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Every once in awhile, a word will take over America.

Back in the late 2000s and early 2010s, it was totes. Remember that phase? Things were totes crazy. Your new girlfriend is totes pretty. Do I want to have a drink on Friday night? Totes.

No word has captured America and the internet like totes, but there are phrases in the vernacular that are both popular and stupid at the same time. For example, it was trendy for a few years to talk about narrative. Her narrative is dark. The movie was boring because there’s no narrative. My childhood narrative had its share of peaks and valleys.

Everything and a chocolate bar had a narrative in 2015. The word has been replaced with tell the story, and now everybody is walking around trying to be storytellers of their boring lives. As a professional storyteller, I sorta hate it. I’d ask you if I want to hear your story. Can you please make my coffee faster?

A few years ago, probably closer to mid-2013, we were in peak right. That Costco near the house is slow, right? The quarterly reports are due and it sucks, right? Right, these pants are ugly?

People mean what they say whether they know it or not. When people add the word right to a sentence, they’re making a declarative statement and fighting against the divided attention in our society, right?

Right.

We’ve still got a lot of rights in our vocabulary, but it’s not as popular as it was in 2016. Although it’s still hanging on, unlike literally, which is literally on the decline.

But here’s some good news: we’ve got a new phrase that’s lighting the world on fire: think about it. This phrase is on the rise, and I believe we’ve reached peak think about it. From television to movies to general conversations, everybody is emphasizing their finer points with think about it!

Again, we say what we mean. The world is so noisy, and, as communicators, we’re trying to tell people that we’re saying something important. Think about it.

What’s hilarious to me is that peak “think about it” is intersecting with a strong trend of “right.” So what you have are sentences like these:

Think about it, right? Right? Think about it!

If I had a nickel for everybody who talks like this, I’d have enough cash to fund my summer vacation up to Seattle, then Vancouver, then Bowen Island, then Squamish, then on to Whistler with a stop in Pemberton, and then a drive back to Seattle to fly home. We still haven’t planned this vacation because I’m busy, but, think about it, the vacation sounds awesome.

I don’t mind when I hear think about it because we need a more mindful society that thinks before it acts. I just wish we had a culture of communication where we think before we speak. Think about it, right? That could be cool.

So if you’re speaking to anybody shortly, mind your think about its and rights. You want to stand out by saying something interesting and compelling, but you won’t stand out if you sound like everybody else.

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I just finished Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. As a side note, I keep wanting to call this book Plan B, which is messing with both my Amazon search results and Facebook ads.

Figure me out, algorithms! I dare you!

Option B is the saddest book I’ve ever read about resilience and joy. Sheryl Sandberg anchors this book with the death of her husband and her grief. Adam Grant weighs in with the science of resilience and joy. And it works because the book tells stories while also giving useful tips should your worst nightmare come to life.

Jesus. I won’t lie. This book is sad. But in a marketplace full of motivational speakers and happiness merchandise, this book delivers an honest conversation about how life sucks and then you die. If you want to thrive in-between those tough moments, you’ll need a new language around what it means to be happy and joyful.

In some ways, this book is like Year of Magical Thinking. It’s not uplifting, but it is interesting.

Sheryl Sandberg also offers advice on how to be helpful if your friends or colleagues are suffering. Chances are you’re doing it wrong, by the way. There’s no singular way to help a friend or colleague through grief and heartache, and most of us respond selfishly even if we mean well. Throughout the book, readers are given plenty of examples of how nice people get it wrong and make her grief worse.

But we also get some examples of how to do it right, thanks to stories about people who offer up the right thing to say at just the right moment. And with Adam Grant’s background in psychology, readers are given tips for helping people with everything from divorce to job loss to widowhood.

I’m happy to report that Adam Grant is speaking at WorkHuman, this year. I’m excited to hear more about his research behind the book. Well, excited is probably not the right word. I can’t say that I enjoyed Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. But I learned a ton about how to manage difficult situations, and I also feel better equipped for the moment when I have to face my own worst nightmare.

I’m not looking forward to that day, though.

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Creating unique content on a regular basis has its fair share of challenges. Unless your blog is your full-time job — or you see it as a legitimate side hustle — the quality will vary depending upon what’s happening in your real life. Do the kids have soccer practice? Is your spouse traveling for work? If you don’t invest time and energy into your blog, what you’ll have is a sloppy journal of your thoughts instead of a legitimate body of work.

But what’s the ROI of blogging? What can blogging help you accomplish in life that no other platform can?

