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Healthy debates on the internet are hard. If you know someone and disagree with her, feelings get in the way. If you don’t know someone and disagree with her, it’s even worse. The whole interaction can become a psycho-social pile of garbage that doesn’t further the debate and leaves people feeling weird.

Every once in awhile, I’m super pleased to come across a writer who disagrees with me and isn’t disagreeable. Colleen Striegel wrote an open letter in Workforce Magazine and called on HR professionals to be less reactive and more proactive when it comes to sexual harassment. She also singled me out by name and disagreed with parts of my original Vox article where I told workers to bypass HR departments when they’re harassed.

I loved it. All of it. The article comes from a voice of authority and experience. The writer is passionate about fixing a systemic problem. And, while she mentions my name, she doesn’t make things personal. There’s no dysfunctional behavior woven into the narrative of the post. No hysterics or shady behavior. There is no mob or tribal politics.

Colleen writes what she writes, and she moves on with her life.

It’s a masterclass in friction and professionalism. She was motivated to write, in part, because she disagreed with me. However, the piece isn’t about me. Instead, Colleen writes about what it feels like to be a 30-year veteran of Human Resources during the #MeToo movement. She makes excellent points throughout the post.

This article was a gift to me. Reminds me that it’s possible to identify someone by name, disagree respectfully, and make important points without being a jerk.

Here’s to more of that in 2018 and beyond!

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It’s not easy to be compassionate and clear when discussing controversial topics. To prepare for my session at the TLNT Harassment Summit, I’ve been watching videos of preachers and politicians who have unpopular POVs and, yet, somehow manage to deliver a message of hope and redemption and win audiences over.

How do you walk into a room of sinners and enablers and get them to acknowledge the elephant in the room and aim to do better? From Martin Luther King Jr. to corporate preachers like Simon Sinek and Mel Robbins, you have to step on stage with the goal of changing the world and making life better.

It’s easier said than done, especially if your audience is complicit in whatever you’re trying to fix. That’s why I’ve been studying Dave Ramsey. He tells poor and working-class people that they caused their money problems; however, they can also fix them using his simple plan.

I’ve had a few moments where I’ve nearly stormed the stage at HR events during the Great Recession because Dave Ramsey was there telling women that the first step to personal freedom is personal accountability. He never once mentioned the beauty tax, the tampon tax, and the overall expenses of raising children that consume much of a working-class parent’s earnings. Wealthy people earn beyond those necessary costs, and those wages and earnings are taxed differently.

It’s frustrating.

I had my pitchfork ready to go, especially in 2009 when I saw him at an event in New Orleans. Even during the worst economic time in modern American history — where rich people walked away from debt, but poor people lost their homes — the audience nodded their heads and seemed to believe that having an emergency fund of $1,0000 and using a zero-sum budgeting system to pay off debt could work for them.

It gave me pause.

Years later, and especially during this #MeToo movement, I think that people could walk away from horrible bosses and have more mobility in the job market if they had an emergency fund and less debt. I also think it would be cool if unicorns existed. I’m not naive.

Maybe HR professionals can’t storm into an office of a sexist, bigoted CEO and fire him on the spot. But they can implement and support fair wage and gender parity initiatives. They can advocate for employees who are traditionally overlooked during the year-end compensation cycle. And they can expand their employee benefits packages and offer financial coaching and literacy programs.

Can’t attack a problem head-on? Work backward and make inroads where you can. Be like Dave Ramsey. Fix the small stuff, gain momentum, and snowball your efforts into lasting employee reform.

And, if you’re doing some of this good work, I want to hear about it.

Tell me one way you’re working hard to enable employees to take charge of their financial lives. Email me at laurie@thecynicalgirl.com, and I’ll pick a winner. If you can get to New York City on January 29th, you’ll have a seat at the TLNT Harassment Summit.

Hope to see you there!

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People think it’s hard to turn 40, but Tom Brady makes it look easy.

