Michael Lopp breaks one-on-ones into three buckets:

  1. The Update (business as usual)
  2. The Vent (something’s up)
  3. The Disaster

The “update” is should not be taken at face value, if you are a manager hearing a status report you should be looking for something to talk about or dig into within the update. Failing that, the manager should have either:

  1. Prepared talking points (about the individual, team, company)
  2. The Mini-performance review (follow ups from the previous performance/review checkin)
  3. What the manager is currently facing/focused on.

The “vent” and the “disaster” are emotional outlets for the team member. The disaster is a more extreme version of the vent1.

A simple framework from Marco Rogers is2:

  • Every one-on-one: (how is it going)
  • Feedback: (as needed, but most feedback should not wait for a 1-1)
  • Organization development (approximately once a month)
  • Career path (approximately once a quarter)
  • Tell me your thoughts on the direction of the team (as needed)

Potential questions for a 1-1:

  • What’s one thing that could be better?3


Lopp, M. The Update, The Vent, and The Disaster. Rands in repose Blog at (2010).
Rogers, M. My Approach to 1-on-1s. Blog at (2020).
Lily Konings. 1:1 Tweet. @lilykonings Tweet at (2021).