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I just finished Andy Janning’s book called Heroes, Villains, and Drunk Old Men: A Love Story for Real Life. I loved it. It’s autobiographical, motivational, and calls upon Andy’s expertise in the HR/training space to provide specific strategies for living a better life.

Fair warning, there’s some Jesus in there. I don’t hate it. His Jesus isn’t oppressing me or telling me what I’m doing wrong with my life, which makes it easier to read. Maybe that’s a strategy to recruit me and Mean Jesus comes later, ha.

Anyway, what I loved most about this book is that it comes from a place of earnestness. It’s easy to write a book (or a blog) for people you love and be the hero of your own story, but it’s harder to write a standalone treatment that serves as a guide for people who don’t know you and need expert advice. Just like Steve Browne’s important book on HR, Andy wrote a book that’s both generous and educational. Some chapters felt like they were written just for me.

At one point, Andy tells his audience that heroes will become villains if they don’t have mentors who help them grow and evolve. I thought about my own HR blogging journey and how so many of my early peers have gone on to accomplish amazing things. While I’ve done some fun and interesting things, I’m a dilettante. I have not excelled in any specific area of my life or exceeded market expectations.

Am I a villain? Could I be a villain? Would that be cool? I would like to liquidate my affairs on the internet and retire to a remote island, which seems very villainous, but the act of being a villain seems like a lot of work.

How do I catch up to my peers and get to that remote island without being a scoundrel? Well, Andy had an eight-point plan and some important questions to ask in his book. I can already see that I need to cultivate better relationships in 2018. Work a little harder in areas of my life with clear ROI. Find a mentor who can stop me from being an HR rascal.

Groundbreaking stuff? Probably not. But, combined with stories of life and love and heartache, Andy has me thinking. That’s why I strongly recommend this book.

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I just finished Steve Browne’s book called HR on Purpose. It’s a positive and affectionate appreciation of an industry that can use a little optimism right now. If you’re going to be in HR, you might as well embrace it and enjoy it. Go out there, have fun, and make a difference.

I don’t hate any of that. Life is much more enjoyable if you love your work and embrace the good with the bad.

Later in the book, Steve dedicates a chapter to the act of finding your tribe. Surround yourself with people who understand your work and support you. When times are tough (and they’ll get challenging in HR), it’s good to have friends who know what you’re going through and can offer advice that your partner/spouse/non-HR friends can’t provide.

I don’t hate that, either, except I’m not a big fan of the word tribe. We take a lot of things from indigenous Americans — their property, their dignity, their right to live in sovereign nations without oil and gas companies polluting their ancestral land — and we liberally borrow from them when we need to make a point.

For example, Trump uses the slur “Pocahontas” to make a point about Elizabeth Warren (who claims she has Native American ancestors and listed herself as a minority teacher at Harvard). That guy is such a moron. Even if she’s not Native American, you don’t behave like that. And people use the word “tribe” to describe a ride-or-die community without understanding that people did fight to the death while being forcibly removed from their homelands. Google “trail of tears” for a history lesson on what it’s like to be in a tribe.

Also, tribes aren’t necessarily healthy. We’re living in an age of tribal politics where people double-down on preferred interests without offering sympathy or grace to their neighbors. If you’re not part of my tribe, you’re an enemy. If you’re not in my circle, you’re dead to me. You know, I was once in a tribe over at Fistful of Talent. One of the things I learned from that experience is those tribal dynamics can be dysfunctional. It’s like family without the obligation, which sounds great until there’s conflict. The best part was working with a few individual people who loved me as a friend. The rest was just artifice, and, maybe, further proof that I’m the problem-child and don’t do well with tribes.

Anyway, I’m not a sensitive and politically correct hippie, and I think Steve Browne uses the word “tribe” earnestly. He loves his friends and colleagues. They mean the world to him. But I make different choices when describing the people I love. I use the words “friends” and “community.” Not sexy, not trendy, but something to think about.

