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Background: I'm working in a software company. I've had a new manager for a few months. 1-on-1 meetings are kind of standard for the company. Their main focus is usually career development, personal progress and project updates (not a huge fan of the last one, but that is how it was).

The problem: My new boss talks most of the time during these meetings. Like 90%+. I'm not used to that and, in the two meetings we had so far, I can't seem to find a way to talk about career development, progress, achievements and so on. If I mention career and promotion, I immediately get bombarded with more and more business objectives. Then the monologue about them follows and there is nothing left for me but to nod along.

Additional note: The issue with these new objectives is that they shadow the already completed ones. So we don't get to talk about what was achieved and sometimes what was not. It seems that if something is completed, then it is not important anymore.

My question: How can I refocus the meeting back to career development?

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    Related posts - How can I tell people to get to the point? How to politely tell someone to stop explaining? But if there are different expectations between the two of you for what's supposed to happen during a one-on-one, it's a bit of a different story. – Dukeling Aug 9 '17 at 19:19
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    If I mention career and promotion, I immediately get bombarded with more and more business objectives. --- this sounds like he is answering your question - you want to move up, you need to achieve more. Or, are the objectives unrelated? – user45269 Aug 9 '17 at 19:53
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    @mtt - that is a good clue which you may want to include in your description, because now it seems to me that your boss isn't accidentally talking too much, but rather moving the goal posts on you and preventing you from talking and asking questions - on purpose. And, that is entirely different. – user45269 Aug 9 '17 at 20:17
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    Have you tried listening to what he is saying and adapting your actions to conform to his expectations? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 9 '17 at 21:04
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    What is lacking in your question is what do you want to improve. Your boss talks a lot ok but that's not necessary the true problem, it seems to be more around the fact that when you try to talk about career development, he dropped the subject. So you may rephrase your question about "How do I discuss career development with a boss that won't let me talk about it in 1 on 1 regular meeting ?" (or something better, my phrasing isn't good). – Walfrat Aug 10 '17 at 15:28
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+50

Instead of acquiescing to only what your boss wants to discuss in your one-on-one, schedule a different meeting with career and promotion as the topic. Before you go, prepare a written agenda and attach it to the meeting request. This way, the thing you're looking to discuss is completely obvious BEFORE you show up to the meeting.

If you think you'll get push-back, you might just want to include your boss's boss in the meeting.

  • Another meeting is a good idea, but (for the long-term) I think it's worth trying to highlight that it was supposed to be part of the one-on-one, e.g. right after the one-on-one: "looks like we didn't get around to discussing X / I actually still have a few things I'd like to discuss, can I schedule another meeting for this?" – Dukeling Aug 9 '17 at 19:27
  • @Dukeling this isn't something that OP needs to be timid about - i.e. "asking" for a meeting vs just sending a request. No need to highlight that it was "missed" because "missed" is not the focus. Best to be VERY direct with that type of person as a boss. – Xavier J Aug 9 '17 at 20:02
  • I suppose it depends if OP wants these points to be discussed regularly or whether it's more of a one-time or rare thing. If OP wants this to be regular, and doesn't get much value from the one-on-one currently, it's worth pointing out the "missed" aspect, not because scheduling such a meeting would be frowned upon and thus needs to be handled carefully, but rather because this highlights to the manager that OP did not get what they want to get out of the one-on-one meeting, and that might change how future meetings are handled. – Dukeling Aug 9 '17 at 20:11
  • @XavierJ, I did not downvote, but, I would like to point out that if you read the later comments between myself and the OP, and the edit the OP made as a result of those comments, it appears that the boss is doing this on purpose - effectively ignoring concrete achievements made by the OP - which changes the meaning of the original post. – user45269 Aug 9 '17 at 21:55
  • @Prinz this is why I wrote my answer as I did. With my approach, OP doesn't have to guess at the boss's intention at all. Having an agenda and the boss's manager there will keep the meeting on track. There's no point in devoting any energy to something that's ambiguous. – Xavier J Aug 9 '17 at 23:50
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Use Follow-up Email

Let him continue his methods, but, write down whatever new objectives he gives you.

Then, after the meeting, send him an email, stating:

We discussed achieving X, Y, and Z as requirements for me to move ahead to a "Lead Developer". If I missed anything or need anything else, please let me know.

Before the next meeting, forward the original objectives email, stating that you have achieved X, Y, and Z and would like to discuss the timing of you becoming a "Lead Developer".

By sending a follow-up email to discussions you erode the value of his talking technique.

Given that he uses this technique a lot, if he responds to your email requests with a "lets talk about it" - make sure you always send a follow-up - you want a documentation trail - which is exactly the opposite of what he wants.

Eventually, he will be forced to honor his promises - or - it will become clear that he never will.

  • The question doesn't mention anything about specifically being promoted to "Lead Developer", or state that the boss is giving objectives that are specific points toward a promotion. It would be wrong to infer, and stupid (perhaps even career-suicide) to put into an e-mail without a discussion as it creates a paper trail for something that was never agreed upon. – Xavier J Aug 9 '17 at 21:37
  • @XavierJ - You are correct. I missed putting "Lead Developer" in quotes, but have now done so, so that can be a placeholder for whatever the OP is trying to achieve. As far as promotion, I got that from the OP post ("If I mention career and promotion....") - I assumed the objectives were related to promotion. Finally, the purpose of the email is to confirm the discussions with the OP's boss - not to make anything up. – user45269 Aug 9 '17 at 21:47
  • This is the answer to the current question. Good job seeing it :) – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 10 '17 at 16:46
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    I don't read the question as there being concrete goals given directly corresponding to a promotion or raise, or that the boss is necessarily lying. Quite the opposite in fact - it sounds like there's a total lack of promises made and no relation drawn between goals and how achieving them would affect career progression. As such, I'm not sure this approach would work for OP. – Dukeling Aug 14 '17 at 11:26

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