Posts by: Laurie Ruettimann

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Hey, everybody. Years ago, I wrote something called “The Punk Rock HR Handbook.”

Do you remember it?

It no longer exists in the original form, but people still ask me about it. It was a manifesto on how to be a good employee so you’ll never need HR.

I found my old notes, and we decided to publish the no-holds-barred, honest DIY HR Handbook for employees and pros in conjunction with Let’s Fix Work.

Want to fix work? Start by fixing yourself and stop whining about HR.

Would you like a copy? Download it for free!

Maybe we can’t fix work on a blog, but we can help you stay out of trouble with human resources.

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Think of somebody who rubs you the wrong way at work. The dude who opens his mouth and annoys you. The woman whose emails make you feel an impending sense of dread.
You are that somebody to someone else at work.

One of my favorite theories of work is that there’s work-math in every office environment that looks like Hammurabi’s Code intersecting with Newton’s third law. For every person who makes your blood boil, you cause the same reaction to one of your colleagues. 

Hate the look of a coworker for no reason? Don’t like the cut of your officemate’s jib? Wonder why the chick down the hall is such a loud talker? That’s because those other people are you, and there’s an individual talking shit about your sloppy work habits on Slack. 

And they’re not wrong.

Introspection + Insight = Change

I’m a big fan of Cy Wakeman, who is a noted workplace tension expert, and she tackles the big stuff. If you have severe conflict issues at work, she’s your thinker and researcher on all things drama.

I know that most of you hate reading books, and some of you are thriving contrarians like me. You wouldn’t listen to good advice, anyway. So, maybe you can do a few experiments at work and see if there’s a way to de-escalate workplace conflict and live a better life without reading a workbook or watching a webinar.

First thing I do when someone bugs me at work? Well, I think back to a time when I behaved poorly and wasn’t proud of it. Last year, I took a consulting job at Zenefits. There was a VP who wasn’t my biggest fan, and she was disinterested in forming a relationship with me.

The culture in Silicon Valley in insane — and warrants another blog post or maybe bonus material on Let’s Fix Work — and she didn’t become VP of anything by suffering fools. She summed me up, didn’t like what she saw for many reasons, and wrote me off. And, at first, it was confusing. Then it was maddening. Then it broke my heart. 

But how many times have I acted that way? How many times have I felt threatened by other women or younger people? When haven’t I been insecure in a corporate job? Isn’t that why I quit corporate America in the first place? 

Horizontal competition between two women isn’t new, and I could see a path forward with this VP because some of my biggest rivals at Pfizer are now my dearest and loveliest friends.

And, looking back, we weren’t even rivals. We were women who were trying to survive. So, whenever that VP was assertive and challenging, I put her behaviors — and mine — into perspective.

We’re all human. Unless you’re the founder or owner, the system is stacked against you at work. Especially as women. Someone has to be the change they want to see in the workplace, and I decided it would be me. 

It’s funny how, six months later, neither one of us is at Zenefits. Maybe she was the change, too.

Don’t Be Somebody’s Asshole

The next time someone bothers you at work, take a second and think about a time you saw that behavior in yourself or another work-related situation. Then, apply the lessons to your life.

Someone bugging you? Tensions running high? Hate the look of your colleague? Be thoughtful, kind, and offer grace. The more you forgive the mundane, the higher the likelihood that someone will forgive you.

Forgiveness is one essential and undervalued way that we fix work.

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Time flies when you’re middle-aged.

One minute I’m listening to Nine Inch Nails and studying for finals in college, the next I’m married for fifteen-and-a-half years and wondering how to get sober and have a stable family like Trent Reznor.

What happened here? And how did Trent Reznor get a fantastic career and a caring family while I’ve spent the past few years struggling to get my act together? Well, I read a few interviews. It seems like he invested his time and energy in activities (and people) who align with his values.

What are Values?

Values are a person’s principles or standards of behavior. Values are the sum of what is important in life. And if you don’t know your values, you’ll never be grounded enough in your own beliefs to be of service to someone else.

I’ve been on a quest to figure out my values. I want people to have better experiences with me — my husband, my family, my friends, my colleagues — and I want to add more value to the world.

Like most middle-aged quests, the journey of self-improvement involves a ton of coaches and therapists. People who have expertise in human psychology and individual performance. And there have been crackpots who want to sell me trinkets and tokens to be a better person.

