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8 One-on-One Questions and Icebreakers

It’s important for employers to have 1 on 1 questions in their back pocket to pull out during meetings, performance reviews and interviews. Having a range of questions for all occasions when speaking to employees or candidates one-on-one helps set the conversation’s tone. It also makes the individual feel comfortable opening up to you and having a genuine and productive discussion. Use these eight questions to break the ice in one-on-one settings

 

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Why are one-on-one questions and icebreakers for employers useful? 

One-on-one questions and icebreakers are useful tools for employers to develop a better relationship with their employees. They’re tailored to the individual and encourage employees or job candidates to talk freely about themselves without fear of providing a right or wrong answer. This lets you see more of their personality, learn who they are as a person and position them more effectively within your team. 

 

A 2017 survey found that 72% of employers cite one-on-one meetings with their employees as the most important thing they do to manage their teams. However, the same survey revealed that 15% of employees dislike one-one-ones because the conversations are awkward or stressful. To maximize productivity in a one-on-one meeting, employers should implement the use of 1 on 1 questions to make employees comfortable.

 

8 ways to break the ice in a one-on-one meeting 

Use these questions to start the conversation right when meeting one-on-one with an employee or interviewee. Depending on the frequency of the meetings and nature of the discussion, you can opt for communication questions, growth questions or simply get-to-know-you inquiries. 

 

1. What’s something you’re looking forward to this week, outside of work?

This casual question can follow general pleasantries when starting a one-on-one meeting. Asking this question invites the employee to talk about themselves and share personal interests, hobbies or life events they may be excited about, giving you better insight into who they are outside the office. 

 

If you choose to start a meeting with this question and the employee shares an upcoming event or milestone with you, ask them how it went the next time you see them. 

 

2. How was your weekend? 

Start meetings that occur on a Monday or Tuesday with this simple question that demonstrates an interest in the employee’s well-being outside of work. Although it’s common to ask this around the office at the beginning of the week, using this question to start a meeting sets a casual tone that invites the employee to share a bit about their life and interests with you. You may also have a chance to share with them about your weekend and can bond as a result, creating better communication between you in the future. 

 

3. What’s something you’re proud of that happened this week?

Meetings that are career- or goal-oriented might be too formal to start with a casual question about an employee’s life outside of work. In these instances, consider asking this question which prompts them to reflect on their recent workplace accomplishments. Their answer also gives you a chance to see what aspects of their contribution to the company they value the most and how comfortable they are talking about their performance. Consider asking this at the beginning of a performance review and follow up their answer with your own feedback on what the employee is doing well. 

 

4. Is there anyone on our team you feel deserves special recognition for their efforts this week? Why?

Sometimes, starting a conversation by taking the focus off the employee you’re meeting with is the best way to help them relax. This is especially true if the individual is shy or introverted and struggles to discuss their own accomplishments. Use this question to help draw employees out of their shells and let them highlight good work done by their colleagues. 

 

5. How do you feel about your work-life balance? 

Asking employees about their work-life balance at the beginning of the meeting signals to them that you understand the necessity of having a personal life and interests outside the workplace. About 66% of American employees do not feel they have a healthy work-life balance. When an employer advocates for a healthy work-life balance, they encourage employees to prioritize their well-being and avoid burnout. 

 

6. What is something managers have done in the past that you found frustrating? 

If you are a new manager in a company and are having your initial meetings with your team, this is a great question to start with. It gives your new employees a chance to share their opinions about how they like to be managed, so you know how to support them for the best results. This is also a great question to ask if you are an employer talking to a new hire joining your team to get a sense of how they want to be communicated with and what level of management they prefer (are they a self-starter, or do they require more micro-level management). 

 

7. What’s a problem our team is experiencing that I might be unaware of?

Opening the floor to potential problems might seem like a unique choice for starting a meeting, but this question breaks the ice quickly and gets right down to business. It encourages employees to share concerns with you about project deadlines, workplace conduct and interdepartmental conflict that could be going on without your knowledge. Asking this question shows your employee you trust their input and want them to feel comfortable confiding in you. 

 

8. How happy are you at work on a scale of 1-10? Why? 

Checking in on an employee’s job satisfaction is a thoughtful and productive way to kick off a one-on-one meeting. This question requires the employee to think about their happiness in the workplace and provide you with a number ranking but also explain why they feel that way. Regardless of their answer, you can gauge their satisfaction with the company, whether they see themselves there long term and if changes are needed to improve their happiness in the workplace. 

 

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