Many managers and employees look at one-on-one meetings with a little (or a lot) of anxiety—and so too often they avoid them altogether.
But that means they’re missing the opportunity to give and receive regular feedback, which hurts employee engagement. Research from Gallup shows that when employees strongly agree they received "meaningful feedback" in the past week, they are almost four times more likely than other employees to be engaged.
Plus, setting aside time to connect every week is good for your relationship as two people with goals, lives, stresses, and joys outside of the office as well. Having open discussions about what’s going on in your work and in your life deepens your engagement as people and colleagues too.
The best one-on-one meetings aren’t born out of a rigid checklist of the same questions to ask each time. But having a few go-to questions in your back pocket can ease some of the anticipations and make getting into a great discussion easier. Not to mention being intentional by planning your agenda ahead of time is also a great way for managers to improve company culture overall! Here are a few questions we love for both managers and employees to ask in your next one-on-one meeting and why they work so well.
Download our free One-on-One Meeting Agenda Template to start improving your meetings today!
One-on-one meeting questions for managers to ask employees
1. How are you feeling?
Knowing what’s going on in an employee’s life, whether it’s at work, at home, or in any other sphere of their world, helps managers gauge what support they need at this moment. It sets an open tone for the meeting ahead as well, which is great because you both might be feeling a little nervous as the meeting kicks off (that’s normal!). Instead of saying the usual "fine" or "good, thanks," encourage your employees to use a few descriptive words from this chart.
2. What are your priorities and plans for this week?
Checking in on your employee’s plans for the coming week helps you see what they’re focused on. It might surface some tasks you didn’t know they were taking on, an opportunity for new projects, or a chance to redirect their focus to a priority you want to make sure is high on their list.
3. What support do you need from me this week?
As a manager, you’re an enabler of the work your employees do—so what do they need from you right now? It might be removing roadblocks, prioritizing a heavy workload, or doing some exciting career development, but you won’t know until you ask.
4. What aspects of your job have energized you recently?
Finding what makes your people feel energized, happy, and recharged is one of the best parts of your role as a manager. And it can play a crucial part if you're wondering how to motivate employees. Asking employees this question can help you determine what kind of work makes them feel most empowered and engaged with their work and the organization so you can prioritize it where possible. Plus, the answer may surprise you!
5. What has challenged you in your role or working with others on the team recently?
Uncovering unexpected challenges is just as important as unexpected joys. This question can help you realize issues you might have been unaware of so you can remove roadblocks in an employee’s way, and help them feel supported and seen as well.
6. How are you progressing toward your long-term career and life goals?
One-on-ones should definitely focus on an employee’s career goals, but it’s also a good idea to check in on life goals too. After all, work is a critical part of a well-rounded life. Asking employees about both kinds of goals, and their current progress gives you a better understanding of how their work fits into that bigger picture. If you really want to be a good manager, you can help them achieve both!
7. How is everything going with the people you work with, or on the team?
Peer relationships are a vital part of workplace culture, so don’t forget to check in on them from time to time. This question can uncover positive collaboration opportunities, colleague conflicts, and also simply how connected your employee feels to the rest of the team, which is key to their happiness and engagement.
8. Do you have any questions about the recent organizational changes?
If your company has recently made any major announcements, organizational changes, or shifted processes or policies that might affect your employees, check in with them to see how they’re feeling and if they have questions. While changes may seem straightforward or clear to you, ensuring your reports feel informed and alleviating any anxiety they have is a good leadership practice.
9. Do you have any feedback for me?
Feedback is a two-way street! Ask your employees if they want to share any constructive, upward feedback to help you become a better manager—even if there’s nothing at the moment to say, the act of asking for their feedback regularly builds openness and trust.
10. Is there anything we didn’t cover that you’d like to discuss?
If your employee is on the quieter or more introverted side, or simply doesn’t know how to approach a tricky topic, this open-ended question can get them to open up. This is a good question for the end of the meeting to close out the chat.
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One-on-one meeting questions for employees to ask managers
1. How are you feeling?
Emotional check-ins go both ways—don’t be afraid to ask your manager how they’re feeling too! If you sense your manager is feeling tense or stressed, this question can be a great way to let them know you’re open to appropriate sharing and can be supportive with anything work-related.
2. What’s your highest priority right now? How can I help?
Knowing what your manager considers a high priority can help you organize your workload at busy times to focus on what truly matters to reach team goals. Asking this question will also show your manager that you’re willing to proactively help the team to succeed and help you manage up.
3. Is there anything I should be doing differently?
Even great managers can fail to give feedback regularly if there’s a lot on their plate. Asking for constructive criticism or advice can open up that discussion so you know where you're meeting expectations and where you might have some room for growth. If you’re struggling to understand the answers, asking a follow-up question like “Do you have examples?” can clarify the feedback.
4. What should I consider adding to my growth plan?
Your career development plan is a constant work in progress, and your manager is your partner and ally in your growth strategy. So don’t be afraid to ask if there’s anything missing from your current plan!
5. What are your long-term goals for the team?
Knowing how your manager envisions the team’s future can help you create a plan for your own future as well. It gives you the chance to explore new skills and opportunities and consider your career direction, whether it continues with your current team or somewhere else.
6. What are you most hopeful for and worried about in the team or organization’s future?
The answer to this question can offer insight into your manager’s thinking about what lies ahead for your team or company. It may alert you to organizational challenges or opportunities you weren’t aware of, industry trends, or simply some team dynamics you should know about.
7. What part of my job would you like more visibility into?
Your manager might not have as much visibility into your role or day-to-day tasks as you imagine, so asking them this question can allow you to shine a light on any gaps and keep them up to date on your hard work and accomplishments.
8. Is there anything I should prepare for our next one-on-one?
Proactively asking your manager about your next one-on-one does a few great things: it ensures the meeting cadence stays on track, and lets you prepare ahead of time for any larger conversations like upcoming opportunities.
Creating better one-on-one conversations
One-on-ones aren’t just another item on your weekly to-do list: they’re a very valuable way for employees and managers to communicate and connect. These questions are a way to start initiating more productive and helpful conversations on both sides, but don’t be afraid to get creative with them!
Looking for more ways to make your next check-in even better? See our guide to improving one-on-one meetings for managers!
Download our free PDF, Google, or Word Doc one-on-one meeting agenda template to take these meetings to the next level.
The template includes:
✅ Fillable form fields to record agenda and action items.
💡 One-on-one meeting best practices.
📘 Additional resources to help you improve your one-on-ones.