How to Make Your One-on-One Meetings More Effective

Put those dreaded one-on-one meetings in the past. Follow these simple steps for effective and pleasant exchanges between management and staff.

Management-staff one-on-one meetings should be a regular component of any organization’s performance management system. They allow for maintaining professional relationships and providing constructive ‘Plus/Delta’ feedback.

‘Pluses’ are an employee’s specific tasks, accomplishments or behaviors that are working and adding value that should be continued or even expanded. ‘Deltas’ are not negatives but specific changes in activity or methods that will improve results. Usually the change is doing less of something that isn’t working or stopping it completely, or doing more of something that would work better.

• RELATED: Learn to be a power listener.

The do’s
These meeting should be short, concise, frequent and constructive and fall into three categories:

One-on-One Type No. 1: Comprehensive. These meetings should focus on reviewing performance over the last week or month.

One-on-One Type No. 2: Project Specific. These meetings should focus on dealing with the ‘Pluses’ and ‘Deltas’ of a specific project or process.

One-on-One Type No. 3: Issue Specific. These meetings should focus on a specific problem that needs to be resolved immediately.

Management-staff one-on-one meetings should have a detailed agenda distributed prior to the meeting and be followed up with a concise summary of points discussed, actions items and next steps. This strategy should be organization-wide at all levels and managers should be evaluated for the quality of the meetings they run with their subordinates. 

• RELATED: Read more by Phil Stella.

And the don’ts
In order for these one-on-ones to reach maximum success, managers should avoid the following five ineffective behaviors.

Ineffective Behavior No. 1: Talking way too much and not listening enough to employees.

Ineffective Behavior No. 2: Telling too much and not asking enough questions or listening to responses.

Ineffective Behavior No. 3: Assuming they know more about the problem than the employee closest too it. So, they come up with the solution because they’re the boss.

Ineffective Behavior No. 4: Not having meetings often enough so they resort to rambling one-way data-dumps on a long list of topics instead of a focused conversation on a specific time period, project or problem.

Ineffective Behavior No. 5: Criticizing ideas from staff during initial brainstorming conversations rather than generating lots of ideas in a non-judgmental process.

The negative effects of such lame one-on-ones include failing to accomplish the initial objectives, wasting time and demotivating employees.

Meet Joe and Maria
Here is an example of when Joe the supervisor met with Maria the production analyst about problems with a new manufacturing process. He should have led a dynamic and creative dialogue to explore possible causes, analyzed each different solution and selected the best one. But instead, he shared his thoughts first, barely listened to Maria’s comments, told her how to solve the problem and then blamed her when it didn’t work. Maria got angry, quit and took a different job where her new boss wasn’t such an idiot. Score: Joe - zero, Maria - won.
So, if you manage people, embrace the value of effective one-on-one conversations with each person. Strive for effective, efficient and engaging dialogues and avoid being anything like Joe.

Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication (, 440 449-0356) and empowers business leaders to communicate confidently. Stella is a COSE Ambassador, Resource Network Expert, Content Committee member and has been a frequent speaker at COSE events. A popular trainer and executive coach on workplace communications and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative.  

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    Next up: How to respond to an EEOC or OCRC Charge of Discrimination
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  • How to respond to an EEOC or OCRC Charge of Discrimination

    So your company has received a charge of discrimination from the EEOC or OCRC. Now what do you do?

    So your company has received a charge of discrimination from the EEOC or OCRC. Now what do you do?

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    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) enforce federal (EEOC) and Ohio’s (OCRC) anti-discrimination laws.  Employees may file a charge with the EEOC/OCRC against their employer alleging sexual harassment or discrimination based on gender/sex (including pregnancy), race, color, age, religion, disability, national origin, ancestry or military status. 

