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Did you know that Arianna Huffington runs an HR technology company? No? Neither did I until someone pointed out that she’s running a wellness company meant to reduce stress, eliminate burnout and improve work.

Arianna wrote a book about burnout and her lack of sleep, and she made the rounds to a few HR events to talk about what it was like to be successful and exhausted. She left HuffPo and launched a tech company that aims to end the stress and exhaustion epidemic in our lives. Her new enterprise, Thrive, has three branches: bespoke corporate services, content that drives awareness, and e-commerce solutions to help improve specific outcomes.

That three-pronged structure is exactly how new technology companies should be shaped, by the way. All technology should start on a blank sheet of paper, so take whatever you’ve created on paper and turn it into a real-life consulting experience. Then generate content to build a market and drive brand awareness. If your primary product isn’t ready, find a way to create some apps and give them away for free until you have an enterprise solution. Collect data and email addresses along the way.

Dammit, it’s just that easy.

I’m super-interested to see how Arianna applies her knowledge of media and commerce to the world of corporate wellness. Right now, her efforts are all over the map — take note of the shopping and the charitable donation portals — but I can appreciate firsthand how her team is trying to find a groove and a voice.

Is sleep the 21st-century problem that technology needs to solve? Will Arianna help you sleep better at night? Will she make bosses less thoughtless and rude? Ha, no. But sleep is important. Work-life balance in America is a joke. And her efforts should provide a reasonable measure of validation that human resources professionals, and the technology that supports the function, are an important part of the corporate ecosystem.

Think about it. The world of HR technology isn’t very glamorous no matter how many times some jamoke with a new dashboard tells you that he’s disrupting recruiting. So it’s fun to see someone with real clout — spelled with a c and not with a lame-ass K — enter this industry.

HR technology could do worse than have Arianna enter the space with this endeavor. I welcome more women like her in our industry, and I hope she leaves her mark!

Finding Beautiful People at Collision Conference

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The first time I ever saw a beautiful woman, it was on Fifth Avenue in New York City. I had just been to the Red Door Salon. People were smiling at me. It was starting to freak me out. How do all these people know I just spent $65 to get my hair blown out?

Then I turned around and realized I was standing next to a supermodel. I’m not sure which one. Does it even matter? She was the thinnest, fittest human being I’ve ever seen. She had natural sombre highlights before “sombre” was a word at any local hair salon in America.

The second time I saw truly beautiful women was also in New York City. I was leaving work and traffic was at a complete standstill. That’s because Korean Air flight attendants were lining up to board a bus on 42nd Street outside of the old Helmsley Hotel.

Police sirens wailed in the distance. It was rush hour, and this traffic jam was out of control. But it wasn’t just the street. Even the traffic on the sidewalk stopped. These women, in their light blue uniforms, were stunning. Skin the color of milk, hair so thick and shiny they could star in a shampoo commercial. I stood there and was grateful for the opportunity to swoon, as well.

The third time I saw beautiful women was in Michigan, stepping off the escalator and walking to my office. My building was hosting a pharmaceutical representative conference. A group of 50 new hires, all young women over 5’9″, rounded a corner and headed to a meeting room.

In another life, they could have been surfers or beach volleyball players. Each woman donned a short navy skirt and long jacket. They wheeled impressive pharmacological suitcases, and the act of wheeling a heavy container made them all look super-tall with bold shoulders.

Grown men gasped. Office traffic stopped. As they walked past, I thought, “Am I really this short?”

Keep all of those beautiful women in mind. I was just warned that I might not want to attend a tech and marketing event called Collision Conference in New Orleans, next week, because it’s probably not my cup of tea as a middle-aged technology founder and CEO. The conference is full of three things that might offend me: alcohol, startups with hard-charging cultures, and pretty girls trying to establish their careers.

Not a lot of diversity in expression, thought, or behavior.

That’s an intimidating scene for some people. But I’ve been on the conference circuit for ten years, and I know what happens when some people come together and collectively lose their bearings due to the disinhibiting factors of travel and liquor. And I know what it’s like when the rest of us live our daily lives, too. We attend conferences, act responsibly, and we do okay for ourselves.