Steve Browne is my friend, and he’s part of a broader HR community that I love. Now go read his book!

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harassment summit

When I quit my job in HR and dreamed of being a writer and speaker, I never thought that I would keynote a conference about workplace harassment with Gretchen Carlson in New York City on January 28, 2018.

My dreams were a little more traditional. I hoped to find work as an advice columnist for a major media outlet. I wanted to use my expertise to help job seekers find employment and support employees who had on-the-job difficulties.

Ten years after leaving HR, I never got that big-time media job. And I’ve learned that women and people of color continue to face extraordinary hurdles in the modern workforce. You think things would be different. We’re in a talent-driven economy and face labor shortages in all aspects of the market, and, yet, managers and supervisors still harass workers like it’s the early twentieth century.

What’s worse is that HR fails to protect the interests of employees across all industries and job categories. When a complaint comes to light, HR is both disinterested and disempowered. When challenged to do better, many human resources professionals will say things like, “I promise you that we listen to our employees, Laurie, but I can’t comment due to personnel policy and privacy laws.”

It’s such total bullshit. It breaks my heart.

So, back to where we started: I’m keynoting TLNT’s Workplace Harassment Summit on January 28, 2018, with Gretchen Carlson. I’m not interested in blaming HR or vilifying men in positions of power because, honestly, that’s too easy. I hope to start a conversation on how HR can redeem itself and address harassment complaints differently in 2018.

Since you work in HR, I’d love to have you there. Can you get yourself to New York City on January 28? Win a free ticket by emailing me with an answer to the following question:

Even though HR isn’t always the most powerful or influential department, what’s one thing HR can do to protect workers from harassment and abuse?

Send your email to laurie@thecynicalgirl.com by December 11th, and I will pick one recipient. I’ll also have additional tickets available in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for updates. I hope to hear from you, and I welcome your ideas on how to advance this conversation.

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I’ve been thinking about how to innovate in the world of HR blogging, which is a ridiculous thing to write.

When you’ve been on the internet for over ten years, and everybody around you is an expert in the future of work, it’s not easy to stay fresh and relevant. While it’s true that I was early to the HR blogging and the careerist world, it’s undoubtedly true that I’m no longer the best. Legacy is not enough.

So there are a couple of options when it comes to creating new and differentiated content. First, you can go and study what the kids-these-days are doing and try to replicate those efforts, which is something that U2 has done with their most recent album. There’s no new art, and by incorporating fresh concepts into your body of work, you are actually just riffing on people riffing on your inspirational work of years past.

It’s narcissistically meta and very U2. I don’t entirely hate it.

Or you can take a timeout, watch the market, and work hard to avoid undermining your archive of work. I think about the 90s band A Tribe Called Quest who went on hiatus and waited several years to reunite and several more years after that before releasing new material. My summary of that influential band doesn’t do them justice, but the point is that they didn’t sacrifice their values to jump on the bandwagon and seem relevant.

They were the bandwagon. And they waited.

I’m not itching to write a new blog post or produce a podcast or do a video series unless there’s a real reason to do it. Right now, my target market is focused on workplace harassment. I’m happy to oblige the market, but I’m not sure if this is anything more than a trend. When the economy tanks from the Trump Tax Scam, what then? Do we care that women and protected minorities are finally starting to gain a voice, or do we care that medical bankruptcies and foreclosures go back on the rise?

When unemployment hits our cities, and we’re fighting the same fights we fought in It’s a Wonderful Life, do we care about the future of work? Or are we distracted by the urgency of now?

I’m thinking about all of this, right now, to have something interesting to say when it happens. That’s how I am trying to stay relevant. Which means, at this moment, I’m sorta quiet on the blog.

Thanks for sticking around and waiting.

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Nobody is spontaneously great. The most significant difference between those who succeed and those who don’t? Practice.

