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peyton-manningI used to be the Peyton Manning of the HR Technology Conference & Exposition.

Well, okay, no. Peyton Manning has natural skills and abilities. He has raw talent. I was Peyton Manning in that I saw myself as the leader of a new generation of HR professionals who were embracing HR technology as an integral part of their jobs.

I’m the kid who has Peyton Manning’s poster on his wall and thinks, yeah man, I’m somebody.

And while I was a big deal in my head, there’s a weird paradoxical element to the story: I’m not nobody.

While I didn’t make HR technology a thing — and I certainly didn’t make the HR Technology Conference & Expo an excellent show — I influenced a generation of HR professionals in a small but not insignificant manner. I know this because I hear from kids who have been in HR for just a few years. They say things like, “I’ve been reading your blog since college. You just get me. You understand my career. I’m trying to do new things, but I still can’t get Betty to give up her damn binders.”

These young women are in their mid-to-late 20s, and Betty is my age. It stings a little. But it’s reassuring to know that young women are pushing for change because I’ve shown them that HR doesn’t have to be so horrible. Or maybe I’ve shown them that it’s easy to overcome the technology hurdle. They can aspire to work in an HR or recruiting role that is horrible in new and different ways.

But like Peyton Manning, I’m old and mostly retired from the game. I have loose affiliations to the HR tech community — and a lot of healthy relationships — but my eyes are on a different prize.

Here’s the weird thing, though. HR technology companies still want my attention. Supposedly, I still move the market. Maybe now more than ever because I’m older and less obnoxious.

What’s even weirder is that, after nearly ten years of this, they still do bad marketing and use my name and likeness without offering any compensation.

Now, hey, listen. It’s nice to be wanted. But as one of my dear friends recently reminded me, I went to the Peyton Manning School of Endorsements®. America’s favorite ex-QB is not out there evangelizing DirecTV and Nationwide for free. There’s skin in the game.

If you put Peyton Manning’s face on your HR tech marketing materials, you get sued. When you put Laurie Ruettimann’s face and name on your marketing materials, you roll your eyes and say that she’s tacky to ask for money.

Well, people, I have a dream. I want to be as tacky as Peyton Manning. I want to live in one of Peyton Manning’s tacky homes. I want to have one of his tacky cars. I want to copy his tacky life.

And I don’t know who the next Peyton Manning of the HR tech space is, but it’s my hope that my dogged pursuit of fair and equitable compensation makes a lasting mark on this industry so that some new girl can be tacky like Peyton Manning, too.

So follow this advice and stay safe, my dear friends in the HR tech community: if you wouldn’t use Peyton Manning’s face without a contract and a written consent form, don’t use an HR influencer’s face or words without permission.

The curriculum from the Peyton Manning School of Endorsements® is solid, and I intend to pass down these lessons to the next generation.

Long live Peyton Manning and his tackiness!

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hr conference season

It’s HR conference season, which means I’m on the road talking to a bunch of human resources and recruiting professionals about failure.

I’ve taken a new approach to keynoting. I’m sharing bits and pieces of my personal story, which is a little scary for me. I talk about everything from my grandmother’s unintended pregnancy to my failed HR career as examples of how failure is like Kelly Clarkson: it can either kill you or make you stronger.

I also provide an overview of the science behind failure. There are cognitive reasons why people behave in specific ways when facing failure. It’s important to know how you (and the people around you) will react to failure. Your insights before the inevitable fall from grace will help you beat failure, and, ultimately, fail in more interesting ways in the future.

Anyway, I’m still working out the kinks with my personal story. And the risk of telling a personal story on stage is that people might not think it’s all that interesting. Or they might think I’m a narcissist.

(Both are true!)

In the past, I’ve always tried to pepper my talks with a lot of facts and case studies to make people think that I was a serious HR lady. You know what, though? Case studies are boring. Nobody remembers the science of failure when framed with a corporate narrative. They remember important concepts like defensive pessimism and strategic optimism if I tell them an authentic story that’s relatable — and if I mention my grandfather who repeatedly cheated on my grandmother until he finally left her, after 25 years, for a 19-year-old woman.

(Boom! Talk about the universal forces of failure in marriage!)

