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If you’re paying attention to the news, you know Amazon opened a store with no cash registers or tills. Walk in the store, track your purchases with your app, and leave. Abscond? There’s no automation in teaching people a lesson. Bezos himself will hunt you down and beat you into submission to make an example out of you.

If you read the coverage about the new store, we no longer need to fear the United Nations. Amazon has either ended employment as we know it or is making in its grand plan to set up a shadow government and run lives. Could be both.

The Amazon store is another sign that retail — and anything related to food, restaurants, hospitality, hotels — has entered the age of automation. While personal shoppers and assistants are important brand ambassadors at high-end retail stores, Amazon just launched the Echo Look so you can figure out what to wear and ask people for their opinions. Augmented reality will eventually show your body in specific outfits before you buy new pieces of clothing.

(I declined the opportunity to buy the Echo Look early. I’ve got mixed emotions about Amazon’s impact on the labor market. I don’t want to put more people out of work before it’s necessary. Although I’m over those ladies at the Lululemon near my house who make me feel like a watermelon when I try on clothes.) 

And that is where we are headed. No more retail jobs. Likewise, fewer opportunities for kids to get their first paychecks from McDonald’s. If you watch Alexandra Levit’s new TEDxNorthwesternU talk, the near-term future of work eliminates these task-driven jobs and asks people to use creativity to solve problems that robots can’t tackle just yet. 

There’s a spectrum of roles — from housekeeper to a social worker to technical project leader — that require creativity, reflection, and human-to-human connection. So, learn about human behavior and psychology. Translate irrational patterns in work-related activities that can’t be programmed. Discern emotions and feelings. Show empathy and compassion. Come to work (whatever is left of it) and create an experience. Those are some ways you beat the machines and bots. 

You can see why I’m worried about the future of work, right? It makes sense why Amazon’s march towards domination freaks me the hell out, yes? You’re teaching your kids to code and asking them to do five hours of homework for their AP classes. You’re not raising kids who are equipped to earn a living on emotional labor.

God knows you can’t even do it.

I’ve written it before, and I’ll write it again: the future of work will not work for a majority of Americans, and we’ll need policy discussions on artificial intelligence, education, and universal basic income.

Who will lead that fight? Mike Pence or Lindsey Graham? Chuck Schumer? Sheesh, we’re doomed. Maybe Jeff Bezos and Amazon can save us after all. 

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America and the Soviet Union were mortal enemies when I was a kid. Ronald Reagan was a good guy leading a fight against the entrenched powers of communism and Orwellianism. Mikhail Gorbachev was a monster and wanted us to die in a nuclear holocaust and stand in a long line for bread in milk. And the Pope just wanted to protect children.

Boy, all of that was wrong.

It was a big deal when Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev had a summit back in 1985. They met in Geneva and started a dialogue on shared interests and concerns: nuclear arms and money. From there, we gave them greater access to blue jeans, Coca-Cola, and a future president. 

Summits are effective. Two people with different points of view come together face-to-face to hash things out. There are rules, topics are off the table, and a mutual commitment to walk out of that room with accomplishments. It’s old school, but it works. HR leaders love a good summit, too. If you can get it catered, a summit is the best excuse to order from the good bagel place down the block.

But people have lost their goddamn minds and abandoned diplomacy for confrontation on mobile devices. We’ve ignored years of dedicated research on communication, and we jump at the chance to tell instead of show. We shout through the text on our screens and hope that the font sizes and the big words make it seem like we’re whispering.

I don’t know about you, but the lack of diplomacy is making my online experience confusing. Our dysfunctional communication patterns muddy the waters, and I always wonder what people are saying. Blog post on work-life balance: Is it about balance or is someone mad at her partner? Tweet about sports: Are you angry with your dad? Facebook link to a marketing article: Do you recommend this article or are you mad at me?

Let me suggest that you need to make like Mikhail and hold a summit — on the phone, at the coffee shop, via Skype — if you’re about to go online and write something you wouldn’t say out loud to someone’s face. Plan a summit if there’s a person in your life who needs to be told and you’re the one to do it. Extend an olive branch, accept an older olive branch, and have a damn summit. 

