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There was a moment in 1992 when my dad forced me to watch ten minutes of a Tony Robbins video. I know he thought it would be helpful, but it was awful.

“I am trying to teach you something, Laurie. You hate it because I like it.”

Both things were true.

He was trying to teach me something because I was a Depeche-Mode-loving teenager who looked a little rough around the edges. Although I was a decent kid who always held a series of part-time jobs and qualified to graduate from high school at the age of 16, I also got into some trouble.

When someone gave my dad a Tony Robbins video at work, he immediately showed it to me because he thought it would help.

And my father was right that I hated it because he liked it. There is no greater oppositional force in the universe than the disdain of a teenager towards her parents. But I also hated it because Tony Robbins seemed like a tool. And now that I regularly speak at industry events and conferences around the world, I see my fair share of Tony Robbins fanboys. And I think — what a bunch of tools.

So when Globoforce announced that Rob Lowe was going to keynote its #WorkHuman conference, I smiled a little on the inside. That’s a guy who can speak to me. Rob Lowe struggles with addiction; maintaining his sobriety is something he’s written about regularly. He is a businessman, a writer, and someone who has devoted his acting career to telling stories about work, too.

And he can’t stop saying bro, bro!

Rob Lowe “works human” whereas Tony Robbins — and many other speakers on the HR conference circuit — want you to literally or figurately firewalk and transcend your human condition.

No thanks. That’s not for me.

So I hope you can join me for #WorkHuman. Come to the event, see Rob Lowe speak, and join me as I host an evening social event (surprise!).

You can also wake up early and run with me.

Let’s #WorkHuman together!

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fresh tulips arranged on old wooden backgroun

Winter is over! The weather is breaking! There is hope!

It’s springtime and bonus season, which means that people are quitting their jobs and heading for greener pastures. So let’s say you want to quit your job without burning any bridges. How do you do it?

Nobody likes a quitter. Even if you have a great relationship with your colleagues, they will probably have seriously mixed emotions about your departure. What? Are you not happy? Are they not good enough? You think you can do better? Probably best to tamp down your enthusiasm for the new job until you start the new job.

Give two weeks. Be ready to work that third week. There is no logical reason the two-week notice continues to exist. I’ve done my research, and the best I can gather is that it’s a holdover from post-WWII personnel policies that were then applied to 1960s-style management practices. Give two weeks. I know you might want an in-between week to take a staycation and get stuff done before you start your new job. Be willing to “work from home” or sit in on meetings during the third week.

Have a transition plan when you resign, but don’t give the farm away. There are probably 3-5 things you need to wrap up. Have a plan in your head that sums up those items, communicate those items verbally, but never write those items down. If someone else wants to write a plan down, that’s fine. Verbally acknowledge it, but don’t sign anything. A formal transition plan can bind you well beyond two weeks. If you don’t meet your commitments, you also look like a failure.

Finally, remember that most people blame the dead when things go wrong. When you leave, you’ll be a convenient scapegoat who can’t defend herself when things go wrong.

Give it a month. Let everybody dig into your files, read your old email, and complain that your transition plan wasn’t comprehensive enough. Then re-engage with your former colleagues, if you like, to see if any real friendships exist. At that point, you might want to do something nice and write a LinkedIn recommendation for a few people you admired at your old organization.

But most importantly, move on. You have a new job, man. It’s awesome. All upside. And nothing good comes from excessive rumination.

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Lots of “research” out there isn’t research. It’s marketing, wrapped up in survey data, presented for consumption as sales collateral.

In order for research to be research, it needs to be more than just a survey. A survey is merely a method — via a form, phone calls, or even an internet website — where someone investigates behaviors and opinions of a group of people.

Using SurveyMonkey.com to tell me that leaders want better candidates is garbage. Research is deeper than that.

You also have to start with a thesis and test it. In our industry, the thesis tends to be, “Is HR doing it wrong?”

But good research doesn’t lead the witness.

