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This week is the fifth anniversary of my friend’s suicide.

Time flies when you are dead.

Mike Powroznyk was a childhood friend, a writer, and one hell of a human being. When he liked you, he really liked you. He was invested in you. It wasn’t enough to send letters or email messages. He wanted to make manic memories. I am glad the internet reconnected us in 2008, but I am sorry because it also hid the truth from me. Mike had become unhinged. He was suffering.

Mike couldn’t say no to women and dogs, but now that I think about it, what man can say no to dogs? If you like America and apple pie, you must love dogs. And although Mike loved most women — cheerleaders, goth girls, hookers — there was one woman whom he hated. He couldn’t stand a local politician by the name of Rita Mullins.

I have no idea why.

- Could be her mean, pinched face.
- Could be that she pushed some anti-tavern legislation.
- Could be because he didn’t like the look of her when he spotted her eyeing bananas at the Jewel on Palatine Road.

When I told him that I sat out of a local election because a) I was in college and no longer lived in Palatine and b) I did not give a shit about small town politics in a city where I lived for about three years, he read me the riot act from the Powroznyk bible.

“When you skip a local election, you fail America. You know how this shit works. First she’s the mayor. Then she’s a State Representative. Then she’s in Washington taking away our freedoms and being a total c__t.”

As an 18-year-old kid, Mike had a way of putting things so eloquently.

I think about Mike every year when I vote in my unremarkable local elections that don’t seem to make a difference. I think about Mike when I read about all of the gun violence in Chicago. And I think about Mike whenever I see some uptight female politician “going rogue” and pretending to be a libertarian and feminist in sheep’s clothing.

She’s coming for our freedom.

Mike was right about that.

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I flew to New York City on July 6, 2004 with a Coach briefcase full of anxiety.

I didn’t want to work in human resources. I never wanted to work for Pfizer. But I was twenty-nine years old with no purpose in life. I was just sitting around, killing time and waiting for the world to unfold.

This is a common theme in my life.

We had just relocated to a college town in western Michigan. I had no local friends. I didn’t have any hobbies. I thought I might die of boredom and loneliness if I didn’t find something meaningful to do.

I also liked nice things.

So I hauled my ass to New York City on a hot and stormy afternoon to confirm my employment and begin my orientation as a regional HR lady at the world’s largest pharmaceutical company. I put on a frumpy black suit and pretended to care about talent acquisition, culture and engagement. I remember smiling a lot, but people mistook my Midwestern kindness for naïveté. I was asked a lot of questions about New York as if I had never been to the city and smelled hot garbage on a summer afternoon.

“You like it here? Have you tried the pizza? You see Times Square, yet? Some traffic, am I right?”

It was fine, I suppose, in a depressing way. I had only lived in Michigan for a few months, but it was abundantly clear that it looked like I had just fallen off the pumpkin truck to my colleagues.

I just smiled and nodded to get it over faster.

“The pizza is great! Yes, I saw the Empire State Building!”

As I was packing up and leaving for the airport at the end of the trip, my boss went on a rant. He warned me that I better not cross him.

“If you fuck me or keep secrets from me, I will rip your head off and shit down your throat.”

Wow, yeah, so there was that.

I took a car service back to LaGuardia on July 7th, but the airport was locked down on one of its infamous ground stops. I was advised to get a hotel room immediately or risk sleeping on the jizzy airport floor all night long.

(I picked a local Marriott.)

The next morning, July 8th, I made my way home from NYC and cried. As far as jobs go, there are worse things than working for a cushy-ass corporate titan; however, you know it’s going to be bad when even the HR dudes are jerks.

“Do I really need this job?”

I did. I wanted new landscaping. I wanted to pay down my student debt. I wanted to go back to Maui. I wanted a better car. I wanted to buy my husband nice gifts.

I took a long, hot shower when I finally got back to Michigan. I stepped out of my shower and heard some commotion outside. Sophie — my neighbor’s frankenweinee of a dog – was half-pitbull and half-chihuahua. She was in my yard and wouldn’t shut up. I went outside to yell at her, and that’s when I saw Molly.

Molly Ruettimann

Little Molly, scabbed-up face and broken teeth.
Little Molly, Brillo pad fur and judgy eyes.
Little Molly, whiny as hell and meowing for food.

I scooped her up like a momma bear. I fed her Fancy Feast. We drove to the vet.

“What’s wrong with her face?” I asked.

“Road rash. Fight with a possum. Who the hell knows?” the vet tech told me.

The diagnosis wasn’t good for this punchkin. Molly had herpes in her eyes, coccidia and roundworm.

