Questions to Ask Employees

One-on-one Meetings

Sample Questions

These are great examples of questions for managers to ask in one-on-one meetings. It is important that these conversations are honest and productive, the questions below will assist in achieving this in your one-on-ones. 

Adapted from Quora

Many managers like to use the same, unassuming opener each week to start one-on-one meetings. It may seem boring, but doing so encourages direct reports to drive the conversation by starting with a topic they want to talk about (remember, it's their meeting). The answer will also help you gauge how they’re feeling that week.

  • How’s it going?

  • So, what's most on your mind? 

  • What would you like to start with? 

Proactive questions about job satisfaction can help unearth issues before they become full-blown problems — and lead to unwanted turnover. Some direct reports are more forthcoming than others, so even if the answers to these questions sound positive, listen for clues to deeper issues, and ask plenty of follow-up questions.

  • How are you feeling about your role? 

  • Are you happy here? What makes you say that? 

  • What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? Do you feel appreciated for it? 

  • If you could work on anything for the next month, what would it be? What makes you say that? 

  • What's the one thing that could make your work more satisfying, and why? 

Some direct reports may have a career path fully mapped out, down to desired promotion dates. Others may have no clue what they want to do next. No matter where your direct reports stand, it's worth bringing up career development in your 1:1 meetings to ensure you get the best out of your team and keep people happy in the long term.

  • What are some of the work projects you’re most proud of, and what do you think you might want to do next?

  • What are two to three new skills you’d like to learn on the job? What about those skills interests you?

  • What other roles here could you see yourself in the future? Or what areas would you like to explore?

  • What else can I be doing to help you grow/advance in your career?

  • What professional goals would you like to accomplish in the next 6 to 12 months, and what makes you say that?

These types of questions may yield good ideas you want to pass upward in the organization, or at least give you an opportunity to explain why decisions have been made the way they have. They'll also give you insight into another facet of the person's job satisfaction.

  • What’s the biggest opportunity we’re missing out on?

  • If we could improve in any way as an organization, how would we do it?

  • What’s the No. 1 problem with our organization, and what do you think's causing it?

  • What are we not doing that we should be doing? What makes you say that?

  • What are we doing that you think we should stop doing, and why?

You want to be sure your team is functioning at a high level, and here's a chance to uncover problems and opportunities that will benefit everyone.

    • How would you say we're doing at working together as team? What makes you say that?

    • How could we work better as a team? What makes you say that?

    • How would you describe the division of work among team members?

    • Do you feel adequately supported by other team members? What makes you say that?

    • Is there anything you’d like to see change about the team, and if so, why?

    Change is inevitable. And no matter what type it is, change is more of a process than a single event. Make sure to check in with direct reports on how it's going when something has changed in their work life.

      • How are you feeling about the recent news? Why do you say that?

      • What concerns do you have about the change that haven't been addressed?

      • What’s going well and not so well with the new situation/development? Why do you think this might be happening?

      • Do you have a clear understanding of the new goals and expectations? What makes you say that?

      • How is the new situation/development affecting your work? What could be getting in the way of you being effective?

      These questions go beyond a status update to help you learn about what your direct report finds engaging, as well as challenges or roadblocks you may be able to help with.

        • How are you feeling about the project?

        • What aspect of this project has been particularly interesting for you?

        • What do you feel like you're learning from this project?

        • What frustrates you about the project?

        • What can I do to make things more manageable?

        For some, discussing a challenge is like admitting a failure. Let your direct report know that you want to hear about his or her concerns because you care about making things better.

          • What is the biggest challenge you are currently facing? How can I help with that?

          • At what point in the past week were you most frustrated with or discouraged by your work? What can I do to help you manage that?

          • How is your workload right now?

          • How has your work/life balance been lately?

          • What sort of resources could you use right now to make things more manageable?

          If your direct report seems to stop short or gives a curt response on a topic where you think there may be important issues lurking beneath the surface, use open-ended questions to encourage him or her to continue.

            • Could you tell me a little more about that?

            • What did you like most/least about that?

            • How did that affect you?

            • How did that make you feel?

            • What do you think caused that to happen

            Coaching can be a powerful way to encourage, empower, and help direct reports to solve their own problems. Ask questions that help the person establish a goal outcome, explore the situation, generate a set of potential solutions, and finally plan the way forward.

              • What’s your number one problem right now? How are you feeling about it?

              • What possible solutions have you thought of?

              • What other steps or approaches could you try?

              • What additional resources from me would be helpful for you as you solve this problem?

              • What are your next steps to make progress on this problem?

              Your one-on-one meetings will be more effective in the long term if you follow up on the topics, goals, and actions discussed in previous meetings and set items for follow up next time.

                • What sort of progress have you made on the next steps we discussed last time?

                • In our last one-on-one meeting, you mentioned you were frustrated by X and wanted to try Y as a solution. How has that been going?

                • What development areas do you want to work on in the coming weeks?

                • What actions will you take before our next one-on-one meeting to make progress on X? (Also discuss and agree on actions you will take to help.)

                • What additional resources can I provide for you between now and the next time we meet?

                You want a one-on-one meeting to be a good use of your time, as well as your direct report’s. Sometimes a simple change of scenery can help. Other times, direct and honest questions about the issue can really open things up — chances are if you feel the meetings aren’t as effective as they should be, your direct report feels the same way, too.

                  • Would you like to ‘walk and talk’ today, or go somewhere else outside the office?

                  • I’ve noticed that our last several one-on-one meetings have stayed on the surface. What are your honest impressions of this meeting? What could we be doing differently or better?

                  • What would you like to see change about these discussions? How could we make them more useful for you?

                  • What would you be doing right now if we weren’t having this meeting? How do you feel about being taken away from that task?

                  • I’m trying to make my one-on-one meetings better and would appreciate your honest feedback on this one — what did you like about it, and what could be improved?

                  Asking about your direct report’s personal life can be a good way to show that you care about him or her as a person. Be sensitive and keep in mind that some people are more private than others. Depending on the individual, personal topics could be informal small talk about the person’s family or interests, or more serious matters. It’s often good to start with broad questions, like these, and be careful not to make assumptions.

                    • How are things going for you outside of work?

                    • How do you feel about your work-life balance?

                    • What, if anything, did you used to do that you find you don’t have time for right now?

                    • I’ve noticed you’re a little more quiet than usual. Is there anything you’d like to talk about?

                    • What could we change about work that would improve your life outside of work?

                    Getting feedback from your direct reports can be just as important as giving it. Not only will it help you improve as a manager, it can also build trust and strengthen your relationship with your direct reports.

                    However, only ask for feedback if you feel confident in your ability to take the feedback well and act on it; asking and then doing nothing could do more harm than good. Plus, given the power dynamic involved, how you ask is critical.

                    • What can I do as a manager to make your work easier?

                    • What is something I could have done better? What are the situations that I could have helped more but didn’t?

                    • What is one thing I could work on related to my management style?

                    • What can I do to help you enjoy your work more or remove roadblocks to progress?

                    • Which areas would you like more or less direction from me on your work?