Then companies use try to pass off those survey results as reliable research without telling us important facts. We should know things like:

  1. Sample size — how many people are in the group you surveyed?
  2. Sample methodology — who was chosen and why?
  3. Question construction — why did you ask those questions?
  4. The reliability of the data — does the sample size, methodology and question construction allow a logical person to make appropriate inferences?

Researchers are never afraid to lift the veil and show you what’s underneath.

So when someone tells you that employee engagement is a core issue — or that culture is a hot topic for executives — be sure to look at the mechanics behind the research.

And also don’t hesitate to ask yourself, “Does this sound right? Based on what I know and observe, how is this firm more qualified than me to weigh in on these issues?”

They’re not.

Remember — today’s HR research is marketing, wrapped up in survey data, presented for consumption as sales collateral.

Why does everyone hate HR? Join the movement to fix that. Download the e-book, “I Am HR.” http://ow.ly/xIRbQ Click to tweet.

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Do you work in HR? Do you want to be promoted and make more money? Do you like being in charge? Are you ready to help your company make some important decisions?

Well, sorry, your options are limited.

There is one senior-level HR job at your company. Maybe it’s a CHRO — someone with fiduciary obligations and who might be an investor in your company. Maybe it’s a senior VP of HR, and he used to work with your CEO at another company. It could be a Director of HR who reports to the CFO, or maybe it’s a Director of People who reports into ops.

(God help the “Director of People,” by the way. What a horrible title.)

Just like the NBA or the NFL, most human resources professionals will never get called to the big show. Some of those HR peeps say things like, “I don’t want the big job and the fancy title, anyway. I’m happy making a contribution in my simple way.”

Okay, good for you. Must be nice to be so fulfilled.

I think all other HR professionals need to strive for something, even if it’s not the #1 job. If you’re on your game and you want a career goal, you could do worse than to aspire to the role of advisor.

“Advisor sounds dodgy,” you tell me. “It doesn’t sound like a real job with measurable outcomes.”

Yes, you’re right. Being an advisor is stupid because traditional HR is known for being a serious job with measurable outcomes. Maybe you ought to stop reading my blog and go read Forbes or something. Josh Bersin has an article for you on big data and employee engagement.

For the rest of you, being an advisor is probably the best place to be if you work in human resources.

Advisors are powerful. They are trusted, they are revered, and they are intimately involved in making key business decisions. Let’s face it. HR professionals aren’t often asked to express an opinion; however, advisors have the ear of key leaders and executives.

Advisors are game-changers. When you advise powerful people, you are directing the future for software, talent, finances, and even marketing trends in your company.

Advisors are bulletproof. Advisors have strong relationships and are known as good people (unless you are the Dick Cheney of HR). When the shit hits the fan, which it always does, the best HR advisors move on to advising the next round of leaders.

You can fight for the #1 job at your company. You can earn your MBA and your HR certifications. I would spend some time thinking about how you earn the trust of the best leaders in your company.

Be someone who makes a difference in HR. Be an advisor.

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It’s about one month until the Tar Heel Ten Miler. I’m starting to hit peak mileage for that race. Need to get my miles in, yo. But Saturday was a foggy, messy morning. I woke up at 6:00 AM and was on the road by 6:30 to join my run club in a 12-mile slog through less-than-favorable conditions.

It was dark outside. My neighborhood looked like a scene from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. I navigated through the fog — and around deer — and finally made it to the highway.

I didn’t get very far, however.

The highway was closed, and I was stuck in a major traffic jam. Police officers were rerouting traffic. Lots of flashing lights. Lots of sirens.

I didn’t get off the highway until nearly 7:00 AM, too late to join my crew. I drove home, crawled back into bed, and took a marathon nap with Scrubby.

I later learned that one person died in the accident.

Very sad. Tremendously unfortunate.

I don’t know the circumstances, but it’s a good reminder to me that nobody belongs on the road in foggy conditions like that — runners and drivers alike.

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Someone googled “what to do when husband beats you and you have kids” and they came to my site.

Many people on the internet are jokesters and fools. Some people on social networking sites are stalkers or bullies. But most people are honest, hardworking people who are looking for reliable answers to tough questions.

