Why do I get stressed about 1-1s?

I get nervous before 1-1s with anyone, not just my direct reports. Severity depends on the person, but almost all 1-1s carry some stress.

I’ve thought a lot about this, and I realized that I’m putting pressure on myself to always provide a lot of value with each 1-1. I want the other person to leave thinking “wow, that was an incredibly helpful and non-awkward use of those 30 minutes.”

I’m demanding perfection and that’s not fair to myself. It’s social anxiety rearing its stupid head again.

In this old post I posted a template to fill out before something I’m worrying about:

Exposure: What feared situation are you facing?

Anxious prediction: What are you afraid will happen?

Perfectionist goal: How do you think you should act and appear in this situation?

Safety behavior: What would you normally do to prevent your anxious prediction from happening?

Coping thought: What can you remind yourself of when you are feeling the most anxious?

Realistic goal: What can you accomplish even though you feel anxious?

Values: What motivates you to move in this direction?

Here’s my attempt at it for a typical 1-1 with a direct report.

  • Exposure: I have a 1-1 with one of my direct reports today in a few hours.
  • Anxious prediction: I won’t know the right things to say to make it valuable, or worse, I’ll say something awkward or wrong that makes me seem weird or stupid.
  • Perfectionist goal: I’ll say exactly what the person needs to hear to help them with whatever they’re dealing with, and I’ll be funny and charming and warm.
  • Safety behavior: End the 1-1 early if the conversation is drying up, or pull a topic from my list of random conversation starters.
  • Coping thought: Not every 1-1 has to be super valuable for them. Just letting them talk through things and getting some face time is valuable, no matter what.
  • Realistic goal: Get them to talk about one thing that’s weighing on them, and ask three good questions about it to help them think through it.
  • Values: My values are growth and joy. Both of those things are hard to find if I’m always demanding perfection of myself.

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