He’s fast, lean, and appears to be in the best shape of his life. Doesn’t hurt that the man was born with specific gifts that have enabled him to perform at top levels throughout his NFL career. Make no mistake about it; Tom Brady makes his age bracket look good.

The real problem is turning 41 — when 40 no longer scares you — and those damn Christmas cookies look so tasty. Also, you still think you can drink and run 10 miles without doing those tedious dynamic warmups to prevent injuries. And, if you’re injured, you can ignore it.

Trust me. I know this life firsthand.

To Tom Brady’s benefit, he’s historically exemplified three components of being a naturally talented human being. First, he has inherent abilities. There’s commitment to individual excellence. And he possesses a personality that encourages others around him to do their best.

Talent isn’t fancy. Gifted people are born with skill, they sacrifice short-term pleasure for long-term results, and they motivate others around them to also try.

But, when talented people get scared, they behave in groundless ways to shore up their natural skills. They surround themselves with sycophants and gurus who tell them what they want to hear. They also veer from their regular forms of motivation and try to motivate you with marketing instead of character and proven results.

Right now, Tom Brady is fighting with his boss, Bill Belichick, about a dodgy personal trainer and business partner who gives out sham medical advice. Alex Guerrero is banned from the Patriots’ plane and the sideline. Also, he’s not allowed to train any additional new NFL players at Gilette Stadium.

Brady doesn’t need Alex Guerrero, but, when you’re scared of getting older and afraid of a diminishing legacy, you do all kinds of crazy things to make yourself feel younger and relevant. Diets. Detoxes. Supplements. Fear keeps you focused on yourself and your earthly body instead of remembering that your words and actions, not your body, are an inspirational role model for others.

So, I weirdly feel for Tom Brady. Sure, he exemplifies NFL privilege. He’s protected by an offensive line that never lets an opposing team put him on his ass. Referees understand that his franchise has value and saddles the other team’s defensive players with a ton of penalties. Plus his team cheats.

But getting older sucks if you let it, and, right now, that dude is running scared.

Wish Tom Brady would stop fixating on his body — and pivot from crazy diets and ridiculous personal trainers — and begin to weigh his words, actions, and character. He could continue to fight back against the unknown oblivion of mortality with money, or he could show men all over America how to age with balance, keep your body in mind in peak condition, and be a force for good in this world.

Talented people know that turning 41, and even 43, will kill you on the inside unless you’re focused on something other than your body. Hope Tom Brady gets the memo soon. Otherwise, this decade will be tough for him.

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drive left-hand side of the road

Nobody taught me how to drive on the left-hand side of the road in New Zealand. I drove from Auckland to Taupo to Napier via Rotura. Then I went from Christchurch to Mt. Cook to Queenstown. The only time I wasn’t driving was when I took a coach and two boats to Doubtful Sound.

You don’t need an exclusive drivers license when you’re an American. Just show up, sign over your life, and try not to kill anybody.

Here’s how I taught myself.

1. Read the rules of the road. I have never read the rules of the road in America, but I went to the NZ Transport, which is like the nation’s DMV, and learned about one-lane bridges and roundabouts. It was the single smartest thing to prepare myself for a 550-mile road trip. Download the driving brochure.

2. Watch videos. I went to the CamperMate RV website and watched videos on YouTube that reiterated the rules of the road while showing me what it would look like to drive on the left-hand side of the road. I also learned some useful tips. First, the yellow line should always be at the driver’s door. The second, it’s essential to talk yourself through turns. Say things aloud like, “Look left, turn right.”

3. Rent a car with lane-assist. I was mentally prepared to be killed in a head-on collision. While driving left, I hung out too far on the left-hand side of the left lane (meta) and nearly side-swiped my car a few times. The lane departure warning system singlehandedly kept me steady in my path and warned me if I started to veer too far right or left. Get it on your regular car!

