Microspeak: 1 – 1 is not zero

In his reddit AMA, Joe Belfiore wrote

i have regular 1-1 meetings with my counterparts in Office, Skype, Xbox.

The little bit of jargon there is 1-1 meeting. This is an abbreviation for one-on-one meeting, a common business practice wherein two people, typically a manager and a direct report, have a face-to-face meeting with no one else present. In the case Joe used, the meeting is not between a manager and a direct report but between two peers.

The term is also abbreviated 1:1, which like 1 − 1 also looks like a bit of mathematical nonsense. But it's not zero or one. It's just an abbreviation for business jargon.

Of course, Microspeak isn't happy with the abbreviation as-is. Microspeak takes it further and nounifies the abbreviation. "I'll bring that up in my 1–1 with Bob tomorrow" means "I'll bring that up in my one-on-one meeting with Bob tomorrow."

Note that the abbreviation OOO is not used to mean one-on-one. That abbreviation is used to mean Out of the office, although it is more commonly abbreviated OOF at Microsoft.

Comments (28)
  1. Boris says:

    "typically a manager and a direct report"

    The fledgling meeting notation can be extended to clarify this:

    1 > 1: A manager initiates a meeting with a direct report.

    1 >> 1: A manager initiates a meeting with a report two levels down (more >s would be added for further levels).

    1 < 1, 1 << 1: As above, but the report initiates the meeting.

    Different numbers can be used on either side for varying counts of people.

  2. Gavin Greig says:

    I think the notation makes more sense if you think of it as a one-to-one meeting rather than one-on-one.

  3. Boris says:

    Yes, although I'd make a normative intervention here and specify that 1 : 1 shall designate a meeting among exact peers, whereas 1 − 1 shall leave the relationship undefined (could be 1 : 1, 1 > 1, 1 >> 1 …)

  4. jk says:

    @Gavin Grieg

    not to be confused with a 121 meeting

  5. Boris says:

    @jk: 121 is merely an obsolescent equivalent of 1 − 1.

  6. 12BitSlab says:

    @ Boris

    121 was deprecated in SP2 of XP.  Although if you search for the right quid in the registry, one can set a value to 1 in order to re-enable it.  It's a backwards compatibility hack.

  7. Luceo says:

    English has a word for this already without the useless corporate jargon. It's called a conversation.

  8. Paul says:

    "1 >> 1: A manager initiates a meeting with a report two levels down"

    Around here that's called a skip-level meeting …

  9. dave says:

    But I have conversations with my manager that are not 'one on one'.

    My local-culture use of 'one on one' is that it's not just me and him talking, but it is specifically the regular weekly meeting we have with just the two of us present when the subject matter is 'me, what I have been doing, what he wants me to be thinking about next, and stuff I should know about'.

  10. dave says:

    Perhaps 'the half-hour where I get actively managed' would be a better term than 'one-on-one'.

  11. Maurits says:

    I suppose we could call them injective meetings.

  12. Bryan says:

    @dave: New microspeak incoming, Active Management session or AMs.

    "I have my weekly AMs tomorrow starting at 1:00 and I am planning a 3:00 level set about the cadence afterward. Could you just get me the net-net of the brownbag? We can touch base at 4:00."

  13. Evan says:

    @luceo: "English has a word for this already without the useless corporate jargon. It's called a conversation."

    Um, no.

    I would define a "one-on-one meeting" as a discussion between two employees (I'd say manager & underling, but that may be biased by my workplace) concerning something about the employees' work, workplace, performance, etc.

    A "conversation" is multiple people having a coherent discussion about something.

    A conversation is neither necessarily two people, meaning it misses out on the "one-on-one" part of "one-on-one meeting", nor does it have any connotation whatsoever of being work related (even if you know the people involved are coworkers), so it misses out on the "meeting" part of "one-on-one meeting".

    Yes, there are sometimes words that are hard to discern differences between. (I'd say actually "conversation" and "discussion" are largely in this basket, though "discussion" to be does sound slightly more directed and/or serious.) "Meeting" and "conversation" though are not such a pair.

