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My favorite trend on the internet is a wannabe guru telling you to beware the rise of gurus. There’s a special place in hell for someone who thinks his mediocre story inspires you to action; however, there’s another special place in hell for the guy who suffers from imposter syndrome, writes how much gurus suck, and wants to be one.

TL;DR Internet sucks.

I’m impressed with people who get shit done. It’s hard to write and publish a book that’s read by over 125 people. It’s difficult to launch a blog, produce a podcast, manage an email list, develop your speaking skills, and communicate quirky ideas to a hostile world that prefers to make fun of you.

Throw in some exercise and diet advice, and the peanut gallery will eat you alive. Sure, the peanut gallery is chocked full of slow and chubby motherfuckers scared of their shadows. But they’re brave and loud on the internet. They’re also your target market if you’re a guru. Oh, the irony. Takes a lot to filter out the noise from people incapable of changing their lives, and, also, need your message. 

Funny enough, exercise helps.

I’m not here to write a love letter in praise of gurus and self-help authors who turn tricks at conferences and make a healthy living on your insecurities. But I am here to tell you I see your collective shame and vulnerability bubbling up to the surface of your social media accounts. It’s unproductive and unappealing to watch you criticize people who stand at the plate and take a swing.

The motivational speaking market is full of Amway-like products and services that benefit marketers at the bottom of the pyramid. Criticize how we got here in our society because people always get to a place where some huckster gives us a golden ticket or sells us a potion to cure our ails. That’s the American narrative.

You can also share your pertinent thoughts on the trend in self-help books that everybody is empowered and can change from the inside by rethinking X to get to Y. It’s the hero who emerges as a better version of himself through incremental change, but it overlooks systemic racism, sexism, and ableism. Assumes everybody is white, middle-class, and faces the same ingroup set of challenges.

A robust critique is long overdue. Start there.

But nothing worse than someone who is so sure of himself in the shadows but can’t stand his ground in the spotlight. Guard against taking to the internet and criticizing icons and celebrities who get under your skin for no good reason other than that you don’t measure up. 

Maybe you’re good enough, and maybe you’re not. Just don’t be one of those decent church-going women — with their mean, pinched, bitter faces — who sit in fear and judgment of something they don’t understand, something that’s created for them to save them. We see you for what you are, and we want to send you one of those self-help books. You need it.

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all jobs suck

My email inbox is full of messages from people just like you who hate their jobs.

Earnest folks. Men and women with degrees, professional careers, student loans, and mortgages. Human beings who are frustrated with work and have nowhere left to go except the internet. They google I+Hate+Work or I+Hate+HR, find my blog, and confirmation bias kicks into high gear. They feel like they’ve found a woman who hates work as much as they do.

It’s true. I hate work.

But all jobs suck. Even the good ones. Don’t email me just to complain. And, if you do, expect a templatized response.

Hello, Sally. Thanks for reaching out. I’m sorry to hear work is so stressful. I will tell you something you don’t want to hear: All jobs suck. There are highs and lows in every field. Want to feel better about work? Worry less about your career and care more about your life outside of work. Get a few hobbies or rediscover your friends. Gain perspective on what matters to you.

I know you see people on the internet who seem to love their jobs. They are lying. Okay, maybe they’re telling the truth. But they’re happy regardless of the work. And happy is the wrong word to use. Most likely, they are resilient. Happy people fall back on relationships and extra-curricular activities when a job is stressful or unsatisfying.

Do you have a best friend? Something to distract you from a tough day at the office? A creative outlet? No? Well, here’s my advice: Take work less seriously and reprioritize your life. Make a list of three things you would do if you had a day off tomorrow. Take the day off and do one thing. Get greedy and do two things. Or be disruptive and tackle the whole list.

Can’t take the day off? American PTO policies suck! Don’t be a jerk, but work 22% less hard tomorrow. Take a longer lunch or go on an extended Starbucks break. Get balance in your life by grabbing that balance back.

You can do it. I believe in you.

Love,
Laurie

People hate this response, but, years later, they write back and thank me for my pragmatic advice. They know I’m right. Yes, HR sucks. I’m sure your boss is a dick. But all jobs suck, even the good ones, and most of us are in a prison of our creation. Time to open the door from the inside and let yourself out.

