A guide for employees to evaluate their one on one meeting with their manager. Tips best practices and ideas on when to speak up.

Manager One on One Meeting : The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

A guide for employees to evaluate their one on one meeting with their manager. Tips, best practices and ideas on when to speak up.

A lot of employees are afraid of having a one on one (1 on 1s) meeting with their manager, and instead try to avoid them. Don't worry if you also feel that way! However, you can reframe the way you think about one on ones.

Done right, the one to one meeting can set you apart from the rest of the team and can give you greater visibility of your manager's view about your performance. You can walk away from your one on one meeting with your supervisor with ideas on how to complete your goals and key information on how to get promoted. Obviously there is another side to one on one meetings as they can go terribly wrong. That is the case primarily when managers don't dedicate any time to their employees and show up to the meeting not prepared. This is the most common reason why employees try to avoid the meeting.

How to recognize a bad manager one on one meeting

You can easily tell when the meeting with your supervisor is going badly, here are the most common indicators:

  • They show up late and primarily talk about things you are doing wrong, without backing them up with examples.
  • Your goals for the next 3, 6 and 12 months are not part of the conversation.
  • There is no mention of career progression and how you are benchmarking alongside your peers.
  • The focus is on small things rather than the bigger picture, for example easy tasks versus your key objectives.
  • The meeting is unstructured and there is no set agenda. It is the responsibility of both the manager and the employee to set the agenda .
  • The meeting ends with no action to be taken ahead of the next meeting.

What does a good manager one on one meeting look like?

It is not hard for a 1:1 meeting to be great, but it requires effort from both sides. The observations below indicate what a good manager one on one meeting should look like:

  • Your manager is engaged and has prepared for the meeting. For example she read your latest goal updates.
  • There is a 1 on 1 meeting agenda in place that covers goals, feedback, wellbeing and career progression.
  • The 1 on 1 agenda is followed and actions are established for each agenda item.
  • The manager provides constructive feedback backed with examples that can help you develop.
  • The supervisor is open to feedback and keen to understand where she can improve.
  • Meeting ends with clear actions for both the employee and manager that should be completed ahead of the next one one meeting.

What does an "ugly" manager one on one meeting look like?

We'ver covered the good and the bad, but there's another outcome that needs to be considered with manager one on one meetings: the "ugly".

  • The meeting keeps being rescheduled or the duration is reduced.
  • The meeting gets derailed and you start talking about ongoing work issues, irrelevant to your goals.
  • The manager is taking calls and reading emails during the meeting.
  • The meeting ends prematurely.
  • The manager asks to make the one on ones less frequent.

If your meeting lands in this category you should try to to escalate the problems to your supervisor or your manager's manager right away. Nobody deserves to settle for a bad manager, as it can seriously derail your career progress. A great manager one on one meeting will leave you feeling motivated and inspired to achieve your full potential.

Joseph Garvey

Joseph Garvey

Content Team

5 minute readPublished on July 29, 2019