I don’t mind offering advice on my blog because the internet helped me save orphaned kittens. As I build my business, other bloggers have offered solid advice during difficult contract negotiations. Lately, I have been trying to figure out why my husband and I argue about the same six things over and again. Turns out that most people fight about a few core things. Be kind and generous with your partner, and you’ll probably work through those issues.

So what do you do when your husband beats you and you have kids?

You find your people, of course. Visit forums and learn from men and women who have experienced everything you’re currently experiencing. Read blog posts from the people who know the ins and outs of your situation. Follow Twitter feeds and join Facebook groups where you can gain some real insight into the challenges you will face if you stay or if you leave.

And call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

My website is all about work, life and cats. While I have an opinion on what you should do if your husband beats you, there are much better sources out there.

Good luck.

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Hell froze over, last week, and my husband asked me to run an errand at Lowe’s.

(I’ll try to keep this explanation quick, but my husband had a virus and couldn’t leave the house. He still wanted to install our new induction cooktop. I can’t explain my marriage. Don’t make me try. All I can say is that if you’ve got time to lean in the Ruettimann house, you’ve got time to clean. A stomach virus is no excuse to take the day off.)

Faced with the inevitable trip to Lowe’s, I downloaded the mobile app and considered navigating the store on my own. But have you seen the font on that app? Jesus, it was useless. And who am I kidding? I can’t read a map.

So I started to get a little wound up for no reason. “That store kills me. Why are latex gloves near the window blinds? Why are lightbulbs by the lawn mowers? Are you sure that this key kiosk is legit because God help the poor soul who sells me a made-in-China-cut-by-a-robot key and it doesn’t work!”

Thankfully, I’m married to a man who isn’t new at this.

  1. He snapped a picture and told me 100 times — “Remember, it’s the gel. Did you hear me? It’s the gel. Look at this photo. See where it says gel? Get that one, Laur. Do you hear me? Don’t buy the wrong kind.”
  2. Then he drew me a map to show me exactly where I need to enter the store, how to find the gel-that-is-caulk, and where it would fall in my line of sight.
  3. Then he insisted I text him if I had a breakdown. He told me, “It’s no big deal. What the eff, Laur? You got this. But buy the gel, okay?”

Here is what it looked like.

Pretty good, right? No panic attack!

While I could do a better job of managing my anxiety, Lowe’s could do better than the Ruettimann paper/mobile app. They could create an interactive system that takes the concept of Google Maps and overlays it with a real-time inventory database. Users could type in a product, know if it’s in stock, and then see a relatively recent photo of where it might be located in the aisle.

(Or users could just call my husband. That store is mapped out like his brain.)

I don’t mean to pick on Lowe’s because almost all stores could do a better job of enhancing the user experience, which would guarantee higher rates of user adoption, but that shit is hard. Although they employ the most amazing psychologists and data scientists — and they design and test cutting edge software — it’s clear to me that designing software for the lowest common denominator is cheap. Optimal user experience doesn’t scale very easily.

Anyway, “designing software with the user in mind” is not a new concept. But I recently learned that user experience and user adoption are top priorities for HR executives. That’s pretty interesting, and you can talk to my friend William Tincup about it if you’re interested.

If your software gives HR generalists a panic attack, what chance do you have for future contracts and recurring revenue stream?

Not much, man.

Just like there’s not much chance that I’m going back to Lowe’s anytime soon!

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I saw a tweet from a #sxswi attendee.

If you can’t read the tweet, I will paraphrase it. Gary Vaynerchuk is quoted as saying that HR used to be at the bottom, and now it’s on top. Depending on who’s running that HR department, that tweet can mean a lot of different things!

I like how people are bullish on HR — especially HR consulting firms like Deloitte and Mercer. (I like how some companies pay for sponsored content that makes them look fair and balanced, too.) We’re in such a hype-cycle, aren’t we? It’s all about HR data and more data. Gary Vee believes HR is awesome. Jack Welch believes it, too. Heck, I want to believe it!

