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Weekly One-on-One Meetings: Productive or a Waste of Time?

By Maurie Backman - Aug 18, 2017 at 7:47AM

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Do you dread that weekly sit-down with your boss or look forward to it? Here's why recurring one-on-one meetings can be a blessing and a curse.

Most folks who work in corporate America aren't strangers to meetings. From team-focused sit-downs to departmentwide updates, there's a good chance meetings eat up a sizable chunk of your workweek. In fact, middle managers spend about 35% of their time attending meetings, and for upper management, that number climbs to 50%.  

But there's a new meeting trend that a growing number of companies are embracing, and many folks are on the fence about whether it's a positive one or not. We're talking about the weekly one-on-one between manager and direct report, and it's a meeting that's popping up on more and more calendars across the country. Here are some of the advantages and drawbacks of having that regularly scheduled one-on-one.

A man and a woman meeting at a desk.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Benefits of weekly one-on-one meetings

Though squeezing in an extra meeting might detract from your core responsibilities, from an employee perspective, it may be worth your while. Having a recurring one-on-one meeting with your manager gives you an open line of communication to express any concerns you might have or solicit feedback. It's also a good way to ensure that everyone's expectations stay in check with regard to the work you're responsible for.

Say you're tasked with a major, multimonth project with various moving parts. If other teams are slowing you down along the way, you'll have a chance to discuss that with your manager as it's happening so that if you end up needing to extend your deadline, it won't appear as though you've dropped the ball.

Furthermore, if your manager tends to be perpetually booked, having that time blocked off on both of your calendars can help ensure that you don't have to wait too long for your boss to weigh in on items needing approval or respond to questions you might have.

From a manager's perspective, having a weekly one-on-one meeting can make for a better relationship with his or her direct reports. By setting aside that time on your calendar, you're sending the message that you're committed to making yourself available. Those meetings can also help ensure that your direct reports stay on track with regard to major projects or assignments and that you're kept in the loop throughout. Some people just aren't that good about providing updates and regular communication, but if you're stuck in a room with someone for 30 minutes each week, you'll have ample opportunity to get at that information.

Drawbacks of weekly one-on-one meetings

On the other hand, one-on-one meetings aren't always a necessary practice. The most obvious downside of weekly one-on-one meetings is that they take up time -- time that could otherwise be spent doing actual work. From an employee perspective, spending 30 minutes in a one-on-one meeting might seem like a huge annoyance when there's a major project overhead with a looming deadline. And if you're a manager with an already-tight meeting schedule, squeezing those one-on-ones in might be a burden.

Additionally, though weekly one-on-one meetings can be productive, in certain environments, they can end up being a significant waste of time. If you have a well-oiled team of diligent workers who are good communicators, there may not be a need for weekly individual sit-downs. Yet if that time is already blocked off on your calendar, and you cancel it because there's not much to say, you might come off as disinterested or aloof.

Are weekly one-on-one meetings right for your team?

If you're new to the world of weekly one-on-one meetings and want to give them a shot, by all means, go for it. At the same time, be open to the idea of canceling meetings when both you and your direct reports agree that there's nothing that needs to be discussed, so that you can all use your time more productively. And, if you find that you don't need a weekly sit-down, consider holding those one-on-ones on a biweekly basis, or even once a month. As a manager, one of your goals should be to make yourself appropriately available to your team, but you don't necessarily need a weekly meeting to accomplish that.

Furthermore, if you are going to hold these meetings, do your best to make them productive. Come prepared with a list of questions and talking points, and ask your employees to do the same. 

Finally, as an employee, remember that you might get some say in those recurring meetings, too. If you find that they're truly a waste, or that you need that time to get your work done, speak up and say so. Unless your company has a policy mandating those meetings, your manager might agree to spread them out more or conduct them on an as-needed basis. And that might be the right solution for both of you.

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