I once had a boss who constantly checked his email during our 1:1s. I couldn’t stand the guy. I promised myself I would never treat my employees the way he treated me.
Multitasking during 1:1s is a poor habit. It’s disrespectful to our direct reports. It’s ok to do it once in a while, maybe it’s even unavoidable at times. However, a manager who repeatedly multitasks ends up doing more harm than good by sending mixed signals.
You send three unintentional signals
Managers that can’t focus on the present moment and choose to work on a different task while their direct report is talking to them send mixed signals. They indirectly tell us:
❌ “This conversation isn’t important”
❌ “This meeting isn’t important”
❌ “Your time isn’t important”
3 ways to stop sending these signals today
- Add a 5-minute buffer before your next meeting begins and use that time to center yourself and get in the right frame of mind for your next commitment.
- If you’re putting out a fire that day, request your direct report to reschedule the 1:1 to a later time or day (There’s no point being physically there, if you’re mentally somewhere else).
- If something comes up during the meeting that needs your immediate attention. Let them know. Ask them if you can cut the meeting short or pick the rest of it at a later time.
How we spend our attention makes or breaks everything at work and in life. Learning to stay in the present moment is a lifelong practice. It’s probably the hardest thing to do as a manager. Great leaders work on this practice daily.