I’m really committed to this more personalized approach, which is why I’m taking a one-day course in Boston to improve my storytelling skills. It’s an investment, and I hope it pays dividends.

So if I see you in the next few weeks, please say hi and introduce yourselves. And please tell me your personal stories of failure. It’s always good to commiserate and laugh at how we keep doing the same dumb things over and over again.

One day, we might learn and do new dumb things. That would be great.

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motivate

It used to be easy to motivate workers. You would just give them feedback and tell them — if you want to earn more money, do better and do more of it.

Now everybody and your mother is a workplace expert because it’s so dang trendy on the internet. So here’s some of the best advice I’ve collected from smart people who think they know how to turn your employees into finely-tuned, engaged robots workers.

1. Tell a story about yourself where you’ve overcome desperate odds to be successful. Everybody likes to hear you talk about yourself.

2. Forward them an inspirational LinkedIn article. If you can’t find one, go check out Medium.

3. Follow the advice of thought leaders. People who don’t have real jobs have the best work-related knowledge.

4. Attend a conference. Nothing better than being away from work to motivate the people who work for you.

5. Use data. It doesn’t matter what data because 80% of statistics are lies. Just grab a spreadsheet and reinforce your point.

If you’re motivating someone on an email, don’t forget to add an inspirational quote at the end.

But if you’re just trying to motivate a worker in general, be creative and use video. Make sure to get your face up close to the camera. We want to see your teeth.

Good luck! 

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During a week when Time Magazine wondered why the internet is so full of rage, and Leslie Jones’s personal website was hacked, I learned that some of Kobe Bryant’s fans want to rape me.

Not all of his fans. Just a few on Twitter.

I tweeted about a past rape allegation against Kobe Bryant on “Kobe Bryant Day.” And that’s when the floodgates opened. Yes, I received rape threats. More importantly, I learned that Kobe once dropped 81 points so he gets one rape. Some of his fans told me that I’m racist for bringing up past rape accusations when so many white dudes are rapists. And a few thought I should kill myself. I also found out that I’m an autist. Only a salty bitch with a big nose would bring up the past like that.

It’s amazing how the internet knows me so well.

The Response

Surprisingly, Twitter was super-responsive. They locked accounts and made the scariest tweets go away. And I’m grateful that it wasn’t worse.

But mostly I’m heartbroken. I’m walking the typical “victim walk of shame” where I’m blaming myself for what happened. I’m also mad at a fucked up system that allows online harassment and bullying to occur in the first place. How did that happen?

Oh, right, any platform used for speech will cover both ends of the spectrum: from the sanctimonious to the vulgar.

The Solution

Blame is boring and pointless, although there’s a lot of blame to go around. I’m pretty upset and confused about what happened, but it’s not really Twitter’s fault that I was threatened with rape. You don’t hit a pothole on the highway and blame the inventor of asphalt. You blame the local department of transportation for the current conditions of the highway, or maybe you blame yourself for driving like a moron.

Twitter is a fast-moving highway, and in that way, we’re all responsible for its care and maintenance. When someone is bullied or harassed, it’s our collective fault. There is no hate speech if we check ourselves. There is no harassment and bullying if we, as an online community, pay attention and call out the abusers.

But that’s never going to happen.

So until there’s a software-driven solution that instantly enforces community guidelines while not infringing upon protected speech, I’m left to solve this problem the old fashioned way by limiting my time on Twitter. I’m not going to delete my account and get back into the kitchen as some of Kobe Bryant’s fans suggested, but I am going to spend my time elsewhere.

Big deal, right? Nobody cares what I think about Kobe Bryant, anyway. And it’s clear that some Kobe Bryant fans just want a chance to threaten a woman from behind a pay-as-you-go data plan.

No thanks. I don’t want that for my life.

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app-256About a year ago, many of my clients became sick of email and asked me to join them over on Slack.

What is Slack? Well, it’s basically inter-office-email plus AOL instant messenger plus storage for files. You can do emoji, and there are folders called “channels.”

So it pretty much feels like email 2.0 to me.

I’m a writer, and I will abuse whatever the hell platform you put in front of me. Instant message? Text? Email? Don’t tell me you’re sick of hearing from me. You can always turn off your phone, but I can’t turn off my brain. And I have something to tell you, dammit.

