Watch Out for These Mistakes in One on Ones (For Managers and Employees)

July 19, 2022
Shaimaa Badawi
Written By
Shaimaa Badawi

One on ones are all about increasing employee engagement by spending individual time with your employees to discuss their professional growth and development.

However, many managers may miss the point of regular 1:1s and start flipping the scenario and making them about a formal performance review. Managers need to remember the importance of giving direct constructive feedback to each employee and not pinpointing their faults.

On the other hand, employees should be prepared for one on one meetings with their manager and see it as an opportunity to discuss which areas they need to work on.

In this article, we're going to discuss what employees and managers should not do in one on ones:

What not to do in one on ones: for managers

What not to do in one on ones: for employees

One-on-ones manager tool for better meetings


What not to do in one on ones: for managers

1. Hog the conversation

Managers are used to taking charge in meetings, but a one-on-one meeting with employee is about allowing them to take the lead. Avoid hogging the conversation during the meeting by letting your employee talk for at least two-thirds of the meeting.

As a manager, you can ask the one-on-one meeting questions, listen intently to the employee's answers, and take notes of them. At the end of the meeting, you can dedicate 5 to 10 minutes for feedback.


2. Jump right into questions about their work

An emotionally intelligent manager knows how to start a conversation with their employees in one on ones. The first question in a meeting should be "How have you been feeling lately?"

This not only shows your employee that you care about their well-being but also lets them loosen up and get comfortable during the meeting. You can start with a couple of ice breakers for virtual meetings to help them get in the right mindset for the meeting.

Getting your employee to open up is the first step to effective one-on-one meetings. They'll be more likely to speak truthfully about their work experience and share with you their challenges and concerns without being afraid you'll hold that against them.


3. Turn it into a performance review

A one-on-one meeting is not a place for status updates or reviewing the employee's OKRs or KPIs. It should be about listening to the employee and talking about their accomplishments and how to build up on them to achieve growth.

There's no way your employee will talk about their career's development or challenges when they feel the meeting turned into an evaluation, and there won't be time for one-on-one meeting questions either. 

Remember to keep the focus on the employee's priorities, engagement, obstacles, and ambitions and leave a little time for giving and receiving feedback.


4. Not give the employee your full attention

You may be tempted to check your phone or emails during the meeting, especially if you're having it virtually and not in person.

But listening carefully to your employee is the number one rule for one on ones. How else will you be able to give them feedback or assign action items at the end of the meeting?

If you get easily distracted by notifications, make sure to turn them off during the meeting because if your employee feels they don't have your attention, they will be less likely to be engaged in the meeting.


5. Not follow up after the meeting

One on ones may not always end up with action items like other meetings because it's more of a casual conversation between a manager and their employee.

However, you'll always come up with solutions to the employee's challenges that must come up in the meeting. These decisions should bring the employee one step toward improving their overall performance and job satisfaction.

Make sure to follow up with your employee in the next meeting or you can have an asynchronous one-on-one meeting via email including a checklist of the decisions you made together. This will hold the employee accountable and remind them to keep those action items in mind until the next one on one.


6. Not give the meeting adequate time

If you plan to make your one on ones count, you have to give them the utmost importance. To do that, you should set aside adequate time for the meeting so that you can tackle all the points you need to discuss with your employee.

Make sure to show up to the meeting on time and be prepared with the talking points in the meeting agenda. It's best to dedicate time for each section in your agenda to make the best out of your one on ones.


7. Not create a meeting agenda

A one-on-one meeting agenda is the best way to ensure your one on ones run efficiently. Otherwise, you'll step into the meeting unprepared and you'll either end up stuck in one or two talking points or silent for the better part of the meeting.

While you shouldn't do most of the talking during the meeting, you can't expect your employee to run the meeting. It's your job as a manager to steer the 1:1 in the right direction so that the employee can pick up the conversation.

Make sure to share your agenda with the employee in advance so they have a chance to review the talking points and prepare their response to avoid awkward silences.


8. Not ask your employee for feedback

You may think that one on ones are about giving the employee feedback, but asking your employee for their feedback on you as a manager is just as important.

Receiving feedback about one on ones is crucial in enhancing employee engagement and ensuring they're worth the time and effort.

Ask your employee for suggestions to improve the flow of the meeting and let them come up with one-on-one meeting questions of their own. This way, you allow them to take ownership of the meeting and make a real contribution.


9. Often postpone the meeting

Many managers fall into this trap due to their busy schedules, but if you're not careful, it'll be months before you have your next one-on-one meeting with your employee.

Keep in mind that the whole point of one on ones is to have them regularly; otherwise, a lot of minor details will fall through the cracks, pile up, and create a big problem after a while.

Stick to your scheduled one on one meeting, and if you're having a tight schedule, have an asynchronous meeting once every other week and catch up with your employee in a quick call if they reported a big issue in their work.


10. Conducting the meeting only virtually or at the office

Every once in a while, it's better to have the meeting face-to-face and preferably outside the office environment. This could be especially helpful for your first one-on-one meeting with employee, so consider taking a walk in the park or having a cup of coffee to talk about their career prospects.

