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I joined a company last week that claimed to be a startup but seems to be closer to a big corporation. One of the bureaucracies is a weekly hour-long one-on-one session with my manager.

We had this process at another company I was with, but it was optional and I just declined it for the year I was there. I apparently cannot do that here.

Anyway, what lets a manager say that these were successful? What can I do to solve the meeting and make my manager feel that it went well. He presumably has some corporate imposed goal. I want the meeting to go away. How do I make that happen?

  • What is the manager's opinion about the meeting? – max630 Sep 28 at 5:26
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    @max630 it is meant to be an employee driven thing so he did not have that many opinions. – extract1on1 Sep 28 at 5:34
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    Is it so inconceivable that your manager is interested in your growth and development? To me someone who declines a 1:1 for a year is someone showing no interest in growth, maturity, communication, or team work. I'd be looking to move that person out of the organization. Many of mine started with my directs not saying much. Now I have to cut many off at the end of their session. You get out of it what you put into it. – Joel Etherton Sep 28 at 5:47
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    @JoelEtherton it is more that my career strategy is usually incompatible with the manager's goals. I usually leave every 18 months, so any development plan for me beyond what will get me a nice raise at the next job just wastes my time and irritates managers when their investment packs up and heads to a new company. So a lot of it is avoiding burning bridges as well by preventing too much invested time. – extract1on1 Sep 28 at 7:06
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    You should consider the possibility, that this career strategy will not work forever. – WorkingHard_Guy Sep 28 at 10:18
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Majority of the cases, we hear the opposite problem: Not enough communication to set the goals and review the achievements, also availing continuous feedback.

I'd say, instead of declining it, go for it. The key to any useful meeting is to have a clear agenda about the meeting.

  • Set a recurring meeting invite.
  • A day before the scheduled meeting, send and updated agenda for the meeting.
  • On the day of the meeting, present your targets and achievements, and ask for feedback.

Also, keep the meeting short and to the point. Just because you're allowed to use a full hour, does not mean you have to use it all. Take as much (or as little) time you need to arrive at a conclusion and have an action plan charted out for the next meeting. Then conclude the meeting and carry on with your activities. In some cases, (say, a week-long holiday), there might not be any update that needs to be discussed, feel free to propose to cancel the meeting for that week and pick it up in the next occurrence.

Bottom line: Don't go to the meeting because you have to, attend the meeting to have a meaningful conversation.

Down the line, you'll be thankful that you had those meetings.

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  • What am I actually supposed to do in the meeting? – extract1on1 Sep 28 at 6:41
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    @extract1on1 Talk about last week's status, Then set expectation, get approval, talk about any impediments for which you need help from your manager. End with thanking them for their time. – Sourav Ghosh Sep 28 at 6:44
  • @KillianDS You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. Rest, YMMV. – Sourav Ghosh Sep 28 at 12:25
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    @extract1on1 Make your first question to your manager "what am I supposed to do in this meeting"? Obviously one applies a bit of lingo like "objectives" and so on, but that's the heart of it – pjc50 Sep 28 at 12:50
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What lets a manager say that these were successful?

He presumably has some corporate imposed goal.

Don't ask us, we don't know. Ask your manager, in these meetings.
Find out what he wants to achieve and help him do that. That applies both to the meeting and the rest of the week.

What can I do to solve the meeting and make my manager feel that it went well.

Try an agenda like this:

  1. summarise what you did last week. Be brief, he should know this already.
  2. if there are any problems, let him know, especially if you need his help or a decision.
  3. ask for feedback. Was there anything you could have done better?
  4. what are your managers goals at the moment? How are they going? What are the problems?
  5. what are your tasks/goals for the next week?
  6. what are the priorities of those tasks? which one should you do first?
  7. discuss any problems you can foresee.

I want the meeting to go away. How do I make that happen?

