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Ask HN: What’s your opinion on weekly 1:1s?

Ask HN: What’s your opinion on weekly 1:1s?

2023-06-09 01:48:21

Weekly 1:1 with your manager should provide benefits for you and for your manager.

Different people have different needs and the benefits such 1:1s provide may feel more or less useful.

For the employee, it’s a way to receive undivided attention from the manager. You can ask followup questions on an initiative that may not be right for a group call. The manager can share some context about what is happening that is more relevant to you than others. It’s a place to praise exceptional efforts or achievements. It’s a place to give constructive feedback or ask about things that are not going according to plan. They are great to make coordinate longer time off. For brainstorming an approach or validating a direction.

The manager should be listening attentively. It’s a way for them to get a qualitative feel for what is going on with each of their team members. They should see these 1:1s as a track of conversations instead of one-off chats. When done regularly, they can show a mood trajectory that is a signal for how projects and people are doing.

I can not imagine working with people without 1:1s. This goes both for my manager and for my team. Without the live in-person connection the relationship would only be based on mechanical processes, metrics, and written communications. All of these are important but without talking with people, they are too transactional and mechanical.

You should do it.

An hour is too long, just cut it short if you’ve got nothing to chat about.

The other comments about never talking to your boss and being productive are stupid wishful thinking and you should ignore them.

Your job as a senior is not to sit and hack away at code; that is a job for juniors.

You have to do “team” things too, and part of that is knowing what your team mates and boss are doing and expecting.

How are you planning on doing that without talking to them?

Most likely at least one member of your team is not communicating and it’s easier to apply a blanket policy than single one person out for it.

So, don’t take it personally, you’re not being micromanaged.

If the cadence feels too short, suggest you do it less often, but saying you see “no value” in them and want to opt out is the wrong approach, gonna make your boss unhappy and not solve anything.

All of my best engineering happened when I didn’t have a single meeting with my manager for 6 months.

That being said if you manage to get that one good unicorn manager (that 1 in 50) who knows how to actually manage, they are fantastic. If you you have a standard manager, you have to put in a lot of work to get value out of them.

If you have a bad manager, they may actively harm your mental health to the point where you are no longer able to function in your position.

The iron test of a 1:1 is asking “do I feel listened to,” which is distinctly different than “did they hear the words that I said, and respond.” They should also give and solicit feedback and set expectations appropriately.

> do I feel listened to

This is a good litmus test. A lot of managers refuse to understand the details of the systems and talk about how engineers need to provide “executive” summaries. This is the most bullshit argument I’ve ever heard. I spent many years at AWS, and one of my fav parts of working at AWS used to be Charlie Bell randomly picking Directors and Senior Management to answer basic reliability questions about their service. If they are unable to do that, they would be reprimanded infront of the entire organization. It was the perfect way to keep managers inline with the actual reality of their engineering organization.

AWS had many faults, but keeping managers honest was one of the good parts of working there.

I’ve found them (historically) to be a massive waste of time for everyone involved tbh, as both manager and managed person.

I found when I managed people, lighter touch management got me better results.

As a person being managed, again lighter touch works better – I can focus more on delivering actual results/value than “having something to fill a meeting”.

I guess maybe it’s of value for juniors or people new to a place?

My opinion: weekly 1:1 is a “must have”. But you’ve got to do them right.

I didn’t have them when I started my career, had them much later on both sides (as a direct report, and as a manager), so I guess I can do the comparison. From my experience this is the single most simple and efficient practice that you can put in place to: a) keep healthy relationship with your boss / your directs, b) always be up to date and on the same page, c) actually *save time* on your agenda and get distracted less.

The wonderful thing that happens when you start doing 1:1s: you always know that you will eventually and very soon have time to ask your questions, so you need fewer other meetings. And it is scheduled, so you get to plan your entire week! instead of being distracted by spontaneous meetings.

But as I mentioned, you’ve got to do them right. For the above to work, it has to be regular, scheduled, and mostly done on time. The manager must understand that this is not a reporting meeting, but on the contrary – time dedicated for the person in front of them, and only if some time is left, for the manager.

I’ve always had weekly 1:1s with my manager and I like them. For me it’s not about not being able to “manage yourself” but just about keeping an open conversation going. Maybe get some heads-up on priority changes or new directions of the company.

Sometimes they are only 5-10 minutes long but having a long running fixed slot is beneficial to me. If there’s something to discuss it’s easier to just bring it up there than scheduling a meeting out of the blue which makes everything a bit more formal and people might be wondering what it’s about.

On top of that we also have quarterly feedback 1:1s and we usually realize there’s not much to discuss as if there’s something wrong it would’ve been discussed at the weekly meeting already. Which seems better than the alternative of having things pile up until some quarterly meeting.

