not just "a README file". It's designed to be easy to edit by hand and easy to parse; there's literally nothing at all gained by using the JSON file that they have. At all.

You'd be more likely to have a bug parsing the markdown file than the structured JSON. There aren't many tools out there for converting markdown files into JSON and piecing what you want out of it.

Yes, the JSON version is for use in a website or app.

As a grunt IC 1 on 1s are a nightmare for me. I never know what to talk about. All current project stuff is hashed out in or after scrum. Career development is more of a once per year thing (at least not weekly). If I had a problem with any of my team members I would have brought it up by now (assuming I thought others felt that way, I don't want to be the only one to bring it up or I'll be seen as the problem). For your feedback, I'm just going to tell you whatever I think you want to hear. Am I happy? Not really, but more because I'm stuck with a 9-5 for the next decade and obviously I'd never tell a manager that... what's left? Personal life nonsense? I'm your co-worker, not your friend. The less I know about other people's personal lives the better.

> 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.

> Personal life nonsense? I'm your co-worker, not your friend.

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.

Oh yea, I'm well aware, and I play the game as best I can. I go to the occasional happy hour, I shoot the shit with my managers and co-workers, I talk about their kids or hobbies or whatever they want to talk about. I just don't want to do any of these things. It's draining to pretend you care all the time. But if I don't it affects raises / bonuses (only job related things I care about) and also project placement (which indirectly affect my raises / bonuses).

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.

Yes, faking it is not the ideal, because as you said, it's very draining. The idea is that you aren't faking it, you're genuinely finding something fulfilling about work, or at least the people there.

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.

You are right that nothing will magically change by itself. Perhaps there are things you can do to make yourself genuinely care. Faking it sounds like it’s draining your energy and making you less successful. So what can you try out, other than continuing to fake it?

Username checks out.

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.

I saw a talk with April Wensel many years ago that made me reevaluate the "soft" skills and how getting better at those produce better code _and_ more personal happiness. I think opening up is a good thing but it's also hard scary work sometimes. It's much easier to be cynical and detached. That lets you blame others for yourself feeling miserable (eg. many disillusioned commenters in this thread)


tbh (without knowing anything else about you, maybe caught you at a bad moment) this attitude is going to stunt your career development and growth more than you can possibly imagine.

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.

Not a bad moment (I don't think at least), and it is good advice to remind myself not to let it affect others around me, but I really do not care about my work, my co-workers, my company, or my career growth. That said, I do all my work on time, with above average quality (I'm pretty sure), communicate well, make sure I am never a blocker, and work to help others who are struggling (we're all stuck here together after all). I just hate the fact that I have to pretend like I'm here for more than the paycheck and the health insurance.

> but I really do not care about my work, my co-workers, my company, or my career growth

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.

Have you ever come across The Gervais Principle? https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/10/07/the-gervais-principle-...

I first saw it here a couple of months ago. I am sure you will be able to relate to it ;)

That article goes on forever and I can't discern a summary of the principle in a quick flick through. Do you have a tl;Dr?

Even if your goals to progress or change what you are doing are limited do not assume the environment around you will stay the same.

This attitude reinforces the the problem. There are lots of jobs that are beneath people or just jobs. People still work them and do them well. Do they need to be excited and open about all their thoughts and feelings too? There's no reason a person can't hate to be put on the spot, hate to be interrogated by their boss every week, and still be improving their craft and planning to advance at the next jump.

You were super polite but you're pitching a one-dimensional view of engineers.

I appreciate the "You need code, I need to eat" mentality but I don't think managers/managed need to treat each other with a total cold clinical demeanor. You might just be there to work, but treating each other like people makes you hate going into work just a little bit less.

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.

> career development is more of a once per year thing

If you see it that way, it's a never thing. Career development is an always thing.

OK, and what should I tell?

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.

> I want to code...and I don't want bulshit meetings (1on1s included)

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.

At our company, your performance is evaluated in 5 metrics, with a grade for each. Those grades affect your salary during review. So even if all you care about is just doing your work and being paid well for it, then it would make sense to ask your manager "hey, what do you want me to do to achieve max score in all 5 categories". Then you do the things they tell you to do - it's no different than any other work task you might be given.