To help reach more miserable people, I bought www.alljobssuck.com and will link to this blog post. Unhappy workers who hate their jobs will wind up here with you and everybody else who wasn’t born wealthy and has a job that sucks. This post will serve as a permanent reminder that feelings are temporary and jobs don’t suck forever. It’s possible to step off the treadmill and grab control of life.

The permission slip you’ve been waiting for — to take the day off, care a little less, or quit their jobs — has arrived. And it didn’t come from HR.

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tax cuts

Close your eyes and think about what you love most about your job. Is it the job title? The salary band? Do you enjoy logging into your laptop and checking email? If I had to guess, your answers would fall into one of three categories: money, moments, and meaning.

You’re not alone.

Data from the WorkHuman Research Institute shows you don’t stay with a job because it pays a little more than it did in 2017. Likewise, you don’t stick around and work for a company where the leadership team is disconnected from the workforce, you feel isolated from your colleagues, or you lack a central purpose in your career.

You keep a job because there’s a meaning behind your work. The best jobs turn co-workers into friends and pay employees enough to achieve financial goals.

Money, moments, and meaning are the divine pillars of the best talent attraction and retention strategies. Those three components help leaders and HR professionals find and keep the best and brightest workers in the marketplace.

So, why not implement creative strategic HR programs to find talented people, pay them well, and keep them motivated with meaningful work? You can do it. Mercer reports that about one-third of American companies plan to redirect tax reform savings to employee rewards. You can leverage the new changes in our tax laws to benefit your entire workforce.

It starts with a little research on the opportunity at hand.

The HR Opportunity Behind the Tax Cut

A few months ago, the U.S. government implemented the most significant change to the tax code in more than 30 years. Some businesses now have a 21% corporate tax rate instead of 35%. Also, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act calls for a one-time tax rate of 12% on cash returns and 5% on non-cash for corporate money repatriated from overseas.

Without getting too complicated, this influx of cash could represent an unexpected opportunity for both global businesses and small companies to invest in the workforce.

Tax reform is already driving changes in corporate recruiting strategies. More than 260 companies have announced bonuses or wage increases as part of this new tax law, which is a good start. Some people call this a PR stunt, but wages have been flat since the Great Recession. The workforce is due for a raise.

But that’s just the beginning. While I think the tax cut provides an opportunity to reward workers for helping companies emerge from the recession, there’s an opportunity to go beyond short-term thinking and show your organization’s commitment to creating a human work environment.

Invest Your Tax Savings Into Social Recognition

As a leader, you can take this historic moment and hand out a check, or you can invest in long-term strategic initiatives that recognize individual performance and rewards excellence.

I’d spend the money on a strategy that shores up your culture. For example, social recognition is a proven management practice that unlocks the full potential of people by providing purpose, meaning, and appreciation for the work they do every day.

Investing in your workforce is not only responsible in a fiscal sense, but it’s also an opportunity for you to elevate your employer brand. Leading companies such as Hershey and Bristol Myers Squibb have embraced social recognition software and crafted rewards and recognition programs that ensure employees have a sense of purpose and meaning throughout the year.

Social Recognition Pays Long-Term Dividends

Work is all about money, moments, and meaning. You can’t separate one without compromising the other. Social recognition is a practice that incorporates all three elements and is scientifically proven to aid in talent attraction strategies and make existing employees feel valued.

So, it’s essential to seize this opportunity and consider the consequential changes to the U.S. tax law. Use your company’s tax benefits to elevate the employee experience. Invest in money, moments, and meaning through the acquisition of social recognition software. Be creative and take this historic opportunity to differentiate your company’s brand and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

You won’t regret it.

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American viewers have been sold a load of goods. For years, we were told that Olympic female gymnasts and figure skaters are princesses. Pretty—sometimes petite—women who are captivating, enchanting and virtuous.

These women are warriors. Thanks to the popularity of fitness blogs and protein supplements at the local Target, more of us know about sports science and what it takes to get your body into shape. Takes more than unicorn tears and pixie dust to execute a floor routine or a triple salchow jump.

