List of Questions to NOT ASK & to ASK on Your One-on-One Meeting

August 21, 20194:16 pm
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Managers hold huge accountability in managing employees and workplace culture. They possess power and great function in an organisation. Their role is dominant in business with almost 70 percent of what managers do impact the whole organisation’s bottom line. Besides, they are also the heart of an organisation who can either break or make company goals. Not to mention, they also have a responsibility to take care of employees by doing a one-on-one meeting.

Managers, however, are individuals who are prone to making mistakes – just like any of us. Yet, compared to employee’s mistake, faulty in managers might have greater cost as they are not only important for business goals but also employee’s wellbeing. Thus, projecting a wrong decision will affect both business and employees at all cost. As small as preparing for a one-on-one meeting might cost a lot in your employee investments, said Claire Lew, the CEO of Know Your Team.

See also: 7 Important Questions to Evaluate Your Performance at Work

One-on-one preparation is quite light yet potent enough for company bottom line. Having wrong questions asked during a one-on-one meeting will not only waste everyone’s time, but also squanders a valuable opportunity to support your direct rapport, added Lew. Hence, it is critical to know what questions that could decrease the effectiveness of your one-on-one meetings. Here are four common ones.


1. Opening question “How is it going?”

To break the ice, you might want to sound casual by asking how are you? How are things? Or how is it going on? Yet, the answer you get will always be “fine” or “good”, right? Although asking this kind of question is normal as you care about your employees’ wellbeing, frequently asking these questions might indicate that you care less on “what truly happens” and use the question merely for formality. As Lew mentioned, “How is it going? has become an automatic greeting to each other, so the answer to it has become just as automatic.”

2. Starting Question “What’s the latest on…?”

One of one-on-one meeting purposes is to dig the latest information on anything that involves you, business, and employees. Albeit this question might help you a lot, it can block important information from your discussion. “What’s the latest on X?” question is too broad and flat signal if you want to get specific and detailed answers.

3. Personal development question “How can I help you?”

Landing a hand when your team needs you is what employees need. But asking “How can I help you?” question will not be helpful at all. Lew cited that this is the worst way to signalling your good intention because it sounds lazy. In addition, this question also hard to answer as it implies that you ask the individual to critique YOU, the boss. Consequently, employees might rarely give a precise thoughtful answer.

4. Vague question “How can we improve?”

This is the vaguest and broadest question a manager could ever ask. Asking this question does not invite the right answer, instead, it will lead to confusion such as what improvement? Employee’s improvement? Or business improvement? Or improvement on the latest project? So, instead of getting the answer you want, you will likely get a variant of “I think things are pretty good right now” about 90 percent of the time, said Lew. Then, it might conclude to an awkward and unsatisfactory meeting.  

Now, what questions you should ask instead?

Those “don’t ask questions” are broad and vague ones that lead to broad and vague answers. So, of course, you should ask more specific questions to generate better meeting outcomes. With the variety of topics you should cover, here are 23 most important questions to ask in order to get detailed answers according to professionals.

Opening questions
  • How are you? How is your life outside of work?
  • How do you think your work/life balance is right now?
  • What’s one thing we could change about work for you that should improve your personal life?
  • What motivates you to come to work each day?
  • What did you do for fun in the past that you haven’t had as much time for lately?
Personal development questions
  • What are your long term goals? Have you thought about them?
  • What are your superpowers? What powers would you like to develop?
  • Do you feel challenged at work? Are you learning new things?
  • What skills would you like to develop right now?
  • What additional training or education would you like?
  • Are there any roles in the company you’d like to learn more about?
Personal progress questions
  • What’s one thing we could do today to help you with your long term goals?
  • What are your big dreams in life? Are you making progress on them?
  • Are there any events or training you’d like to attend to help you grow your skills? (If yes, what can we do to help you attend events or training you desired?)
  • Who in the company is likely your role model? What progress do you make by learning from him?
Feedback questions
  • How do you prefer to receive feedback?
  • Do you feel you are getting enough feedback? Why/why not?
  • What aspect of your job would you like more help or coaching?
  • How many hours a day do you feel that you are productive? How could we help you be more productive?
  • How can I support you better in terms of your personal development (professional development)?
  • What is something I could do better? What is a criticism you have for me? (Encourage employees to talk honestly and openly)
  • Is there a situation you’d like my help with?
  • What could I do to make you enjoy your work more?

Read also: 5 Important Interview Questions to Assess Candidate’s Potentials