And just how pretty are these girls, yo?

I’m laughing out loud as I write this, but is Collision Conference full of women who are 5th Avenue pretty? Are they Korean Airlines pretty? Could they be colleague beach volleyball turned pharmaceutical rep pretty? And are they really using that power to steer the careers in a positive direction?

As a feminist and a storyteller, I want to know.

I’ve seen symmetrical beauty in this world. I’ve witnessed the power of women who can stop vehicular and pedestrian traffic just by being themselves. I know what it’s like when beauty is paired with intelligence. So, if there are really a bunch of pretty women on the floor of this conference using their magic to fund their start-ups, I gotta see this phenomenon in person.

I suspect it’s just normal people of all ages trying to get their hustle on and fund sketchy tech businesses. In that way, the event will be right up my alley. I’ll be on Twitter, and I’ll keep you posted.

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Sexual harassment and sexual assault are hot topics, right now, but none of this will stay in the news much longer. It’s a cyclical event. Every few years, someone opens the door and reveals the true nature of a work environment. A few dudes are outed. Executive leaders and HR professionals promise vigilance. Then the spotlight fades, leaving leaders to sort out conundrums like:

He’s a top performer with a long-standing history, but he likes to stick his D in younger associates. What do we do?

You fire the guy, right? You make an example of him, yes? With some warning, we know what to do. But managers and HR professionals mess this decision up all of the time. The brain gets foggy, we forget about past precedent, and we rationalize the behavior as if it’s our own fate we’re considering.

Maybe it is.

I think we move closer to managing and eliminating sexual assault and harassment at work if we drop the word sexual and focus on behaviors. Harassment in the workplace emerges from a power differential and is expressed in a confusing language of sex and gender that’s often, but not always, binary. Understand the power differential, and you understand how to fix it.

HR professionals don’t talk about power and privilege enough, by the way. Probably because they don’t have much of it. But if these incidents are viewed through the lens of power — and not penises and vaginas and hormones — the arc of harassment and assault at your office isn’t all different from the narrative at a restaurant, movie theater, industrial factory, or even Fox News.

Let’s have a look at how sexual harassment and assault unfold from a position of power and privilege.

Have you ever been out to lunch at burrito shop and a cisgender male behind the glass is doing everything other than asking you if you want brown or white rice?

    He’s talking to his friends, looking at his phone, or simply taking his time because he’s part of the 17% of the workforce who is actively disengaged? That’s not harassment. It’s like, “Do your job, burrito bro. Make my burrito.”

But imagine the burrito bro engages in the same slowpoke behavior but also turns to you and says things like, “Hey, girl. Wow, you look pretty tonight. Do you have plans? You’re got that big diamond ring on your finger, but you don’t look happy.”

    Remember, you’re the customer. You’re watching this unfold before your eyes. What do you do? Do you smile and deflect? Report him to management? What’s your role in stopping the behavior? Do you even have a role? Is that sexual harassment or straight up harassment?

Let’s flip the script and pretend the burrito bro is great. Superior customer service. Five stars on Yelp. You like what you got, and you’ll be back because you like their tortilla chips. But what if he later turns to his co-worker and says, “Hey, girl. After this shift, you wanna come back to my place?”

    Are you one of those people who is outraged? Or do you believe that everybody gets one shot to ask someone out in this world? Do you wonder why he’s assuming that his co-worker falls within his preferred sex and gender without asking? Would he respect her if she said no? Or do you wonder why this guy isn’t simply doing his job? Is he engaging in sexual harassment or straight up harassment?

What if this burrito bro is a shift supervisor?

    Worse, let’s make him a store owner and operator. What if he’s in charge of schedules? Do you think he still gets one shot to ask someone out? Isn’t he human just like us? Should he pass up on the chance to be with his soulmate just because [he/she/they] works for him and earns $12/hr making burritos? Or is he a monster and a predator for expressing himself sexually to a subordinate? Is he engaging in sexual harassment or straight up harassment?