I’ve been thinking about the warriors in the HR blogging field, this weekend. Who trains hard and writes what’s true? Where are our HR Olympic athletes? Who’s going for gold in HR blogging?

Anybody who writes about HR is operating at a level higher than most individuals. Also, gotta love people who have blogs and try to write a few times each week. Keeps their thinking fresh. Shows that they’re interested in topics outside themselves. I don’t hate it.

But there’s something about people who commit to writing and invest their heart and soul in the process. That’s why I’d like to hand out Olympic medals to a few bloggers. Gold, silver, bronze. Only three spots on the podium. No participation awards.

Here we go.

Individual Women

Gold: Robin Schooling — An Amazing storyteller with longevity in the space. As America’s HR lady, she’s very generous with her time and will mentor new writers.

Silver: Sharyn Lauby — Understands HR, understands technology, and can’t stop writing good books on the subject.

Bronze: Sarah Morgan — She’s the hardest working woman in HR blogging. Writes with truth and passion. Watch her career grow.

Individual Men 

Gold: Tim Sackett — Undisputed heavyweight champion of HR blogging and HR tech. Style, substance, and integrity. Pick up the phone and call him. He’ll make time for you.

Silver: Steve Browne — The ambassador of Human Resources has a long-time blog, book, and speaking tour to reshape HR. Plus he has a big heart.

Bronze: Jonathan Segal — Who likes lawyers? You should! Jonathan has a rising career as the voice of a smarter and more nuanced approach to employee management.

Pairs (Team Blogs)

Gold: RecruitingDaily — Come for the recruiting news and technology, stay for the fantastic content on social issues and cultural topics.

Silver: SHRM blog — Maybe I’m biased, but half the authors are my friends who have flourished as writers. Required reading.

Bronze: TLNT — Once a fresh-young media site, TLNT has grown and matured over the years. On the comeback. Love a comeback story!

Who did I exclude? Nearly everybody. Good people. Honest writers. My friends and colleagues who write like champs. Just because you’re not on the list doesn’t mean you’re not an athlete. Keep waking up early, training the mind, and writing quality content. The road to HR blogging Olympic gold is long, but the medal doesn’t make the writer. It’s the journey

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Are you a Winter Olympics fan? Did you see the opening ceremony? We’re still getting over being sick, so we watched the ceremony from the comfort of our couch.

The best part of the Winter Olympics is watching people from warm-weather countries compete in cold weather sports. There are the Nigerian bobsledders who honed their craft in Houston. The Kenyan Olympian at the entire event who is an alpine skier and crowdfunded her way to the games. And I love the Iranian cross-country skier who flies to Turkey to train. It’s inspiring to see these women push their bodies to the limit in a variety of terrains that aren’t accessible to them.

I also love the Winter Olympics because each contest, no matter how boring, represents an innate desire for perfection achieved through a rigorous commitment to practice. The Winter Olympics reminds me it’s not enough to be gifted; your natural abilities won’t calm your nerves. Talent gets you the invitation to try; training awards you the privilege to compete for gold.

The final thing I appreciate about the Winter Olympics is that I learn about sports not on my radar screen. I’m looking at you, biathlon. Hard to get excited about people skiing and shooting rifles except, now that I’ve run marathons, I’m envious of the quiet and intense focus required to push your body to the limit and hit your mark with a weapon. 

I’m not Jason Bourne, but reading the coverage of the biathlon event makes me think that I’d love to try something like it. Curling it too social for me. I want endurance sports and guns, but, you know, in a healthy way.

So consider me a fan of the Winter Olympics. I’m all in with Skeleton, Freestyle Skiing, and Nordic Combined. But I’m not buying any Ralph Lauren winter gear. Those puffy gloves are ridiculous and too big for my petite hands!

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I am addicted to taking baths.

It’s not a new thing. I’ve been taking baths my whole life. But I rediscovered the benefits of a bath after taking up long-distance running as a hobby. Anything longer than six miles, my move is to soak in an Epsom salt bath and then take a nap afterward. The hot water eases my chronic hip flexor and SI pain. Also, the salt water calms me down.