Don't, these should not just be an hour of listening to your boss ramble on about his weekend or favourite sports team, but an opportunity to collect valuable information. That information is the difference between being the guy who does the bare minimum to avoid getting fired, and the rock-star who needs a raise.

In the long term, these meetings are your chance to negotiate for the sort of job you want. Are you just after a bit more money for the same thing, or shorter hours, or do you want to be on track to become a VP or director, where the real money is? You can find out where the company is heading and try to position yourself to take advantage of it. Or, if the company just plans to use you until you leave for the next step up, you can ask for the sort of tasks and experiences that will make you more attractive to the next company.

If you go into the meeting with an agenda, when there's a pause in the conversation, you can just move on to the next item. When you reach the end of the list, and the boss has finished his list, you can say "Thanks, that's everything I wanted to know. Can I get started on (whatever the top priority was)?"

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    Don't discount the value of rambling on about weekends or sports teams. I agree that it shouldn't be the manager doing the rambling. A lot of times as a leader I find a 1:1 spent talking about absolute nonsense can provide a few things: A break in the day from having to be concerned about things, an opportunity to connect on a human level, a better understanding of a person's motivations, and often a casual way to slip in some coaching or feedback on interpersonal issues. Listening to your boss ramble though - yawn. – Joel Etherton Sep 28 at 16:03
  • @JoelEtherton - In an ideal world, the 1-to-1 would include that sort of friendly chat, but it doesn't sound like it works that way for OP and his boss. Your right though, it's definitely worth working towards. – Robin Bennett Sep 29 at 8:10
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    The agenda here is a great place to start - especially as a new hire. I'll also suggest that with my more senior folks or after folks have been around for a while, we don't always cover the week to week agenda - we also make time for big picture - like "where is the company trying to go as a business?", "what are the employee's career goals?", "what could the team do better?", and even "what could the employee get from their manager?" - that last one can be the toughest and only when there is trust on both sides. – bethlakshmi Sep 29 at 15:54
  • @bethlakshmi - good point, I've added a paragraph about that, but kept it separate from the agenda because it's more long term. Feel free to edit it if you think it can be improved. – Robin Bennett Sep 30 at 8:01
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What can I do to solve the meeting and make my manager feel that it went well.

That is exactly the question you should ask during your first one-on-one meeting with your manager.

Every manager is different. Every manager will want something different from their one-on-one meetings.

When I held them, I wanted to know how things were going with their work, how the individual was doing, and what I could do to help make things better. I also wanted to hear about anything upcoming that might get in their way. I used the time to convey anything from corporate that I felt impacted them directly, that perhaps hadn't been shared with the entire group. We talked about what went well recently, what didn't go well, and what we might do to get better.

Since I also personally liked everyone who worked with me, I might spend a minute or two asking about their life outside of work - their children, family, vacation, etc.

I never held these meetings for an hour, although I would go beyond the scheduled time if the individual felt the need.

You should try to keep your distaste for these meetings in check, and go in with a positive attitude. Find out what your manager wants, and give it to them in as efficient a manner as possible (sometimes a status report can get your manager what they need). And then spend a moment thinking beforehand what you would like to get from the meeting.

If that goes well, you could propose that the meetings be shortened, scheduled less frequently, and perhaps eventually be eliminated. But that would likely only happen if each party gets what they need some other way.

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    One of the questions he could ask at the meeting is could the meetings be shortened – jmoreno Sep 30 at 11:26
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As I see it, the meeting should be informal talk about whatever you would like to discuss. That may be manager wanting to ask you about anything such as is there, or asking for a feedback about your colleagues, or providing some news about the company. You may in turn ask for something you find unclear, or discuss some impediments which you are having, or describe you upcoming plans like vacations etc.

The meeting does not have to last the whole hour. My meetings often end in several minutes after we clear that there is not much to discuss.

