Manager SLA

We all go through busy and quiet periods at work. As a manager and as an engineering director, there are times when I can provide a better service to to my people and there are times when I have to make some difficult decisions. Having a shared set of expectations here is critical. When you’re busy and have to make difficult prioritisation decisions, misalignments in expectations can quickly sour a relationship.

A couple of months ago, I shared my “service levels” with everyone I manage. We spoke about what support they were getting from me at the time, and what they could expect if things picked up. I got a really positive response, so thought it was worth sharing more widely.

I’m not all that pleased about the cold language, like “service level” and I hate calling people “individual contributors” but I found that fussing over the language was stopping me from sharing expectations.

I’ve scoped this to 1 to 1s. My original document covered what people can expect for performance reviews, but I think that warrants a more detailed post. As the engineering director for our Platform collective, I interact with most of the people who report to me on a day to day basis anyway, so it’s unlikely that they’ll only see me in 1 to 1s unless they work in a different part of the company.

Since sharing this, a number of people I work with have made a copy and amended it to share with the people they manage. I hope it’s helpful for some of you too!

A note on meeting times: I make heavy use of Google’s Speedy Meetings feature which shortens hour-long meetings to 50 minutes, and half hour meetings to 25 minutes. This gives us some contingency to run over if we need to, but it also gives me time to write notes, mentally prepare for the next meeting, or just have time to be a human being for a few minutes.

Manager service levels

I have 3 different service levels as a manager: level 1, level 2 and level 3.

Level 1 is standard, and it’s what is what people who report to me ideally experience most of the time.

Level 2 will happen occasionally and for no longer than 6 months if I pick up additional responsibilities.

Level 3 is for when things are exceptionally busy and will be time-bound to 3 months.

My commitments

  • We will agree the service level we’re working on based on both of our capacity
  • We can both change service levels. I may have capacity for Level 2, but you might have capacity for Level 3.
  • I will listen to and act on concerns with changes, whether that’s by finding you extra support or by dropping something else
  • Levels 2 and 3 will be time bound as opposed to a permanent change to our relationship
  • I will always be available for urgent support

Different people may be on different service levels depending on their needs and preferences.

I’ve broken this up by the two different types of people I manage – Individual Contributors (ICs) and Managers.

Level 1 (standard) 😄

This should be what you experience most of the time. Things may change from time to time – for example, if you’re on weekly 1 to 1s and one of us is sick or has a day off then we won’t reschedule that meeting unless it’s urgent.

Individual contributor

  • 1 to 1s are fortnightly for 50 mins 
  • While onboarding: 1 to 1s are weekly, 50 minutes

Manager

  • 1 to 1s are weekly, 50 mins (whether onboarding or not). 
  • Managers can choose to have fortnightly 1 to 1s for 50 minutes if their schedules don’t support weekly.

Level 2 😬

We agree to cover basics and optimise for more frequent but shorter interactions. This shouldn’t continue for more than 6 months.

Individual contributor

  • 1 to 1s are fortnightly for 25 mins
  • While onboarding: 1 to 1s are weekly for 25 minutes

Manager

  • 1 to 1s are fortnightly for 50 mins
  • While onboarding: 1 to 1s are weekly for 25 minutes

Level 3 🔥

We agree to cover basics infrequently. We’ll have a standing monthly 1 to 1, and an additional 1 to 1 can be scheduled if it’s urgent. I will work with you to identify other people who can support you in this period.

This shouldn’t continue for more than 3 months.

Individual contributor

  • 1 to 1s are monthly for 50 mins

Manager

  • 1 to 1s are monthly, 50 mins,
  • While onboarding: 1 to 1s are weekly for 25 minutes

Manager SLA