Dysfunction 16 – One to one meetings

Having been lucky enough to work on a truly agile team for nearly 2 years, I forgot about the nonsense of regular 1-1 meetings.

They are about as useful as a shit in a sandwich, but I am now reminded that unfortunately they are rife across large organisations.

I’ve become aware of people sneaking off together all over the place to sit in meeting rooms and look through lists of stale information.

I heard this conversation the other day:

Staff: ‘You missed our 1-1 meeting’

Manager: ‘Did I, oh no sorry about that’

Staff: ‘So should I re-schedule it?’

Manager: ‘yes – check my diary, although the next few days are pretty choca’

Staff: ‘OK, I’ll have a look and pencil something in.’

 

I wanted to jump out of my seat and shout ‘Monkey cocks’. I don’t why, but it felt appropriate at the time.

You just can’t make this crap up.

Wouldn’t the conversation look different if you take the 1-1 meeting out of the picture?

Staff: ‘Hi – I have a question to ask you, and some information that came to light today I need to share with you. ‘

Manager: ‘OK, I will be free for 30 mins later today, so we can talk then, or is there something urgent that needs to be dealt with straight away?’

 

If only…

Is there anything less conducive to sharing information?

I’m guilty of having advocated these in the past, but no longer will you catch me colluding with this dysfunctional behavior (and if you do you have full permission to slap me round the face with a dead cat).

Here’s a short list of reasons why I think they are just plain stupid:

1. It stops communication in the moment, as you wait for your designated day / time slot.

2. It means information is not radiated widely around the team.

Told you it was a short list.

Anyway – at work open conversation is so important to, well, everything.

If we can’t ask a question, share an idea or exchange information when we need to then something is seriously wrong.

Even if you don’t work in the same location, you should be able to pick up the phone and talk when you need to, but these meetings force us to wait and all that does it create waste.

Managers who do not have time to just talk with colleagues, because they have ‘back to back meetings’ all day, every day are not managers at all, christ they can’t even manage their own diaries.

Having a conversation in private is fine – when it’s needed. But having a scheduled 1-1 meeting is just nonsense.

I’ve worked with a team of 15 people for 2 years and no-one had a scheduled 1-1 meeting with the manager, and it was probably the best job I ever had.

The way the team worked together so closely and shared information so freely was liberating.

Everyone was in the loop pretty much all the time. Problems got resolved and questions got answered quickly.

There were no excuses about not being aware of what was going on or needed.

So, next time a manager suggests having a regular 1-1 meeting as a replacement to just talking when we need to, I am going to choose to say no and provide an alternative.

Either that or I might just stand up and shout ‘Monkey cocks’.

 

 

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There are 7 comments for this article
  1. Andrew at 8:16 am

    One to One meetings are one of the reasons I stay a contractor.

    I used to hate them as a permy. They were always about how engaged I was with the company and what I could do to become more engaged. Obviously if I wasn’t happy about something with the company then it was my own fault and I needed to take steps to resolve it. My sarcastic suggestion of shouting the company’s mission statement at the top of my voice 3 times whilst standing on my desk before I started work every day didn’t seem to go down to well, funnily enough. I became a contractor soon after that…

    On my second contract, I’d been there quite a while and had several extensions. One day my manager thought it would be a good idea if all contractors had one to ones, like all the permanent members of staff, as he felt they were a good idea. I handed in my notice the next day. Perhaps I should have just yelled “Monkey cocks!” at him, but I haven’t had a one to one since, so who knows?

    • Steve at 9:10 am

      You, sir, are a genius. I’m a consultant right now and I’m required to have 1:1s. It’s stupid and ridiculous. It’s a time for managers to complain about you and nitpick. I think this idiot manager forgot that I’m a consultant, which means I work for myself. I’m not drinking your company Kool-Aid and I never will.

  2. Alex at 8:21 am

    I’ve had managers like that. Stuck in front of their screens all day with headsets on in back to back to back to back teleconferences. Then they’d leg it to lunch, come back and repeat what happened in the morning. You’d barely get a few minutes with them if you needed anything and information came back from him in dribs and drabs so I could never see how this benefitted the team!

    Agile is definitely the way to go…..keep up the good work 🙂

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