    If you receive a charge, take the following steps*:

    1. Call your employment attorney.  (If you only have general business counsel, ask them to refer you to an employment attorney.)  EEOC/OCRC charges may be used as the first step before litigation in the courts.  Any information provided to the EEOC or OCRC may become public record, or at the very least available to the claimant, and that information may be used in a lawsuit against the company.
    2. Inform others only on a “need to know” basis.  Human resources and the employee’s immediate supervisor should be informed.  Supervisors should be reminded to not retaliate against the employee (if still employed) in any way, or to discuss the charge with the employee.
    3. Immediately preserve all documentation.  This includes personnel files, disciplinary documents, internal investigations (if any were done), as well as emails, voice mails, text messages, and other electronically stored information.  Have your IT person disable any auto-delete functions until documents can be secured. 
    4. Decide if you want to respond to the charge, or if you want to engage in mediation.
    5. Cooperate with the investigation.  This will include providing requested documents and may also involve an on-site visit by the investigator.  The investigator has the right to speak to employees.
    6. Wait.  You may not hear anything for weeks or months.  You may be asked for more information, or you may just receive a determination in the mail.
    7. Even if the agency reaches a no probable cause finding, or if the charge is settled in mediation,determine if any changes need to be made to avoid future charges of discrimination. 

    “Best Practices” and Proactive Measures

    The best way to avoid charges of discrimination is to be proactive.  Take the following steps.

    1. Have an employee handbook in place, which includes an internal method for reporting complaints of harassment and discrimination.
    2. Enforce your policies consistently and equally. 
    4. Document employee infractions – use written documentation for warnings, suspensions and terminations.
    5. Train your supervisors on harassment, discrimination, and enforcement of your policies.
    6. Train your employees on the handbook, to ensure they understand their obligations and know everyone will be treated the same.

    * This is a general overview of the process and recommended steps. Actual procedures may differ based on specific nature of the charges. The information in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, specific legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

    About Jennifer:

    Jennifer A. Corso has over 20 years experience representing management in labor and employment law.  She works with employers on legal compliance and defense of employment claims and lawsuits. She is certified by the Ohio State Bar Association as a Specialist in Labor and Employment Law, and has written several articles and spoken at numerous seminars and to community business groups on employment law topics.

    Next up: How to Structure Your Internship Program for Maximum Impact
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  • How to Structure Your Internship Program for Maximum Impact

    Interested in starting an internship program, but unclear on the best way in which it should be structured? Look no further than Westfield Group, which has set up its internship program in such a way that helps both its interns and the company itself.

    In the lead up to the Third Annual Cleveland Internship Summit on Feb. 27, Mind Your Business will be running a series of articles previewing some of the sessions that attendees will have the opportunity to sit in on. Today’s preview focuses on the legal aspects of internships. Click here to view the other preview articles for this year’s Internship Summit.

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    The old stereotype of interns doing little more than making copies or performing other administrative work certainly is not the case at Westfield Group in Westfield Center. Rather, interns who are brought on at the company can be expected to perform the same types of duties as other employees.

    Westfield’s Christopher Paterakis, who will be speaking during the “Workforce Preparedness: How Employers Are Getting Interns and New Grads More Career Ready” session during the Third Annual Cleveland Internship Summit, explains that the intern positions at the organization reflect actual positions at the company as well as work on the organization’s projects or needs at the time.

    The company views these internships as learning opportunities, providing valuable experience as it relates to working in teams and participating in shared ownership for positive outcomes. The goal is that these interns walk away from their experience with a unique insider insight and perspective that they won’t get elsewhere. And, of course, there is a real benefit to Westfield, too, as the company has the chance to have some exceptional work done for it and also gets a good look at these individuals for possible future employment.

    Register today for the Third Annual Cleveland Internship Summit, taking place on Feb. 27, to learn more about internship program best practices, such as what is happening at Westfield Group. And for a deeper dive into how to create and manage your company's internship program, check out the Greater Cleveland Partnership's Internship Central page.

    Next up: How Long Should I Retain Employee Records?
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  • How Long Should I Retain Employee Records?

    The accurate creation and careful maintenance of employee records can be crucial. Here are some things to keep in mind.

    If your business has ever been sued for alleged violations of wage and hour laws, or if you’ve otherwise ever been a party to litigation involving discovery of any kind of employee records, then you know just how important it can be for most businesses to accurately create and maintain employee files.

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    In some circumstances, the kinds of records that should regularly be maintained in employee files can help employers establish or refute claims and/or defenses in the unfortunate event that they find themselves in a dispute with a state attorney general’s office, a federal regulator, or their current or former employees (or any combination of these parties). Such disputes can represent nightmare scenarios for the unprepared. If your business’s records retention practices and policies keep you awake at night, then read on.