What if burrito bro physically forces himself onto his co-worker because he thinks he’ll change [his/her/their] mind?

    Well, we know the answer. Or do we? Is he engaging in sexual assault or is it simply assault in its ugliest form? Do we diminish the assault by adding the word “sexual” as a prefix?

Some people hate hypothetical scenarios. They can’t answer these questions without more context because the consequences of each behavior have various different punishments. People want to be fair and considerate to both sides before they dole out justice.

That’s fine. But when you do finally rule in favor of the employee, there is no justice. Money doesn’t fix their broken professional reputations or reboot their careers. A check doesn’t compensate them for hours spent enduring the harassment, along with the additional hours of thinking about the experience.

As leaders, you can have the same old debate about sexual harassment and assault — caught up in the binary language of he/she and him/her — or you can engage in the art of reflection and think about how to prevent this from happening again.

Start by removing the word “sexual” from your vocabulary and your HR handbook. Write a policy that hones in on behaviors that emanate from actual or implied power differentials. Then, take all allegations seriously, not because they’re amped up with sexual language, but because all complaints are worthy of consideration. Even the dumb ones. And cut quickly. Fire anybody who makes a false claim, fire people who behave in harassment or assault, and be transparent about the process.

Transparency matched with sound internal policies will teach your workforce how to make better decisions.

Once you do all that, take a gender studies course. Then take a nap. Then have a drink. Then throw your fists in the air and curse the almighty gods for besieging your workforce with stupid people. And get on with the business of running your business. I’m here to tell you that never gets any easier. You’ve been warned.

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I’m the first one to tell you what’s wrong. Let me tell you about what’s going right with HR blogging.

People are telling more stories on their blogs.

    Nobody wants a lecture or a SHRM-SCP study guide. People want to know what makes a writer tick, and they want to experience the world through your perspective. In that way, many HR bloggers are winning. While most HR bloggers don’t know the difference between an anecdote and a story, I don’t always know the difference. Story? Anecdote? Just write. As long as your heart is in the right place and you want to help people see things in a new light, you’re doing fine. Just don’t give me a numbered list.

Writers are ditching personal brand for authenticity.

    Eager-beaver-bloggers try too hard to establish a personal brand. They struggle to find ROI in all this “free work” they’re doing for their blogs. Like chin beards, those days are over. There are some new HR bloggers who write to write, which is refreshing. Let’s all follow their lead. Let your brand be you without any artifice. Nobody is reading what you write, anyway, especially if your blog is less than five years old. Let your brand be “the dull HR person who publishes interesting stuff on occasion,” and you’ll be okay.

HR bloggers are beginning to speak like human beings.

    Well, mostly. Some bloggers still use jargon, but it’s nearly impossible to write about anything serious without using dumbass terms from the industry. What I love is that more bloggers are swearing. Not too much. Just the right amount. Swearing can be a major way to accentuate your point, although not everybody agrees.
    Years ago, I had a reader named Martha. She hated me like Mike Pence hates intimacy with his wife. Honestly, I’m not why she read my blog in the first place, but she made it her mission to tell everybody that I was vile and vulgar. I’m not over-exaggerating. I once got a call from a pet blogger who was like, “Do you know Martha? She hates you because you swear.” Martha would send regularly scheduled messages via email and LinkedIn just to remind me that I’m awful. Like a Hallmark card, only in reverse.
    I’m not sure what happened to good ol’ Martha because I had to block that crazy bitch, but the fact that other HR people swear on their blogs makes me wonder if she’s still out there fighting the good fight against cuss words. The struggle is real. But back to HR blogs: swear however much you want. It’s your blog.

HR bloggers are writing about more than HR.

    I love it when talented people apply their knowledge to unrelated fields. More and more HR bloggers are writing about parenting, healthcare, design, and even politics. So here’s an old school +1 to anybody out there trying something new. You may do HR, but you know other things. Flex your muscle.