  14. Ken in NH says:

    @Bryan and @dave,

    I have 8 active management sessions each morning Bob. – Peter Gibbons

    What's the over/under on 1-1 becoming verb? (i.e. "Let's 1-1 at 2 to solidify the design.")

  15. morlamweb says:

    @Ken in NH: or worse: "Let's 1-1 at 1 in room 111 Building 1 …".  I agree with Luceo, "conversation" is a perfectly good word for the meaning implied here.  What's wrong with "meet", as in, "Let's meet at 1 in …"?

    [A 1-1 meeting is not just a regular conversation or meeting. It's a regularly-scheduled meeting focused on giving feedback on how the other party is doing, clarifying what each party expects from the other, keeping the other party informed of what is going on, and collaborating on solutions to problem areas. -Raymond]
  16. 1-1 or 1x1, 1:1, simply 1 on 1 says:

  17. Steve D says:

    While Out of Office is universal, we can still hang 'OOO' on MS Outlook!

  18. Engywuck says:

    now I need to know what an AMA is. Besides the latin imperative I of "amo"…

    For meetings between two people and two people only, mostly with a "secret" background, in german there's the term "Vier-Augen-Gespräch" (talk between four eyes). Vier-Augen-Gespäche can be e.g between politicians or between bosses telling the subordinates that some part of their behaviour is unacceptable, but without doing so with everybody listening in and mostly without (detailed) "paper trail". Is there something similar (especially the "nobody outside needs to know what was talked about exactly" connotation) in english, or is the 1-1 it?

  19. Steve M says:

    And then how is this verbalised?

    In the example Raymond gives of "I'll bring that up in my 1–1 with Bob tomorrow" is the verbal sound 'one to one', 'one dash one', 'one one' … ?

    And it potentially gets worse …

    "I'll bring the C octothorp class changes up in my one hyphen one with Bob tomorrow"

  20. Boris says:

    Why use such ambiguous notation? Out of Office can be easily expressed as e[r(1) ~ 1], which means that the absent coworker _proposes_ (hence the wobbly line) an electronic discussion upon their return.

  21. Neil says:

    Why would 1:1 be mathematical nonsense?

  22. Boris says:

    @Neil: because it hadn't been incorporated into a formal meeting notation. Now it is.

  23. Mc says:

    We call them 1 to 1's.   Same concept, but my boss cancel's 90% of mine as they'd be a waste of time.  

  24. dbacher says:

    So when they conduct a 1:1 with Skype, do they use Skype to do it?

    What about Lync, do they do 1:1 using Lync?

    I'm just kidding — of course.  However, they use that jargon here (well outside of Microsoft's empire) as well, but are flexible about the 1:1 part.  If someone tells us they need a 1:1, usually that means at least 8 people will actually attend the meeting.  

    But it would be really funny for the Word guys to hold their meetings using the Word 2013 collaboration feature on OneDrive, and just type to each other in the Word document.  I mean wouldn't that make design walkthroughs fun?

    Bob> "Hey, here's my — hey don't touch that paragraph"

    Sue> "Oh sorry, I thought you wanted it fixed."

    Bob> "Hey, hey, stop it whose editing it now?"

    Ted> "What, it's wrong — wrong is wrong"

    Bob> "We've not even, hey quit it already."

    Ian> "Oh I'm sorry, I was not reading — this design is really wrong."

    Bob> "Will you all just — wait, wait, whose editing it now?"

    Mia> "Oh, someone shared the link to Facebook.  I thought you were wanting feedback"

    Bob> "I give up, I just give up — this is the last time I share the design and don't just randomly code something.  I hate you all and the users too."

  25. Hans Franke says:

    Well, 1:1 isn't exactly mathematical nonsense, since ':' is used to denote a relation, exactly what's ment here, isn't it. At least in Europe it's used that way (if at all).

  26. Rick C says:

    @Engywuck  In this case, it means "Ask Me Anything."

  27. Boris says:

    "Ask Me Anything" would be e(1 −x- n) or 1 −x- n, depending on whether it is done electronically or live.

  28. Chris says:

    1-1 = the first stage in Super Mario Bros.

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