4. Minimize distractions. I’m a horrible driver in America. I’m heavy on the brake, my speed is inconsistent, and I can’t drive and talk. I am the driver who makes you want to puke. I’ve taught several members of my family to drive, and now they all have my bad habit. So, I turned off the radio for the entire trip and drove in silence. Other than my GPS, I had no distractions and enjoyed the scenery. Being mindful of my driving meant that it was slow and steady.

5. Take breaks. New Zealand is beautiful. You can stop 100 times before you get to the super-awesome-amazing destination on your map. Don’t be in a rush to go anywhere and you lessen the likelihood that you’ll die.

6. Sleep before you drive. I didn’t jump into the car after traveling for 24 hours, either. I took two days to acclimate to Auckland before hitting the road. The single biggest reason why people die? Fatigue. Don’t be one of those drivers who can’t keep her eyes on the highway but pushes forward, anyway.

I had a fabulous time in New Zealand. I saw so much of that country, and, yet, barely any of it. Can’t wait to go back. Hope I can continue my legacy of driving past the Lord of the Rings nostalgia without stopping, ha! I love being a tourist, but that’s not my jam.

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harassment summit

I live in a bizarre world.

I worked in human resources. Have my own #MeToo career stories from fellow HR professionals. Appearing as a featured speaker at a Workplace Harassment conference where I’m trying to have a candid conversation with HR professionals about our collective role in failing to protect employees. And now I’m getting angry email messages from HR practitioners who wonder why I’m picking on them.

“It’s not helpful to throw HR under the bus.”

Listen, it is easy to throw HR under a bus. Too easy. I could drink a bottle of champagne, take some Ambien, sleep for twelve hours, roll out of bed in a medicated fog, skip my morning coffee and still eloquently throw HR under a bus. However, it’s not my job to be disrespectful to the HR profession. It’s not even my hobby, although the champagne and Ambien part sounds like some middle-aged fun.

My job is to help HR teams reconcile some essential truths and focus on what’s next. But we can’t move forward unless we admit that we’re historically bad on harassment. All kinds. We don’t know the law, we don’t truly understand risk, and we acquiesce power to “leadership” and claim that we have no control because we are too scared to take a stand.

Also, many HR teams aren’t emotionally or intellectually rigorous enough to understand the nuances of harassment. Nobody is asking you to believe all claims outright and fire people on the spot. But if someone came to you and said the bathroom is on fire, you’d take them seriously and have a look. Can’t you apply that same tiered-thinking to harassment?

I could complain about what’s wrong with HR and harassment for days. We need a public reckoning. But I’m also ready to talk about #whatsnext. We can change our thinking, listen to stories more carefully, and even use existing tools and technology — from Excel to Outlook to cybersecurity platforms that flip digital forensics on its head and try to search for employee incidents before they happen — to do our jobs better and get ahead of future harassment claims.

If you work in HR and love it, you have to embrace the good with the bad. Nobody is throwing HR under a bus, but it’s time to admit that the #MeToo movement is an indictment of human resources. So, we must do better. We can do better. It starts with HR. Hope to see you at the Harassment Summit in January.

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I just finished Andy Janning’s book called Heroes, Villains, and Drunk Old Men: A Love Story for Real Life. I loved it. It’s autobiographical, motivational, and calls upon Andy’s expertise in the HR/training space to provide specific strategies for living a better life.

Fair warning, there’s some Jesus in there. I don’t hate it. His Jesus isn’t oppressing me or telling me what I’m doing wrong with my life, which makes it easier to read. Maybe that’s a strategy to recruit me and Mean Jesus comes later, ha.

Anyway, what I loved most about this book is that it comes from a place of earnestness. It’s easy to write a book (or a blog) for people you love and be the hero of your own story, but it’s harder to write a standalone treatment that serves as a guide for people who don’t know you and need expert advice. Just like Steve Browne’s important book on HR, Andy wrote a book that’s both generous and educational. Some chapters felt like they were written just for me.

At one point, Andy tells his audience that heroes will become villains if they don’t have mentors who help them grow and evolve. I thought about my own HR blogging journey and how so many of my early peers have gone on to accomplish amazing things. While I’ve done some fun and interesting things, I’m a dilettante. I have not excelled in any specific area of my life or exceeded market expectations.

