I manage a team of subordinates and as part of my role I carry out 1-2-1 meetings.

At the moment, 1-2-1 meetings typically last around 10 minutes and are conducted every 4 weeks.

An hour is allocated in the calendar for each meeting.

My boss says I should not pad out the meeting for any longer than it needs to go on for but I read on the following page that a good 1-2-1 meeting should last a minimum of 1 hour: https://blog.impraise.com/360-feedback/1-on-1s-for-engaged-employees-how-good-managers-should-do-them-performance-review

My subordinates say they don't like having pointless meetings so this is why we only have a meeting every 4 weeks, as we did used to have them every 2 weeks.

I don't feel as if the 1-2-1 meetings are working at the moment because my subordinates are giving very short answers to questions such as "How is everything going?" A typical response is "Okay".

I try to ask open ended questions to get a discussion going but I don't get much in a response, meaning it is hard to ask follow-on questions to keep the discussion going.

I feel the general team motivation is low due to a number of factors such as how long the employees have worked at the company and how close they are to retirement.

The goals of the 1-2-1 meetings are to:

  • Ensure that my own personal goals and objectives are aligned with each team member's priorities
  • Provide regular, open feedback, both positive and constructive, and identify any minor issues quickly through discussion before they escalate and become substantive problems
  • Facilitate open and honest communication on a regular basis
  • Help my subordinates to feel motivated, listened to and valued
  • Build interpersonal team relationships and encourage subordinates to have trust in me, allowing them to speak freely without any peer pressure from the broader team
  • Demonstrate my own management style as being participative, people-led and designed to value effort and performance management.
  • Show my team that I respect and value their time

What can I do to make the 1-2-1 meetings more effective?

  • 3
    What exactly is your goal in doing these meetings? What does the other person gain from these meetings?
    – Masked Man
    Jan 29, 2018 at 16:49
  • Can you accomplish the same goal by Walking Around and talking to people? Jan 29, 2018 at 16:56
  • I'm not allowed to just walk around and approach my team due to disabilities within the team and recommendations from health professionals so all communication needs an agenda and time to prepare. Jan 29, 2018 at 17:02
  • It gave them a chance to complain. Even if they feel awkward I suggest you continue.
    – paparazzo
    Jan 29, 2018 at 17:49
  • What is a 1-2-1 meeting?
    – fabspro
    Mar 2, 2021 at 23:20

3 Answers 3


I am a huge believer in the value of one-on-one sessions as a morale-building and personal development tool. In my opinion, it is essential for effective management and so I think if your meetings don't seem meaningful right now then you need to do everything in your power to make them meaningful.

One-on-one time with the people who report to you are one of your primary viewpoints into the level below you. If your meetings aren't going well that could point to serious problems:

  • Lack of Direction - Do your associates understand the purpose of these meetings? Do you?
  • Rapport problems or low morale - Do your direct reports feel as though they cannot communicate with management? Are they fearful there might be retaliation if they say the wrong thing?
  • Role Stagnancy - Are your processes so ingrained that everyone just follows rote behavior? Are your employees really challenging themselves to improve processes and look for new opportunities? Has everyone defined challenging SMART goals?
  • Career Myopia - Do your people have (written) development plans for their future? Are they encouraged to keep up with latest trends in the industry? Do you, as their manager, know their interests and desires?

One of the biggest warning signs that one of the above could be a problem is that fact that you are only devoting 10 minutes a month to these topics. That's barely enough time to ask the associate what they had for lunch yesterday. Your meetings should be, at minimum, a half-hour long... and for those star employees or those who feel the need to talk, you should feel free to spill over into a full hour if necessary.

Ultimately, you need to get your finger on the pulse of the team and figure out what's going on so you can rejuvenate this valuable tool. Here are a few ideas:

1) Remind everyone why you have these meetings

One-on-ones are supposed to be "me time" for the associate. It shouldn't be a status meeting to figure out what they have been working on. It shouldn't be a sounding board for you to communicate memos (although you will occasionally use it for such). It is the one opportunity a month where the associate gets to set the topic and discuss with (or even complain to) the boss about what is going on in their work life.

Remind your people that you are here to solve the people-problems and the bureaucratic hurdles that give them day-to-day headaches. Tell them you want to help them but you need their input. Then seriously... shut up and listen. Take notes... repeat back what you hear and take action. Once your people are clear that this is their time, trust me.. they'll start opening up.

2) Leverage other management tools to get a beat on the pulse of the team and then refer to those topics to get the conversation started

If your people aren't talking to you.. don't let them off of the hook! Discuss what is happening on the team, in the business, in the industry. Do whatever you have to, to get that conversation started. How do you know what's going on with the team if your people aren't talking to you? Try these management tools:

  • Introduce a required (10-minute max) written monthly status report from each associate of their last month accomplishments, next month plans, and overall worries
  • Send out infrequent department surveys to the team to gauge how employee morale is. Use an anonymous online tool like SurveyMonkey and use techniques that won't force your associates to reveal their identities (like the "strongly agree, agree, no opinion, disagree, strongly disagree" questions)
  • Make sure your team has an anonymous "complaint box" where associates can communicate problems without fear of being ostracized or retaliated against
  • Make sure the team has an "idea box" where they can submit ideas for team improvement
  • Hold routine quarterly team meetings where you can discuss relevant company and team topics together as a group

3) Write down some leading questions and bring them to every meeting.