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I appreciate that there are a lot of toxic companies out there but I feel your behaviour is assuming the worst about your manager and the company. What a 1 on 1 is supposed to do is to create a channel for raising questions, concerns and conversations about career progression.

e.g. Stuff I've heard in 1 on 1 as a manager:

  • Office is too noisy
  • I'm concerned that we lack diversity in management
  • What's the promotion / salary increase process?
  • I'm disappointed I didn't get a salary increase

He presumably has some corporate imposed goal.

As a line manager a big part of your job is keeping staff happy, motivating them to do good work and retain them. A 1 on 1 is how a manager discovers what they must do to achieve the above.

In terms of advice, it's helpful to think about three extreme examples:

  1. A good company will use the 1 on 1 process to understand what their employees want and to retain them by offering it within the company so they don't need to change jobs to get it. In this case, engaging with the process is obviously beneficial to you.
  2. A bad company will use it to learn about their employees to manipulate them and short change them. In this case, disengaging will partially "reveal your hand" in this game you are playing.
  3. Companies / managers that have no clue will cargo cult the process not knowing its actual purpose.

Reality will be somewhere in between the three extremes presented above but it's likely in your interests to engage with this process.

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Run out of things to talk about 10 minutes in.

There are some situations where you'll need an hour one on one or more, but noone needs it every week for their entire career. I have quarterly hour long one on ones with my manager.

Before the meeting, write down the 10 or so things you need to talk with your manager about or feel he would benefit to know. All the progress reports, what you learnt this week, what you need to work better, etc. And last one is "anything from senior managers?" Or something similar?

If remote; email it to him before the meeting as an agenda. If in person have the paper in front of you. Get your thoughts together before the meeting, maybe even practice out loud if it helps you get your thoughts together.

Then just go through them, spending about 45 seconds / 100 words on each. Don't appear to rush. Give him time to respond and let him interject. Once you've understood each other on a topic write down his response on the agenda and move on. You want to get to the end of your list and say "well that's all i thought we need to talk about this week. That was only like 12 minutes."

Unless hes determined to hit the hour mark for some specific reason, hes not going to sit there and small talk you about the weather for 45 minutes. You should be able to get the meeting running much faster.

After a few point out that the agendas aren't changing much week to week, and that we can probably cut these down to one per foughtnight. 15 minutes per foughtnight is probably the lower bound of communication you'll get from a manager.

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It sounds like you are new in the company. Why not just have the meetings a few times and take it from there? Then, when you know whether/what is wrong with the meetings, discuss those things.

It may for example be that you have an allotted hour to talk with the boss, but 4/5 weeks you just talk for ten minutes and get back to doing stuff.

I have a weekly 1 on 1 with my leader these days, to help my recovery from burnout. It is helpful.

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Your manager's job is to deliver "value" through the team. That implies that the team needs to be in a good state - people are happy, they're motivated, they have the proper technical skills to attack the problems of the team, etc. Having periodic 1:1s is one of the main ways managers achieve the above.

Therefore asking to ditch this is asking your manager to drop one of their most powerful tools. They won't like it very much.

What you can do is change the parameters of the meeting. Have it once every two weeks, have it for only half an hour, prepare meeting notes in advance, avoid talking about project status updates, etc.

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Micromanagement nonsense. They think that you will be more productive with some obligation to talk about your "achievements". You will be more busy for sure; but not productive. What usually happens is that employees start to game these events and do stuff that is presentable but not productive. See if you can live with that culture because you cannot resist it. If you don't play the same game as your colleagues, you will be in a bad spot pretty fast. If you cannot live with it, start looking for a new job and make sure to find out about their management culture beforehand (e.g. ask for a telephone call or conversation with one of the team members).

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    As a manager, I don't agree that this is "micromanagement nonsense." A manager cannot read his employee's minds. He also knows that sometimes people will only say things when their co-workers are not in the room. Far better to have a boss that wants to talk to you once a week than a boss who doesn't talk to you at all. – Mike Robinson Sep 29 at 15:12
  • A meeting once a week to discuss how things are going isn't "micromanagement". – Simon B Oct 2 at 12:09

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