    Many readers are probably already aware that federal and state laws require employers to keep a variety of records on both current and former employees and furthermore, that these different recordkeeping requirements can apply for varying lengths of time. See U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Comm’n, Record Keeping Requirements, (last visited Jan. 1, 2019) (explaining some examples of federal recordkeeping requirements); see also, e.g., R.C. 4111.08, available at (Effective Date: July 1, 2000; April 4, 2007) (providing an example of an Ohio recordkeeping requirement).

    Of course, depending on which statutes apply to the various records that an employer is required to keep, different recordkeeping requirements, including records retention periods, might apply. As a result, decisions on which records to keep, and how long to keep them, can frequently become sources of confusion. Employee recordkeeping requirements, and the potential consequences for failing to heed them, mean that effective and up-to-date records retention policies are a must for any business.

    Wage and hour litigation is one of the most common circumstance wherein employee records are directly relevant to the parties’ claims and defenses. Thus, wage and hour recordkeeping requirements will be our main source of examples for this article, but we will try to include other examples as well. Keep in mind, however, that records contained in employee files can frequently be relevant in other situations such as, for example, where discrimination and/or wrongful termination are alleged, or where claims arise from a former employee’s alleged breach of a confidentiality, non-compete, or non-solicitation agreement.

    The critical items to keep in mind when formulating a records retention policy are: which laws and regulations apply, the policy reasons given to justify the enactment of these laws and their underlying regulations, the identifiability of records to employees, and the formats in which records are generated and maintained.

    Which laws apply?

    Two federal statutes generally require employers to retain current and former employee records, including payroll records and biographical data. One statute is the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C. § 203, et seq. (“FLSA”). The FLSA provides, among other things, protections for workers’ rights to receive a minimum wage, as well as overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in one workweek. The FLSA is administered by the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”).

    The other federal statute is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. (“ADEA”). One of the main, overarching purposes of the ADEA is to protect workers over the age of 40 from discrimination in hiring, firing, and compensation decisions. The ADEA is administered by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).

    Both the FLSA and the ADEA generally require records of terminated employees to be maintained for at least three years following the date of termination. However, both statutes (in addition to other federal and/or state laws that may apply) might also permit or require different records retention periods for other portions of a former employee’s file. For example, the ADEA requires private employers to retain “all personnel and employment records” about former employees for one year after the employee’s departure. See U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Comm’n, Summary of Selected Recordkeeping Obligations in 29 CFR Part 1602, (last visited Jan. 1, 2019). Examples of “personnel and employment records” include (but are not limited to): “[R]equests for reasonable accommodation, application forms submitted by applicants, and records dealing with hiring, promotion, demotion, transfer, lay-off or termination, rates of pay, compensation, tenure, selection for training or apprenticeship, or other terms of employment.” Id.

    Policy Justifications

    The policy justification most frequently given for requiring employers to maintain accurate employee records is for the protection of employees’ rights, including rights to fair compensation. Records may also be used for a variety of other reasons, including to ensure that employers follow child labor laws and regulations, for example. Furthermore, employers should also be prepared to respond to records requests from employees.

    Notably, in some jurisdictions an employer’s failure to keep accurate records may in some circumstances give rise to an independent cause of action—including class and/or collective actions. For example, the Ohio Constitution requires employers to “maintain a record of the name, address, occupation, pay rate, hours worked for each day worked and each amount paid an employee for a period of not less than three years following the last date the employee was employed.” Ohio Const. art. II, § 34a, available at (adopted Nov. 7, 2006). Ohio employers are required to provide these records to employees or their representatives upon request. See id.

    Furthermore, employers can be sued by the attorney general, by an employee, or by a group of former employees “for any violation of this section [34a of the Ohio Constitution] or any law or regulation implementing its provisions within three years of the violation or of when the violation ceased if it was of a continuing nature, or within one year after notification to the employee of final disposition by the state of a complaint for the same violation, whichever is later.” Id.; see also, e.g., Clark v. Shop24 Global, LLC, No. 2:12-cv-00802, 2014 WL 60071, at *3, n.2 (S.D. Ohio, Jan. 7, 2014); Craig v. Bridges Bros. Trucking LLC, No. 2:12-cv-954, 2013 WL 4010316, at *4 (S.D. Ohio, Aug. 6, 2013). In other words, Ohio employers may be sued for a failure to respond to an employee’s records request, and/or for the failure to maintain accurate records.

