In big companies, by which I mean any company with more than 50 employees and maybe a round or two of funding, managers really like to sit down with their team-mates for 1:1s.

A 1:1 is a meeting with two people in it. Other names for a 1:1 are

  • Awkwardly formal conversation
  • Scheduled corridor conversation, but in a room
  • Unnecessary meeting

At a 1:1, a manager tries to understand what's going on in the employees head. It's usually entirely unrealistic, because a) the manager has only limited power to improve the employees life, and b) the employee can't say what they really think because, frankly, it'll mean it's time to move on.

Here's what a realistic 1:1 conversation would look like, if it ever could happen.

Manager: "So, how are things going? Do anything fun on the weekend?"

Employee: "Yes! I did some things I truly enjoy which had nothing to do with work. Work is fine, but c'mon, my kickboxing lessons and frisbee in the park with my dog were way more awesome."

Manager: "Oh, I get it. I caught up on a ton of performance reviews and felt productive. But it's far from what I imagined my life would be like at this age. I spent a while staring at the wall and wondering how it came to this."

Employee: "That's why I don't want a promotion and why I've been spending 70% of my time planning my next vacation. I mean, when else am I supposed to be doing the planning work?"

Manager: "Right, I had been wondering what you had been doing lately. I remember we talked about that optimisation project being the highest priority. Why haven't you finished it? Are you lazy?"

Employee: "I'm actually super productive, just not on that, because I hate it and I don't genuinely like you or doing what you say. I mean you're fine as a person, but we really don't get along and wouldn't be friends anywhere else. I feel good when I'm doing something that I want to do, even if it's not useful, like shopping for a camera I don't actually want."

Manager: "What do you mean 'super productive'? If you were super productive you'd have planned your vacation by now!"

Employee: "Well, that's my fault... I made a spreadsheet of the options, partly to make it look like work, and partly because I make spreadsheets for things by default now. Then it felt like work and I started hating it."

Manager: "I have a good itinerary for that place you're going if you want. My spouse and I loved it. You want me to send it to you?"

Employee: "Definitely! Please send it so I can ignore it because I think I'm way cooler than you. In fact, I'll probably avoid most places you mention.

Manager: "You think you're cooler, but actually, you're really just a younger version of me. Look at me. I am your destiny."

Employee: *Screams*

Manager: "OK, for the rest of this week, can you please pretend to work for the first two hours of the day? Oh, and I need this thing by Friday, which means you should get up really early on Friday morning and do it."

Employee: "I will not produce your stupid document! I hate documents!"

Manager: "Do it or I'll send you a slack message to remind you to check my email!"

Employee: "Oh dear god. OK.