How to Behave in Your One-on-one Meetings with Your Boss

one on one form
Over the years, I have sat through hundreds of one-on-one meetings with employees. Most were great, but too often staff would come unprepared. When that happened, all we could do is talk about what they did for the past two weeks and they would be forced to listen to my worldly advice. Not terribly productive. So, I started to mandate that they come with an agenda. When the didn’t, I would reschedule the meeting or cancel it.

Two important things. First, whether you like it or not, your boss is an important person in your life and you need to maximize the time you get with him or her. And second, make sure you take control of the meeting. This is your time and you need to own it.

Here’s what I suggest you do:


  • Between meetings, have a system to keep track of issues, project updates, follow-up items, things you have learned,etc. I use a table in Evernote.
  • Build an agenda from your list. Having your own agenda will keep your boss from dominating with theirs. Check out an example.


  • Start by sharing a copy of your agenda and ask what your boss wants to add to it.
  • Don’t spend the whole time simply reporting out what you are doing. Give a quick summary and spend the rest of the time on challenges, new ideas, learning opportunities, etc.
  • Take notes – focusing on action items.
  • Ask questions if you don’t understand something. Don’t worry about looking dumb, you will look far worse if you fail later.
  • Bring up what’s not working. Again, don’t worry about looking bad, worse when he or she eventually finds out.
  • Don’t be afraid to challenge when you don’t agree, but do it gently. Remember your boss has the final say.
  • Don’t give unsolicited feedback. The only exception is when you are not getting what you need, and again be gentle.
  • Learn to take negative feedback. Suck it up and focus on how you can change and grow and let go of the judgment aspect of it.
  • Ask what you are doing well if you are not hearing it.
  • Ask if there is anything you can do to help out more.
  • Don’t forget about your long term goals.
  • Talk about your career. Check out a post I wrote about this.


  • Organize your notes and your to-do list right away.
  • If something was decided in the meeting, follow-through with it. Don’t take decisions or request as mere suggestions.
  • Follow through with any action items ASAP.

If you not getting regular one-on-one time with your boss then you should ask for it. It’s hard to grow in your job without meeting at least a couple of times a month.

Doing the above will help brand you as someone who is organized and in control. Most importantly, your boss will also really appreciate you taking charge and doing most of the work.


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