    Identifiability of Records

    To be of any use, records obviously must be reasonably identifiable to the employees to whom they relate. In practice, this requires employers to track certain biographical data and ensure that it is all easily attributable to the relevant employees. The DOL presently requires all employers covered by the FLSA to keep certain records for all covered, nonexempt workers including, for example:

    •             Employee's full name and social security number;

    •             address, including zip code;

    •             birth date, if younger than 19;

    •             sex and occupation;

    •             time and day of the week when the employee’s workweek begins, including the hours worked each day and the total hours worked each workweek;

    •             bases on which the employee’s wages are paid;

    •             regular hourly pay rate;

    •             total daily or weekly straight-time earnings;

    •             total overtime earnings for the workweek;

    •             all additions to or deductions from the employee’s wages;

    •             total wages paid each pay period; and

    •             date of payment and the pay period covered by the payment.

    DOL, Recordkeeping & Reporting, (last visited Jan. 1, 2019); see also DOL, Fact Sheet #21: Recordkeeping Requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), (rev. Jul. 2008).


    While the DOL does not require records to be kept in any particular format, see id., employers should generally ensure that they have ready access to employee records, and they should also be mindful that current and former employees may have certain rights to request and/or view information contained in their employee files. Employers should also carefully consider keeping a redundant set of employee files backed-up in a central, secure location in order to mitigate any risk of tampering or theft of information maintained in employee files.

    Should I contact an attorney?

    If you have questions or concerns about state and/or federal recordkeeping requirements that may apply to your business, you should contact an attorney. If properly implemented, records retention policies may help reduce risks associated with wage and hour claims or other disputes. You should contact an attorney for additional information regarding this area of the law.

    This article is for informational purposes only, and it is merely intended to provide a very general overview of a limited set of examples of some recordkeeping requirements that may apply to some employers. Nothing in this article is intended to create an attorney-client relationship or provide legal advice. You should not rely on anything in this article without first consulting with an attorney. If you have questions about your particular legal situation, you should contact an attorney.

    Max Julian can be reached at or by phone at (440) 571-7541. Max and the attorneys of The Gertsburg Law Firm can help you avoid the pain of lawsuits with CoverMySix, a one-stop legal audit for your business led by award-winning litigators and in-house counsel. Visit to learn more about how to protect your business, and check out the new pricing for CoverMySix for Small Companies and Startups.

    Next up: How to Implement an Effective Discipline Policy in 5 Easy Steps
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  • How to Implement an Effective Discipline Policy in 5 Easy Steps

    Be prepared to stop negative employee behavior in its tracks. Establish the right policies and procedures to handle employee discipline before it’s too late.

    If you have even one employee then you will have to deal with HR issues. Read on for some key tools, tips and secrets to addressing employee discipline and sleep better at night knowing your business isn’t being held hostage by a few bad apples.

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    In a recent COSE WebEd Series Webinar, Cheryl Perez, founder and president of BIG-HR, discussed steps to take when an issue needing employee discipline arises in your company.

    Have you ever been in a situation where:

    • You are worrying about a few poor performing employees?
    • You are being taken advantage of by employees who are always calling off, running late or performing poorly?
    • You are concerned that an employee might retaliate?
    • You are wondering if a disgruntled employee could negatively impact your business?

    Make sure you act fast enough to correct the negative behavior; give yourself the confidence of knowing you’re handling everything right and in the best interest of your business. Follow these five steps.

    Step. 1. Set up your workplace rules of conduct. This should be an important feature inside your employee manual. Employees must know they have fair and reasonable notice of expectations. The number one mistake of small to mid-size businesses is they don’t have an effective manual in place or they don’t provide employees with it except on the first day of orientation. And often times it’s not kept up to date. Company rules should be clearly communicated in writing to all employees, must be compliant with state and federal laws, and must be consistently enforced.

    Rules of conduct within the manual should include day-to-day matters—such as tardiness, attendance and dress code—and more serious matters—such as violence, theft and harassment.

    Perez provided the following tips for your employee manual:

    • Customize it so you communicate exactly what you’re looking for.
    • Communicate your policies clearly and through a formalized training process, preferably on a yearly basis. Review the manual with your entire staff at the beginning of the year. Walk your team through the rules, making sure they have a clear understanding and sign off on it.
    • Meet with your managers separately to communicate the rules so you know they are enforcing your expectations.