“The coccidia is highly contagious,” the vet tech warned me. “Keep her quarantined from your other cats.”

“Oh,” I asked, “You can’t keep her?”

The vet tech looked at me like I had two heads. She suggested a local animal rescue that might be able to help.

And she was right. The local animal rescue was staffed with Pfizer employees who volunteered their time. And everyone was so helpful. They made it easy to keep Molly.

Molly Ruettimann 2

So because of Molly, several things happened.

  1. I learned a lot about cats.
  2. My husband started to like cats.
  3. I began volunteering at an animal rescue.
  4. Pfizer donated tens of thousands of dollars to that animal rescue through my volunteer efforts.
  5. I figured out why I was working: to facilitate a better life for animals.

Not bad.

One more thing. Molly hated me from the start. She fell in love with my husband. His kitty wife — That little bitch! That traitor! That adorable little punchkin! — crawled  into our bed every night and gave me the cold shoulder for four years.

FOUR YEARS.

Molly Ruettimann 3

But the good news is that Molly and I rebooted our lives over together in 2008 when our family moved down to North Carolina for my husband’s job. We didn’t know anyone. We didn’t have much to do besides hang out with one another and write. And we became pretty good friends.

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I love this petite cat because she doesn’t love easily, but she does love hard. I love that human resources brought us together. But I really love that she loves me a little bit more each day.

Molly  Ruettimann 10th-1

Happy Gotcha Day, Molly! Ten years just flew by.

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You ever wonder what recruiting and marketing professionals talk about via email? We talk about a lack of inspirational quotes in our industry.

No, really. This is true. Who works hard to inspire us, dammit?

(Nobody, that’s who.)

So I grabbed a bunch of photos and had some fun.

Enjoy!

LFRQuote

caralucas

tincupbullshit

dunnbullshit2

sackettbullshit

 

You feeling inspired? Make your own at PicMonkey and post it on Twitter with the hashtag #inspiredHR.

 

 

 

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Ruettimann Conference Board

Some of my readers know me as a former human resources lady. Some of you know me as a blogger. But a surprising number of my readers are senior executives and communications experts who found me through my work with The Conference Board.

For five years, I wrote a column in The Conference Board Review that covered HR, management and leadership issues. I dissected all sorts of stupid stuff — from wellness to diversity — while trying to offer a fun and alternative perspective of human resources.

Unfortunately, The Conference Board Review is now out of print. The Conference Board had major layoffs, and many people beyond the magazine lost their jobs. This is sad news.

So let me tell you about two people who deserve recognition.

My editor-in-chief, Matthew Budman, was the first person to pay me to write in a print publication. For those of you who don’t believe that money is validation, you haven’t met a struggling writer.

Matthew was instrumental in building my professional confidence, but he also showed me that a boss can be a friend. I remember when he first introduced me to his wonderful and wicked smart wife. I thought, “Oh my god, did I pass the test? Does he like me? I think he likes me.”

(Jesus. A writer’s ego can be so fragile.)

My senior editor, Vadim Liberman, made me a better writer through his meticulous editing process. “Can’t I create a straw man? Can’t I engage in logical fallacies? Can’t I insert this Lady Gaga lyric? Try to stop me! Oh, you can stop me? Okay, fine, I’ll accept your feedback and make changes.”

(As a side note: I went to Vadim’s house, a few weeks ago, and realized that it was only the third time I’ve been in a colleague’s house in my entire career. Vadim and I are friends for life.)

So I’m bummed that The Conference Board Review is no longer in print. Two great writers and editors are out of work. And, selfishly, I met so many crazy CEOs and COOs during my stint as a columnist. High-functioning psychopaths who shared their crazy stories and complained about their HR departments. I never paid for a meal in New York City, and those conversations almost always led to consulting projects and speaking engagements.

So that sucks. My executive-slash-whackadoodle pipeline is gone, and I will miss the jacked up stories of executive HR ladies run amuck.

But I am thankful for the small opportunity to work with Matthew and Vadim at The Conference Board Review. They changed my life and helped me to grow as a writer. I learned to be a better and more trustworthy colleague. And I made life-long friends in the process.

I hope that, one day, I can be as helpful to them as they were to me.

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Laurie RuettimannI had a great and glorious holiday weekend. How about you?

The cats didn’t fight. We attended a wedding and went to the beach. I ate like a champ. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t get any better than that.

I remember when I had a real job. The first day back after a long “summer weekend” was brutal. Employees were tired. Supervisors and leaders are bombed with email before they walk through the door. HR professionals around America are hungover but affecting a happy disposition.

(My boss once told me that I can’t improve employee engagement scores if I’m not smiling.)