I don’t mean 10,000 hours of training. I’m talking about people who know something is coming — an event, audition, a tough conversation — and work backward to ensure that they’re ready.

Next week, I’m speaking in Auckland. There’s an eighteen-hour time difference between Raleigh and New Zealand. I’ll be hella tired and jetlagged. My cognitive processing speeds will take a hit, and there’s a 100% chance that I’ll be hangry.

How can I channel my inner Tom Brady and reproduce game-time conditions? Good question.

I’ve been getting up early all week, forgoing coffee, and practicing my speech. I’m in my jammies and a robe at 5 o’clock in the morning talking to my cats. It’s hilarious and weird. Then I go back to bed, sleep for a few hours, and spend the rest of the day being super cranky.

It’s paying off. I’ve noticed a few habits that emerge when I’m tired. I’m working on being mindful while also letting my performance flow. All I can do is practice, make adjustments, and show up in a foreign country and offer my best ideas to a complete group of strangers.

Bottom line? I want to make an impact, not excuses. You can’t help people change their lives — or perform their jobs better — if you’re caught up in some narcissistic debate on whether or not you’re good enough or talented enough to be on stage.

If you’re on stage, you qualify. The debate is over. Now make the most of the opportunity by practicing.

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A quick note to all the HR professionals who have something to say about workplace harassment and wonder if they should start a blog.

The answer is maybe.

Do some research. I know you want to strike while the iron is hot and express yourself on timely issues. Spend some time on TLNT or HRE Online and weigh in with comments and letters to the editor. Participate in SHRM’s NextChat or get involved in Jennifer McClure’s Facebook group for HR professionals (ask her how because I’m not a participant).

Next, keep a journal for thirty days. Communication requires practice. Capture your ideas, for good or bad, in a notebook or phone. See what you’ve got at the end of the month. Then ask yourself — am I writing a diary or do I have a point of view? A blog is built on a good set of bones. Journaling your life is okay, and it’s a necessary part of the process, but being a sturdy individual with strong ideas is the skeleton on which you hang your stories and ideas.

Finally, before you lock down a URL and start blogging, try expressing yourself on LinkedIn. They have an excellent publishing platform that’s geared towards business-savvy professionals who have something to say about work. It’s also free, and it probably won’t freak out your employer if they see your posts on LinkedIn.

The world of work needs your idea, but it might not need your blog. Lots of tools and platforms out there to explore without jumping off the deep end into the world of blogging. If you have something to say about workplace harassment, find your channel. Most of all, don’t jeopardize your career in the process. The best HR writers and bloggers are the ones with full-time jobs.

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Every blog post is a letter, every sentence is a missive, and I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for always coming back to my blog. I don’t deserve it. I’ve been super busy. Feels like the only thing I’m good at is ignoring this blog. I know that’s not true. When it comes to HR, people still call me. Can’t seem to shake it from my personal brand. I’m hashtag-blessed that way.

Some of you know that I started a consulting gig at the end of the summer for an HR company named Zenefits. It was fun, but it’s over. We’re ending on a high note with the Employee Experience 2020 Summit. You should go check it out — it’s a free event for HR professionals and leaders who want to improve the work experience for their employees.

(How timely!)

I’m also speaking at the Recruiters’ Hub Conference in New Zealand. Will you be there? Want to come with? Total travel time is 20 hours and 58 minutes from North Carolina. I’m booked in an economy seat but, thankfully, on the upgrade list. Fingers crossed that the algorithmic gods love me.

(I’m ready for that long-ass flight. Downloaded a bunch of books. Let’s do this!)

Finally, I’ve been all over the media talking on and off the record about sexual harassment. Feels like we’re at the very beginning of a long process where employees will tell stories and employers, brands and leaders will be forced to listen via a mechanism as old as time itself: public shaming.