I’m sick trying to parcel out the subtext of your psychology in tweets and LinkedIn updates when I open my laptop. It feels like nothing is sacred, anymore, except videos of Fiona and photos of Lil Bub. If you ruin that for me, I’ll hunt you down. That’s a summit you don’t want.

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There’s snow here in Raleigh. A lot of it. Crazy.

Not saying it’s been a tough week for people who work at an office. But 9-to-5 jamokes are forced to work from home. They are out of their routines. Spending a lot of time with partners and cats. Did you hear what I said? Can you make me lunch since you are home? Are you working right now or surfing the web? 

Yes, I’m talking about my house.

Likewise, the weather is disruptive for people who work from home. Creativity is weird. Relies on routines and superstition. Just saying. Who turned the heat up? Who keeps turning off lights when I leave the room? Why are there dishes in the sink?

Good news is that snow-induced work-from-home scenarios allow for walks in the woods, breakfast for dinner, and naps. Also, more excellent news — Raleigh will be 60 degrees over the weekend.

Light at the end of the tunnel. See you Monday.

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As a freelance writer, there’s no shortage of opportunities for me to churn out content for $50 an article. I can write about the latest in fashion, beauty, or careers. My resume doesn’t matter as long as I can string two sentences together. And even that doesn’t matter. They edit my work.

I should be happy because content writing isn’t completely automated. Not yet, anyway. It’s managed by marketing agencies who work as the outsourced service providers to many of world’s largest media companies. Those firms buy my skills as a contractor, and it’s easy to become a third- or sometimes even fourth-party contractor to the most significant news outlets in the world.

But as a 1099 who earns $50 a pop, that means I’m making $25 an article. I’d make just as much with tips at Waffle House for the same time.

Now, my skills are in demand. I make more than $50. There is a point when the numbers don’t compute and being a freelancer isn’t worth my time. It’s a “new math” where there’s added complexity of people and attitudes.

Do I like you? Are you trying to boss me? Is this a real job you’re trying to do on the cheap?

Hiring a contractor when it should be a full-time job is the one that sticks in my craw. If you use the word “onboarding,” or you micromanage anything besides my work productivity, it’s a job. There’s always some level of orientation at any new endeavor. Human contact is required for any project. If there’s ever a meeting on my calendar to discuss anything except the next assignment and how much it pays, I’m not interested.

The gig economy is excellent for companies who view human labor as a roadblock to profitability. But here’s the secret they don’t know: it’s turning workers into entrepreneurs. I’m no longer just putting chicken in the bucket for the man, and neither are you. Whether we know it, we’re building business plans and creating mission statements that give us MBAs from the school of hard knocks. 

We aren’t going to business school while building a business because it’s fun. We’re doing this to survive.

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The other morning, I watched middle-school boys march to school.

They were a loud gaggle of arms and legs and energy moving on impulse and swinging backpacks and books by their fingertips. These boys laughed and screamed and slammed themselves into one another like waves in the ocean as if their bodies existed only to express temporary impulses and actions.

I felt for those boys. Today, it’s homework and video games and YouTube clips. It’s gym class and sports heroes and eating the sourest gummy candy you can find. In less than a few years, it will be a full onslaught of human sexuality that’s confusing, shameful, and curated by adults who don’t know what the hell they are doing.

It will fuck up these boys hard.

As I watched, I thought of my role in the #MeToo movement. I’ve been quoted in the media on workplace harassment, and I appreciate the opportunity to discuss how the workforce fails women and PoC. While my professional opinion is limited to the workforce, I see the #MeToo movement as an example of how we fail to teach kids, and, further, young boys, about the privileges and responsibilities of human sexuality and power.

If we teach them anything at all, it’s an old curriculum based on biology and moral values that aren’t universal. We don’t explain and show emotion, empathy, and kindness to other living beings. It’s procreation and guilt, with sneaky access to internet porn on the side. Then we throw these kids to the wolves — schools, churches, work environments that still run in misogynistic and racist ways — and expect them to figure it out for themselves.