There are other things you can do on Slack besides interact with your colleagues. Nothing earth-shattering. For example, you can integrate an app into Slack and order a pizza or an Uber.

Or, as always happens, you can let some HR technology vendor ruin the fun.

As we speak, there are probably a hundred different HR vendors on Slack trying to ping you on everything from mood to motivation to wellness. If someone applies for your job, an ATS will notify you in Slack that you have resumes to review.

So now you have to ignore your email, push notifications on your phone, and Slack.

Thanks, HR Tech! That’s super helpful!

slack

I’m interested in Slack as an organized way to manage projects. But I’m more interested in someone else using Slack to organize my projects and just keep me up-to-date on things. It’s amazing what happens when you get older. Technology is great, but it’s better when other people use the technology for you.

And I’m also interested in Slack as a tool to reach people quickly without having to make eye contact. Sometimes it’s too hard to talk to people. I ask a question and have to endure 20 minutes of chit chat and emotions while the hamster wheel spins. Let the hamster turn on your own time and get back to me when you have an answer, bucko!

If you’re curious about Slack, you don’t need permission to get started. Just go in there, create a team, and invite some friends to make small talk with you throughout the day. Or you can join my Slack demo site at punkrockhr.slack.com/ by sending me an email. I’ll add you. You can learn how to use Slack by interacting with other readers over there.

It’s really that easy.

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A couple of months ago, I attended an event where a bunch of HR ladies discussed talent-related topics and drank champagne and rosé.

(It’s too bad. I didn’t know that bubbles had jumped the shark.)

I jumped the shark a long time ago, and I never say no to free champagne. So I joined the ladies in a bunch of meaningless chit chat about the future of HR. My verdict? It’s all very boring. Let’s talk about something else.

That’s when one of them decided to tell me what she thinks of me.

“You know what’s dangerous about your blog? You write like you have no equal.”

Only in HR would someone call my blog dangerous. And only in HR would someone who has never met me offer unsolicited feedback while simultaneously considering herself to be a good leader.

But, okay, I’ll play along.

I said that maybe my blog seems dangerous because I’m a woman with a strong point-of-view. And I have no equals. My greatest competition is Joel Cheesman who blogs like it’s 2009 and job boards are hot. (Oh, wait!)

She told me, “No, that’s not it.”

I was informed that my blog is dangerous because of its “absolutism” about HR. My worldview is myopic, and I don’t see that other points of view might be relevant.

It’s not a particularly insightful or original critique of my blog, but it’s not entirely unfair. I don’t have any equals. My HR blogging excellence is unparalleled, mostly because it’s HR blogging and the standards are low.

The bubble-fueled HR lady wasn’t done assessing my blog, by the way. She also said, “You know, Laurie, here’s the thing. I don’t always agree with what you say. But I can’t lie. I love the way you say it.”

Here’s the thing — is that a compliment?

I have always felt like it’s an unfriendly way of showing superiority — as if my blog is cute, even if it’s not correct. And it’s hard not to be defensive. I am a classically trained HR generalist who’s been doing this for over twenty years. I’m not new at offering insights or commentary on the failing role of HR in corporate America. When someone shows up and shows me that HR isn’t full of ineffective and whiny leaders who need constant validation, I’ll pack up this blog and do something different.

Won’t be this bitch and her bubbles who shut me up, though.

I’m not an egomaniacal monster, and I truly don’t believe my own hype. Mostly because there is no hype. And I want more for this HR lady than to lob passive-aggressive compliments at a blogger. I wanted to tell her — if you think you have something to say that’s significant and noteworthy about HR and recruiting, the world is your oyster. Buy a domain, set up a blog, or just write on Medium or even LinkedIn.

There’s no shortage of ways to contribute — positively or negatively — to the ongoing discussion about the ways in which HR fails to make an impact. When you’re ready to share an idea, a small but engaged audience is waiting.

But what you shouldn’t ever do is think that you can read a blog or see a keynote speaker and do better than the person who’s trying her hardest to make a change in this world. Don’t let the bubbles fool you. You probably can’t do better. That’s why you still work in HR and yell insults from the peanut gallery.

So if you’re like this HR lady and flummoxed by people who don’t deserve the limelight, be brave and join the fray. Have an opinion, speak your mind, and try to unseat someone who doesn’t deserve her place on the stage.