    And she recommended that it includes information on the following basic policies:

    • Employment-at-will
    • Family medical leave
    • Discrimination
    • Drug-free workplace
    • Social media
    • Political neutrality
    • Disciplinary

    Step 2. Establish an investigation procedure. This lets people know you are fair and you are looking into any issues that arise at your company. This is especially good for more serious allegations such as harassment, being under the influence, theft, etc.

    If an allegation is brought up against an employee, it should be promptly, fairly and thoroughly investigated. Once the investigation is conducted and you have all information, you then need to make an independent determination of facts and circumstances.

    Before you find yourself in a position where you need to conduct an investigation, it is important that you establish protocol. Determine who will conduct the investigation, what process will be used and within what timeframe. Communicate this in advance to everybody on your staff.

    Step 3. Understand what an effective progressive action policy looks like. Here is a rundown of the order in which Cheryl recommends taking action.

    • Counseling: “You’ve been late, don’t let it happen again.”
    • Verbal warning: Sit down and give them a formal verbal warning. Let them know what will happen next. Document it, but informally.
    • Written warning #1: Write it up and have another manager or witness sign off on it.
    • Written warning #2: Do everything in the first written warning, but also include a performance improvement plan.
    • Next courses of action

    As mentioned in the fourth bullet above, a performance improvement plan can be an important part in taking disciplinary action. Let the employee know that if they don’t follow these expectations then you will move to the next step in the disciplinary process. Spell out the expectations and be sure to give them the opportunity to fix the behavior.

    Step 4. Provide employees with the opportunity to appeal. Your policies and procedures regarding employee discipline should include having in place a grievance and appeal process. Doing so makes it clear that your business practices fair discipline and that employees are given the opportunity to appeal decisions. Showing your due diligence and giving them the chance to say why they don’t agree helps to clearly communicates fairness.

    Step 5. Determine the next course of action and how to implement it. When you hand out a punishment for a crime, make sure it’s appropriate. Consider the following options:

    • Transfer the employee to a different department or office to get them out of whatever the situation is that is impeding their performance.
    • Demote the employee.
    • Tell them they don’t get pay increases, bonuses, etc.
    • Suspend them with or without pay.
    • Terminate the employee.

    The key is to always apply discipline in a fair and consistent manner. Your managers and supervisors must follow the same guidelines. You can’t be fair and consistent as a business owner but then have a supervisor who is showing favoritism. And, be sure that discipline procedures comply with federal and state laws.

    Put it in writing

    One of the best things you can do during an employee disciplinary process is to document everything. BIG-HR provides its clients with templates and forms for everything they need for proper record keeping.

    What happens if you don’t document? You won’t have a leg to stand on. If you do end up with an accusation against an employee you won’t be able to defend yourself. If you’ve done a good job protecting yourself, communicating and documenting, then there is much less of a chance that you and your company will have to settle with the employee no matter what type of situation arises.

    To watch a full replay of this webinar, check out the video below. And Be sure to register for the next COSE WebEd Series Webinar on February 20, Using Video to Amplify Your Marketing and Drive Results

    Next up: Important Update from Ohio BWC!
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  • Important Update from Ohio BWC!

    The deadline for your company’s payroll true-up reports was originally Aug. 15. However, because this is a new process, the Ohio BWC has extended a grace period until Sept. 29 to ensure all employers are able to complete this requirement.

    The deadline for your company’s payroll true-up reports was originally Aug. 15. However, because this is a new process, the Ohio BWC has extended a grace period until Sept. 29 to ensure all employers are able to complete this requirement.

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    With the transition to prospective billing, Ohio BWC now requires employers to reconcile their actual payroll for the prior policy year and reconcile any differences in premium paid. The payroll true-up allows Ohio BWC to calculate your premium accurately. Even if your payroll for the year matches the estimate, Ohio BWC provided, or you had zero payroll, you must complete a true-up report.

    The quickest and easiest way to true-up is online with a BWC e-account. If you do not have a BWC e-account, you can create one at Online true-up and payment will also save you money. Eligible employers will qualify for a 1-percent premium rebate, up to a $2,000 maximum rebate. While you can complete the true-up through the BWC call center, wait times may be extremely high. Therefore, Ohio BWC suggests you file your payroll true-up with a BWC e-account.

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