A Facebook VP shares how to win your employees' trust so you're not blindsided if they decide to quit

A Facebook VP shares how to win your employees' trust so you're not blindsided if they decide to quit

Julie Zhuo

Jeff Singer

  • Facebook VP Julie Zhuo said she's been surprised before when an employee announced they were quitting.
  • That's a sign of poor management skills, she said.
  • A good boss checks in with their employees regularly about how their job is going, and can figure out months in advance when things aren't working out.

If you're blindsided by an employee's resignation, you probably need to rethink your approach to management.

That's according to Julie Zhuo, Facebook's vice president of product design and the author of the new book "The Making of a Manager." Zhuo was an early Facebook employee and became a first-time boss about a decade ago, in her mid-20s; the book distills all the management lessons she's learned since then.

One such lesson, which Zhuo shared in an interview with Business Insider: You should know well before an employee quits that the person isn't quite satisfied at work. Zhuo said she learned that lesson the hard way, having been surprised to hear one of her team members announcing their resignation.

"In those cases when I was surprised, the person didn't feel comfortable enough telling me how they were feeling," Zhuo said. "In the months leading up to that, they didn't feel like they could be totally transparent with me." Her key takeaway was that she could have done more to earn the employee's trust.


In the book, Zhuo outlines a few key strategies for developing that trust.

One is making sure your direct reports know they can share their biggest challenges - as opposed to telling you "everything is fine!" when they're majorly struggling with an assignment.

Another is regularly exchanging critical feedback - to the point that it's sometimes awkward. (Think: "Last week, when you said X, it made me feel as if you don't really understand my project.")

Zhuo also recommends that managers hold weekly one-on-one check-ins with their reports. Every so often, the manager should use those check-ins to discuss how things are going generally: "What's making him satisfied or dissatisfied? Have any of his goals changed? What has he learned recently and what does he want to learn going forward?"

Read more: A former Facebook HR exec says many bosses are too uncomfortable to ask people a hugely important question


Presumably, if you use these management tactics, you'll know when an employee is starting to feel their role isn't a fit. You won't necessarily be able (or want) to stop them from looking elsewhere. But you might be able to find a solution (or a replacement).

You never want to think an employee is perfectly happy at work when they're not

Zhuo returned to the memory of a time when she was caught off guard by an employee quitting. "If I really understood what they cared about, if I really understood their strengths and their passions and so forth," she said, "we would have been able to have this conversation a long time ago."

At some top tech companies, managers even encourage their employees to tell them when they're interviewing elsewhere. For example, Netflix's website reads: "Knowing that other companies would quickly hire you if you left Netflix is comforting. We see occasional outside interviewing as healthy, and encourage employees to talk with their managers about what they learn in the process."

Zhuo said she doesn't necessarily expect her employees to be open about looking for other jobs. What she really wants to hear is if "they weren't necessarily getting what they wanted out of their current role, or they weren't feeling challenged enough, or I was asking them to do X or Y and what they really wanted to do more of was Z."

Ultimately, managers need to avoid delusions that everything is perfect - in terms of their own career and their reports'. As Zhuo said, "I wouldn't want to be surprised and think that somehow they were perfectly happy and that everything was roses when they announced that they're going to do something else."