Mind sharing those 5 metrics?

Achieve Consistently, Collaborate Constructively, Challenge Yourself, Leadership Mindset and finally Job Expertise.

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).

Sounds a lot like the core "values" in my current company. Mind you, they are a bit different (are these protected by copyright?).

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.

Same for me, I just can't help it that I think this is just a game, might be fun for some (managers? HR folks?) but it is not for me.

Depending on how well you know your manager it might be OK to tell him as much, and let him help you accomplish it. But I can tell you that there is a sharp limit to the money you can make as a coding-focused IC - to get more you need to level up to senior/principal and finish projects that take multiple people to execute - the more the better. That's just the way it is.

Fair. And you're right, I personally don't care about career development, but that's not an option to tell your manager.

> I personally don't care about career development

You have zero interest in more money, less boring projects, etc?

Is your relationship with your manager tense? Do you not see them regularly through the week? I'm a manager and I spend a lot of one on one time just doing a mini version of couch therapy. Just ask how they're doing. Ask some mundane questions about their dog or their vacations. Rapport is as important as anything else. Once you have trust and a high comfort level, you get a lot more openness and honesty. And it goes both ways. I sit in the meetings with the directors and the CTO and then I disseminate relevant info about the organization and upcoming projects as it pertains to individuals. And also try to get a sense of any of the managerial initiatives are actually helping anyone.

Tense for me, not for them. I see them everyday and I just act how he expects me to act. Throw out the occasional generic negative criticism (communication needs work, too many meetings, estimates need work, etc.) to make it seem like I care and that I'm not a kiss ass, and ultimately just try and not rock the boat or change anything. It's a balancing act to try and be just on the border of friendly and friends. I never want to tip into the friend zone, but also want it to seem like I'm making an effort to be friends.

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...

Ha, that's classic. It's my one ironclad managerial tactic is to never invite a report with a message "got a minute" or "let's talk" because it always makes their imagination run wild. I always try to be specific because 99% of the time the convo is innocuous. I know it's not easy, but you should try just acting with a bit more confidence. Your boss probably already has a really good idea of your performance and potential and if they haven't said anything negative, it means they probably like you. So try relaxing and feeling good for a bit. The thing that cured my impostor's syndrome wasn't so much that I'm actually great, but more that everyone else is as much of a fraud as I am. I'm now judging other people's careers when I still feel like I don't know what I'm doing. It's human nature, so it's more about being comfortable with uncertainty than being certain.

> Career development is more of a once per year thing (at least not weekly).

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.

I don't know what people come up with to talk about for career development weekly. Monthly's a stretch, for me. I'm too busy doing the work at work—as with most people as far as I can tell, my "career development" is whatever looks-good-on-a-résumé problem or responsibility I can convince someone to give me, and that doesn't really happen once a week, more like once a quarter—and on my own time, fuck, do I ever not want to think about this stuff or wrestle with broken tools and bad documentation or any of the other awful, frustrating, unproductive crap that comprise the sorts of things (buzzwords) that make me command a higher wage in a year or two. I get plenty of that in 40 hours, meanwhile each day slips by so fast that I'm not going to dedicate meaningful time to doing "career development" outside maybe enough to pretend at having dedicated "career development" effort just for looks, which is, I suppose, maybe what the meetings are for. If I'm serious about doing "career development" it's fucking leetcode (which is not what they want to hear, yet is what they ask for in interviews, which is, to put it mildly, weird) or working at convincing someone to give me reports, so I can say I've managed X-sized team through projects of sort Y and Z, implementing processes A and B to positive outcome C.

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.

> All current project stuff is hashed out in or after scrum.

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.


Many of these will come off as frustrating and manipulative.

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.

>>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.

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" :)

I agree, not only these kinds of questions we should ask, but also we should have data and objective results. Adding data and caring about people personally make the best managers I've ever seen.

> 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?

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.

>>in a healthy atmosphere some employees will provide that feedback on their own.

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...