    The ROI of blogging is better communication. For some people, writing creates a meditative state within their minds that carries over into the real world. Thinking and speaking become easier. For others, writing helps to release tension and anxiety that clouds judgment. For me, writing is meditative. It can be a substitute for — and an extension of — my mindfulness practice. It calms me down so that I can have more meaningful conversations in real life.
    The ROI of blogging is better work-life habits. Regular writing creates regular schedules, which begets better work-life habits. If you only have thirty minutes to write, the discipline for your blog becomes the foundation for better habits in the rest of your life.
    The ROI of blogging is better relationships. I’ve had my fair share of weird experiences on the internet, but blogging has opened new doors. Friendly, like-minded people have walked into my life. It doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere, either. There’s so much content on the market, and the chance that anybody reads your blog is slim. If someone reads your work and has something to say, it’s worth listening. That person is trying to be your friend.

When jammed into a traditional blogging format, the ROI of blogging sounds boring and limiting. Will you make money? Will you have a better personal brand? Will you have better sex? If you do, please write a blog post and tell us how. I’d like to know.

Blogging can be a single element of a broader life strategy, or it can be a brave act of sitting down at your computer and telling your truth. When it’s the former, blogging can change your life if you let it. When it’s the latter, blogging can change someone else’s life.

The beautiful thing about blogging is that it seemingly has no ROI. It’s just a blog. Do it, anyway, because it’s a skill that can lead to greater life experiences. It’s changed my life, and I think it can change yours.

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I’ll be at Collision Conference all next week plus a speaking gig in Orlando. I’ll have limited access to my blog. Find me on Twitter and the GlitchPath blog. Also, here’s a video that I forgot to record in HD, earlier this week, about my passion for making the HR blogging community a little better.

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Everything you do on the current iteration of the web has been funded by rich men.

Well, for the most part.

Dudes who’ve amassed wealth — thanks to sheer talent, institutional sexism, and pay inequality — invested early in the core components of the internet. They gave you everything you need to hate your job and engage in petty acts of narcissism throughout the day to make you feel better about your shitty life decisions.

(Google, Box, Uber, Dropbox, Intuit, Cisco, Microsoft, Evernote, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Hulu, Words with Friends, Siri, iMessage and even chat. Everything.)

Wealthy guys made it all. When they didn’t make it with their two hands, they funded other talented guys who made it. And some chicks. And persons of color. But mostly other dudes.

It’s heartbreaking to me when one of those guys retires from startup investing. Early-stage investing is one of those thankless tasks where you kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince. Or, more accurately, someone on your team kisses those frogs and you only see the frog who has a 10% chance of being a prince — if at all.

And the process of kissing frogs involves a lot of acronyms, hypothetical math and spreadsheets. It’s a bullshit and exhausting process made more bullshitty by the fact that there are so many bad ideas out there — and so much noise — that’s increasingly hard to find the good stuff. More and more of these early-stage investors are like, “I’m out. Time to spend my money elsewhere.”

But, selfishly, it sucks when one of the smart investors says goodbye. Chris Sacca is a good example.

I have an emerging idea and want to get funded down the road. Thanks to all the assholes who pitch Snapchat 2.0 — which is never going to be a thing because Snapchat is already on version 10.0 without you, moron — the likelihood of someone like Chris Sacca hearing my idea and funding my journey was already low. When you add VC burnout and exhaustion of having a job where everybody is asking you for something, and a shrinking cohort of serious investors who can spread risk over their healthy portfolio, there’s no patience for a nascent idea like mine. And I’m exactly the kind of nontraditional founder that will take feedback, conservatively manage my cash, and avoid the dumb mistakes of other companies in order to be successful.

Yeah, that’s depressing.

And, on a related note, these retirement announcements from investors always make me laugh. As a failed HR, I wish Chris Sacca well in his next life. I applaud people for leaving their jobs before it pulls them under and kills them. But a retirement announcement from anybody — investors, accountants, your dad — reminds me of Chloe from Pitch Perfect when she announces that she has nodes.

She’s brave, I guess, but come on.

The question for these retirees comes down to legacy. It’s great that you’re taking time for yourself. You earned it. But have you set up a succession program like Chloe did to ensure that The Barden Bellas reach nationals without you,? Or are you going to let future iterations of your beloved acapella group flounder?

Because startups, especially those run by women and POC, will fumble and waste money if more and more people like Chris Sacca see the signs of a contracting market (isn’t that what he sees?) and walk away from startup investing.

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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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