And, along the way, I’ve been reading a ton of books and collecting one-sheets. Boy, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that psychologists and licensed clinical social workers are like marketing professionals. They love handouts.

The other day, I was given a needs and values map. The instructions are simple: rate your experience with your partner and then rate how important the value is to your life.

Here’s what I love: If you look at this document, you can swap out “partner” and put in “employer.” This is a useful guide for whether you should quit your job.

Needs & Values Map

What Are Your Values?

Work is a relationship, just like marriage or friendship, and healthy connections are based on values. Your experience as an employee is different from your experience as a partner or family member, but not that much different.

And, if you’re unhappy at work, it affects all areas of your life.

Feel free to use this document to look at your current work situation. Does your employer understand you, your feelings, and who you are? Is your employer loyal and honest? Does your employer show responsibility for things important to you?

Does any of it matter? To what degree?

If there’s a gap between what you experience and what’s essential to you, it’s time to close that gap. Unhealthy habits form when we get lost in the gulf between who we are and what we value. So, be like Trent Reznor. Get your values defined and aligned, figure out what’s important to you, and go make whatever version of art you’re put on this earth to create.

The time is now.

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Tony Robbins said something stupid about the #MeToo movement and then, shocking nobody, offered a tone-deaf apology.

Are we really surprised?

Tony Robbins is a piece of garbage who has been defrauding dreamers and doers for countless decades. And it’s time for conference organizers, advertisers, and even readers to drop Tony Robbins for a better path towards enlightenment.

I love motivational speakers. Wanna get motivated? Look locally, within your community, for the movers and shakers who are kicking ass and taking names. You work with awesome people. You go to church and temple with talented individuals. Want to change your life? Ask your neighbor or colleague for some help.

Don’t look to Tony Robbins for anything. Not for inspiration. Not for motivation. And, clearly, not for an apology when he’s been a moron.

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Jobs of the near-term future will have three components: dream, create, perform. Each part is interwoven and material to the whole. 

Dreaming is the precursor to doing great things. What differentiates humans from bots and algorithms is our ability to imagine. While robots can be programmed for artistic talent, they can’t aspire beyond their designed consciousness. Not yet, anyway. 

And while machines can create just about anything they’re told to make, they can’t forecast the emotional landscape of the human heart and build on impulse. I’ve been listening to How I Built This, which is a podcast on entrepreneurialism, and it’s fascinating to hear how people create successful companies. Our biases and weaknesses impede societal evolution, but they also cause artists and entrepreneurs to act and solve problems in creative and innovative ways. 

No robot can create Stitch Fix, and no algorithm could create FUBU. 

Finally, all near-term jobs will require some level of performance. It’s not enough to make a burger; it’s how you serve the meal. No longer enough to cut hair, but, instead, you need to impact your customer’s life. As I write this blog post, I know that hitting the publish button is the first step in my audience’s journey. Relationships differentiate me from a content bot on AOL.

So, the three components of future jobs look like this: dream, create, perform. Beyond authenticity, it’s vulnerability. And that’s easier said than done. 

It used to be that only artists thought about the creative process. Now, everybody is an artist, and, ultimately, a student of how their work gets done. If you don’t hone and guard your creative process, you’ll lose out to the commoditized products created by robots. 

Welcome to the future of work, my friends. You can beat the robots, but you must allow yourself to be human and vulnerable. I think it’s worth a try.

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It’s been awhile since I’ve written about failure, but not a day goes by when I don’t think about the concept of the “premortem.” 

As a reminder, a premortem is an act of thinking about how you’ll fail before you do something. Modify your plans, and increase your chance of success.

For example, you’ve got a grandmother. She’s old but still around. Work backward and think about how she might die. Probably due to diabetes or loneliness if she lives in America. Get your ass over to Gramma’s house and spend time with her. Listen to her stories. Be a good grandchild. Don’t let her drink Sunkist soda with a slice of Entenmann’s coffee cake alone on the sofa while watching Wheel of Fortune. 

Anyway, I’m no longer the CEO of a tech company, but I still use the premortem almost every day. This week, I had a conference call scheduled for 7 AM. I thought — that’s super early, and what if this person doesn’t show up? So I woke up at 6 AM and checked the reply status of the invitation. She hadn’t confirmed. So I went back to bed. Nobody is mad, everything worked out, and I got an extra hour and a half of sleep. 