We have a large master bathroom with a garden tub. It’s built for a petite woman like me to submerge her body and float. I make the water super-hot and fill it up high. Yes, to the top. As the uppermost layer of the water gets cold, it drains into the overflow tube. That’s science, right?

Well, that’s not science. And it turns out that we had a broken connection between the tub and the overflow tube. I discovered this right before New Year’s Eve. Water leaked from my second-floor bathroom onto the first-floor ceiling. It flowed down the path of least resistance and ruined our family room wall and ceiling, the downstairs bathroom, and then dripped into my basement.

When we noticed the damage, it was too late.

The water also pooled under my hardwood floors and buckled a few planks. My entire first floor is an open-concept with no breaks in the wood. So, that’s a fucking mess and needs to be repaired and refinished.

But, listen, I’m grateful to be an adult who owns a home and has insurance. When I was just a toddler, my mom and I lived with my grandmother in her tiny home in Chicago. My grandmother was a hoarder, but she always cleared out space to accommodate her adult children who returned home. We slept in my mother’s childhood bunk bed. My earliest memory of my mom is waking up and hearing her tell me, “Turn over. Stop breathing on me.”

Two of my teenage aunts still lived at home with my grandmother. One of my aunts slept in a bedroom with her newborn baby. The youngest aunt got stuck in the bunk bed with my mom and me. And there was one bathroom for four women and two babies. The shower didn’t work. We just had a tub.

Mom hated living with my grandmother and tried to work things out with my dad. Got pregnant. Eventually, the marriage failed. We moved back to my grandmother’s home for good. This time, my brother was along for the ride. He and I slept on a fold-out living room sofabed. I developed a bedwetting problem, which my brother won’t let me forget. Can’t blame him, poor kid.

Life was chaotic. Mom had two jobs and a string of dodgy boyfriends. My Dad wasn’t helpful. Broke, depressed, and alcohol-dependent. My grandmother worked the overnight shift at the local Dunkin Donuts. During the day, she watched a ton of grandkids. As more cousins were born, kids were crammed into that house like a can of sardines.

And it was just that single bathroom. No shower.

Then my mom got pregnant and married an asshole guy she knew from her childhood. That’s the nicest way I can write that sentence, and it represents thirty years of expensive therapy. We moved into a two-flat, which is a brick building with an apartment on the first floor and second floor. My sister and youngest brother were born while we lived there.

Six of us lived in about 850 square feet. A little more space with a bathtub and a shower. But it wasn’t idyllic, or, even, safe. Lots of violence in the house. I was moved into my father’s home when I was 14. Went to college when I was 17. Got a job in human resources when I was 20. Moved in with my husband when I was 23 and, for the first time, lived in a house with more than one bath.

The American dream, right?

So, I’m absolutely grateful for my good fortune. Sure, the entire first floor of my home needs to be renovated. We will need to move out while it happens, and I have to find a place to stay that will let me bring my cats. And, right now, I am living with a goddamn hole in my family room that’s covered in cardboard, garbage bags and duct tape.

I’m okay with it. All of it. This homeowner’s nightmare is small potatoes and nothing more than a blip on my personal radar screen. My needs are met, my cup is full. And I’ve discovered that picking out bathroom fixtures is surprisingly healing. Choosing new tile is a good team-building activity for my marriage, too.

They don’t call it retail therapy for nothing. And I think my grandmother would be proud.

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Are you curious about mindfulness? Just finished week three of my latest round of MBSR coursework at Duke. If you recall, MBSR is a mindfulness training program meant to help people calm the hell down. 

When I started this journey in 2017, I wanted to earn a coaching certificate and teach mindfulness to clients and students. Now that I’ve been studying for a year, things don’t work like that. 

I’m just at the beginning of this training. I’ll always be at the beginning because one of the primary tenets of mindfulness is the “beginner’s mind.” No, it’s not a pyramid scheme. My instructors preach the value of curiosity and embodying an attitude of openness and eagerness towards almost everything. Even when you think you know somebody or something, it’s important to let go of your preconceived notions. 

There’s no pass or fail in mindfulness, only practice. You don’t get a trophy when you’re proficient. You get peace of mind, and maybe not even that.