For those introverts where conversation can sometimes be painful, be prepared to lead the conversation but do so in a way where you illicit real responses. You ultimately want to develop a rapport with your people but if this doesn't happen naturally then do what you would do in an interview with a stranger: prepare some questions beforehand! Here are some examples:

  • What is your favorite/least favorite thing about the job?
  • What teams/customers do you enjoy working with? Who causes you problems?
  • What areas of your job do you have a handle on? What areas worry you?
  • Where would you like your career to be next year? What about 5 years?
  • What parts of the business would you be interested in cross-training?
  • What new topics in the industry excite you? Do you see opportunity for bringing new practices to the team?

4) If you haven't already, require your associates set annual goals and a development plan and use these meetings to go over their progress.

You want to be careful here because you don't want the one-on-one to turn into a status meeting (really there are better tools for that available). But you do want your associates to be thinking about long term strategy, setting annual goals and where they sit on their development plan.

Require your team have defined developmental goals alongside their company-based goals and keep them honest about their progress. If your associates don't have immediate needs during their one-on-ones then turn the meeting into an opportunity for reflection and motivation.

  • Can I just ask, what if I want to improve the way someone carries out their daily tasks, is the 1-2-1 meeting a good opportunity to suggest how they can improve or should this be done outside of the 1-2-1 meeting? Jan 30, 2018 at 18:14
  • Yes, you can absolutely use the 1-2-1 meeting for that purpose (after all, it's about improvement) but you want to be careful how you broach the subject and try and make sure that you aren't stealing too much of their "me-time". There are good techniques for offering criticism (such as sandwiching it between compliments) but I personally love predefined metrics (usually agreed upon around goal time) to provide an outside target to aim for. Then rather than being the source of criticism, you take the role as helper and you can both brainstorm improvement ideas to obtain better outcomes.
    – user48276
    Jan 30, 2018 at 19:07
  • This of course doesn't work for all problems and sometimes as part of the job you have to be the bad guy but it generally makes for a less confrontational and more collaborative environment. You just want to be careful not to become too metrics crazy as metrics can be a double-edged sword. They are a tool for measurement... nothing more. But sometimes they don't tell the whole story... and if that's the case you need to be able to adjust accordingly and always be fair to the one being measured.
    – user48276
    Jan 30, 2018 at 19:10

Communicate with the management. Express your concerns and share ideas for improvement (don't be a problem spotter, but a problem solver). Tell them you feel organisation could benefit from more valuable sessions, define valuable session and propose the way of achieving it.

Have you tried to enforce a particular formula of the meeting by sending a message to your subordinates prior to the session? Something in between the lines:

Dear Employee, I would really appreciate if you could share thoughts on one to three things that went well and one to three things that could have gone better.

Have you considered asking your subordinates how would they like these meetings to be, so they can benefit from them more? Present their feedback to your boss. If they still refuse to be proactive and will give you rather generic answers, ask them what you can do so they would share more. Maybe they really don't need a monthly session, but would prefer to do it quarterly?

  • It looks to me that the OP is the manager. Jan 29, 2018 at 16:47
  • @DanPichelman Oh, you're right. Should I delete my answer? Do you think above advice could work both ways? The management could indicate to the subordinates what is expected from them prior to the meeting, so the session can be more valuable for them and the company.
    – Raf M.
    Jan 29, 2018 at 16:52
  • 2
    I gave you the +1 because of your first sentence. Perhaps you can edit your answer? How does a good manager stay informed and involved with the team? Jan 29, 2018 at 16:54
  • @DanPichelman Thank you, Dan. Would you mind sharing some feedback on my edit?
    – Raf M.
    Jan 29, 2018 at 17:06

I think an hour once a month is about right - how can you achieve anything useful in 10 minutes. It's their meeting too, so I would ask them to bring a topic to the meeting that they have concerns or good feedback on - either about you or the department, or have them give you an idea they think will improve how the department is run/improve morale etc. This should be a mandatory part of the Agenda. If they say they don't have anything, wait until the next team meeting and see what complaints come up. Then next time you know they do have something to discuss in 121s. It's all about the teamwork, so you have to constantly get their feedback so they feel involved and like it's worth their while being there. Take on board any comments about you (positive or negative) and on the negative have a think and see if you can work on it. We are all a work in progress. And ask them to bring up any good ideas in the next team meeting so everyone can discuss whether they are on board and when/how it should be implemented. Different age groups/length of service etc. gives you an ideal opportunity to hear lots of different view points/ideas. Use it to your advantage. Hope that helps.

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