I also use the premortem on projects like HR Books and Let’s Fix Work. Yes, I wrote business plans. But I also wrote failure plans. Tons of failure scenarios — like how I always spend too much money — so I’m trying to be frugal while producing quality content. If these two projects don’t further bankrupt me that’s a win. 

So, the premortem is a living breathing tool in my life. Just because I’m not working on GlitchPath doesn’t mean I didn’t learn from my foray into the world of technology. And just because the execution of my product failed doesn’t mean the idea failed.

Being intentional and thinking through risks scenarios will always be in vogue. You might not need software, but you need a reminder to balance your irrational exuberance with reality. So, I’m here to tell you there’s nothing to fear about failure. Anticipate and plan for it. Try to outsmart it.

I still believe that if you can see it, you can beat it. Just takes humility, practice, and a willingness to learn from your mistakes. 

If you’re scared, that’s okay. Watch me do it, first. 

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I’ve been traveling all over, this spring, attending conferences and networking with amazing talent-focused business leaders. One thing that’s true for every event? Almost everybody is looking for a new job.

I’ve had hundreds of in-person conversations since the beginning of the year with HR folks who are miserable. Complaining incessantly about their leadership teams. Totally disengaged and caught up in a cycle of learned helplessness. It sucks so hard.

They show up at an event and get motivated to change their lives. Then they go home, get on the internet, and find jobs where other HR folks were miserable and have left for the promise of greener pastures.

It’s one big job-swap of crap. 

I don’t work in human resources, but I’m sympathetic to a certain degree. The job is challenging, and you deal with the underbelly of an organization. But, as an entrepreneur, I’m also impatient with people who complain. It’s tough to understand what’s so bad about a job with paid-time-off and benefits. Want to fix your life? The only limiting factor is you.

As HR’s big sister, it’s hard for me to not fix your problems. So, I’ve created a simple HR job board where LFR-approved jobs will be featured for your consideration. It’s free for everybody. If you’re a fan of HR Books, it means you’re already leadership material. Plus, readers are leaders. Why not help you find a great job?

And if you’re looking for amazing HR and talent-related professionals, you know how hard it is to recruit an HR professional who isn’t a whiner. (Sorry, friends.) Why not highlight your jobs to my audience and find the next person to change your company’s path?

Find a job, find talented people, and get back to work. It doesn’t have to be so difficult. Hope you have a look at the HR Job Board, and email me if you want to discuss it.

Now let’s all change the world.

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I’m fascinated by people who change their lives.

I was lucky enough to see a bunch of friends and colleagues at my friend’s 40th birthday party, last summer. These are bloggers, speakers and HR professionals whom I knew when I was younger but haven’t hung out with in many years.

What was clear at that party is that times have changed since 2009. Quite a few of my friends are now very successful HR leaders within their organizations. Several have married and started families. Some are published authors and thought-leaders with smart things to say about the future of work.

It’s hard to notice a change in most people, but when you see someone after several years apart, the hard work shows. Friends who suffered from depression and anxiety during the recession are now killing it at work. People who once floundered in HR are defining the future of the industry. And friends with troubled marriages are now involved in healthy, productive relationships.

Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it goes unnoticed. So, I reached out to some of those individuals after the birthday party to ask about what’s going right in their lives. And there’s a common theme: every single friend of mine admitted they were broken, and they chose to fix it.

The psychology of changing your behavior is complicated. Just because you want to fix a flaw — or enhance your relationships — doesn’t mean you have skills to do it. It doesn’t mean the universe will comply, either. Experts say it’s best to start with straightforward and attainable goals. And you’ll need help.

Some of my friends used coaches (and some reached out to clergy), but all of them asked for help to identify and fix one or two pain points. Then, like a snowball rolling down a hill, momentum grew.

Having friends who are committed to self-improvement makes it harder to be the least accomplished person in the room. I heard stories from colleagues who lost weight to travel around the world, got promoted into awesome jobs, or left abusive relationships and found peace. Their achievements made me think about my life. What are a few things I could do to improve life and my career?

I know this: I could spend more time with friends.

