1:1 Question: What Is Your Stress Level since we last met?

Posted on Sep 12, 2019

One of the most effective tools in your toolbox as a manager is the 1:1 meeting. I have 1:1 with every member of my staff on a weekly basis. It’s a great opportunity to get feedback, provide context and just connect on a different level than the standup or pair programming sessions.

In my first 1:1 with a new staff member, I emphasize that the 1:1 is their time, not mine. We talk about what they want. It’s a time for me to help, not a time for me to provide feedback to them. It’s not a time to discuss why ticket XYZ went too long or why the support ticket X is not closed yet.

Some people have a hard time leading this kind of 1:1, asking guiding questions is the way to go sometimes. Over time, I found some questions that really work in getting that feedback from your team.

I wanted to take the time and publish a post about one of the questions and data points I gather during the 1:1.

What is your stress level?

What is your stress level since we last met?.

Some people will give you an answer between 1-5 and some will just use the low - high scale. Both of these are acceptable, I try not to provide the scale and let the person just say what they want.

If stress level is too high, I ask a follow up question: What can I do to fix it?.

The personal and the professional

In our modern life, stress manifests itself in many ways, stress can be personal (partner, kids, car trouble, diet), it can be professional (my demands as a manager, other team members etc).

I do no limit my question to the professional level, if you have trouble at home, I can give you time off; I can make sure you work remotely for the amount of time you need. I can help, I’m here to help.

Some people have the idea (mainly from previous horrible managers) that their manager is just here to extract value from them and then show this value up the chain, they need to hide personal problems because it might affect how their manager thinks of them and will affect their career. That’s not true in my case, I’m here to help on a personal level too.

If the stress is on the professional level, I can obviously help. If a task seems to complex, let’s talk about it, if you had trouble with my tone, let’s talk about it. It’s better to discuss these things in the open, in a mature and accepting environment.

Stress is toxic

Stress is absolutely toxic, it will bring people down so quickly. You cannot work effectively in a high-stress environment, eventually it will catch up. Making sure you attack this issue on a weekly basis is like GC for your team mental health.


If you are a manager, I encourage you to try this out and check out the results. Hope you find this quick thought-dump post useful.