What’s missing from these kids’ lives is an ongoing conversation about the complexities of society and human identity. What’s missing is a coach and a mentor who’s available to offer loving, gentle, non-judgmental advice. What’s missing is someone who gives a shit about character and invests in us in the long term.

Adults are missing this guidance, too.

The current discussion of #MeToo encapsulates many essential issues like sexual harassment, workplace harassment, sexual assault, and violence. We have so many problems that need our attention, and it’s the first time we’ve had “the internet” for the articulation of stories, opinions, and ideas.

How can you not support this outpouring of expression?

But the #MeToo conversation online is often incomplete, fractured, and takes place behind masks and aliases. Then, when the discussion feeds into our real lives, it’s nothing more than an insufficient antidote to the toxic environment in which many of us live and work.

I love that the #MeToo movement has become a lightning rod for real debate about a series of issues. It’s vital to talk about what’s next and creating action plans that protect people from abuse and violence. But the #MeToo movement is only the first step in ending issues such as workplace harassment, rape, and abuse. And it’s too small of a label for individual problems that, themselves, deserve campaigns and hashtags.

When I looked at those young boys walking to school, I felt for them. There’s no end date for the #MeToo movement. As these kids grow into adolescence and adulthood, many of us will still be online — telling our truths and sharing our stories — while these kids struggle to make sense of it all.

As leaders, we need to get clearer on what we’re talking about and how to fix. Sexual harassment, domestic violence, pay inequality, lousy sex, regret, abuse, and assault are connected by a loose thread of powerful people who lack empathy and think it’s okay to put their needs in front of others. And that loose thread won’t be cut online.

We need national and local leaders with excellent communication skills to lead us through this nuanced discussion of human psychology and sexuality. Women and people of color need truth and reconciliation committees, support groups and programs that aid in healing and repairing our workplaces and our lives. And we need compassion for ourselves and one another as our friends and colleagues come to understand their past behaviors in a new light.

Those of us in leadership roles need to step up and help organize these serious discussions. We need to move the discussion from Twitter and Facebook to real-life action plans in households, schools, and work environments. And we need to pick up the pace.

The #MeToo movement is a start. But it’s time to think about what’s next. If you’re reading my blog, you’re the person to do it. We need you to craft plans for future generations of girls and people of color who deserve to find passion and meaning in their lives. We need you to be the change and implement the change. Most of all, we need you to get moving.

And we really need it for boys, too.

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Three years ago, a colleague of mine told me that my internet headshots made me look amateurish and angry. He said — It’s nice that your husband is a photographer, but you literally need to step up your game and invest a few bucks in a professional photo.

I’m like, what are you talking about? I look fun and young.

Truth is, I needed a professional protrait. My friend Ginny had her photo taken by a local Raleigh portrait photographer named Kathy Howard.

As all good stories go, Kathy Howard changed my life.

I showed up at the portrait studio in Raleigh for a meeting and learned that photography is Kathy’s second career. She is following her passion and has a sense of purpose about her business. Kathy introduced me to her make-up artist, Joanne Maye, and we went over the basics of the shoot — favorable angles, how to prep, how to smile. We also picked out my outfits and talked about my style, which is yoga-pants-meets-cat-hair.

This was 2015, and here are a few of the results compressed into tiny photos:

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The photoshoot was laidback and fun. During the course of the day, I learned so much about Joanne and Kathy. They are now legitimate friends and fellow #girlboss partners-in-crime. They are truly amazing.

Last year, I needed a photo refresher. I just wanted a headshot but Kathy was adamant about taking a bunch of fun photos. How could I say no? I was so comfortable with Kathy and Joanne that I basically told them both — I’ll wear whatever you put on my body, and you can do whatever you want with my hair and make-up.

Here are some of the results, also compressed:

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Go to Kathy’s site and you’ll see me in full-resolution on her contact form. Not bad for a middle-aged lady!

Not everybody needs a photoshoot, but I can 100% guarantee that you need a new headshot. Save some cash and invest in a new portrait that captures your internal spirit and external beauty. Why do you need a new portrait? For starters, you could use an upgrade on your LinkedIn profile. Also, it’s fun to look good and feel good.