I’ve never had weekly 1:1s and rarely have monthly ones, but when I’m in a positioning when I’m managing people I always, always put in place a optional weekly 1:1 meeting which I used to just listen…

I always encourage colleagues to speak about anything they want, rant, complain ask for a raise, anything. It’s their time and I’m all ears, but the most important thing is that I am always there for that time each week no matter what.

Without consistency it doesn’t work.

Author here. Thanks for all the great and different insights and experiences. Especially also about ‘feeling being listened to’.

To be fair, I was a bit short in my description: I do have a great relationship with my manager and he is one of the best managers I ever had. Also, I am not a developer, but a product manager, so already used to steering the ‘ship’. We are in a relatively small team of 6 and we are all sitting together (including manager).

I’m also on side with regular one to ones. Especially as working can now be more remote, I think they are a useful touchpoint to help continue that relationship with the manager. The important thing, like all meetings, is to make sure that you’re getting the value out of it. If you don’t have anything to say & neither does your manager, then skip that week’s meeting. But having that constant slot & occasionally using it for just a chat occasionally can help a lot.

Weekly? Too often. An hour? Too long.

A fortnightly 30min calendar event is about right, and even then sometimes we skip it because there’s nothing to talk about. That’s the point, it’s there if we need it.

I think this is it, an hour a week can be too much in some cases, but never having 1-on-1s can lead to some things deteriorating, depending on the manager. Otherwise trivial issues accumulate and become non-trivial, both sides can get out of the loop etc.

This has been my experience as well. They have been ‘we got to fill in papers for HR’.

I’d like to think that some-one is doing these right, but they aren’t me.

I am with you. I don’t understand what 1:1s are for in a well-functioning team, where information flows freely. Or in a dysfunctional team, for that matter — dysfunctions can, and probably should, be addressed collectively.

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I had good experiences with them (assuming a good manager of course). I also like to write though and it helps me to collect my thoughts and summarize what I have done. Also, the meeting was only 15 mins usually.

Actually, I think that it depends on your org level:

– if you’re a developer, then your manager is supposed to be available to manage you “day-to-day”… so if any problem arise, you can just ask him directly. Obviously, if you’re experimented, you wont need your manager often…

– if you’re a manager, then you need to schedule 1:1 with your own manager (manager of manager) because it’s easier to synchronise schedule and have a consistent consolidated reporting on a regular basis without spending to much time (remember: you must be available for your teams problems… and the younger your team, the most time they need).

I think it depends on the quality of your relationship with your colleague. I’ve had 1on1’s that I always look forward to and others that I always dread. If you have a good relationship with your colleague or manager, I see them as a big plus.

No, you’re not alone. I’ve always expected from my managers that they will take my call if I need to speak to them. Likewise, if someone I manage needs to talk about anything, I’ll stop what I’m doing and listen.

I think 1:1s encourage bottling up of problems, with all the damage that causes.

Helping out a fellow human with their immediate need is almost always worth the context switch, IMHO.

Just use it to understand what your manager’s priorities are and how you can better align yourself to his interests. Working in big tech is basically being at the beck and call of your manager. Truly worked for some terrible managers in my career and I’m pretty sure it will continue for the rest of my life.

I like them. We work all-remote, so sometimes can go an entire week without speaking directly to my manager.

It works as a nice check-in to make sure we’re both aligned on what needs doing and what I’m actually working on.

I feel like weekly 1:1s are a sign of broken systems and processes. Managers should make time for team members whenever they need it, and team members should be free to ask.

> Managers should make time for team members whenever they need it, and team members should be free to ask.

This would be ideal and if the managers only job is to manage a team, this has never been the case for me though. Management has always just been an added responsibility for me. Generally I’m doing the same work as the team + managing the team so I’m not just sat around waiting for someone to come to me with something they need help with.

Additionally, I have had rare cases where team members won’t ask for help when they do need it, it’s not easy for some people to admit they are struggling. If you just wait for them to come to you, it’s often when they reach breaking point. In these cases a regular time slot to catch up is useful.

There really is no right or wrong, you can’t manage everyone with a set template. Some people are independent and like to be left alone, some thrive off feedback loops, others enjoy the social aspect of a 1:1 and will spend it telling you about their weekend or just getting to know you better.

What works for me is setting the 1:1s and making it it clear they can be cancelled by the team member if they want.

For new staff it is very important (for both sides) to know how things are going.

For established, productive staff they become a waste of time unless one side is driving them.

To me they are great, so much so that our team has expanded 1:1s to the point where everyone has a one on one with each other (one 30 mins meeting every two weeks where the participants change every session).

The benefit I take out of these sessions is that it allows people to be human easily. Big calls like a retro are incredibly useful but no matter how much people are comfortable with each other, due to size of the group alone, people won’t always truly speak their minds.

With 1:1s you have two humans speaking with each other, conversations naturally flow much better this way. Which proves to be a good place for people to be natural, discuss ideas and take those ideas to other sessions (such as the retro).

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