My HR consulting career is in a lull. It happens. No big deal. I wanted to create some friction in my life. I’m trying to work on my start-up and mostly ignoring my consultancy except when business falls into my lap.

(And here’s a lesson from Warren Buffet: that’s not how business happens.)

You can’t spend a billion hours a day working on a start-up — just like you can’t spend a billion hours being a rock star or working at Waffle House — so I decided to start volunteering.

I know that I can’t volunteer with animals. For one, I keep them. For twosies, animal people are weird and don’t like people. That’s why they are animal people and not “people people.”

So animals are out.

I’m passionate about women and children, so I signed up for an informational session at Interact of Wake County. It’s a domestic violence shelter and so much more. Nationally, more than 60% of women return to men who have abused them after a stay in a domestic violence shelter. Interact has been able to help 90% of women leave their abusers and never return.

Those numbers are very impressive. I thought — I’m a public speaker. I could be a public advocate for the organization.

I went to the first session on a weeknight. There were at least fifty chairs, and all of them were filled. Men and women from all over the area want to learn more. That’s reassuring.

The volunteer coordinator stood at the front of the room and presented an overview of the shelter. She was great, but something was off. I felt super hot. I kept looking around and wondering — is anybody else hot in here? Are the lights in the room too bright? And, oh, man, I have a headache. Is it stuffy in here? Can you breathe? Also, why is the volunteer coordinator shouting at me?

It turns out, nobody was yelling. It wasn’t hot. I was having a mild panic attack.

In retrospect, a domestic violence shelter isn’t suitable for me. Women and children in my family were routinely subjected to violence. That’s a polite way of saying that I was freaking out about my past, which I assumed was in the past and is clearly just under the surface. Dammit.

Thankfully, the info session was short. The volunteer coordinator ended with some wise words. She said — if you’re interested in volunteering, we need you to fill out an application and you’ll be called for an interview. But we also rely on you to screen yourself for emotional suitability. This work isn’t for everybody. It’s better to figure this out sooner rather than later.

And I thought, oh my god, she’s talking to me.

I also thought, oh my god, thank you.

Giving someone permission to “opt out” is a gift, but it’s also important to recognize that you have the power to self-select out of anything: an interview, a job, marriage, a pending agreement with a client that doesn’t feel right. Nothing is final even when it feels final. Some jobs and relationships aren’t emotionally suitable for everyone, and this includes volunteer jobs.

If the paid or volunteer work you do is oppressive and stifling, this is your sign: opt out.

It’s better for everybody if you do.


My friend, Lars Schmidt, lost his brother to an opioid addiction.

I always wonder — how does that happen? Where does that begin? If you’re middle-class and generally educated, how do things go wrong?

Well, it goes wrong pretty easily. Or so I’m told.

If you’re interested in learning more about opioid addiction — how you can help, how you can get yourself help, how you can get more information on what it’s doing to our society — check out Lars’s tribute page to his brother. Please read his posts on Medium. And reach out to Lars and wish him the best. He paid tribute to his brother, this week. I’m proud of him, although it sucks to be proud of him for this reason.

Physical pain is real and should be taken seriously. Always. But opioid addiction is real, too. And if it hasn’t affected you, yet, it’s only because you are lucky. Be educated, be compassionate, and have some empathy for opioid addicts. Many of them are just like you.


I have a mean aunt who lives on the west coast.

I’m not sure she would call herself mean, but she’s an elderly woman who is angry with me because I’m basically a worthless family member. And, you know, she’s right. When it comes to my family of origin, I don’t do much for the people who love me.

(Turns out that familial love is subjective, and, often, a one-way street.)

Anyway, about a decade ago, my aunt was infuriated with me. She sent me an email that said, “You’re nothing but a childless liberal.”

She meant — you’re selfish.

But my mind went elsewhere. I thought, wow, that liberal word is wrong because I’m actually very conservative when it comes to keeping government out of my private life. I understood that it wasn’t the moment to debate politics, so I let her call me a childless liberal and haven’t communicated with her since.

(Families, man! The only thing that manages drama is an email filter that bypasses your inbox and sends shit like that to the garbage!)

But, being a childless liberal, I’ve come to realize that she was right. For years, I lacked empathy for people who struggled with work-life balance issues. I helped my mother through several illnesses while working full-time in HR, but I always did it with a chip on my shoulder. And while I’m all about work-life balance for myself on a beach in Bermuda, I haven’t always been sensitive to individuals who have kids by choice.

“Of course it’s hard. What did you expect?”

(I’ve learned that you don’t say that kind of stuff to parents who seemed surprised when their kids are sick in the middle of the workweek. You just nod your head in sympathy and go wash your hands so you don’t catch norovirus.)

Now, in my 40s, I’m having my version of work-life balance issues. The husband and I both travel for work. I have an elderly cat. I don’t have any family in town, and I have to rely on housesitters and paid help to manage my life when I travel.

It almost always works, but when it doesn’t, things come to a halt. This week? I had to reconfigure my schedule because life wasn’t smooth. And you know what? Nobody died. It’s stressful and I’m missing out on a lot of fun, but I’m going to survive.

The people in my social circles are listening to me complain about this week’s work-life drama and saying, “Hey, aren’t you that childless liberal who doesn’t really pay attention to work-life issues?”