Just don’t think you can read my blog, sip champagne with me, and consider yourself an equal. You’re not even close.

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I have a working theory that 92% of an HR leader’s job is managing expectations.

People bring their issues to work. Whether it’s a stage-of-life problem or a money problem, nobody ever shows up to a job without their personality quirks. When those irregular characteristics manifest themselves in the form of conflict, HR is often asked to swoop in and provide counseling and comfort to workers who are disappointed in themselves and the world around them.

HR knows the truth. Nobody gets rich or solves emotional problems from working. You get rich from three paths in life: inherited wealth, privileged access to leadership roles, and entrepreneurialism. And you solve your emotional problems on your own time.

So when a baby boomer is stressed because his retirement goals aren’t met — or when a millennial is sweating her student loan payments — those concerns become fully realized in the workplace. And they become 92% of HR’s concerns.

One way HR can make a difference (and lighten its workload) is through radical transparency during the hiring process.

* It is okay to tell people that there is limited career mobility in a job.
* Be ethical and tell candidates that you hire at the 25% percentile and most people never earn more than 50% of the overall salary band.
* Try to own your behaviors and tell people that you reward discretionary effort through hugs, not cash or promotions.

If you manage expectations better, you manage your day better. HR could live in a world with fewer disasters, meltdowns, and emotional casualties. Managing expectations will lead to stronger hiring practices, improved engagement rates, and better retention.

And if we manage our expectations about work, maybe we can burn out a little less, too.

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billy bush lochte

I know everybody in America is mad at Ryan Lochte. Rightly so. He’s a fool and solely responsible for the lies that spewed from his lips.

But I’m also annoyed by NBC’s coverage of the Rio Olympics.

You know the lines between journalism and entertainment are blurred when Billy Bush — a cousin to George W. Bush and a journalist one step above Mario Lopez — is, mouth agape, interviewing a visibly drunk Olympic athlete on live television and not probing on critical issues related to the story.

Like:

You know, Ryan Lochte, I hear you. You’ve been victimized. But it seems like you’re pretty hammered, right now. You sure you got this right?

Wait, a gun was pointed at your forehead? Can you tell me this story again from the beginning? What happened?

Hold on. Maybe we should turn the cameras off and get you some water. Clearly, you’re in no shape to be on TV, right now. You smell like urine and an alleyway. Also, this story makes no fudging sense. Can we get an intern on this?

But to expect Bill Bush to do journalism is to expect NBC to have standards on what they air on The Today Show, which we know is a joke.

We live in a weird era of broadcast news where an event happens, and television executives use their editorial discretion to let “newsworthy” people tell their stories without any fact-checking or corroboration. The cycle goes like this:

Publish. Review. Edit. Redact.

That’s a flow formerly reserved for bloggers, but which now applies to major newspapers and media outlets. It’s old news to report that being the first to break a false story is better than being the last to report a fair and accurate account of boring events; however, newsrooms are now allegedly run like corporations. NBC didn’t have to give Lochte a platform for his story. That was a judgment call, which is why I think Bill Bush and his cadre of producers bear some responsibility for opening the door to this mess.

And what’s worse is the sanctimonious way in which Matt Lauer and Al Roker have worked overtime to shame Lochte. I didn’t see one substantive report from NBC during the Olympics on how the Rio where the government continues to be in shambles, women and tourists are not always safe, and the beaches continue to be polluted with toxic viruses and waste. But Lochte? Oh my god, this is breaking news.

When NBC stops chasing ratings and starts chasing the truth between 7-9 AM ET, I’ll listen to Lauer and Roker wax poetic about the privilege and trustworthiness baked into our society. Until then, someone ought to put that whole Rio reporting team on a 90-day performance improvement plan.

So for all of you future journalists and storytellers out there, I’m appealing to the better angels of your nature. Just because you have a microphone or a camera doesn’t mean you have to use it when a random story drops in your lap like a gift from God. Just because someone famous says something doesn’t mean you need to cover it. And when a random story comes out of nowhere, you have permission to use your education and senses to seek out the truth.

You have a college degree and tens of thousands of dollars in debt. You might as well use your skills. As Trump says — what the hell do you have to lose?

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I broke up with my Pilates teacher.