Am I a villain? Could I be a villain? Would that be cool? I would like to liquidate my affairs on the internet and retire to a remote island, which seems very villainous, but the act of being a villain seems like a lot of work.

How do I catch up to my peers and get to that remote island without being a scoundrel? Well, Andy had an eight-point plan and some important questions to ask in his book. I can already see that I need to cultivate better relationships in 2018. Work a little harder in areas of my life with clear ROI. Find a mentor who can stop me from being an HR rascal.

Groundbreaking stuff? Probably not. But, combined with stories of life and love and heartache, Andy has me thinking. That’s why I strongly recommend this book.

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I just finished Steve Browne’s book called HR on Purpose. It’s a positive and affectionate appreciation of an industry that can use a little optimism right now. If you’re going to be in HR, you might as well embrace it and enjoy it. Go out there, have fun, and make a difference.

I don’t hate any of that. Life is much more enjoyable if you love your work and embrace the good with the bad.

Later in the book, Steve dedicates a chapter to the act of finding your tribe. Surround yourself with people who understand your work and support you. When times are tough (and they’ll get challenging in HR), it’s good to have friends who know what you’re going through and can offer advice that your partner/spouse/non-HR friends can’t provide.

I don’t hate that, either, except I’m not a big fan of the word tribe. We take a lot of things from indigenous Americans — their property, their dignity, their right to live in sovereign nations without oil and gas companies polluting their ancestral land — and we liberally borrow from them when we need to make a point.

For example, Trump uses the slur “Pocahontas” to make a point about Elizabeth Warren (who claims she has Native American ancestors and listed herself as a minority teacher at Harvard). That guy is such a moron. Even if she’s not Native American, you don’t behave like that. And people use the word “tribe” to describe a ride-or-die community without understanding that people did fight to the death while being forcibly removed from their homelands. Google “trail of tears” for a history lesson on what it’s like to be in a tribe.

Also, tribes aren’t necessarily healthy. We’re living in an age of tribal politics where people double-down on preferred interests without offering sympathy or grace to their neighbors. If you’re not part of my tribe, you’re an enemy. If you’re not in my circle, you’re dead to me. You know, I was once in a tribe over at Fistful of Talent. One of the things I learned from that experience is those tribal dynamics can be dysfunctional. It’s like family without the obligation, which sounds great until there’s conflict. The best part was working with a few individual people who loved me as a friend. The rest was just artifice, and, maybe, further proof that I’m the problem-child and don’t do well with tribes.

Anyway, I’m not a sensitive and politically correct hippie, and I think Steve Browne uses the word “tribe” earnestly. He loves his friends and colleagues. They mean the world to him. But I make different choices when describing the people I love. I use the words “friends” and “community.” Not sexy, not trendy, but something to think about.

Steve Browne is my friend, and he’s part of a broader HR community that I love. Now go read his book!

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harassment summit

When I quit my job in HR and dreamed of being a writer and speaker, I never thought that I would keynote a conference about workplace harassment with Gretchen Carlson in New York City on January 29, 2018.

My dreams were a little more traditional. I hoped to find work as an advice columnist for a major media outlet. I wanted to use my expertise to help job seekers find employment and support employees who had on-the-job difficulties.

Ten years after leaving HR, I never got that big-time media job. And I’ve learned that women and people of color continue to face extraordinary hurdles in the modern workforce. You think things would be different. We’re in a talent-driven economy and face labor shortages in all aspects of the market, and, yet, managers and supervisors still harass workers like it’s the early twentieth century.

What’s worse is that HR fails to protect the interests of employees across all industries and job categories. When a complaint comes to light, HR is both disinterested and disempowered. When challenged to do better, many human resources professionals will say things like, “I promise you that we listen to our employees, Laurie, but I can’t comment due to personnel policy and privacy laws.”

It’s such total bullshit. It breaks my heart.

