In many workplaces, the loudest voices often dominate discussions, decisions, and attention. However, there are quieter members in every team whose voices are not as prominently heard.

Though less vocal, these individuals contribute significantly to the team’s success and should not be overlooked. It’s crucial for managers to actively check in on their quieter subordinates, ensuring they feel valued, supported, and understood.

This article explores why this practice is essential and why regular one-on-one meetings should be prioritised.

Understanding the ‘Quiet Ones’

Quieter (or even introverted) employees possess qualities that make them invaluable assets to any team. They might be introspective, thoughtful, and excellent listeners. These individuals can offer unique insights, creative solutions, and a balanced perspective that might be missed in the clamour of louder voices.

However, their reticence can sometimes be mistaken for disengagement or satisfaction, leading managers to assume that they are okay without needing regular check-ins.

The Risks of Assumption

Assuming that quieter employees are always fine can lead to several negative consequences:

  1. Unaddressed Concerns: Quiet employees might have concerns or ideas they do not feel comfortable expressing in group settings. Without a platform to share these, valuable feedback and potential improvements can be lost.

  2. Feelings of Isolation: When quieter employees are not regularly engaged by their managers, they may feel isolated or undervalued, leading to decreased job satisfaction and engagement.

  3. Missed Development Opportunities: These employees may need more guidance and mentorship but are less likely to seek it out actively. Managers who do not check in regularly may miss opportunities to support their professional growth.

  4. Disengagement: Over time, quiet employees may become disengaged and disillusioned, leaving them thinking and feeling like they are unimportant. This may lead to them seeking validation and appreciation elsewhere, i.e. another company!

The Importance of Regular 1:1 Meetings

Regular one-to-one meetings (1:1s) with employees are an essential tool for managers. These meetings provide a dedicated time for employees to discuss their progress, challenges, and aspirations in a confidential setting. Here’s why they are crucial:

  1. Building Trust and Rapport: Regular 1:1s help build a trusting relationship between managers and employees. Quieter employees are more likely to open up when they feel they are in a safe, non-judgmental space.

  2. Personalised Feedback and Support: These meetings allow managers to provide tailored feedback and support, addressing specific needs and concerns that might not be apparent in a group setting.

  3. Encouraging Open Communication: Over time, regular 1:1s can help quieter employees become more comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas, fostering a more inclusive and communicative team environment.

  4. Monitoring Well-being: These sessions provide an opportunity to check in on employees’ well-being, helping to identify any signs of stress, burnout, or dissatisfaction early on.

Why 1:1s Should Be the Last Thing You Cancel

Given their importance, 1:1 meetings should be treated as a priority and only cancelled or rescheduled when absolutely necessary. Here’s why:

  1. Demonstrates Commitment: Consistently holding 1:1 meetings signals to employees that their manager is committed to their development and well-being. It shows that their time and contributions are valued.

  2. Prevents Issues from Escalating: Regular check-ins allow managers to address issues before they become significant problems. Cancelling these meetings can delay the identification and resolution of potential issues. Incidentally, no employee should ever find out that they’re underperforming at a year-end performance review!

  3. Maintains Momentum: Regular 1:1s help maintain momentum in an employee’s development and project progress. Cancelling meetings can disrupt this flow, leading to delays and decreased motivation.

  4. Boosts Morale and Engagement: Knowing that their manager is dedicated to regular check-ins can boost an employee’s morale and engagement. It reinforces a sense of belonging and importance within the team.

Sadly, 1:1 meetings are often the first meeting to be ditched from a busy schedule. However, if you regularly do this, I’d urge you to rethink.

Many of my clients, especially the more introverted ones, often tell me that when their manager cancels or postpones their 1:1, especially if it’s already been rescheduled multiple times, it makes them feel invalidated and unimportant.

When I talk about this in leadership development workshops or even in coaching sessions, many managers are totally surprised. I frequently hear:

  1. ‘My employees know they’re valued. It goes without saying. If they were doing something wrong, I’d tell them, so the fact that I haven’t should mean that they know I think they’re doing OK!’

  2. ‘I don’t need 1:1s. In fact, I can’t stand them, and so I assumed everyone else hates them too!’

The Broader Impact on the Organisation

By actively engaging with quieter employees and prioritising regular 1:1s, managers can foster a more inclusive, supportive, and productive work environment. The benefits extend beyond individual employees to the entire organisation:

  1. Enhanced Innovation: Quieter employees often have unique perspectives and creative ideas. Regular 1:1s provide a platform for these ideas to be heard and implemented, driving innovation.

  2. Improved Team Dynamics: When all team members feel valued and heard, overall team dynamics improve. This leads to better collaboration, communication, and a more cohesive team.

  3. Increased Retention: Employees who feel supported and valued are more likely to stay with the organisation. This reduces turnover and retains valuable talent.

  4. Stronger Organisational Culture: Prioritising the well-being and development of all employees, including quieter ones, contributes to a positive organisational culture where everyone feels included, valued and respected.

Practical Tips for Effective 1:1s

To maximise the effectiveness of 1:1 meetings, managers should consider the following tips:

  1. Prepare in Advance: Come prepared with topics to discuss, but also be open to what the employee wants to bring up. This ensures a balanced and productive conversation.

  2. Active Listening: Practice active listening and show empathy and understanding. This builds trust and encourages quieter employees to share more openly.

  3. Set a Consistent Schedule: Consistency is critical. Set a regular schedule for 1:1s and stick to it as much as possible to build a routine that employees can rely on.

  4. Create a Safe Environment: Ensure the meeting environment is private and free from interruptions. This helps quieter employees feel more comfortable discussing sensitive topics. PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN AND CLOSE YOUR LAPTOP! There’s nothing worse than trying to talk to someone who has a constant eye elsewhere. It’s demoralising and offputting, not to mention rude!

  5. Follow-up: Follow up on any action items or concerns raised after the meeting. This demonstrates that you take their input seriously and are committed to making improvements.

The Wrap-Up

In the fast-paced world of modern business, it’s easy for managers to focus on the loudest voices and assume that quieter employees are doing fine.

However, this assumption can lead to missed opportunities and overlooked issues. Regular 1:1 meetings are a powerful tool for managers to connect with their quieter subordinates, providing the support, feedback, and engagement necessary for their success and well-being.

By prioritising these meetings and making them the last thing to cancel, managers can foster a more inclusive, innovative, and productive work environment that benefits both the employees and the organisation as a whole.

What Next?

If you’d like any coaching support on any of the topics I discuss in my content, please email me at info@jobanks.net to arrange and complimentary 15-minute discovery call.

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