A Facebook VP shares one of the worst mistakes managers make when promoting employees

A Facebook VP shares one of the worst mistakes managers make when promoting employees

Julie Zhuo

Jeff Singer

Help them get some management experience first, said Julie Zhuo, pictured.

  • Before anointing an employee with a "boss" title, make sure they're actually interested in people management.
  • They should also have some management or mentoring experience.
  • That's according to Facebook VP Julie Zhuo, author of "The Making of a Manager," who learned this lesson the hard way.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

Facebook VP Julie Zhuo once had an outstanding employee. Everyone on the team looked up to him and asked him for advice.

"He was someone that was very widely respected and admired," Zhuo told Business Insider, "and I thought, obviously, he should be a manager. He has all the skills. He has the respect of all these people, right? They already see him has a leader."

Zhuo promoted the employee to management. And that's where things went wrong.

Zhuo is the vice president of product design at Facebook and the author of the new book "The Making of a Manager." The book distills the most important management lessons she's learned since she became a boss at Facebook, roughly a decade ago.


One such lesson: Just because someone's a stellar employee does not mean they'd be a stellar boss.

Too many people make the mistake of taking a people-management position because it sounds prestigious. And too many bosses make the mistake of promoting employees into people management because they're excelling in their current role.

Read more: A former Google HR exec says people have been asking him how to get promoted for years, and he always responds with the same question

What should happen instead, Zhuo said, is that when someone expresses interest in becoming a manager, their boss should help them get some management practice. For example, they can mentor new employees or manage a summer intern. "That gives you experience as to what the job will be like," Zhuo said, and "you can get a feel for it."

Management experience and a passion for helping people are crucial

Zhuo's advice echoes that of Bharath Jayaraman, HR director at JUUL Labs, who also worked at Facebook. Jayaraman previously told Business Insider that no one should become a boss without having some management experience.


One option he proposed is to organize groups of people who are interested in becoming managers and have them go through more formal training. Every few months, a new cohort of would-be managers might review and discuss case studies, or work with coaches and mentors.

As for Zhuo, it turned out that the employee she promoted was a "maker," which means "he loved nothing more than to have his deep quiet time to work through design problems," she said. "And he was really burned out by being a manager."

The situation became so dire, Zhuo said, that the employee finally admitted, "I wake up and I'm not excited to go to work because I'm dreading having to have all these conversations with other people and to sort through some of these people challenges. That's just not what I want to do."

From that situation, Zhuo learned that people management requires an interest in, well, managing people. She said, "If someone isn't actually passionate about the job of helping, supporting, and enabling other people and teams to thrive, then it's going to be very, very difficult for them to be good at it."