Of course, it doesn’t seem like a big deal to normal people. But I’m not normal. My instructor is one of my dearest friends. I have known her since 2010. I’ve seen her at least three times a week for the past five years. And I let her touch my feet, which is a big deal.

We had to break up because our schedules weren’t aligning. I tried to make it work, but ultimately, my Pilates practice started to suffer because of my inflexible calendar.

So I said goodbye to my teacher in an email that made me cry. I love her. I’m committed to her. But it’s just not working for me.

Since this is a business arrangement, my instructor was totally professional. She is a champ and wants to recommend teachers and studios. There’s a grieving process for me, though. I’m not looking to be “set up” with someone new. I want to surf anonymously through studios and classes to see if a new teacher sticks.

I’m about to start dating with no commitment. Crazy.

My instructor and I will remain great friends, and I’m excited to move to the next phase of our relationship. We’ve traveled together. We have shared a bed together while on the road. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

And the whole experience reminds me that you can love someone, commit to somebody, but also respectfully change the terms and conditions of a relationship if it no longer works for you. Whether it’s a service provider or an employer, you are only constrained by your inhibitions and fear of change.

So if something isn’t working, this is a gentle reminder that there’s always another path. You just need to be brave enough to admit it’s time to change and move forward.

I promise that you will still be loved no matter how hard it feels to pivot. And, most importantly, the world won’t come to an end.

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There is a weird phenomenon happening in human resources departments around the globe. Far too many people in HR are suffering from learned helplessness.

Learned helplessness is a psychological condition that commonly describes victims of abuse and neglect. Those poor souls give up on themselves. They see themselves as perpetual victims — even when they’re not. Learned helplessness makes you feel like you have no control, so you give up trying. In many ways, it’s an extreme version of self-handicapping that stems from severe psychological trauma.

Can HR professionals be victims and suffer from learned helplessness? I think so.

Smart people like Dan Pink and Jim Collins have written about the need for individual autonomy and a sense of purpose at work. What happens when workers, particularly in HR and staffing, have been summarily dismissed and verbally attacked for the past 30 years?

Well, I think you see people who know they can’t make decisions and work toward important goals. They stop trying too hard. And if everybody from your CHRO to your CEO wants to make HR great again, it’s easy to see why people start to think, “Am I not great? What’s wrong with me? Why do I suck so much?”

Not to steal a line from Michelle Obama, don’t let anybody tell you that you need to make HR great again. You’re already great. A lot of the nasty language used around HR and recruiting is sexist, biased and lazy.

But most line-level HR professionals harbor serious doubts about their abilities. When I travel around the world, I’m challenged to answer these questions:

“How can I be brave and bold when all of my ideas are ignored?”
“How can I stand up to ethical violations when it’s clear that I have no power?”
“Why is it that it’s okay for other departments to give feedback to HR, but I’m not allowed to give feedback to other underperforming executives and employees?”
“How is it that people who don’t do HR can come into my organization and tell me what I’m doing wrong?”
“Why do I never see my CHRO? Why doesn’t she sit with us?”
“When is it okay for HR to take a stand?”
“Why are people the most important part of an organization but HR can’t get the proper budget to help the company achieve its work-related goals?”

I stand on stage and remind people that (sometimes) a job is just a job. It’s not the sum of what makes you great. Yes, you can try to work collaboratively. You can be smart about what battles you pick. But if you keep hitting a brick wall, maybe it’s time to quit.

Quitting isn’t a failure. Living in perpetual victimhood is a failed state.

Learned helplessness impacts people, families, and even communities. I also believe it can affect organizations. When someone feels as if they have no voice and cannot affect change — and they perceive themselves as a victim of unfair or unfortunate circumstances that are beyond their control — learned helplessness effects the financial and mental health of your company.

So if you feel helpless and stuck, know that you’re alone. But also know that it’s on you to get yourself unstuck. Take courses in persuasive communications. Learn a new skill that makes you more effective in your current role. Or find a new job.

Change your thinking, change your life. What makes you feel like a victim in HR might be true, but it also might be in your mind. If you’re looking for a sign to help you feel less powerless, this is it. Take control. Take a new path. Take a break. Just stop coming to HR conferences looking for an external solution. Nobody can save you from a bad job in HR except yourself.

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