A casual setting is more effective in getting your employee to open up to you, which will help both of you get to their core issue at work. This will also require less effort from you to try to make the employee comfortable to share their concerns due to the informal vibe of this outing.


11. Have the meeting as a voice call

If you conduct the 1:1s on the phone or avoid video calls, it just won't be as effective. To understand where the person is coming from, you need to be able to see their gestures and maintain eye contact to understand their state of mind.

This meeting is not about stating facts or talking about a technical issue at work, but it's a personal get-together and you won't get the same results as seeing them.

A video call comes in handy when your team is working remotely, and face-to-face meetings trump them all, but it's important to avoid voice calls for one on ones because it's unlikely you'll get the desired results.


While it's the manager's responsibility to run the meeting, the employee should also be prepared for the meeting. After all, the one on one meeting is conducted for the employee's benefit. However, there are certain mistakes they could make unintentionally during the meeting, so let's find out what they are.



What not to do in one on ones: for employees

1. Take constructive feedback as criticism

A one on one meeting is designed to help the employee develop and grow in their career. The only way they can achieve this is by hearing constructive feedback from their manager, but if they take it defensively, they will completely miss the point.

Think about it this way; which is better: hearing about your weaknesses in an informal one-on-one meeting or having it come up in a formal performance evaluation?

It's a difficult thing to hear about your shortcomings, but instead of going into defense mode, take note of them and ask your manager how you could improve in these areas. Just as you expect your manager to listen to your concerns, you should definitely return the favor and work on yourself.

Here are 30 questions to ask in one-on-one meetings, pick what's best for the situation and feel free to add your personal touch.


2. Forget to review the meeting agenda

If you don't take a look at the one-on-one meeting agenda, you'll go into the meeting unprepared and won't make the best use of it.

Make sure to review the talking points and prepare your responses to these points to get the conversation going. Remember that you're supposed to do most of the talking in one on ones, and when your manager shares the meeting agenda with you, they expect you to be prepared to answer their questions.


3. Postpone or show up late to the meeting

It's not in your best interest to postpone your one on ones. If your manager was able to set some time aside for you, make sure to respect that by showing up on time and not postponing the meeting.

If your manager didn't feel you're invested in your one on ones, why would they make the effort of maintaining them? Remind yourself that this meeting is not a performance review, and if your manager turns it into one, don't be afraid to let them know about it, which brings us to the next point.


4. Avoid giving your manager feedback

A crucial part of your one on ones is telling your manager what you need from them and what they should know about your performance.

Don't hesitate to share your concerns at work whether if you're having a hard time dealing with a colleague or think you don't have enough resources or tools to optimize your work.

You should also be honest about a mistake you made because it's worse if your manager finds out about it on their own. They'll respect you for it and help you fix it, not to mention you won't feel stressed anymore from keeping it a secret.


5. Mention your milestones

Your manager is probably busy doing a million things during the week, so they may not have time to celebrate your achievements. However, you must remind them to dedicate a section of your one on ones to mentioning your milestones.

This not only shows them how well you've been doing but also helps them build up on your strengths by assigning tasks that fall under your specialty.

Talking about your achievements is also a direct way to receive credit for your work and claim ownership of what you do in the company. You want your manager to know what you've been doing with your time instead of letting them wonder about it.


6. Forget to follow up on action items

If you disregard the points discussed in your one on ones, your issues will remain the same every meeting. This is why it's important to take notes of your manager's suggestions and follow up on the action items in the next meeting.

Your manager will know you're serious about improving your performance when you take their tips into account and discuss which action items you were unable to complete.

Reviewing the meeting minutes can help you stay on track with the action items in the meeting, which is the ultimate way to build rapport with your manager.


We've emphasized the need for a one-on-one meeting agenda, taking relevant notes, reviewing meeting minutes, and assigning action items. So how can you achieve all that for an effective meeting?


A one-on-ones manager tool for better meetings

As a manager, your busy schedule may make face-to-face meetings with each and every employee unfeasible. It's only natural to search for a tool to make your one on ones more optimized.

How about an all-in-one meeting management platform that will allow you to have the meeting while taking notes, creating decisions, managing action items, and integrating with your favorite apps in one place?

With, you can create the one on one meeting, schedule it in sync with Google CalendarCalendly, or Office 365, set a time for each talking point, take notesduplicate your meetingsmanage action items, create decisions, and automatically generate meeting minutes for your employee to enhance performance.

You can integrate with one of your favorite communication tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex, and Google Meet and project-management tools like Jira, Asana, and Trello, in addition to other useful integrations.

Take a look at this video that shows you how to improve accountability and follow-up in your one on ones.



Get started on your 14-day free trial now and explore the outstanding features at for better one on one meetings:


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The bottom line

One on ones are essential for increasing employee engagement. If managers are not careful, they could miss the whole point of these meetings and end up with less than favorable results.

Employees may also fall into the same trap by taking the meeting lightly and not trying to benefit from the manager's valuable time.

We hope you can watch out for the mistakes mentioned here to take full advantage of one on one meetings and recommend using an all-in-one meeting solution to allow the conversation to run smoothly and have everything you need in one place.

Here are a few reasons to choose meeting management platform

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