There are a few things going right with HR blogging, which is good, because I love HR bloggers. I want them to succeed. They are remarkable people who work in (mostly) shitty jobs without a lot of power and still find time to read, write, think and speak about important issues. It’s my hope that writing leads them to more fulfilling lives — whether that’s as a blogger, a speaker, or even a full-time artist.

You can do it. Don’t let haters like me cramp your style.

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Midway through my job as a relatively new recruiter at a consumer packaged goods company in Chicago, I was assigned a new boss. From the beginning, I didn’t like her. She never asked me how I was doing. She began and ended every meeting with pleasantries, but it was all business.

So I asked her, “Why don’t you ask me how I’m doing?”

She paused and said, “Because I really don’t care.”

Then she added, “You never ask me how I’m doing. We don’t have that kind of relationship. I thought we understood one another.”

At the time, I was upset. I remember going back to my office and crying. And I didn’t last much longer in that job because my feelings were hurt. I never had someone speak to me so directly. I was offended. I thought she was a bitch.

With a little hindsight, I realize that my boss was right. I didn’t care how she was doing. Not at all. Because I have a complicated relationship with my parents, I just wanted someone with power and prominence to show interest in my life. I wanted to be validated. That’s not very fair of me. It’s also not very mature.

I can’t be the only one who brings baggage into the work environment and expects my boss to read my mind. I think far too many of us expect our leaders and bosses to be quasi-parents. So I’ll tell you what I learned from that experience: It’s nice to make a personal connection with people at work, but it would be great if we lowered expectations at the office and raised them for ourselves.

Need to be validated? Feel misunderstood? Wish you had someone who cared about you? Angry or upset because you’re not allowed to express yourself at work? Those are all valid feelings. Be curious about why you feel that way. Be a journalist with your life, ask yourself why, and be patient as the story unfolds.

There’s a tremendous amount of toxicity in the modern workforce. Lots of tension and stress. Maybe your boss is a jerk, or maybe she’s a nice person who has her own internal struggles and challenges. Maybe it’s not about you. Maybe she’s just trying to be professional and get through the day. But it’s easier to be disappointed with your boss and your colleagues than it is to be honest with yourself.

Want to make a human-to-human connection and find a friend at work? Demonstrate some personal leadership in your own life, first.

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About six months ago, I met a guy who changed my life. Sorta.

He’s an executive and an entrepreneur who wants to improve his public speaking skills. I’m a woman who attended a professional development seminar to reboot my career. I introduced myself and shared my story. Then he told me about his background.

It turns out, we both run.

He is a guy with bad knees. I’m a lady with a bad hip and a lot of carbs in my tummy, right now. But we’re both marathoners, and we have similar stories about the ups and downs of racing, so we became buddies for the day.

He asked if I’d ever run the New York Marathon.

I’m like, whatever. Yes, I’m a marathoner. I have medals. I’m awesome. But that’s a serious race for real runners. I’m never going near that event.

And, in a flash, he’s like, you’re running New York.

I’m like, ha, okay. First, let me eat this cookie and drink my eighth cup of hotel-seminar coffee.

But here I am on a Wednesday morning in April — injury-free and healthy — with an entry into the New York Marathon. It’s amazing what happens when you make networking connections. I’m booking hotel rooms and feeling pretty good about options in life.

Can I do this marathon?

Yes.

Do I want to do it?

Yes.

Do I have the full and unwavering support of my husband?

Yes.

Are my friends on board?

I think so. Someone said that I’m a better writer and I seem happier when I’m running with friends and training for a race. I’m like, shut up, don’t judge my work through your limited perspective. Then I was like, yeah, okay, thanks for your support.

(Yes, it’s amazing that I have friends.)

I’ll be running the marathon in November if I can get my act together. Will I write about it obsessively? Probably not. I heard feedback in 2013 and 2104 that my posts about running made some HR ladies feel bad about themselves. It was the opposite point of all those posts, by the way. I am body-positive and inclusive, but I’ll try to do better.

