I’ve been in my current role for a little over a year now and have always had a weekly 1:1 meeting scheduled with my line manager. For the first few months, this was incredibly helpful as I was new to the domain and the company’s processes were very different from what I was used to. It gave me a chance to ask burning questions and it sped up the transition process immensely.

Once I got acclimated to the role, though, these Q&A sessions became less valuable so i started using the time to bring up ideas I had for improving our processes. It never really went anywhere, though, and I started to feel like I was putting my manager out by making him explain why things are done the way they are. It wasn’t my intent to make him take a defensive position but that seemed to be how he understood it. He clearly wasn’t interested in considering my ideas and I didn’t want to put strain on our relationship so I stopped.

He is quite diligent about asking me if there’s anything I’d like to discuss but lately I’ve just been saying “no.” Does this make me look bad? If so, what types of topics should I bring up? I’d like to be perceived as low maintenance but not unenthusiastic.

If it helps, my performance reviews have always been positive and I received the maximum end of year bonus. Thanks!

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    Sounds like a suggestion for you next meeting should be, "Can we make this fortnightly?" – Gregory Currie Sep 26 '19 at 2:57
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    the most valuable employee is the one who's work is always done and you never hear from... no drama, just there to do the job and collect their money – Kilisi Sep 26 '19 at 7:12
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    Possible duplicate of What agenda items to bring to a one on one as the employee – gnat Sep 26 '19 at 9:22

The goal of the 1:1 is twofold. The first part you seem to really get and understand in that when you are learning new things and coming up to speed or need something addressed these are things to bring up and you clearly have done that.

The second part is often hidden and not so easy to see. As a manager myself some of the most difficult activities is figuring out how to find out how a subordinate is performing, feeling, interacting, etc... This is usually particularly difficult as the manager isn't sitting with the people doing the same work and collaborating. The cheap way around this is just have someone else monitor and report, but that is different than self knowledge of someone. So unless they are your direct supervisor and the manager is over multiple supervisors I call that "gossip" as they aren't directly responsible for you.

So, we come to the better way of 1:1. This is where you and your manager can really "work" together. This time is for you to gauge them and them to gauge you, however it's not even playing ground. If a manager just says "do x because" it will become micromanaging. If a manager doesn't do 1:1 it's neglect. The middle ground is to encourage the subordinates to talk and ask questions. It's tricky on the ones that don't volunteer info as careful questions to coax them out are needed.

That being said I would say talk about what you are doing, what you like about it and what you don't like. Ask questions on why things are a certain way first before suggesting change. If you want to make more of impact somewhere say exactly that along with your interests and ask if he/she has something you might contribute towards with improvements.

This shows what you are doing, how you are doing it, how you feel about it, where you see yourself growing, attention to the direction the manager is leading as well as aligning your expectations to the manager, challenge to the manager to engage and direct you in your career growth with additional items of interest to you, and it really builds that employee/manager personal connection that will help define your future relationship.

P.S. the "viewed as negative part" is likely a personality thing and the managers personal temperament. If it's annoying and they don't handle that well it could be negative. If they are supper busy and overwhelmed and you are doing a good job it could be a relief. Just depends, hence the you gauging them part.

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    Perfect answer - well-written and complete. The first time I'm thinking there is no reason to wait for other answers before accepting it. – Chris Sep 26 '19 at 4:29

From my point of view, the problem is not about having or not something to talk about. You already mentioned that you already discussed everything needed to be discussed.

The thing is that once every week seems overkill. Pure waste of time. In my almost 20 years of job, I was lucky to have a F2F once a year.

But that was not a bad thing. It did not mean at all that there was no communication. Because there was another rule: when there is anything to discuss, it must not be delayed. All doors were always open for any discussion. And discussions happened: F2F, mail, team meetings, near the water cooler... They were just not always formalized and named.

Note: I have no idea how your manager thinks, feels... The statements below will refer to some "typical" managers, especially ones which I had to deal with myself. Additionally, they also take into account the managers talked-about so much on the internet.

Bottom line 1: some managers feel insecure, and that is why they do not trust their people. In order to compensate, they have these often F2F meetings, trying to be be very close to everything, to feel in control. While it is not necessarily bad in itself, there are ways for the things to plummet.

Bottom line 2:

Is not having anything to talk about in 1:1 meetings a negative?

In the context you described, it is definitely not a bad thing. UNLESS your manager REALLY wants you to tell something. I have been there, where managers forced people to say things, and if what they heard did not match their expectations, people were hurt (not physically).

... my performance reviews have always been positive and I received the maximum end of year bonus

Well, it seems you are lucky. Your manager is just insecure, but not vengeful. Do your best in the future too, and things might just go on fine.

If you consider that the manager is actually open-minded, you can suggest that you cancel the regular F2F meetings, and instead "install" a philosophy that discussion are welcome at any time there is a need for them. You may call this new trend F2F-on-request.

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    "your manager feels insecure, and that is why he does not trust his people." This is not true. While it was common in previous decades that you talk privately to your manager only once a year, nowadays regular 1on1s are common in many companies. It's not about trust, it's a management trend. Not saying which approach is better, that's just how it is. – Chris Sep 26 '19 at 6:15
  • I do not know which approach is better either. But forcing a meeting where people have nothing to say is... counter-productive. I did not criticize the meetings done at the beginning, when there was important information to flow. Your comment triggered an idea in my mind, I added it to the answer. Thanks. +1 – virolino Sep 26 '19 at 6:18
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    I feel like the excellent top section of your answer, is let down by conjecture regarding how the manager is feeling. – Gregory Currie Sep 26 '19 at 6:25
  • @GregoryCurrie: OK, I made some edit. – virolino Sep 26 '19 at 6:27

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