So, have a look at Kathy’s website and get inspired. Google your local portrait photographers and see if they offer social media packages. Or come hang out in Raleigh with me and Kathy. But you can’t use Joanne for make-up, though. She’s changed her life to become a financial advisor!

I love having women in my network who are smart, fun and committed to lifelong learning and self-improvement. Such a good outcome from simply having my portrait taken!

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We’re about halfway through January. Will you meet your reading goal and finish one book each month?

Right now, there’s a team of people working hard to build HRBooks.com because I think you can read 12 books each year. We are trying to help HR professionals work to the top of their license. Books are a great place to start.

I know you’re consuming content all day long. You read my blog, your smartphone, and Buzzfeed. If you aren’t reading books, you are missing out. You don’t have to read boring HR books or management guides. The #HRBookClub is recommending two options each month based on a theme. This month’s theme is “wellness,” and we picked books by Brené Brown and Dan Harris. Don’t like those books? Read something else. Just read something.

There’s no official club to join although you can sign up for our newsletter here. No money that you need to spend. Get a library card, visit a used bookstore, or download a cheap e-book. Accept the challenge and read twelve books in 2018. Then join me on 1/31 on Facebook Live (and we’ll tell you more about that later) to talk about the monthly books.

It’s just that easy.

Leaders are readers. Now, more than ever, we need you to lead in the world of HR. Join the #HRBookClub, and we’ll see you online soon!

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I’m writing this note to inform you that the Workplace Harassment Summit was canceled because we got him. That one guy who was making your job a nightmare? It’s over for him thanks to the #MeToo movement, so there’s no need for me to do a talk in New York City on January 29th.

we got him

Okay, wait, that’s not true, mostly because that guy at your office still has a job. The Workplace Harassment Summit was canceled due to slow ticket sales. It sucks because the speakers were talented individuals focused on what’s next in human resources and social justice.

Look at who was speaking:

Chai Feldblum is the current Commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Have you seen her at other HR events? You should. Ask event planners to book her.

Helene Wasserman is an expert on employment litigation and investigations, and she knows the ins and outs of non-disclosure agreements that are hurting women and PoC.

Carmen Hudson is a champion for the workforce, the best recruiter in America, and helps the most innovative companies find talented people. You might think you’re hiring the best and the brightest, avoiding chumps and troublemakers. Your VP of Talent should talk to Carmen.

Frank Dobbin is a professor at Harvard who is developing an evidence-based approach to diversity management and studies the effects of corporate hiring, promotion, diversity and work-life policies on actual outcomes. When people offer management and leadership advice, nobody asks for evidence. Start by reading Professor Dobbin’s work.

Emily Martin is the General Counsel and VP for Workplace Justice at the National Women’s Law Center. She works to ensure fair treatment and equal opportunity for women at work, with a particular focus on the obstacles that confront women in low-wage jobs and women of color. You’re not considered the best place to work if you’re not addressing the needs of everyone in your workplace, including women of color.

Finally, then there was Gretchen Carlson and me. Gretchen, formerly of FOX News and now lobbying politicians in Washington. Me, appearing in mainstream print and radio, holding my own as the country’s foremost expert of workforce masturbation.

What a line-up!

I’m super-bummed that this event isn’t moving forward, but I’m also pleased that you’ll have another chance to think about solutions to workforce harassment. There’s another conference called WorkHuman. Tons of useful content, for sure, with a dedicated #MeToo panel hosted by Adam Grant with Tarana Burke and Ashley Judd. I have a discount code for you: WH18INF-LHA.

The #MeToo movement is morphing into a #TimesUp movement, but no hashtag will solve systemic sexism and racism at work. It’s up to you, which is why I hope to see you at WorkHuman in Austin!

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I am doing 2018 differently.

This year, I knocked out all three annual cat exam visits in January. Over the past ten days, I hauled each of my girls to the office and went through the checklist of shit that might be wrong.

They’re all in exceptional health. Roxy is a terrorist kitten. Molly lost a little weight but is otherwise healthy. Emma has some chin acne and needs a dental. It’s the first patch in a very long time where nobody is super-old, and my biggest concern is about how my cats look.

So, how do they look?