So, back to where we started: I’m keynoting TLNT’s Workplace Harassment Summit on January 28, 2018, with Gretchen Carlson. I’m not interested in blaming HR or vilifying men in positions of power because, honestly, that’s too easy. I hope to start a conversation on how HR can redeem itself and address harassment complaints differently in 2018.

Since you work in HR, I’d love to have you there. Can you get yourself to New York City on January 29? Win a free ticket by emailing me with an answer to the following question:

Even though HR isn’t always the most powerful or influential department, what’s one thing HR can do to protect workers from harassment and abuse?

Send your email to laurie@thecynicalgirl.com by December 11th, and I will pick one recipient. I’ll also have additional tickets available in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for updates. I hope to hear from you, and I welcome your ideas on how to advance this conversation.

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I’ve been thinking about how to innovate in the world of HR blogging, which is a ridiculous thing to write.

When you’ve been on the internet for over ten years, and everybody around you is an expert in the future of work, it’s not easy to stay fresh and relevant. While it’s true that I was early to the HR blogging and the careerist world, it’s undoubtedly true that I’m no longer the best. Legacy is not enough.

So there are a couple of options when it comes to creating new and differentiated content. First, you can go and study what the kids-these-days are doing and try to replicate those efforts, which is something that U2 has done with their most recent album. There’s no new art, and by incorporating fresh concepts into your body of work, you are actually just riffing on people riffing on your inspirational work of years past.

It’s narcissistically meta and very U2. I don’t entirely hate it.

Or you can take a timeout, watch the market, and work hard to avoid undermining your archive of work. I think about the 90s band A Tribe Called Quest who went on hiatus and waited several years to reunite and several more years after that before releasing new material. My summary of that influential band doesn’t do them justice, but the point is that they didn’t sacrifice their values to jump on the bandwagon and seem relevant.

They were the bandwagon. And they waited.

I’m not itching to write a new blog post or produce a podcast or do a video series unless there’s a real reason to do it. Right now, my target market is focused on workplace harassment. I’m happy to oblige the market, but I’m not sure if this is anything more than a trend. When the economy tanks from the Trump Tax Scam, what then? Do we care that women and protected minorities are finally starting to gain a voice, or do we care that medical bankruptcies and foreclosures go back on the rise?

When unemployment hits our cities, and we’re fighting the same fights we fought in It’s a Wonderful Life, do we care about the future of work? Or are we distracted by the urgency of now?

I’m thinking about all of this, right now, to have something interesting to say when it happens. That’s how I am trying to stay relevant. Which means, at this moment, I’m sorta quiet on the blog.

Thanks for sticking around and waiting.

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Nobody is spontaneously great. The most significant difference between those who succeed and those who don’t? Practice.

I don’t mean 10,000 hours of training. I’m talking about people who know something is coming — an event, audition, a tough conversation — and work backward to ensure that they’re ready.

Next week, I’m speaking in Auckland. There’s an eighteen-hour time difference between Raleigh and New Zealand. I’ll be hella tired and jetlagged. My cognitive processing speeds will take a hit, and there’s a 100% chance that I’ll be hangry.

How can I channel my inner Tom Brady and reproduce game-time conditions? Good question.

I’ve been getting up early all week, forgoing coffee, and practicing my speech. I’m in my jammies and a robe at 5 o’clock in the morning talking to my cats. It’s hilarious and weird. Then I go back to bed, sleep for a few hours, and spend the rest of the day being super cranky.

It’s paying off. I’ve noticed a few habits that emerge when I’m tired. I’m working on being mindful while also letting my performance flow. All I can do is practice, make adjustments, and show up in a foreign country and offer my best ideas to a complete group of strangers.

Bottom line? I want to make an impact, not excuses. You can’t help people change their lives — or perform their jobs better — if you’re caught up in some narcissistic debate on whether or not you’re good enough or talented enough to be on stage.

If you’re on stage, you qualify. The debate is over. Now make the most of the opportunity by practicing.

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