Telling stories on the internet isn’t enough, though. Victims need a place to get some answers and help. So, I’m thinking about creating a podcast series and a community where people tell true stories about work — for good or bad — and employers listen. I would interview people with work problems. Then I’d talk to leaders, managers, and experts who can help employees solve their job-related problems. I’d also like to build a platform (community, forum, TBD) to I help people resolve their issues without going to HR.

Does something like that interest you? Worried that all people are awful and this podcast-slash-destination becomes a boring complainathon? Yeah, me too. Doing some research on this right now.

(Let me know what you think.)

Thanks for sticking around and reading my blog. I’ll get back to my regular publication schedule soon (or never), but stay connected with me on Twitter or find me on LinkedIn if you want to talk about work. I’ll catch up with you when I’m back from New Zealand!

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Years ago, I worked for a guy named Bret Starr. He’s a kindhearted CEO of a marketing agency, and he loved me dearly. He asked me to join his merry band of misfits when I was freaking out because my husband had lost his job during the great recession.

Bret’s offer was a tremendous act of generosity, and, of course, it didn’t work out. Lots of reasons why I left after 20 months, but I blew it, in large part, by not understanding how to blend my personal brand with the company’s goals.

So, I’ve spent the past five years trying to get that right. Good work is good work. When I consult or advise, I strive to amplify other people’s efforts and scrub my fingerprints from the final result. But sometimes I can’t help but be LFR®™. I tend to go first, which gives license for other people in our industry to follow my lead and test out new ideas and personae.

Last night was a good example of how going first can work against an industry. I took the stage at an event in Cincinnati, a very conservative town in America, and was advised not to swear or use obscene language while telling a five-minute story related to HR. Unfortunately, I’m a petulant child who can’t follow the rules. I unleashed the f-bomb five or six times in my presentation.

Let me begin by telling you that nobody died. And I was funny-ish. But, as the opening speaker, I should have known better. I watched others follow my lead and use vulgar language. And, while I don’t give a shit if people swear, I also know that not everybody can charmingly deliver a well-placed cuss word.

Sometimes the other speakers were great. Sometimes it was forced. But I turned around and saw audience members cringe, which tells me that disruptive and creative messages were being lost due to speakers who got caught up in being needlessly edgy.

Listen, it’s not my fault that people were swearing. But it is my fault that I failed to recognize my trendsetting role as a leader in this industry. If I swear and people hate me, they still listen because I’m LFR. If other people swear, it sometimes seems out of place and alienates an audience.

Overall, the night was fantastic. Speakers had cool and interesting things to say. But the evening was a classic example of how my influence cast a shadow on a night that should have been about ideas and not about the seven words you can’t say on TV.

And it’s a reminder to all speakers out there: Get known for your individual style and genius ideas. Then test the boundaries of language and figure out what an audience will tolerate from you. But test those limits slowly. Keep the audience on your side. And don’t drop the f-bomb unless you’re 65% sure it adds value to the story.

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I’m attending a technology conference where no fewer than two dozen people are walking around saying that they’re experts on the future of work. If they’re not using the word expert, they’re referring to themselves as futurists.

I remember the first time I heard ‘futurist’ as a job title. I was working as an HR generalist, and those were the days of AOL instant messenger and Mapquest. My brain went like this:

Futurist. Futurist? Futurist?!!!#*$@%#@(%^Q*W(HFOEW

I was appalled. “Work psychic” was a better way to describe what this guy was selling. No more accurate or accountable than Dionne Warwick, and, also, less entertaining.

Now it’s 2017, and everybody is an expert on the future of work. I would throw myself into the mix except that I’m an expert on the future of no work. If we’re headed towards a society where work becomes an ephemeral experience that pays you in feelings instead of money, please count me the hell out.

But, let’s be honest, I’m as much of an expert on the future of work as anybody else. I have a few thoughts.

First of all, I worry that the future of work isn’t one future. It’s many scenarios based on your race, class, and gender. Unless we finally have our first human warp-speed flight and make contact with the Vulcans, it’s unlikely that anything will save us from our current path of self-immolation.

