The good and the bad managers you’ve had

A board on a street, stating ”good vibes only”
Photo by MARK ADRIANE / Unsplash

Understanding your employees' preferences for their work style can help you support them more effectively. One way to improve this understanding is to discuss the employee's past experiences with good and bad managers.

These conversations need to be confidential and take place in a trusting environment. The focus should be on on the benefits to the employee.

Guidelines to the manager

The following agenda is designed to be covered in 25 minutes with a 1-2 week cadence:

  1. Begin the meeting by clearing the space for discussion. Address any pressing issues or questions, before diving into the topic of the one-on-one meeting
  2. Discuss previous team structures and work environments to gain insight into the employee's experiences.
  3. Address the different types of management the employee has had, including how feedback was given and by whom.
  4. Talk about previous bad managers and what made them bad. Avoid discussing specific people or organizations unless it is necessary for the conversation.
  5. Talk about past good managers and what made them good and memorable.
  6. List good practices, habits, or characteristics of past good managers that could be implemented in the current manager-employee relationship.
  7. Summarize the key lessons learned from the conversation and list actions you would like to implement in the future.

It is important to communicate the higher purpose of the conversation and get the employee's permission before sharing information. Managers should consistently communicate that the purpose of the discussion is to improve team management.

An example meeting agenda, for inserting into the calendar invitation.

The meeting invitation, calendar reservation

Title/topic/subject: One-on-One Meeting - On good and bad past managers

Date: [insert date]

Time: [insert time]

Location: [insert room or a link to a virtual meeting]


  • Introduction, clear the space for discussion, wrap up any top-of-mind issues (5 min)
  • Discuss past experiences with team topologies and management structures. How was the team environment? (5 min)
  • Discuss a bad manager in the past; what made the manager bad - how were they worse than the others? (5 min)
  • Discuss past good managers or management experience. Explore what made the manager and management better than others. (5 min)
  • Identify any good practices, habits, or characteristics from a past good manager that could be incorporated into the current manager-employee relationship. (5 min)
  • Summarize the key takeaways from the meeting, and establish any action items to be taken forward.

This meeting will allow us to understand the employee's preferences for management and gain insights into how the management be improved.

You can also send any questions in advance.

Br, [Your Name]

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