I have received a letter from my boss saying that a meeting has been arranged for this date and time, and a member of HR will be there.

That is all the letter said.

When I asked the boss what the meeting was about she explained that it is a one-on-one meeting to discuss the contract I signed and talk about the shift change. I'm confused as to why a member of HR is attending on a supposedly one-on-one meeting and no other explanation was given.

How should I prepare for this meeting?

  • 2
    It could be about something which doesn't relate directly to you at all - for example an incident involving some co-workers which needs to be investigated, and someone has stated (whether correctly or not!) that you witnessed it or were involved in it. In that sort of situation you would certainly not be told in advance what it was about, to avoid collusion, rumour-spreading, etc.
    – alephzero
    Jan 21, 2019 at 16:19
  • 49
    Really, why is this question still open? The question is blatantly too broad and not answerable. One must be in the head of manager to provide answer. It could be really anything. I vote to close Jan 21, 2019 at 18:00
  • 2
    Is your boss someone who habitually emails to set up meetings without being willing to say why? My boss's boss does this, and it's apparently because he is afraid of saying anything substantive in an email, ever, for fear that it will be used against him.
    – user14026
    Jan 21, 2019 at 19:16
  • 6
    @usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Not really anything. There can only be a subset of things in the given circumstances, most of them significant, as the top answer says. Plus, this behaviour is not abnormal, but SOP for some actions (ie. promoting someone). And there are definite steps the OP can take to prepare. So, a well-known set of actions within a well-known framework. We don't know exactly what's gonna go down but it doesn't matter.
    – rath
    Jan 22, 2019 at 10:33
  • 17
    None of any of our business, but boy, I'd sure like to know how this turns out.
    – user56888
    Jan 22, 2019 at 15:16

5 Answers 5


Could be harmless, could be bad. It's clearly significant: Written invitation and HR presence means it's something official where HR makes sure that all laws and procedures are followed. Most likely a formal change to your work arrangements.

How to prepare:

  1. Keep your eyes and ears open. Are there any financial troubles, reorganizations, layoffs, acquisition, etc. happening? Make sure you are up to date on the state of the company and the business
  2. Be prepared to listen a lot and say little. Politely nodding your head, mumbling "I see". Don't say "yes" or "no". Ask questions, especially if you don't 100% understand what they are saying. "Can you clarify?". "What does that mean specifically", "What are options for the next step", etc. Your boss and HR have a huge information advantage, so your main goal is to learn what is there to be learned and buy some time to digest the information and formulate your own strategy how to deal with this.
  3. DON'T SIGN ANYTHING in the meeting. If they give you papers, ask for time to thoroughly read through them.
  4. Prepare for the worst. This could be a termination meeting. Make sure that, if push comes to shove, you can leave the same day on short notice. Clear up personal files and e-mail accounts from work computers. Clear sign in credentials from browser caches, make sure your personal stuff is ready to go.
  5. Don't stress too much. It could also be something good. Preparation is good, but only if it's constructive. Worrying without doing just makes you more nervous.
  • 81
    Point #4 is extremely important. Excellent answer +1 Jan 21, 2019 at 13:45
  • 99
    @RichardU I'd say point 5 is just as important, do not emphasize the termination hypothesis too much. Jan 21, 2019 at 15:21
  • 39
    am I the only one who thinks point #3 is the most important? always take time to read and understand the things you sign. Jan 21, 2019 at 20:58
  • 17
    In my experience, the termination meeting is usually requested with as little notice to you as possible. Typically, you'll just get asked to swing by somebody's office right away and that'll be that. If they're giving you a heads up about the meeting, odds are you aren't being let go just yet.
    – aleppke
    Jan 21, 2019 at 21:25
  • 2
    @aleppke: I think it's true that with this much notice, the content of the meeting is not likely to be "you're fired". But it might be, "you're fired unless X", where X is something the OP doesn't want or can't do such as agreeing to this "shift change". So I still think it's a reasonable precaution to log out of your internet banking in case you don't see your laptop again, or that there isn't more stuff in your locker that day than you can carry, or whatever. Far more likely, ofc, that it's something very formal but not fatal. Jan 22, 2019 at 17:30

Is your company a union company?

If so, check if you have a right to bring a union representative the same way that your boss has someone from HR. Most likely, you do.

Because the one thing you want to avoid is being in a 2 vs. 1 situation that could turn into a "he said / she said" conflict.

Announce this before, and treat it as a perfectly normal thing. If pressed, explain calmly that since you don't know what the meeting is about, you are sure that the presence of the union rep is entirely unnecessary, but you brought him just in case, so no time is lost in fetching him if his presence should turn out to be of advantage.

That doesn't mean this is bad. It really could be entirely harmless, and the HR person might be there not to check on you, but to check on your boss. But the point is that you don't know. So better safe than sorry.

If you don't have a union rep on hand, then @Hilmar wrote a very good answer on how to prepare and behave, especially points #2 and #3.


I would like to press that HR is not your friend.

Whenever HR is included that means change is coming (good or bad).
Unlike other answers, I think that if it's something good, your boss will give you a heads up while waiting for HR's confirmation.

I highly suggest preparing No.4 from @Hilmar's answer:

Prepare for the worst. This could be a termination meeting. Make sure that, if push comes to shove, you can leave the same day on short notice. Clear up personal files and e-mail accounts from work computers. Clear sign in credentials from browser caches, make sure your personal stuff is ready to go.

  • 6
    Would just like to say that I've been in a few meetings that were #4 and every one was impromptu. I was simply asked to swing by an office somewhere with no formal meeting scheduled from my perspective.
    – aleppke
    Jan 21, 2019 at 21:30

Besides @Himlar's valuable gems, I would like to add the following based on my bad times with biased HR:

  • If anything is going seriously against you, put your disagreement on record in the written form.
  • If they talk about any damages to the organization, even if you are lured to accept it by indirect indication that they will forgive if you accept, don't get lured. It is a well known trap.
  • They may try to provoke you by direct/indirect insults and get something on which disciplinary actions could be taken. Keep your calm until the meeting is finished.
  • Keep us posted after the meeting is over. What it was about and how you handled it.
  • 3
    Point 3 is also known as 'trolling'. Jan 21, 2019 at 19:50

Do you have any reason to believe that it is not exactly what your manager said? One-on-one could easily be boilerplate in the letter basically saying the meeting is just for you and not your whole team or department.

Have you signed a new contract with a shift change as your manager indicated?

If I had a contract change, especially with a shift change, with my current employer, this is exactly what I would expect to happen. HR is more qualified to discuss contract language than your boss. Since this is a change to your conditions of employment, HR should be present, just like they probably were on your first day of work/orientation.

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