Office Hours: Rachel Pacheco on Providing Practical Lessons for New Managers
As expectations in the workplace continue to shift, it’s never been more important for managers to learn the ins and outs of how to best lead in their roles, and serve as effective leaders for employees. From work modalities evolving to younger generations seeking conversations about finding meaning in their careers, there are new sets of responsibilities for managers to juggle in 2023 beyond the daily deliverables.
In her recent book, Bringing Up the Boss: Practical Lessons for New Managers, Rachel Pacheco, assistant teaching professor of management at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, provides practical tips and tricks for new managers who are looking for ways to best serve their organizations and create positive work environments.
How did you decide to write Bringing Up the Boss: Practical Lessons for New Managers?
About seven years ago, I was the chief people officer of a small healthcare startup. Upon joining the team, I immediately realized that managers in the company were really struggling. These were folks who were early employees; they had been around for one or two years and were promoted to the position of manager without any resources or support.
In my role, I tried to look for resources to help upscale these managers quickly and in a way that didn’t cost a lot of money. I looked for a book that would do this, but I didn’t find one. So, instead, I started compiling academic research that I was aware of and started to package weekly tips for new managers in the company.
Those emails later became a blog, and that blog became Bringing Up the Boss: Practical Lessons for New Managers, which is focused on practical tips and tools for managers to implement immediately into their day-to-day work.
While researching and writing the book, what were some of your biggest takeaways?
I wrote this book for new managers. When speaking with managers before the book came out, I realized that the audience was much wider than I initially thought.
Managers, even those who have been working for 15 to 20 years, often have never been given the training or resources to manage really well. It’s a huge source of stress and anxiety when you have people that you are responsible for and you don’t quite know how to do it well.
I also realized how hard it is for folks to have difficult conversations with the people that they work with. A lot of the book is about how to give kind and constructive feedback and learning how to set clear expectations with the people around you—whether that be people you manage, or your fellow colleagues—in order to have a better working relationship. I realized that there was this need for tools, tips, and scripts to help people navigate these hard conversations.
What are some areas of your book that you feel are especially important for managers to pay close attention to?
I’ll start with the first chapter of the book, which I think is core to any positive working relationship, and that’s setting really clear expectations. It feels basic, but oftentimes, we have these expectations that are in our head and we never make them explicit.
One of my all-time favorite quotes that my friend’s dad actually said to her in the context of online dating is, “An unarticulated expectation is a disappointment guaranteed.” The idea, as a manager, is to state what you want or need from your employees really clearly. And show them what good looks like. These clearly stated expectations are going to immediately improve the manager and employee relationship as well as the employees’ abilities to execute their work.
Based on your research, what should constructive conversations between managers and employees look like in the workplace?
From the employee standpoint, oftentimes, there is hesitancy when it comes to giving feedback to people in positions of power. It’s really hard as an employee—especially a new employee— to offer your boss feedback. Using the feedback process that I outline in the book, it starts with objectively stating what happened. For example, “Yesterday, I observed that I didn’t hear back from you when I sent my work product, and the impact it had on me was that I wasn’t able to leave the office until 10 p.m.” In this scenario, you are stating an objective situation that happened, without any accusations, and this decreases defensiveness.
Oftentimes, managers and bosses are really busy with a huge cognitive load, including decisions that they are making all of the time. Sometimes, they forget how their behavior impacts the people that they manage. So state the behavior, explain the impact, and have a discussion about what can be done moving forward to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
How do you think the book has influenced managers since it was first published?
I would say the biggest piece of feedback that I get is that the book gives managers permission to pause and think about the manager and employee relationship. Managers have told me that it gives them permission to get to know their employees on a deeper level, as well as permission to help an employee figure out what creates a sense of meaning. Ultimately, it gives managers permission to think about themselves differently.
Our identities shift when we become a manager, and it resonates with folks in the book in terms of ‘Hey this is a different role, and I am going to struggle. I’m going to make mistakes. I’m going to let my employee know that I am going to make mistakes. I’m going to be vulnerable.’ That human side of management, I think, has resonated the most with folks when they read the book.
Based on your findings, what are some areas of opportunity for managers across various industries?
Employee expectations of managers have shifted over time. If we think about Generation Z, there’s a huge expectation from this group of people that managers are going to have conversations with employees about finding meaning in their work, mental health, and burnout.
For prior generations, these expectations weren’t there. Now, managers need to build the skills to have conversations about mental health or managing burnout in a way that they didn’t have to before.
With these shifting expectations, there aren’t a lot of training programs and companies or other resources to help managers know how to have these conversations. With that being said, it’s really important to pay attention to these shifting expectations.
Will you be writing another book? And, if so, what can the audience expect?
I am working on my second book now. What I am interested in is how managers can help employees bring meaning into their work. Employees want to bring meaning into their jobs, and over time, this desire for meaning is number one on the list of what employees want in their work.
When I think about all of the management trainings I have been to, or resources I have seen, not one has said “Hey, here is how you can help your team members find meaning and purpose in their work.”
This book will be a helpful and practical tool to help managers allow their teams and employees to find more meaning, and therefore, be more fulfilled and engaged in what they are doing on a daily basis.