Except when I tell people under 30 that I work in HR, they ask me, “Who that?”

When I explain HR — it’s the people who hire you and make you get paid — they go, “Oh, yeah, okay.”

Then they either a) black out or b) have horror stories about trying to get a job during the recession.

So while some people who profit from HR believe that the industry is at the top of its game, the rest of us are fighting for relevancy and respect. If anything, we just don’t want to be a punchline in an episode of The Mindy Project.

If you want further proof of how little people think of human resources, go to Urban Dictionary and look at the definition of HR and human resources.

The top definition is nearly a decade old, but it feels like it could have been written today.

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 7.15.51 PM

Pretty good. Feels right.

And I like this one because it shows that HR can be political!

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HR can overcome its PR crisis, but I’m not sure it happens from outsiders on stage at #sxswi. I think human resources is local. You go block by block, person by person, and make the case that you’re doing important work on behalf of your constituents.

Am I nuts?

What do you think?

Why does everyone hate HR? Join the movement to fix that. Download the new e-book, “I Am HR.” http://ow.ly/xIRbQ Click to tweet.

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It’s been said that everybody in America is a little bit Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

Is your name Rajeev Motwani and were you born in Philly? Are you Shelley Tyszkiewicz from Cleveland? Doesn’t matter. St. Patrick’s Day is the one day we’re all encouraged to drink Guinness and eat corned beef and cabbage like it’s an important part of the American narrative.

Everybody wants to be Irish on St. Patrick’s day, including my maternal grandfather, Lou Weiss. There isn’t a drop of Irish blood in him, but he had my grandmother convinced that he had Irish forefathers.

Irish!

My grandfather told my Gramma stories of a rich uncle named “Seamus” in County Cork — a decent man who was a patron saint of the arts. Seamus lavished people with attention and gifts. And he spoke with a thick Irish brogue, of course.

Lou Weiss was about as Irish as a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake. For some reason, my grandmother never questioned his integrity or challenged him on his ancestry.

I asked her, “Are you on drugs? His name was Lou Weiss. That’s the opposite of Irish. Why did you believe him?”

She told me, “He believed it.”

I said, “Please. He did not believe he was Irish.”

She said, “Laur, he fancied himself a poet.”

She meant that in a literal way, and in that light, maybe his fake Irish ancestry makes a little sense.

People use genealogy as a tool to create a narrative about themselves. If you’re Dominican, you cook plantains a certain way and may see that as part of your cultural heritage. If you are Polish, you celebrate Christmas Eve with a specific set of traditions and are very proud of that ritual.

So part of me understands why my grandfather would embrace a Gatsby-like notion of life and reinvent his story. In his mind, he was a great Irish poet trapped in the body of a working-class American on the northwest side of Chicago.

Except Lou Weiss was no poet. He was a husband, a father to four kids and a truck driver. He was also a man with a string of girlfriends. He left my grandmother after more than two decades of marriage and married a teenager. Then he stopped speaking to his children for about a decade.

(Wait, that sounds Irish.)

I think about the story of Lou Weiss, and I’m struck by how his behaviors — and not his DNA — left an emotional crater in my family that exists to this day. I feel his presence (or maybe it’s his monumental absence) every time I go home to Chicago, spend time with my mom and her sisters, or even visit my grandmother’s grave.

In that way, my grandfather’s fake Irish heritage is less Gatsby and more William Faulker, who once wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

While I have sympathy for people like my grandfather who fall short of their dreams, which is quintessentially Irish, I struggle with the real-world manifestation of poetic dreams run amok. So while some people are eating green donuts and nomming on chocolate leprechaun coins, I’ll be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in solidarity with my dead grandmother by not being even a little bit Irish.

(Wait, now I sound Irish. Well, as Irish as Rajeev Motwani and Shelley Tyszkiewicz.)

Well, if I’m going to be fake-Irish like my grandfather, I might as well leave my cynicism at the door and have a green donut. My Gramma would want that for me.

Sláinte!

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