I had a manager who did 1 on 1s and asked questions like these. If you told him a blocker he’d do whatever it took to unblock it. In turn I only told him I was stuck when I truly was, because I knew the work he’d put in if I brought it to him. Of course, he knew status of stuff I was working on that wasn’t blocking me.

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.

Would love to have a manager-mentor like that. :)

>I’m offloading the manager-level work of identifying blockers for my team on the individual.

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 can only imagine the horror of working in a team where obstacles are not communicated immediately and have to wait for such meetings. This screams in inefficiency and frustration. The job of the manager should be to implement a culture of open feedback and actively resolve obstacles as they come up. Most of these questions come straight out of the waterfall playbook.

> the horror of working in a team where obstacles are not communicated immediately and have to wait for such meetings

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.

In my view, that only works for small obstacles in small teams. Larger obstacles and larger teams have complicated dynamics and trade offs. That means you need to think further ahead instead of focusing on the short term issues. Sometime people don't even realize the real blockers until forced to actively think about them.

What's the biggest obstacle, that's good information from your direct report. How can I remove it (or CAN I even remove it?), that's kind of up to you to figure out.

Am I the only one who scrolled down the whole list looking for the questions and issues you can bring up as a coworker? On the 1-on-1's I have with my manager I determine most of the agenda because I know where the gears need lubrication. How would she know if I don't tell her?

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.

How do you make sure you do your best work without proper feedback?

Not sure I understand your question. I will tell my manager what I'm doing. If she likes me to do different things (or the same things differently) the 1-on-1's are the best moment to talk about that. That's how I get feedback.

The best 1-on-1 meetings feel like a natural conversation between two professional adults. This list of questions can provide some ideas for starting points if you pick and choose carefully, but not all of the questions are a good idea.

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.

Agreed, with perhaps a small wish of my own:

> 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".

I don't understand the negative attitudes here. Yes, a 1-on-1 should be a normal conversation, but this is a great starting point to those who don't have the experience yet!

What kind of questions and data do you prepare for your 1-on-1s?

My 1:1s have the following format:

- 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 also important to talk about relationships with others on the team and other teams.

I like that! I’ll think about how I could incorporate it. Thanks!

You don't need to have anything to prepare whatsoever. It's an opportunity to talk about whatever is pressing, broader issues etc..

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.

Contrived wooden questions like these would be a solid reason to not work for a manager.

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.

> 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.

People have different strengths and weaknesses, and should try to find jobs that fit theirs. It seems doubtful that someone for whom the conversation starter suggestion "How’s it going?" is useful has the strengths needed to make management a good choice.

I read the list as inspiration for opening new conversation when you run out of things to talk about, not as a script to be read verbatim. If you’re a manager, a danger is that you end up with blind spots from only talking about the positive or getting confirmation bias. I see this list as prompts to break out of that trap. A danger of the 1:1 is they devolve into status updates.

> I read the list as inspiration for opening new conversation when you run out of things to talk about

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.

I take it this would help you map out areas of what should be asked. Maybe the person isn't opening up or maybe you sense something is amiss but you can't quite figure out what. We're all humans and we can forget things or have trouble viewing things through someone else's perspective.

Nobody is telling you to go through the whole list like a robot.

I treat them as prompts. I’ll give my team as much fore notice as possible what the topic will be and ask them to really think about the question in advance. Otherwise the conversations are often shallow. My team often writes out their thoughts and we go through it, it’s been pretty successful I think!

That's giving them extra homework and stress on top of worrying about deliverables and the problems they already care about.

That may be their perspective, true! But if so I would consider that a red flag indicating burn out. Why are they so worried about deliverables? Do they feel the timelines are too aggressive? Are they really so overloaded they can’t take 20 minutes to think about their work from a different perspective? What other problems do they care about? As a manager I need to tease out these things. But each team is unique; what works for my team might not work for yours!

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.

While I sympathize with your viewpoint, ultimately if your manager is trying hard to improve your life at work and you just find ways to convert that into a negative and a major source of stress, I can't help but interpret that as a huge red flag that needs to be examined in detail. Either you fundamentally have a bad attitude and are going to be unhappy and stressed no matter what even when your manager is going out of their way to help you, or there's something wrong with the way some projects are going, or deadlines are unreasonable, etc.