So let’s all give a big round of applause to the guy who sat next to me and helped me secure a space in the race — and my mind — at the New York Marathon.

You never know who you’ll meet if you talk to someone at a professional development event. If you chat about something other than work, networking can be ok!

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If you haven’t read the Jeff Bezos / Amazon investor letter circulating around the internet, it’s a good one. Take the sixty seconds you typically use to look at who’s been looking at your Instagram stories and have a peek.

I love this letter because it’s clear and full of confidence without being too certain. Bezos is clear that past performance has been strong, but he’s not certain about the future. That’s why every day is “day 1” at Amazon. You don’t rest on your laurels. You push forward, even when it’s uncomfortable, and you aim for new goals.

The “day 1” philosophy is an audacious attempt to keep the Amazon employment experience from growing stale, and it’s worth considering in your own lives. The first day of anything — school, work, summer camp — is full of potential and opportunity. But “day 1” is where you make meaningful choices: do you push through first-day jitters and uncertainty and set your sights on something important, or do you wait and see how day two plays out?

Because people who are innovative and passionate know that there’s no waiting around for day two. When day two comes, it’s too late.

I also love this investor letter because Jeff Bezos clearly articulates an essential component of working for Amazon: you can disagree, but you should “disagree and commit.”

Disagree and commit is one of those concepts that sounds super-good on paper, but I can assure you that it’s one of the most challenging aspects of collaborating with a team of people. Most people get the “disagree” portion pretty quickly. For some reason, the modern workforce encourages an insane phenomenon where everybody is entitled to an opinion as if feelings are facts.

It’s the “commit” component that goes wrong. There’s the meeting-after-the-meeting to undermine the commitment. There’s also passive-aggressive behavior in the office meant to tell the world that the commitment is shallow and superficial.

So, please have a look at the Jeff Bezos Amazon investor letter. See if there’s anything that resonates with you. And, as an interesting challenge, write your own letter. What do people get when they invest their time and energy with you and your team? What do you promise? How do you plan to accomplish your goals?

I think that could be an interesting exercise for you and your colleagues.

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Jack Kerouac wrote that nothing is more dreary than coolness, and while I’m not sure that’s a real quote, it sure feels right when you look at Piper Jaffray’s Taking Stock With Teens study.

Teens want boring stuff like Nike, American Eagle and Forever 21. It’s just awful that boring stuff like Vineyard Vines is cool. But boring stuff has always been cool, no matter the decade, which is exactly why Jack Kerouac is right. It’s so fucking dreary.

But you know what has never been cool? Anything that any of us are doing on social media.

Hahahahahahaha. Typical adults are the furthest thing from cool. If your kids tell you that what you’re doing on the internet is cool, they’re lying or they want money.

That’s why I’ve tried to run in the opposite direction of cool when creating a brand and a voice for GlitchPath. These are early days for my company, but I’m trying to match the company voice to the problem we want to solve: unnecessary and stupid failure in the enterprise.

That’s not a cool problem to solve, which relieves the pressure to do anything other than speak in my voice. And thank god I have an advisory board that stops me from making too much of an effort to impress anybody. That never turns out well.

We’ve created a standard for GlitchPath’s brand and messaging: Does it make us laugh? If we laugh, it stays. That’s why I can write a “job description” for a co-founder that says Fuck Trump! and not take it too seriously. I laughed pretty hard when I wrote it. Don’t like it? Don’t be my technical co-founder.

So, here’s what I know: being cool is boring, and it’s also unattainable. When you try, you fail. That’s why your efforts should be directed elsewhere. Be funny, be brave, be bold, be honest, be ambitious, be cynical, or be kind.

Just don’t try to be cool. You don’t need a premortem to tell you that you’re going to fail.

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Employee engagement numbers are low all over the world, and sometimes I think HR professionals forget that they’re employees, too. Work sucks for them as much as it sucks for other people. And many HR resources professionals are unhappy with their jobs because they have a lot of autonomy but no power.

Let me explain.

