Why You Should Never Cancel Your One-On-One Meetings

Those personally tailored meetings take up a lot of time. But if you cut them, your work life will likely get more chaotic.

Why You Should Never Cancel Your One-On-One Meetings
[Photo: Flickr user Marcus Hansson]

Being stuck in a pointless meeting feels like productivity purgatory. We spend a lot of time thinking about how to make meetings faster, more productive, and less boring.


It’s tempting, then, to start slashing meetings from your schedule wherever possible. Do you really need to meet one-on-one with everyone on your team regularly?

“When faced with an onslaught of regular meetings, many managers fall into the trap of believing that they’re too busy to keep their one-on-one meetings with their direct reports,” writes Elizabeth Grace Saunders, time coach, author, and founder of Real Life E Time Coaching & Training. Here’s why she says the one-on-one must live.

You’ll End Up Doing Everything Twice

Cutting four 30-minute meetings with direct reports per day day seems like a huge time-saver. You’re adding a whole workday to your week! Limitless potential lies in those hours! But when you stop taking the time to talk to people face-to-face, or at least camera-to-camera, it could leave those who depend on your direction fuzzy on the details.

Instead of spending a focused half-hour talking through their questions and plans for a project, they could spend days and weeks working on something incorrectly, or wavering in focus because they’re not quite clear on direction. That’s a waste of your time and theirs, Saunders says.

Some employees thrive when they’re left to their own devices; others need a micromanager. Here’s how to tell the difference and adjust your management style accordingly.

Your Office Becomes A Rotating Door

Like lobbyists hoping to catch 30 seconds of your attention, Saunders says, employees will find new, ineffective, potentially annoying ways to get feedback. She writes:


When you cancel one-on-ones and compensate with an open door policy, your time investment mimics that of a call center employee who takes requests in the order they are received, instead of an effective manager and executive who aligns his time investment with his priorities.

Close the door, hang a “do not disturb” sign, and get focused.

Read more about why one CEO thinks “open door policies” are ridiculous.

You’ll Say Goodbye To “Inbox Zero” Dreams

So you’ve stopped scheduling regular check-ins, shut your office door in exasperation, and started to finally put those gloriously freed-up hours to use, only to find your inbox flooded with little notes and questions from everyone on your team. Where else are they supposed to turn for guidance?

Instead of saving these little questions for your regularly scheduled meeting, they’ll inevitably send them your way as they arise–and expect a prompt reply. Heart racing yet?

More on the losing battle of email catch-up: “Why It Doesn’t Matter That You May Never Reach Inbox Zero.”

You’ll Miss Valuable Creative Collaboration

We’d all love to work in a culture where everyone collaborates during a 30-person monthly meeting, speaking up when appropriate and taking turns sharing their progress. But, like that Inbox Zero utopia, we don’t. Some people will never comfortably share their true opinions and wild ideas in a big meeting, no matter how many prompting tricks and how-to books you try on the topic.


The one-on-one is a chance for shy workers to develop a rapport with their superior–someone who can lobby for them in a traditional workplace structure, and who will pay attention to their unfiltered ideas.

And the deep-thought moments aren’t lost just between you and the person you’re meeting with. Can you imagine getting any creative work done when the above three items are in chaos?

[via HBR]

About the author

Freelance tech, science and culture writer. Find Sam on the Internet: @samleecole.