Also, if you don’t mind me asking, what kind of support from your manager would be helpful in this situation?

From my past experience as an Engineering Manager, I can say that some people wait for 1-on-1 meetings and these questions to clarify some things. Not everyone is ok to share their thoughts immediately.

I think 1on1s are the managers Swiss army knife and the best way to support employees in their development.

If possible I do them as walk'n'talks, people are more open and ideas often flow better when walking outside the office.

I have always done "walk'n'talks" as well, and have found them to be much more effective over the years. I always preach about them when I get the chance. It's unsurprising to me that sitting in a claustrophobic 2-person room, where it can feel like an interrogation, is less effective.

Walks n talks are great but they aren’t 1:1’s in the way the author is envisioning them. The difference is a walk n talk is something you do when you have unscheduled free time and want to sidestep email for a direct conversation. A 1:1 is More like a weekly postmortem.. you celebrate wins, you figure out how to not repeat mistakes. But from a manager’s perspective, a 1:1 is all about ego management. For example, if I am a ceo, there’s some things I can do in a staff call to resolve conflict and bottlenecks but not much - otherwise I squander the energy of the staff meeting. Instead, I can have 1:1’s starting first with revenue... what are the roadblocks. Outside a 1:1 setting I can’t get the sales manager to get honest with me and own up roadblocks that his/her own doing vs the ones from other departments. From there it’s a cascade of meeting with successive department leads until I’m down to the one guy who owns fixing them all - product. If you’re the manager of a team further down in the org, you don’t have this end to end ownership for the entire business but the theories are the same... organize your week so you’re building a pipeline of issues and then meet with the people most able to resolve them. Doing it in a regular 1:1 session helps isolate egos and creates consistency.. if you’re trying to solve roadblocks that appear/resolve inside that weekly cadence, you’re doing too much of your own employees work for them. Ideally you’re focused on the next major milestone and the one after that.

Gp's "walk and talk" just mea s having a meeting while walking outsit instead of sitting down. it's good for casualness and rapport but terrible for organizing thoughts and remembering what to follow-up on.

Yes. I'd often have at least once per month the weekly 1on1 in the office. Also depends on people, some are ok with broad development, some feel better with action items and todos to follow up on.

It's better to spend a couple of hours a month to focus your team than dealing with a fast-approaching deadline.

My 1:1s with last boss I had went like: "how are things..." "good" "1:1 complete".

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".

Not once in my 25 year career did I work with a manager who gave 1/100th as much shit as this list would require. They may exist, but I've never seen one. I strongly suspect that the author of the list hasn't either, and this is a highly idealized, "spherical cow in a vacuum" type list.

It's disappointing that 100% of the questions are from the perspective of the manager.

Agreed! Was looking forward to some questions from the employee perspective. I find constructive criticism and feedback to be very helpful in staying on track.

A great one-on-one begins with good questions. This post gives some great hints.


Can someone point to me the goal of using NodeJs to produce a list like this? Why not just modifying the .md file directly?

Looks like the questions are actually collected in machine readable form in a JSON file, and only rendered to Markdown

Now if there were just a markup language for adding smeantic meaning to hypertext ...

I suspect the dev wanted to make the list available in a readable format (markdown) but also have it on a website elsewhere.

TBH since the markdown is in a simple format of "# <category>" + "- <question>", having the JSON seems redundant over just reading in the markdown.

Looking at the responses here … it's not about

“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 …

it depends?

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.

> How are your parents/grandparents?

"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.

No, don't stay away. That's not how these things happen, anyway. You don't start a relationship exploring anyone's childhood and family issues, you start by asking:

"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.

> 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.

How often do your subordinates say "no" to you in general?

"So how's the wife?"

"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.

A lot? I hope when they want to.

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.

Thank you for your honesty. It sounds like you aren't close with them. There is nothing wrong with that.

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?

Not the OP, but his or her situation is very similar to my own. There's a really good chance I would give my director a snarky "full truth" answer about my disaster as a family if asked. If she then took the opportunity to pry further, I would be greatly annoyed to say the least. I'm an adult and can compartmentalize an atypical family, thanks. It's not miserable, it's just nothing.