When you work in HR, your day is largely yours. While you’re at the mercy of crazy employees and demanding executives, you still have a ton of freedom to determine how you accomplish your work. Sure, you have meetings and calls. But you are self-governed and free from the control of a time clock and a quota.

What you don’t have is the decision-making authority, also known as power. You don’t run a P&L, and you don’t have much leverage to change enterprise-level behavior beyond your power of persuasion. You can make mindful decisions on how and where to spend your energy, but you can’t force a company to change its policies based on your word alone.

When HR professionals enter the part of the Venn Diagram where they have no autonomy and no power — and when somebody is questioning the validity of human resources and making decisions outside our span of control — we lose our shit. We feel as if our very essence is challenged.

So, if you want to survive the trenches of HR and boost your engagement, it helps to have a non-judging mind. If you’re at the intersection of “my CFO is an asshole” and “nobody listens to me or consults me on important issues,” don’t judge it. Don’t try to fix it right away. Be a journalist of your own experience, and ask yourself questions like, “Is how I feel actually true? Why does this keep happening to me? How can I do this differently, next time?”

The non-striving mind in HR will help you, too. The world works against those who try too hard. The more you endeavor, the harder it is to succeed. If you find yourself pushing up against power and losing, return to your non-judging mind. Watch how power is expressed — and contained — within your company. Try to understand how decisions are made in your organization and copy those behaviors that are healthy and productive.

Finally, all the autonomy and power in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t have good ideas about HR and your organization. And, if you’re new to your career, you probably don’t have good ideas. I know that hurts to hear, but you aren’t good at recruiting or HR — or anything in life like parenting, leadership, marriage, writing — unless you’ve done it for more than a few years.

So be patient, trust that you’re on the right path, and try to be mindful that autonomy and power are wasted on arrogant and selfish people. And remember that, no matter how much you currently hate your job, you’ll always hate your job if you’re rushing to judge experiences and people — including your own — before you know anything about them.

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I’m all about teaching you how to blog and speak. There’s a holistic method to make money on your blog, earn income from speaking, and generate revenue from your area of expertise.

It takes a lot of work. It’s a full-time job. Here’s a general overview that knits it together.

First, you need knowledge of a particular area like human resources. Write about it for free. Maybe you’ll get residual sponsorship and ad revenue from a vendor. Probably not at the beginning, and by beginning, I mean for a few years.

Then apply to speak at small conferences and events that align with your content. Every conference is different. There’s no single path. Unless you’re a keynote speaker or presenting a content-heavy workshop with your materials, it’s rarely paid. And just because it’s paid at one conference doesn’t mean it will be paid by another. It’s a frustratingly inefficient process. Suck it up.

If you’re lucky enough to speak, meet with the event planner and the social media coordinator. Understand who will be at that event and what they hope to accomplish. Tailor your content. Most speakers are lazy and have their people call the event’s people. You shouldn’t do that. Ever. Take a vested interest, dammit. Showing up and being fabulous works for 1% of the 1%, and maybe not even then.

Once you start booking smaller events, connect with everyone you meet on LinkedIn and Twitter. It’s amazing how many paid opportunities I receive in 2017 because someone saw me speak for free in places Evansville and Carbondale (google those places) back in 2009. It’s never too early to start an email list, by the way, and there’s a lot of information on the internet. You could also ask Mary Ellen Slayter for help. But, in the beginning, beefing up LinkedIn works fine.

And, whoa, don’t forget about your blog, by the way, because it always needs love and attention. Maybe you’re not the kind of person who publishes original research and white papers, but you can write about hot topics and interesting subjects that relate to your primary audience. A daily writing practice helps train you as a professional writer and speaker. And the stakes are low. Nobody is reading your stuff in the early days.

No matter the platform, a few rules apply: be interesting, be witty, be brief. Be the best version of yourself, which means being selfless while also being confident. And don’t forget to rewrite your sentences and speeches. Practice a lot. Remove the “I” from your stories and replace it with “you.”

That’s how you start to knit this together.

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