I know the first day back is tough, but I hope you have a good day at work. America is built on a foundation of people who worked hard so you didn’t have to! They built railroads and interstates. They dug ditches and hauled boulders. They foraged, farmed and fought for a better society.

You work on a computer and don’t even answer your phone, anymore.

In short, you’re not gonna die.

Go easy on yourself, get another Starbucks, and don’t be too hard on your colleagues.

Welcome back to work, America!

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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Lucy_BW-300x200

A friend of mine told me that she buys cat food at the grocery store. She buys whatever is on sale. Yes, her cat is barfy. She is not sure what to do.

She asked, “What do you feed your cats?”

That’s a complicated question.

I have a cat who cannot tolerate grain. He loves Meow Mix, but he will barf himself into oblivion if I feed him the fun stuff. I want to make my life easier, so I feed my cats bunnies.

(That’s right. They eat rabbits. Canned and dry.)

Although it sounds gross, those bunnies were raised and slaughtered in conjunction with a thoughtful and transparent supply-chain process. It’s expensive food, of course, but a puke-free life is worth it.

If my cats didn’t eat bunnies, I would struggle to find the right food because commercial pet food is unregulated. Just because something is expensive and “natural” doesn’t mean it is good. Chinese suppliers have been known to take shortcuts. Many animals have died.

(Stay up to date on pet food recalls here, btw.)

Seth Godin says cat food isn’t for cats, which tells me how little he knows about anything other than himself. Cat food is for cats, and there are big differences in the quality and brands. If there were no digestive issues in our family, I would probably feed my cats Science Diet. It’s always been good to us.

Do you need to buy your cat food at the grocery store? Well, I fed my cats Fancy Feast for many years. My favorite cat, Lucy, died just a few weeks short of her 18th birthday. If Fancy Feast is good enough for Lucy, it’s probably good enough for your cat.

Here is my advice: do your research, introduce your cat to a new brand very slowly, and stick with that brand.

Good luck!

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Bob DeutschA few weeks ago, I was lucky to attend a marketing and recruiting conference and hear an interesting keynote speech by Dr. Bob Deutsch.

Dr. Deutsch believes people, customers and job applicants aren’t just data points. They aren’t hyper-segmented consumers who can be broken down into simple personae based on your imprecise understanding of Jungian archetypes. If you want to sell something (or hire someone), you need to take off your Google Glass, stop being an insufferable dick, and help people achieve important milestones in their lives.

I liked it. A lot.

Because keynote speeches move merchandise, I bought his book called The 5 Essentials: Using Your Inborn Resources to Create a Fulfilling Life. This book is a great resource for those of you who want to read about happiness but are sick of the pseudo-hippie garbage on the market. Dr. Bob Deutsch is no guru. He is an anthropologist and scientist who knows how to read people and tell stories. He outlines a list of essential attributes you need in your life to be happy.

This book is a quick and interesting read. If you want to spend some time over the Indendpence Holiday weekend thinking about how to be happier — with your life, your family, and your career — start here.

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Do you want summer travel recommendations from a woman who always has a great summer?

That’s me.

I’ve got recommendations for you based on generational stereotypes that are bandied about in your local HR department.

All travel scenarios involve a lot of laughs, decent champagne, and a good group of travel friends. If you have those, you can go anywhere.

Generation Z/Homeland Generation

According to my friends in HR, you are screwed. You have no money, and you don’t have a passport. You don’t deserve a summer. You should have a job. Check out Indeed, CareerBuilder, or CoolWorks. It is not too late.

Millennials

Remember when you used to wear hoodies in college? The recession is over, thank god, and you probably have some money. Catch up on doing the things you couldn’t afford to do when George Bush wrecked the economy. See Yellowstone, Yosemite or any of America’s other beautiful parks. Visit the coast (either) or travel north and see the beautiful countryside. Do this now before you have kids and/or America crumbles in partisan conflict.

Generation X

You are largely ignored by HR. That’s okay. Did you miss backpacking through Europe because your parents were hit hard by the Reagan budget cuts and made you work a summer job? Did George HW Bush raise your taxes? Did you lose everything in the dot-com bubble? (“Pets.com should have been a thing!”) Go to Paris, Prague and Berlin and make memories. What are you waiting for? Do it before this current market crashes!

Generation Jones

You are the generation that best represents the current cohort of HR ladies in power. You have always wanted to see Australia and New Zealand. Work hard, this summer, and go in November. You have earned this big vacation. You are long overdue.