Thank you. I agree: prying further would be very rude. Knowing that detail can help determine the implication/feelings on other responses, such as if you later shared "my parents stopped by last night". I can avoid asking "did you have fun?" and instead ask "how did it go?" Or "anything you need today?". The answer may be "no", however you may add something (ie: I just need a breather) which helps let me know to avoid placing additional burdens on you today if they are not urgent.

There's a bit of a thread below, but I'll just reply here.

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.

> 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?

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.

No I don't want you to put energy into making it sound happy. I want the truth, and I'm divided on my response. Is the parent Q an example of "how things go bad" or "here's the hard truth".

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.

If it's not clear, I made it all up to illustrate the point.

That was my impression. It's a difficult conversation. With a bad manager I can definitely see it going poorly. With a good one: your response ends the topic and we move on and helps shape the context of future questions and communication. Everyone has a bad day, knowing when someone is having one, without it being explicitly mentioned, can help reduce stress at work.


“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.

They've been moved to the cloud.

Have people really save the thing like "I stuck because of this of that..." for 1-1 questions. Arn't you suppose to raise awareness among your team before that point, ask for help from co-worker etc...

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 would say that a manager who brings up personal questions in 1:1s is leveraging their power to cross boundaries. In my mind it's akin to harassment.

So much this. I don't have kids. We are struggling with fertility issues. In my 1:1 my ex-manager would bring up that topic EVERY SINGLE WEEK. He also tried to develop a family relationship, where his wife would 'advise' my wife about what type of treatment we should seek. At one baby shower for a common friend, his wife asked me if we are sad seeing other people having babies. Being on H1 visa, I could only push back so much. From his perspective, he was providing 'emotional support'.

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.

Can someone recommend tools, hacks or techniques they use to run a perfect one-on-one meeting (tools like https://PullPanda.com, https://Gitalytics.com or https://valycs.com)?

You can try peoplebox(https://www.peoplebox.ai/) to run meaningful 1-on-1s. It integrates with your calendars so before every 1-on-1, it sends some pre one-on-one questions to your reports and suggestive talking points. You can collaborate on agendas, action items and track them all in one place.

I'd recommend Manager Tools. They have a whole set of resources for 1 on 1s. https://www.manager-tools.com/map-universe/one-ones

Getlighthouse.com can help you run your 1 on 1s and access questions like these with your notes.

I'd much rather see a list of things to bring up as the subordinate that will actually effectively improve one's lot.

We have mandatory 1:1 and yes, questions are similar. I found them useless and not productive at all. Most hypocritical ones are about carrier development. Let's say 1:10 ration of the managers and deportees, not matter how you 'develop' there is simply no place for promotion. Technical track is rather rare outside of FAANG.

My favorite conversation starter for work related or at social events is:

”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

Managers and team leads in my company have to make 1-on-1 meeting with their team mates every month on an published calendar schedule. We have made everything possible to help them: learning materials, master-classes, QA sessions, etc. At the beginning, they were anxious that these meetings look like getting into one’s personal zone and they didn’t known what to talk about and how to get rid of embarrassment.

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.

Speaking of career progression and management... has anyone here been able to transition from an IC to management/leadership at a remote company?

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 feel you’re getting enough feedback? Why/why not? Feedback.

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.

Title's a bit unclear, these are manager questions for 1-on-1 meetings. Would be interesting to see a similar list for questions you should keep in mind as the direct report in a 1-on-1.

Looks like there are career development questions in the section below the manager questions. https://github.com/VGraupera/1on1-questions#career-developme...

I've just made this - https://1on1hacker.com/. It shows questions from the list in random order.

>> Are you on track to meet the deadline?

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.

When did 1:1's become manager interrogation sessions? What happened to just connecting and providing space to talk about whatever is on the emp's mind?

A lot of employees either A) don't know what to talk about or B) aren't sure what their current manager considers safe topics.

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.

Good point - in my opinion, 1:1 is for employee, not for manager.

Thank you for sharing this.

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.

