As is the case almost everywhere, the management view is very different from the labor view. In an attempt to remain connected to ground-level realities, management decided to meet with every team for face-to-face discussions every six months. Senior managers will meet with each team separately to discuss issues relevant to them, get feedback without it being filtered through several intermediate levels of ass-covering, and answer any questions the team may have. The team leader and senior engineer(s) will not be present at this meeting, so that the other members will be encouraged to speak freely. Overall there will be about 4-6 less senior people meeting with one senior management person.

I find these opportunities to engage them valuable because they offer perspective that can't be gained elsewhere. They are also useful opportunities to demonstrate that I think more deeply about my work than some of my colleagues who are just there to do a job, but not more. What are some good questions to ask management at such occasions? And what are some ways to frame feedback about ground-level realities and/or offer suggestions that would improve the company?

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    Is there something specific or urgent that you have to bring to the attention of the higher-ups? – user34587 Apr 9 '18 at 7:44
  • A few specific ideas, which is what prompted the question - I figured someone out there must have a better handle on how to negotiate these things. – Samantha Apr 9 '18 at 8:28

The team leader and senior engineer(s) will not be present at this meeting, so that the other members will be encouraged to speak freely.

The meetings held by C-level and other senior managers are called "All hands meeting" in many organizations. The reasons that most low level employees don't talk much in those meetings are mostly because they are worried about the retaliation from their immediate managers.

Even you said "The team leader and senior engineer(s) will not be present at this meeting", it won't help because the immediate managers/team leaders will later find out who said what in the meeting. (The meeting is sort of public)

So, the first question you should ask at the start of the meeting is to ask those senior managers how to not let the retaliation happen when the employees say something that the low level management don't want to hear.

If the senior management fail to relieve the employees' worry, the all hands meeting could be just a one way communication. That is, it could become a type of announcement meeting.

Once the senior management convince the employees that they won't get revenged by their direct managers, the real dialogue between the senior management and the employees can happen.

Once the two way communication meeting happens, the employees can talk about things that the senior managers never see or hear from the reports from their subordinate managers. What those things are depend on the organizations and are too broad to list here.

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This very much depends on the size of the business and what the corporate communications are like.

What I've often seen is upper management hosting "all hands meetings" where the leaders discuss the strategic position and future plans for the company. Also discussed are any challenges that the company currently has and what's being planned to mitigate them.

These meetings should form the framework for your "grass roots" meetings so you can deep-dive into the issues that concern you and your team.

So, if you're not having these company-wide communications, you should recommend that they happen. This will prevent upper management from having to repeat everything individually to all of the teams.

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Meetings of this sort - meaningful as I believe they are - can be a bit tricky getting started as the employees very rarely or never have any contact with the upper levels, which may result in a reluctance to say anything not bland or vague.

Depending on the industry (I'm assuming IT), the suggestions below may or may not be applicable.

To kick things off, one could approach it as a twist on a SCRUM meeting where the team starts with a demo of the current state of the product being created, followed by a status report covering how work is proceeding, which steps are next and which obstacles there might be.

Hopefully, this will spark an actual back-and-forth dialog rather than semi-nervous employees waiting on each other to ask the first question in a one-sided Q&A with upper management.

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