They’re adorable, of course. Look at my social feed where you’ll see that my cats are cute and full of personality. They’re all talkers, and they don’t just sit in the basement and scowl. I have three chatty little sisters who keep me company all day long.

But I found myself asking the weirdest questions at the vet. Does Emma’s fur seem a little yellow to you? Does Roxy look as smooth and glossy as she could be? I know Molly has allergies, but can we make her eyes a little brighter?

I realized, oh my god, I’m trying to get Instagram cats. Seriously, I’m trying to apply real-life filters to my cats so that mom can rake up the “likes.” In my head, I’m trying to make them accidentally famous. Do people do this with their kids? Critique appearances, pose them and apply filters?

Goddamn, the internet is awful. Then, when I turned my gaze on myself, I realize that I’ve been googling Eyelid Thermage on a regular basis because my birthday is taking a mental toll on me and my allergy-sensitive eyes are tired and crepey. I’ve been looking for a non-surgical way to enhance my appearance, and this is on my list because I’m insane.

I’m fine. My cats are fine. The internet is toxic. Nobody cares about my wrinkly eyes.

Knocking out the annual cat visits in combination with my birthday reminded me that we’re all getting old, but it’s also an opportunity to reframe the story that we are all healthy and still together. Molly and Emma have been with me since I lived in Michigan for a few years. Roxy is icing on the cupcake of my family. Sure, we’re older. But we are better for it. Bonded to our morning routine of boo-boo-kitty crunchies and afternoon noshes.

Instead of looking at the mirror of my social media accounts, I need to pay more attention to what’s happening in real life. Molly with the crusty gunk, Emma with the chin acne, Roxy with the crazy zoomies, and me with my tired eyes.

We’re unstoppable.

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The world’s smartest women offer some career advice for 2018. It goes like this: Be your authentic self. Confidence is key. Be open to opportunities. Surround yourself with good people. Find the right balance for you.

I love all of these women, but this list is recycled garbage. Everybody knows that you can’t be your authentic self at work. Most of us would get fired or spend all of our time engaged in petty conflict. And it’s okay to be confident, but you’re not that great. Tough to be sure of yourself when you have personal work to do.

I’m also not a fan of telling women to surround themselves with good people. I mean, yes, create a personal board of directors and load it up with excellent advisors. But you don’t control your work environment; you only control your reaction to it. Maybe not even that.

Finally, there’s a special place in hell for people who aren’t Madeleine Albright and tell people there’s a special place in hell. But, there’s another special place in hell for women who tell other women to find balance. Okay, sure, I’ll find the right balance just as soon as a board of directors appoints me CEO and my choices are better. Let’s not pretend that 98% of working men and women have options.

So, what’s the best career advice for women in 2018?

Don’t take career advice. Let’s end that sentence there. Advice is a form of nostalgia that has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the speaker. If you need clarity in your life, seek guidance or coaching from someone who isn’t building a personal brand.

Competence is key. If you’re good at what you do, which means doing your job + building relationships at work, you’re unstoppable. In fact, the order is flipped. It’s build relationships + be good at what you do.

Be safe. Lots of women spend too long in a job that starts out dodgy and grows riskier and riskier by the year. Now is the time to end this bullshit. We’re at record unemployment until the president ruins it, and everybody is hiring. If you’re in an unsafe working environment, this stops now. Contact me. I’ll help.

Finally, if you don’t have balance in your life, take it back however you can. Learn the art of saying no a little more. Take a lunchtime nap in your car. Learn to breathe. Play the long game and realize that this busy time in your life is temporary and start planning for the day when you have five minutes to poop in private. Or, just be honest with yourself. That’s always a smart place to start. You have no balance. Life is out of control. Now find a professional to help get some balance back.

My best advice for 2018? The people closest to a problem are the ones equipped to solve it. You don’t need internet advice to fix your career. You just need some space and time to think about your core values, your personal goals, and how you get from here to there. But if you’re looking for internet advice, I have one more gem for you:

I believe that a job is just a job. The only meaning it has is the meaning you give it. Let go of your ego, get a hobby, and your life might be a little less stressful and a lot more enjoyable in the new year.

Hope that helps!

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