I think this is what happens to a big portion of devs after promotion to management. Do you have any advices for people in your situation?

imo 'development discussions' is wrong as it creates apparent power hierarchy in the company and very often does more harm then good.

having a mentor and doing regular self reflection is the way to go.

"Are you on track to meet the deadline?" is the worst 121 opener, I can't think why it's on the list. Unless you're an old-skool command-and-control type of course.

I looked at these and had immediate flashbacks of Eliza. Given the recent (hopefully by now tempered) enthusiasm for chatbots, this might be a great starting point for one...

For my taste, "Are you on track to meet the deadline?" is an intense discussion starter, as strong as a punch.

I think that depends entirely on _when_ the question is asked. If you get asked "Are you on track to meet the deadline" 50% of the way through the scheduled time then it should be a) An opportunity to reflect on your progress b) A chance to ask for help if needed

Of course, if a shitty manager asks you that 3 hours before the deadline then ha ha ha good luck

Well, it is an important question, when talking with a manager.

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.

I honestly think that is a reflection of the kind of management your company promotes.

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.

I think it depends on what the consequences are for missing a deadline.

"Are there any obstacles I can remove for you?" is a poor first question.

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.

This would be one long, wasteful meeting if I asked all these questions.

The meeting so useful, you have to crowdsource the agenda!

Wow, this is amazing. I can't help but think of all the sarcastic answers I would give the so-called manager with a slight grin on my face.

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...

As a manager as well as a human being I am interested in my co-workers and how they feel, their family, etc. so I don't really 'get' your negativity. Can you point some of the bullcrap on the list. There might be a way to rephrase some of the questions to make them not bullcrap.

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.

The very idea that there are two ends is your fallacy bro you are already putting yourself in the magnanimous role of giving something

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

There is always a power imbalance between a subordinate and a manager. There is no “genuine trust” with a manager. If your manager was told that their were imminent layoffs and they were told not to tell you, do you think they would?

Would you tell your manager that you are hoping to learn all you can to get a better paying job in a year?

Of course there is no trust, and this lack of trust is pouring from all these questions. Personally I encourage the people who report to me to always come to me with any issues they may have and never wait until a 1 on 1.

You have to distinguish between yourself as Mr. Nice Guy Manager™ and management culture as a whole where incentives are so ass backwards that people are cutting off their noses to spite their face and kowtowing to a bunch of geriatric co conspirators rather than advocating for the needs of the client relationship and their own so called subordinates this kind of behaviour is nothing more than a pyramid scheme where the prize is coronavirus for everyone

You can’t come to your manager at anytime when you have an issue. It’s not always because of lack of trust. They are busy managing. I sometimes need to schedule a meeting with my manager to go over a technical proposal and his schedule is busy all day with meetings. That’s not meant to be negative.

Also, I’m at a level now that I need to come to a manager with both problems and proposed solutions.

Of course, but in my case it's as simple as sending an e-mail "Could we talk at your earliest convenience?" Unless of course the issue is not really important - in that case it can wait for 1:1.

Actually this whole 1:1 thing is nothing but a prisoners dilemma played out over and over in various ways by people who claim to be experts in game theory but fail to recognize the game is playing them

Or if you've ever read about the cooperation dilemma which is a variation of this conundrum

Yes! There's an imbalance no call it what it is 1 > 1

As a manager as well as a human being, you shouldn't have to ask those questions during a 1:1, the well being of your team should be something you're observing from the inside.

And, more importantly, you should not delegate the responsibility of flagging it when something is wrong. You should know without asking.

Early on as a manager I made the mistake of assuming I knew what was going on in someone’s head just by working closely with them. I was wrong. You can’t even just directly ask because of the complicated dynamics. The best way I have found is frequent conversations that challenge people to dig down into their values and perspectives. Lists like this one are a good starting point, but as others have said genuine empathy is required.

No as an employee the last thing I want is to constantly having to read between the lines. Just be up front and tell me about issues.

Sarcasm and cynicism are signs of burnout. If ones arrives there, change to a job which actually is satisfying for you. No need to spend yourself and others on unhappy job.

lol, they are a sign of experience, not burnout

Apathy is a sign of burnout.

