Questions to Ask your Manager in 1:1s

A one-on-one meeting with your manager is a chance to explore a wide range of issues, from your own career advancement options to your manager’s personal preferences and expectations. Employees who don’t prepare for such meetings find themselves struggling to come up with relevant questions and topics on the spur of the moment–creating an awkward situation that casts the employee in a poor light and leaves both parties feeling uncomfortable.

Creating a list of good questions to ask senior management provides you with topics to discuss during employee/manager meetings. The following questions can easily be incorporated into any 1:1 meeting template, and help build a relationship of trust, support, and mutual respect with your manager.

Good Questions to Ask Your Manager

  1. What’s one thing I can do to help improve the performance of the team? This question serves two purposes: you’re affirming your commitment to team performance and inviting a discussion of your own skill set, which can transition into talking about needed training or career advancement.
  2. What’s the one thing preventing the team from operating at peak performance? There’s always room for improvement. The answer to this question reveals the skills and issues your manager feels are important.
  3. How Did You Decide on the Target Outcome for Project X? Understanding how your manager determines target outcomes helps you reach those goals–and plan ahead for future projects.
  4. Who are the team’s top performers? What can I do to emulate them? Emphasizing your willingness to learn from the best helps build your skill set, while positioning you as an employee who’s open to feedback and willing to learn.
  5. How can I help the best people on the team be more successful? Remind your manager you’re all about the team with this question. You’re putting the team before yourself, while subtly asking how you can become a more valuable asset.
  6. What’s one thing we should stop doing? No team is perfect. Your manager will have opinions on changes that should be made. Asking this question invites her to put those concerns into words, triggering change.
  7. How do you think X issue went? Could we have resolved it better? Whether it’s a supply problem, interpersonal conflict, or shift in organizational priorities, your team is constantly reacting to potentially negative issues. Explore ways the team could have better handled them.
  8. What do you want to know about my position? In large departments, managers may not have a comprehensive understanding of every team position. Offer an opportunity for him to ask questions about your role in the company.
  9. What would you change in my position and why? Does your manager have opinions on your position? Is it possible to make any changes she recommends? If not, why not?
  10. How would you prefer to update me on tasks or other issues? Does your manager prefer to deliver updates in person, through email, or through a check-in dashboard? A willingness to work with your manager’s preferred system increases your chances of receiving regular, relevant feedback.
  11. How would you prefer to receive information from me? On a related note, how does your manager prefer to receive employee feedback, questions, and updates? Using his systems makes it easier to alert the manager to issues and to ask for what you need.
  12. What achievements do you hope to accomplish in your current role? This question provides insight into your manager’s short-term goals, which can influence which tasks you prioritize.
  13. What are your career goals? Understanding your manager’s long-term career goals helps provides insight into how and why she makes decisions.
  14. What is the most important thing your boss cares about? In most cases, your manager reports to someone higher up the managerial chain. This person’s expectations influence your manager’s actions, and by extension, your own work.
  15. What can I do to make you more successful? Managers often direct this question at employees. Reverse roles and ask your manager what he needs from you.
  16. What do you think is fair for me to expect from you? What does the manager see as her responsibilities to you? How much involvement does she think she should have with your daily workload and decisions?
  17. What do you think is fair for you to expect from me? Gain an understanding of your manager’s style with this question. Does she expect 24/7 availability? Does she expect you’ll make your own decisions within your area of responsibility, or does she expect to be consulted?

Using a 1:1 Template for your Manager Meeting

Choose one or two of these questions to ask in every meeting, and add them to your 1:1 meeting template. The questions you raise may influence action items identified by the meeting, or change the tone of administrative updates. Asking questions provides fuel for your conversations with managers, helps you learn more about your manager and organization, and opens the door for career path discussions.

We recommend marking discussed items as “Complete”, and adding comments to serve as reminders for follow-up. More 1:1 best practices are available in this article.