Our instructors also teach that it’s essential to stop judging things, or, at the least, observe your judgy behavior quietly. Try to get in front of it. Dig a little deeper and ask why it’s happening right now. What about this unique moment in time is making you cast judgment on yourself or something else?

Takes the fun out of being judgy that’s for sure.  

Observing myself is a meta-exercise that could leave me in a narcissistic turmoil for days, except that mindfulness is about adopting a non-striving attitude. So, don’t strive to change. Observe yourself or don’t. Accept how you are at the moment. Trust those feelings aren’t facts. Be patient with yourself. Then let it go.

And you’re supposed to breathe. Holy shit, I forgot to tell you the most important part. Keep breathing. Breathe more than you think. Focus on the inhalation of the air and exhalation of your breath. And, while you’re breathing, those curious thoughts and observations might quiet down. Or maybe not. Stop judging it. Get back to breathing. Except be relaxed about it. Don’t put so much effort into it.

With these rules, which are barely guidelines and mostly just suggestions, the natural contrarian in me wants to hate it. But I love it. It’s not like I’m fixed through the magic of mindfulness, but it’s easier to see that “being fixed” isn’t the point. The goal is to find a less toxic way to live my life.

But sometimes I want to yell at the world and scream, “Dammit, don’t you see I’m mindful?” I also want to yell, “I’m kind to you, and you don’t fucking appreciate it. You are so basic!”

So, yeah, I’m not ready to teach this stuff. But I’m at the stage in my training where my brain moves from hyper-aroused to observant to quiet with a little more ease and fluidity. And it all started with a few goals: 

  • Silence the inner monologue.
  • Communicate with greater ease and listen more.
  • Avoid emotional craters when things don’t work out. 
  • Forgive myself and others when it all goes wrong, or, at the least, stop ruminating excessively.
  •  
    So, if this blog post has you curious about mindfulness or MBSR, you don’t have to go it alone. Read books. Go online and find a program (or even a counselor) who specializes in this field and can help you get started. Give me a call. I can send you a few resources.

    But I can’t teach it. I might still pursue a formal certificate from Duke, but being an official coach is an audacious goal. I’m not there yet. Right now, it’s just about living a better quality of life. I am doing interior work that should pay dividends in the real world.

    I can also report that most people are mimics. If I can show how life improves through intentional breathing, maybe I can just teach mindfulness by being mindful. Not a bad goal to have in 2018.

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    It’s cold and flu season. I know this firsthand because, out of nowhere, I’m sick. Again. For the second time in 2018. I don’t have a fever. I have all the other lovely symptoms that come with a cold. A dry cough, congestion, and lots of sneezing. Not that anybody asked, but I’m not happy about it. 

    Working in human resources taught me one truth in life: Most of you are too stupid and selfish to get the flu shot. That’s why I wash my hands about fifty times a day to decrease the spread of germs. My skin is bright red and dry, and I don’t use lotion because those pumps are bottles are a festering swamp of germs. 

    I learned another thing in HR: Karma is real. When I’m at the airport, I cover my mouth when I cough and sneeze. When someone else is sick, I’ll offer my tissues and hand sanitizer. I’ve even been asked to watch children and luggage while solo parents run to the bathroom. I’m banking points to avoid future catastrophes in life.

    But the cold and flu season doesn’t care if I’m a decent citizen, and it doesn’t care that I’m two weeks away from Hustle Up the Hancock. Goals? Dreams? Breaking your personal record for climbing 94 flights of stairs? Forget about it. Take some Sudafed and go back to bed.

    Since you work in HR, I’m asking you to intervene in the name of a global pandemic and double-down on good hygiene practices. Make sure those hand-washing messages are on a loop in the office. Pitch the community snacks in the break room that require everybody to stick their hand in the Costco-sized bucket of carbs.

    And use your power of influence to reward and compensate hourly workers who stay home and don’t expose people to germs. Consider being compassionate and encouraging caregivers to take the time they need to care for their sick loved ones. Give people the benefit of the doubt when they call in sick even if they’ve abused the policy in the past.

    This is easier said than done, but the cold and flu season is killing people across America. As much as we want to automate work and cut the labor costs from our budget, we’re still in the position of needing a healthy labor pool to reach revenue and profitability goals.