Do you not like the substance of the questions, or do you not like the delivery of the questions in this list? After reading through a small sample, I agree with you that if you asked these questions verbatim it would be ridiculous. And this list is kinda massive, so there are probably some that truly are not useful.

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.

Wow, you are either a troll or clueless.

There is no more powerful form of ensuring manager/employee alignment than 1:1 meetings.

That is just your opinion. To offer an anecdotal counterbalance, I was a cog in a 100k+ employee fortune-20 company. Nothing was more demoralizing, soul-sucking and useless than an 1:1 meeting. I always felt like crying out and quitting. This in a career with 10 different managers, 5 different nationalities.

Was that the only bad part of the job? Or merely a symptom of the larger problem. Perhaps the motivation to quit was a positive outcome. Why did you end up leaving?

It was not the only reason of course. I was fired in a downsizing. It is a bad idea to be a loner who has 0 political skills in a big company.

I've co-founded companies, I've led teams and been CEO of a small video game studio.

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.

As a employee 1:1s give me a low barrier meeting to bring up topics which neither fit in regular working meetings, nor fit to "water cooler talk", nor warrant calling an extra meeting. Often there's not much, but it's a nice thing to have scheduled.

I've worked for managers that did and didn't do 1:1 meetings. At some places I've missed them - because the managers were out of touch with the team.

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.

The issue I see with hallway conversations on their own is that some people don't convey much information in such a short informal setting. Other do but it can leave a blind spot for some individuals and for problems too large (or sensitive) to articulate in such a setting. Some people just aren't comfortable forcing a meeting with their boss to discuss a large or sensitive issue.

I agree, I'd reiterate my point about the company culture here though. And the team - but I think that figuring out what works for your team would be part of the managers' job.

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.

In my experience, the importance of the 1:1 is correlated with the size of the organization. At a 1000+ person company with teammates spread across 10 time zones, the meeting is a must because I have no physical cues. This only works, now, because of the ubiquity of video conferencing.

> As a manager, I never felt the need to bother anyone with 1:1 meetings.

How do you collect feedback then?

Talking with people in an informal way, over lunch, work meetings (brainstorm) and direct day-to-day conversations.

So you make an effort to take time out of your day for informal, one on one conversations with members of your team? Over lunch, and directly in passing?

I think it's important to give feedback to employees that behave like you'd expect, too. Otherwise they might wonder if they are doing something wrong and change their behavior.

Your manager asking is a sign they're trying to help you and understand you. You can rebuff that but then you shouldn't wonder in the future why your job isn't going the way you want it to (and why your coworkers aren't having the same issues).

it's like talking to a superior who poses as a psychologist without any training in it. lots of power to the manager and an invitation for abuse. pretty much the reason why I'd never slave as an employee. sorry you're being downvoted. it seems there are many here who have underlings and therefore benefit from such a farce.

You’re always answerable to someone - clients, investors, the board.

But even barring that, “just don’t work for anyone else” is not actionable.

What question in particular do you find not appropriate?

“What did you want to be when you grow up” feels a bit out of touch.

Yes might be, and I would agree. Although it could be a great opener for finding out what the person wants. I have often found it the hardest thing to help find out what the person I had 1on1s with wanted to become (or not, e.g. a manager). Sometimes people have a clear vision, sometimes it took a year. Everyone was happier though.

I guess it depends on what kind of connection you have with your manager. I saw managers who would rather fire people if they feel they would be happier ion another place.

The list would be way too long.

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.

You don’t ask all of them at once - one or two of them may get used in a week.

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!

Ha! But you can prevent the wrong trajectory by acting before. And, one of the ways to do that is honest conversation with your co-worker.

As soon as a wrong trajectory is detected, yes, feedback is needed.

But not before.

How often is someone on the perfect trajectory without ever discussing their concerns or desires?

I'm with you 1000% I hate one on ones they're for the manager caste to wash their hands of the blood from the front lines and find ways to sharpen their knives while you confess all your sins

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

What kind of questions would you ask?

I especially like these 2: - what we as a company doing wrong? - name 10 things which can kill our business?

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