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I read from this article: One-On-One Meetings – Why They’re Important to You and Your Team that one on one meetings are important for a team, but we don't have such a convention.

We have weekly meetings where all team members(about 20 engineers) gather in a meeting and everyone talks about what s/he does in the week one by one and the boss would ask some questions to ensure that s/he knows what is going on in that direction and sometimes provides some suggestions and comments.

I personally don't like it because sometimes I fear to express my concerns or reveal the risks and ask for help. Can I recommend the one on ones meeting to my boss? Is it necessary? I don't know if he knows about that or not.

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    Yes, this is an excellent practice IMO. How long it needs to be can vary per circumstances. Anything from just "checking-in", 5 minutes, to a full afternoon of discussions
    – Pete W
    Mar 20, 2021 at 15:59
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    That article is for managers, not members of the team. Not sure if it is a good idea to follow them as a team member as your boss has his own standards to follow. Everyone else would have to get 1-on-1 time as well, not just you.
    – Dan
    Mar 20, 2021 at 17:32
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    @Kilisi I am surprised to hear that. Since I have been having weekly 1-1 meetings for the for most of my professional life. I thought they are the norm.
    – Helena
    Mar 22, 2021 at 18:59
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    @Kilisi Pizza sized teams, that is varying from 3-6.
    – Helena
    Mar 22, 2021 at 19:23
  • Have you considered the cost of those 1:1 meetings? 20 people x 10 mins x 2 (both the manager and the engineer's time) = around 35 hours. That's extremely expensive for a company. That's an entire week's worth of cost and productivity lost ... per week (which is probably really per month because weekly is not realistic for scheduling). Do you think that is worth it? How much do you think you make and your manager (do the math to figure the $X0,000 of cost involved)? Perhaps this is why there is a single team meeting (cost effective and results effective)? Think bigger picture.
    – David
    Mar 24, 2021 at 23:34

6 Answers 6

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I read the linked article, and it's evident what they are talking about and what you are talking about are two different things.

The closest point the article makes to support you idea is:

2 . Provides time for addressing issues

We are all feeling the pinch of needing to fit more into each day. By regularly setting aside 30 minutes with your individual team members, you are opening up this time to address any issues that may be affecting the team member’s productivity and general output.

This is NOT discussions on the work itself. This is discussions around the working environment. Strategic issues. Big picture stuff. Personal stuff.

I don't know if he knows about that or not.

Yes, your boss almost certainly knows that it is possible to have a meeting with only two participants.

We have weekly meetings where all team members... I personally don't like it because sometimes I fear to express my concerns or reveal the risks and ask for help.

Fundamentally, you lack confidence speaking in a group. That's the problem you need to address. The purpose of stand-ups is to solicit feedback from all members of the stand-up. I cannot believe for one second that in a meeting of 20 "engineers", the manager is the only one that is able to offer advice.

If you need advice, you should not be waiting for a weekly meeting to proceed.

The problem with one-on-one meetings is you're basically cutting everybody out of the loop. You're cutting out domain experts, you're cutting out people with similar concerns, you're eliminating a lifetime of experience of 20 engineers to cover up the fact you lack a bit of confidence.

One-on-ones are great when they are held at a suitable frequency, and they discuss things that are actually NOT work. Things like personal development, suggestions for the office, career ambitions, etc. They are not a substitute for working with a team.

Because you seem to like reading, here is a Forbes article that explains why your proposed one-on-one meeting agenda is a bad idea.

I think the gap here is that people have forgotten why we have 1:1 meetings to begin with. The purpose of 1:1 meetings is to actively develop your team.

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If you have concerns you want to raise with your boss, then it makes sense to raise those concerns separately, as and when they’re needed.

Asking for a personal one-on-on meeting does not seem to make much sense in this case unless you have concerns on a weekly basis (if so, there’s a larger problem). If you ask for a regular 1-1, your boss will ask why. And you’ll also need to ask why you feel the need to monopolise your bosses time on a weekly basis.

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Many participants in a meeting help to minimize "empty" gatherings without any outcome. If A has nothing to say on one appointment, then perhaps B has something and vice versa. That's why adressing something in a group instead of a 1-1 can be helpful.

1-1 meetings with boss are essential, but depending on your task and organization of your company and department they might not be required weekly.

I have experienced two kinds of meetings that are planned wrongly and make an unorganized or situation-unaware impression to the initiator.
Please transform both situations into a potential meeting with your boss and try to avoid the negative impression they can bring. Both should help you to decide if you really want to schedule a recurring meeting with a short interval with your boss.

Too often to get real news

"Dailys" are common in many companies, but for some tasks they simply don't pay to be done daily. Nothing new in most meetings becomes boring and meaningless to participants. It only rips them out of work, this starts to suck quickly.
To some people insisting on doing that too often would appear planless, over-organized and perhaps indicates not having other things to do - or thinking other participants have nothing better to do.

Essence: Don't plan to occupy your boss just because the calendar tells to do so.
Then it's best to stretch this appointment or only plan it on request.

Too detailed - wrong target group for topics

I also experienced large meetings with many people speaking about details that most of the others are not interested in or responsible for.
This indicates a wrong group of target people.

