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There are several questions here and other articles on the web about how to handle one on one meetings with your manager. I have a weird situation and need advice about a strategy in this case.

The company (IT industry) is in flux, lots of people quit and others are moving in. My manager is leaving and there is no replacement as of yet. Instead, for my team, a senior architect is acting as manager and I'm acting product owner. A third person (let's call this person M) is acting overall company product owner together with another person. M worked at an office in a different country and appeared at our office about a month ago. Among other things, M will handle "personnel issues" and started setting up team retrospectives and one on one meetings. If you are thinking, this is a confusing and unclear management structure, you are correct.

I have an upcoming one on one with M. Normally I would prepare an honest discussion with positive and negative feedback, suggestions for improvement, ideas for my future professional development etc.

But in the light of the situation, I'm not sure if this is a good strategy. I'm not confident that M has leverage in the company as it stands, so any suggestions may just be a waste of time. M is not my manager per se and it's not clear what can be accomplished between us. And I'm concerned that negative feedback will be turned against me.

Should I act in good faith and do an honest one on one? Or is it better to clam up? What's a good strategy here?

Edit: just to be clear, any feedback, positive or negative, is not about M but just general stuff one would bring up in such a meeting.

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    It mostly depends on how important having your feedback heard and potentially getting things changed (now instead of maybe later) is to you, and how important not risking having your feedback "turned against" you is. You're in a much better position than we are to know whether M actually has any leverage and how positions will change going forward. – Dukeling Jun 15 at 22:04
  • What sort of feedback do you want to give that could be "turned against" you? As long as you're not particularly critical, overly negative, launching personal attacks or complaining about a bunch of things that can't be changed when giving feedback, there shouldn't be much that could be used against you. – Dukeling Jun 15 at 22:11
  • "Among other things, M will handle 'personnel issues' and started setting up team retrospectives and one on one meetings." It sounds to me like this person is in charge of restructuring the company. In other words, his meetings will determine who is expendable and who is not. Of course, I could be wrong on this. – Stephan Branczyk Jun 17 at 9:45
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If M has no leverage, then having an honest discussion will do no harm, because it will make no difference.

If M is going to take on a "line manager" (as opposed to a project manager) role, then having an honest chat with them about where you see your career going can only be a good thing.

So there's no reason to clam up and say nothing.

Just drop the negative feedback bit. Convert it into suggestions for improvement.

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Honestly, I would first ask him to find out what his opinion is, and how much it seems to align with your own ideas for improvement. I would then present those ideas as a possible practical solution to his vision, and once I've got a little rapport going, suggest my own things.

I wouldn't focus of any negative feedback about M, if you have any. It seems management is betting a lot on this guy and you want him on your side, if you plan to stay there for long and suggest ideas to implement.

In general, definitely focus your time on him. What he did in the past, what he sees, what he thinks can be improved, and how. Once you get a good view on the landscape, you can pick your battles accordingly.

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With respect, you’re overthinking this. The new person probably wants to get to know his new co-workers, and to get the lowdown on how things work. It’s probably a straightforward conversation.

You could ask ahead of time if there’s anything you should prepare for the meeting. Then you’ll be sure about expectations on you.

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