And I’m saying, “No, I’m the small government Democrat who thinks you shouldn’t have a bunch of kids and complain about the price of daycare. But I’m going to keep those opinions to myself because someone has to raise our future doctors and science geniuses. I’m glad it’s you.”

But it sucks when work-life balance issues get in the way of work. Or life. Or both.

Maybe the conversation isn’t about work-life balance or priorities. Maybe it’s about compassion and community. You help me out, I’ll help you out. No judging. No expectations. That kind of vibe. There are places in the world where that happens, right? Scandanavia? Small towns in Iowa?

We’d be happier human beings if more of us — childless liberals, exhausted parents, crabby aunties — dropped our emotional armor and asked for help. Which is why I decided to stay home a few days, this week, instead of trying to make HR Tech happen.

I miss you guys. I’m coming later in the week. And I hope to see you at my session on Thursday.


dt2This week is the HR Technology & Conference Expo in Chicago. It goes without saying, but I write the best guides to having fun and learning about technology at HR Tech. There are other guides out there, but they could be better. It’s just a fact.

Nobody brings you HR Tech coverage like me. Nobody.

I’ve been reading blog posts from my friends in the HR blogging and analyst community — and they are tremendous friends — but I’m disappointed.

I don’t know, but it seems to me we’re losing out there. Where’s the fun? Where’s the creativity? It’s like we don’t know how to win at HR Tech anymore.

Maybe there’s a great new guide out there. People tell me there are some great blog posts out there. I don’t know, I haven’t seen any, but I’d like to see it.

So in the absence of terrific blog posts about the HR Technology Conference & Expo, here’s my list of three things you need to know.

And this is going to be a post, I think, like no other. I’m not controlled by the vendor community. I’m not controlled by anybody.

1. HR makes HR great again.

I know human resources. Nobody knows HR better than me. And in these HR offices, it looks like a third-world country. You visit your regional offices, and they’re still using fax machines. The ceilings are crumbling. The phones don’t work.

Let’s be honest. HR products are purchased for three reasons: the product solves a problem for HR, the product solves a problem for finance, or the product solves a problem for the operations team.

So let’s take big data, which has been a total disaster. Instead of being smart, HR vendors have been dumb. They’ve been trying to sell HR buyers on big data for years, and they’re losing. Who needs big data? Nobody. Nobody needs big data. Companies need magic that happens behind the scenes — don’t give them too many details — so people can do their jobs better and go see their kids play soccer after work.

With my direction — and I’ve had tremendous success with this — my little consulting company has taught vendors to de-emphasize big data and change their sales and marketing language to be more human.

The technology companies that win at HR Tech? They just want to help HR make HR great again. And they know the secret: it’s not the feature that sells. It’s the experience of winning, powered by magic, that sells.

That’s what makes HR great again.

2. Artificial intelligence is everywhere.

Something is wrong, my friends. Look at all these great American companies. They’re losing, and they’re losing big. Manufacturing is going to China and Mexico. Companies are making bad deals. And nobody is focused on jobs.

HR Tech is full of AI, and it’s impacting all the jobs. AI is recommending candidates based on the context of the job and your company’s culture, not keywords. It’s making selection decisions based on multiple sources of information. And it’s deciding winners and losers in a whole host of areas from performance to diversity to compensation.

And there’s a lot at stake.

Someone behind the scenes — an engineer or developer who probably stole the job from an American, you tell me — is writing code and making implicit decisions for HR and recruiters. And you’re either okay with AI being the boss of you, or you’re not.

So even if nobody mentions AI at this year’s HR Technology Conference & Exposition — although they will — you should know about it. And you should ask yourself, and I think this is a huge question, “Will AI take my job?”

Because, and other people tell me this is true, HR people might lose their jobs to algorithms and robots.

I’m not all doom and gloom. I went to Wharton, and I did very well for myself, and I know that we have the cards. WE HAVE THE CARDS. Don’t you forget it. DON’T YOU FORGET IT. AI and robots can’t take our HR jobs if we stay one step ahead and add value in ways that are different than the robots.

3. “Thought-leaders” aren’t always thought-leaders.

I know HR better than anyone who has ever been at HR Tech. I am the only one who can tell you that thought-leaders aren’t thought-leaders. They are crooked entrepreneurs and innovators trying to sell the audience a product or service.

That’s right. Crooked. Not all of them. There are a few good thought-leaders and they’ve endorsed this blog post. But some of them are crooks. The system is rigged, people. Believe me, I know.

But the people in the audience? You people are really smart. You can’t be bought with swag, and you can’t be fooled by someone on stage with a fancy suit or a good blow-out.

There will be a massive turnout for some sessions, but anyone who tries to push too hard and call themselves a thought-leader is suspect. Remember, if they don’t name the sources that consider them thought-leaders, the sources don’t exist.

So those are my three things to know about HR Tech.

For the few people knocking me for writing this post, at least you know I’m awake and writing something original. Every on-line poll has me winning the coverage for HR Tech. That’s just a fact. Who’s better? Tim Sackett? Wrong. Kris Dunn? Wrong.

I do this hard work because you’re amazing. I’ve had tremendous success at building the blog readership, and I’ve sacrificed a lot to be successful. There is such great love in my audience. Such love, my friends, and nobody can deny it.

Listen, I know HR can be great again. That’s why I still write about the HR Technology & Conference Expo. And, most importantly, I hope you’ll attend my session about employee-centric HR on Thursday at 4PM.

See you soon!


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!


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.



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! 


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.


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!


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.


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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