In your case, perhaps certain subjects abre better discussed with team leaders, group leaders, other colleagues?

Essence: Don't occupy your boss with things he actually has planned another person for.

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    Any idea why this was downvoted?
    – puck
    Mar 21, 2021 at 15:09
  • I did not down vote but from reading it ... it doesn't seem to address the question directly and starts talking about meetings (bad vs good) and some other topics. I would say, just from perusing it, that it's difficult to see how it relates to the question (too wordy). Just my passing thoughts.
    – David
    Mar 25, 2021 at 2:08
  • @David Yes it's wordy but not going beyond the actual question would mean to say not more than "yes" or "no" without any explanation. That would leave OP without a clue or help to evaluate the situation on their own and is not helpful at all.
    – puck
    Mar 25, 2021 at 8:15
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Should I start a weekly one-on-one meeting with my boss?

Yes. I valued one-on-one meetings with my bosses immensely. And I valued one-on-one meetings with each member of my team even more.

I usually scheduled weekly 30 minute meetings with each direct report, spread out throughout the week. Sometimes we needed less time, sometimes more.

I always had an agenda:

  • how did things go the past week
  • what's coming up for the next week
  • unplanned activity
  • time away next week
  • issues and concerns

I also keep a Word document that I add to whenever something comes up that I want to remember to discuss.

I update and save all of these as input to the weekly status report that went to management and to the annual performance review process.

Can I recommend the one on ones meeting to my boss?

You can, and you should. At least ask if you can try it a few times and see if it seems valuable or not.

Is it necessary?

While not necessary, I would find it harder to be effective without them. Personally, without regular one-on-one meetings I think you are both missing out.

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  • The OP writes the team is "about 20 engineers". Assuming you are not suggesting the OP should for some reason request some special treatment, that's 20 times 30 minutes = 10 hours, every week. At an 8 hour day, that's more than 1/5 of the boss's working time blocked by meetings that most probably frequently overlap in content to some extent, require follow-up meetings because many of the points brought up will probably necessitate discussion with other team members, and still do not make the full-team meetings obsolete. I have a hard time imagining how to fit that into anyone's schedule. Mar 21, 2021 at 10:47
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    +1. Don't know why this got a downvote, as I think its right and I agree with almost all of it. I think being able to hold weekly meetings is only feasible below a smallish number of direct reports, otherwise the boss will be doing nothing else. Maybe every 2 weeks? Perhaps it depends on the report; maybe you'd want most at 2/3 weeks and specific people weekly.
    – Justin
    Mar 21, 2021 at 10:49
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    @O.R.Mapper if a manager has too many direct reports to hold regular (weekly or fortnightly) 1:1s with all of them, that manager has too many direct reports. Mar 21, 2021 at 22:13
  • I don't think this is bad at all but as another commenter pointed out, it's not fiscally responsible or productive for medium to large teams. Also, it's a bit underhanded to keep notes on what an employee says without them knowing it's being logged and used against them. TBH, I wouldn't want to work for a manager like that (and won't). Disclosure: I did NOT down vote, I just saw this reply today.
    – David
    Mar 25, 2021 at 2:00
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    Yes, very important. I agree with most of this answer too. I would add that as a contractor I used to get my timesheet signed weekly so very important to me. A formal one on one might be too much but you could exercise good meeting disclipline and shorten the meeting when there is nothing left to say. Mar 27, 2021 at 10:44
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Having one-on-one conversations is very useful. Especially right now where everyone works from home and there is very little casual personal contact.

But scheduling them periodically each week would only be useful when you actually have some special role which requires frequent 1:1 exchange with your manager. Imagine everyone on your 20 person team would insist on a weekly personal talk with the manager. Each of these talks would be 30 minutes pure talking time, plus additional 30 minutes of preparing and making notes afterwards. So 20 of your manager's 40 work-hours per week would just be those 1:1 meetings. I am sure that your manager got lots of other responsibilities, so that might not be the most efficient use of their time.

Instead of that, schedule 1:1 meetings on a situational basis, when you actually have something important you want to talk about. Just giving routine status updates on your everyday work would not be something important. There are far more efficient ways to manage workload distribution in teams than having a manager micro-manage the tasks for their employees. A good manager is one who makes themselves unnecessary. One who finds and establishes a system where every team member always knows what to do and the whole operation runs smoothly without the manager ever having to get personally involved. Coming up with such a system, monitoring it and getting involved whenever it doesn't perform satisfactory is your managers job. But if you do have a good suggestion for such a system which allows everyone to work more efficiently (including your manager), then that might be an example of something to schedule a 1:1 meeting about.

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Yes and no. There are two different issues here: the need to talk to a manager about the job environment, and the need for a mentor to help you with your current concerns.

Your manager might not be the best person to be your mentor.

You state, "sometimes I fear to express my concerns or reveal the risks and ask for help". This suggests that you need a mentor to help you with how to be part of the team. This person can be a more senior person in the team or it could be someone outside the company who you can trust to give you advice on how to handle such situations.

This is the person you need to be talking to on a regular basis.

You need also to know how to ask the right people in the team for information and help.

Your manager is the person you need to talk to about work environment, needed equipment, vacation and other time off, etc. These are things that a manager can solve / deal with.

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