I also fear that the future of work isn’t robots. It’s people being treated like machinery and toiling under the threat of being replaced by automation. Work ten hours instead of eight because the robots are coming. Be happy with your 2.8% merit increase because the alternative could be zero. Put chicken in the bucket for the man.

Finally, without basic income, I think the future of work isn’t work. It’s people living off capital gains and hoarding real estate, and then it’s indentured servitiude for the working class. The wealthy will distract us with 20th-century social issues like abortion and gay rights so that we don’t rise up against them.

Depressing, yeah, I know. I’m sorry. People don’t want to hear my apocalyptic predictions because there’s no feel-good solution. Unless we take a stand — or take up arms — we’ll continue to be manipulated by social elitists who hoard money and power.

Sucks to be on the wrong side of the money-making equation.

How can you participate in the future of work without inciting a revolution? The honest answer is that I’m not sure. It wouldn’t hurt to pursue an education anchored in literature and history. Keep up your education as you get older. Reading helps to develop critical thinking skills, which leads to pattern recognition. If you can see your own demise, maybe you can beat it.

It’s also crucial to learn how to differentiate fact from feelings, which is a journey of a lifetime. If you can understand the difference between your self-interest and the needs of your community, you might make better life choices that benefit the world.

Finally — and this is a lesson that I’ve learned firsthand — the less money you spend, the more options you have in the new economy. If you don’t have debt, you have the freedom to say no when employers make unreasonable requests of you. You also have the freedom to pursue your own dreams and potentially change the future of work for someone else.

The next time you meet someone who’s an expert in the future of work, remember that he’s probably no more accurate than psychics on late night TV. After they’re done telling you about how technology and automation will allow you to focus on more strategic tasks at work, ask them for tonight’s lottery numbers.

The odds are likely that the lottery numbers will be more accurate than work-related predictions.

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The 2017 HR Technology Conference & Exposition is more than just a conference. It’s a vibrant and robust community. People from all over the world travel to Las Vegas to talk about crucial workforce issues such as culture, engagement and the employee experience. They also come to have a good time.

This year marks my ninth trip to HR Tech. Whether I’m a consultant or a speaker, it’s fun to return to the conference and geek out on the latest workplace technology. But the best part is catching up with friends and colleagues. For me, traveling to Las Vegas is an act of fellowship and communion. If I don’t see some of my friends on the strip, I don’t see them at all.

This year’s HR Tech conference is a little different. The world is still processing the horrific shooting that happened on Sunday evening, and people are grieving.

There’s an authentic conversation happening in the HR technology community. It’s careless to do anything other than offer up our deepest condolences to those affected by the tragedy. We should be respectful of the victims, the first responders, the healthcare workers, and of the residents of Las Vegas as they try to make sense of this tragedy. But we’re coming together, next week, for a significant event on our industry’s calendar. How do we make it meaningful?

For starters, we can dial back some of the marketing. The world doesn’t need another noisy blog post about swag, booths, or a conference party. What we need is camaraderie, conversation, and a commitment to listen and do what’s right in our crazy, chaotic world.

We can also donate to this critical GoFundMe campaign that assists the victims of the tragic Las Vegas shooting. Funds will be used to provide relief and financial support to the victims and families of the horrific Las Vegas mass shooting​.

We can also be kind to the business and employees who make that city so great. Choose empathy over ego. Go the extra mile and be generous to the hourly workers. Smile, tip the hotel staff and offer grace if your Las Vegas conference experience isn’t as fun as it usually feels.

Most of all, connect with our friends, colleagues, and customers. When all’s said and done, the only things that matter in this world are people and relationships.

So, I hope to see you in Las Vegas when the show opens on Tuesday night. I’ll be there with my client and on stage on Friday. I’m traveling across the country because I want to see you. Say hello. Be ready for a hug from me. Because, no matter what, we’re in this together.

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