So, next week I’ll be in Austin with a bunch of former homies at WorkHuman. (I do behind-the-scenes coaching and consulting with that event. It’s my fourth year in a row.) These days, when I offer my consulting services to conferences, I’ll do my job and then stay home. But I’m happy to attend this event and see friends and colleagues who doubled-down on personal growth.

If you’re out there lighting the world on fire — or even just lighting your own world on fire — I’m happy to reconnect. Your change isn’t lost on me. I see the growth within you, and I want to learn more about it.

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I’m here for student protests.

Have passion? Make a statement. The louder, the better.

What I don’t love are school-sponsored “student protests” that hop on the bandwagon and co-opt the non-specific negative feelings about guns and turn raw emotion into an adult-centered activity focused on bullshit concepts like community and togetherness.

Listen, community and togetherness are important. But assembling on a football field and singing Coldplay songs to remember the victims of gun violence differs greatly from student protests, and it bugs me when parents confuse the two.

And it’s happening a lot.

“My kids had a protest day, today.”

“My daughter made a sign for her school’s walkout day.”

I don’t think so.

Student protests are compelling because kids are learning, growing, and making choices about comfort and safety while weighing the consequences of raising their voices. They’re debating tough issues and estimating risk.

“Can I sit here and do nothing while students around the country are massacred? What happens if I walk out and get detention?”

You walk out of class or don’t, but the decision and the consequences are yours. 

School-sponsored protests are the opposite of a student protest. At best, they’re an extension of groupthink and risk being misconstrued as a publicity stunt. At worst, it looks like a weapon of propaganda meant to brainwash these kids into thinking love and friendship will overcome bullets.

Love doesn’t solve gun violence. Better public policy does.

America has a system that allows prominent organizations to override our collective sentiment and create policies and laws that aren’t in the best interest of this country. And there are other topics such as toxic masculinity, money in politics, and, even, mental health that should be examined. I get that kids need to assemble in order to express feelings and grieve. But calling it a protest or a walkout does a disservice to kids who are making explicit choices to put their academic careers on the line because they want to change policy in America.

So, if your kids are gonna protest, let them fucking protest. Don’t make it a party. Don’t have donuts and chaperone the event. Allow your kids to exercise free will but, also, feel the discomfort of going against the grain.

And then hug your kids for me before you ground them. 

I’m overwhelmed by their bravery and inspired by their passion. I admire the determination to solve a problem that my generation couldn’t tackle. And I’m ashamed that gun violence is so bad that kids have to ditch school to make a difference.

We’re lucky this generation is here for all of us.

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I did a Facebook Live with author and noted workplace expert Dr. Patti Fletcher, last week, and it was something else. Have a look.

I’ve done local access cable TV in the late 1980s, and early morning TV here in North Carolina. There’s no doubt broadcasting from your computer is more like local access, but, if you have the budget, you can be like Mike Rowe and do a lot with Facebook’s platform. 

Before Patti and I went on air — which is not the right phrase but whatever — we talked about our family heritage. She has a fascinating history of interesting and eccentric men and women who impacted her life. I’m sure we all have compelling figures in our family, but I’m not interested in the past.

I’m like, “Yeah, I figure that my family came to America because it wasn’t so great back where they lived. If I’m looking backward, I can’t make good choices today.”

That’s when Patti told me your life is not a blank slate. You are the outcome of choices and decisions made many generations before you were born. There’s a whole group of people who came before you, and they informed the narrative of your life. These individuals may be dead in the flesh, but they’re not dead in spirit. The live within you and through you when you express a preference, make a choice, or act on your implicit biases.

Makes sense. If you’re a parent, you already know this. But I don’t have kids. All I know is generations of adults were assholes to their kids, and those kids grew up to be asshole adults who mistreated their kids. It feels like the story ends with me. 

But it doesn’t end with me. There are decisions I make today can impact people who aren’t even born yet. Am I modeling the right behaviors of a healthy adult? Do I treat my siblings with compassion so they’re raising healthy children? Have I been a good role model for kindness to friends and colleagues? Am I messing up their kids and future grandchildren?

William Faulkner wrote the past isn’t dead, it’s not even the past. I never realized the weight of his words until appearing on Facebook TV with Dr. Patti Fletcher. What’s clear, now more than ever, is I have work to do in the present.

How about all that for an appearance on Facebook TV? Man, the internet is something else.

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