    So, if people make the difference in your company, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Just make sure you wash your hands after touching that cash and wear a facemask when you’re out in public. It’s gross out there.

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    I’ve been working hard with the RepCap team to get the HR Books website up and running. We are close. I didn’t want you to enter the first weekend in February without the official #HRBookClub selections.

    We’ll be reading Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes. It’s African-American History Month, and Ms. Rhimes is changing the way we see women and people of color on TV. Her stories are intersectional, much like the work we do in human resources, and you will enjoy this book. 

    The second book is A Chance In This World: An Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home by Steve Pemberton. He’s the current Chief HR Officer at Globoforce and the former diversity officer at Walgreens. Globoforce is my client, but they are not sponsoring this book. I liked it, and you should read it. Mr. Pemberton’s autobiography covers topics like foster care, abuse, education, and identity through the lens of his life. His success is nothing short of a miracle, and the story is very inspirational.

    So, there you have it. Two official books for February’s #HRBookClub. Read one, read both, and join me on February 28th to discuss the books. More on that soon. And I want to thank the RepCap team, including Kelsey Gallagher, for working hard to turn readers into leaders.

    Everything is coming up Milhouse! 

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    Years ago, I took part in an online experiment called The BMI Project. Hosted by Kate Harding, she collected photos of real women and tried to show that the BMI is bullshit.

    Check out the slideshow.

    Kate and I were friends, and I shared my weight over dinner. I weighed 130 lbs, and she said, “I would have guessed less.”

    You might think Kate was polite, but that’s not her style. We spent the rest of our meal discussing body dysmorphia and how people overestimate their size and underestimate how much other people weigh. You’re thinner than you think. Your friends are fatter than you know. Nobody has a clue.

    So, after my experience with Kate, I told everybody my size. Over the past ten years, I’ve run marathons and took part in all kinds of crazy races. My lowest weight was 110 lbs., and my heaviest weight was 136 lbs. 

    (Right now, I weigh 127 lbs, and I’m about to hike up a skyscraper. Please donate here.)

    Weight and Pay Transparency

    The discussion about weight reminds me of the debate around pay transparency. There are a lot of good reasons why we should tell people how much we earn. For starters, a rising tide lifts all boats. Our collective knowledge is a source of strength. Workers can protect themselves against hegemonic corporate power run amuck. 

    Also, pay transparency ensures that the least educated among us doesn’t remain in the dark. If you have excellent skills but can’t negotiate — or prefer not to bargain — you can cut to the chase and still earn a fair wage for your work.

    The arguments against pay transparency are dumb and go something like this: If you tell people how much you earn, wage inflation occurs because people are petty and want to make more than their colleagues. If you’re paid one dollar, I want two dollars. Ultimately, capitalism folds in on itself and businesses won’t be able to pay anybody.

    The other argument is that pay transparency can be demotivating because there’s a cap on your earnings, and the limiting factor isn’t your talent, but, instead, the black woman or the disabled vet who doesn’t work as hard as you and is holding you back.

    Both arguments are bullshit and rooted in classism, sexism and racism. 

    In reality, wage inflation happens at the executive level when leaders —with unchecked powers — pay company officers a lot of money for mediocre results. Preferential treatment, combined with monolithic corporate control, creates massive pay inequality in companies around the world.

    And pay transparency is demotivating when you realize that you’re underpaid and will never pay off your student loans at your current salary.

    Pay Transparency Starts With You

    Pay transparency is a realistic goal for your company, and it can be achieved without putting names next to dollar amounts. There’s no reason why we can’t demystify the compensation process, motivate our workforce with competitive total rewards packages, and create enough flexibility in our budget to allow for incentives and merit-based increases.

    All of that is possible.

    Listen, I’m not asking you to rent a billboard and spill your personal secrets; however, if you’re sick and tired of guessing how much money other people earn and wondering if you’re paid your true value, it’s time to find a trusted colleague and ask. Then, whenever you feel it’s time, share how much you make. 

    Talking about salary reminds me of talking about weight. It’s taboo, but only because someone told us it’s taboo. If we don’t look out for one another, who will? 

    Not HR.

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