Baby Boomers

You survived the recession and have some cash despite your asshole kids (and grandkids) who live in your basement. Asia is calling you. Anywhere in India, China or Japan would be okay. Baby boomers are on a quest for happiness, according to all the HR articles I read, and Thailand is right in line with that journey. (Ugh) Tourism is back in Sri Lanka if you are feeling restless. I would also love for you to do an eco-safari adventure in Africa.

Greatest Generation

A train tour through the Canadian Rockies? A cruise through Alaska or a trip to British Columbia? I’m not old, and that sounds pretty good to me. Do it before you die!!

Whatever you do, be safe and have fun.

Suddenly I am inspired to take a great summer vacation. You know what looks good to me? OBX. See you there!

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Years ago, I hired chemists and engineers for Monsanto. Back in the day, Monsanto was a different company and had a diverse portfolio that included hardcore chemicals products, food additives and pharmaceuticals. And it employed many different types of workers — from hippies to lobbyists to lawyers — who honestly dreamed of saving humanity and ending world hunger.

And Monsanto had a buffer zone because some “dirties hippies” were still mad about the Vietnam War.

Then I worked for Pfizer, which happened to be located near the United Nations and Consulate General of Israel. I had to make my way to work through anti-Semitic protestors who didn’t like the U.N. and didn’t like Israel. They weren’t allowed on U.N. property and flowed into a buffer zone on 42nd Street.

And there were times when Pfizer dealt with shareholder activists and people, such as Michael Moore, who wanted to educate Pfizer employees about its allegedly evil practices. Those protestors were not allowed to camp out in front the corporate headquarters. They were moved along.

(I wonder who sent him that memo?)

Most normal human beings support freedom of speech, but HR professionals know that buffer zones are important for business continuity and worker safety. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court unanimously knocked down buffer zones outside of abortion clinics in Massachusetts.

I don’t know how you feel about abortion, but the truth is that Roe v. Wade is settled law. And while the people who stand outside abortion clinics and heckle women and workers are covered by the freedom of speech provisions in the U.S. constitution, the women receiving medical treatment are also protected under the constitution.

As a human resources consultant, I ask myself: how do we keep workers and patients safe? With America’s goofy gun laws, those facilities are very dangerous. How do we assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance? Wouldn’t OSHA have something to say about a buffer zone?

And if America’s largest corporations are allowed to have a buffer zone, I don’t know why medical clinics can’t have buffer zones. It makes no sense to me.

So if anyone wants to start a collection to challenge the Supreme Court’s right to have a buffer zone, I would donate to that movement. I would also gladly stand on public property and protest outside of a Supreme Court justice’s home, too. Count me in for that. I’ll the make signs.

SCOTUSbufferzone

Let’s do this!

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Two weeks ago, I spotted a lost dog. She seemed freaked out. Ran away from me and into the woods. I hopped on my neighborhood’s social networking site to send a note.

Lost Dog.jpg

I went to a conference, came home and discovered that the dog was still loose. Thankfully, a neighbor had grabbed the poor girl and put her on a screened-in porch. When I saw the news, I got off email and reached out in real life.

I remember what it was like to volunteer at an animal rescue. It’s lonely. Everyone is sympathetic, but nobody has space. I said, “Thank you for snatching up the dog. I will help you get this dog back to its owners. She has been out for weeks, and you are not in this alone.”

My strategy? Although I posted the dog’s photo online, I also worked the phone. I reached out to local shelters and breed-specific rescue facilities in order to find this dog’s family, and those volunteers were amazing and helpful. They explained the animal rescue process in NC. They also gave me ideas on how to find the owner beyond getting this dog tested for an existing microchip.

I also reached out to friends who have Golden Retrievers and asked them to help me estimate the dog’s age and figure out how we might be able to make her comfortable. This poor dog has been missing for weeks and had dodged cars on a local road. She was nervous and wanted to wander. She wanted to go home.

And my awesome neighbor (who did 100% of the hard work with this dog) didn’t spend all day on the internet, either. She fed and sheltered the dog. She took the dog on walks, too, and one of our other neighbors said, “Hey, I think I know that dog. She lives down the street in an adjacent neighborhood.”

Problem solved. The dog is reunited with the family.

So, yeah, this whole incident is a good reminder that a) no problem is ever solved on the internet and b) just when you think you’ve reached your entire audience, you haven’t.

There is always someone who doesn’t know the story but might have a solution for you. Try harder to reach your target audience.

I also learned two more things.

First of all, I love my pet sitter. She sends me “proof of life” photos every day when I travel. Those time-stamped photos will be required from all future babysitters for the rest of my life.

Finally, if you see a dog, snatch her up. Nobody is going to do anything about it except you. She has been overlooked by hundreds of people. And reuniting a dog with her owners is worth it!

 

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