There’s an invitation pending in your calendar. You check it out and subconsciously hold your breath. Something called a “skip-level meeting” is about to happen with your manager’s manager. What you’re going to talk about? You don’t know this person too well, if at all. Anxiety sets in. Let’s survive this together.

The Purpose

First of all, why there’s a need to have such a meeting at all? This person you’re going to talk to is accountable for your happiness and performance at work. Not directly, this is why you have your very own manager working directly with you, but if something fails, the reporting structure guarantees the issue lands on their table. And this is not an easy task - it requires not only carefully listening for feedback from your leader but gathering information and signals from a good variety of other sources. Including you! So the primary purpose of this meeting is not to judge or decide something but to collect feedback and other signals on how you, your team, your manager, and the rest of the organization are doing.

What Should We Talk About?

Don’t worry about that too much. If there’s a specific topic where your input is needed AND it requires some preparation, you’ll be informed about that in advance. But, more often, your impromptu opinions and thoughts are the revealing bits the manager is looking for. So relax, and let the conversation flow. If something is important, you’re going to be asked about it.

However, it doesn’t mean you’re in the “test” or “interview,” where you only sit back and answer questions. It’s an excellent chance to ask anything you’ve been itching to know more about. Just go for it. Have an opinion on some recent development with changes in your team or the entire company, and you’re not sure it reached higher levels? A perfect chance to discuss it!

Guaranteed Topics

Regardless of your unique context, there are a few topics that are pretty much guaranteed to be somewhat covered:

  • How are you feeling at your job?
  • What do you think about your team and the projects you work on?
  • What do you like and dislike about your manager?
  • Are there any issues that keep bothering you?

You don’t have to write a script to read aloud, but it won’t hurt to make up your mind so you can express yourself without extra stress.

Everything You’re Going To Say Can And Will Be Used…

You know the phrase: it ends with “against you in the court.” Except there’s no court in this case, and indeed, there shouldn’t be any bias against you. It is a 1-on-1 meeting, so you can expect appropriate respect for any confidential information you will mention. If unsure, please ask about it in advance. But a general rule of thumb is that data points collected here will be used to build a bigger picture but not taken out and exposed directly. For me, that would be a huge, colossal faux-pas, worth escalating further. So yes, please be as revealing as possible because this call is genuinely confidential. If you’re in the tiniest doubt, feel free to explicitly ask where your feedback and input will be used and how.


So here it is - it’s simply a chance to have an exciting chat with the person managing your manager! It is still a professional environment, but do not sweat about it - the person across the (virtual) table is doing this often and will guide the conversation to anywhere it’s essential for them.

Tips If You’re Conducting One

Skip-levels are great to supplement your model of understanding how things are going across different teams and even whole departments. However, I often find some tension about what this meeting is about, especially if a person has never had such a call before. To make things easier, I always build at least some rapport first and might not even press on my main subject in the first round. It is much more likely to hear some juicy details if there’s no suspicion of your intent. I often spend time explaining my goals or simply include this in the description of the meeting invitation.

Unless you hear about some terrible misconduct (exceptional cases - make sure to involve HR immediately!), never expose information givers. It can seriously damage your future chances of gaining any honest opinions and insights. Sometimes to the point of no return, so not worth the risk. If you need to pass on the feedback (which happens quite often), make sure to first - double-check it with other people, and second - obfuscate to the point where it would be impossible to trackback who gave this feedback. If that’s impossible, consider giving mentorship sessions on how things should be working on a particular aspect, and try to fix misalignment this way. There are other creative ways, but we are like journalists - never to reveal our sources.

Going Deeper

In the end, especially in large organizations, we all might end up having… skip-skip-level conversation. All the same thoughts outlined above still apply, just keep in mind that with such a distance, the level of abstraction is already wildly different, so keep an eye that you give enough high-level context for the person in front of you to understand what the topic or problem is about.

Photo by Pok Rie