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!


  1. Got it. Actually I love the word tribe- just because its various meanings evoke feelings. And because it can reflect a breadth of differences from politics, religion gender and age to music, hair color, fiction and sports. To me it’s a better, more useful term for engaging others in a discussion of diversity, community, etc. etc. then using the terms diversity, community or inclusion which have attracted too much baggage over the last few years and seem to require extensive definition normalization before a real conversation can be had. Now I’ll go read his book.

  2. You make a great point that being part of a tribe/community/whatever you want to call it – has it’s consequences too. It’s important to have the people we have deep relationships and trust with, but it can be easy to become narrow minded in a group like that. Also, great point about the meaning of the word tribe. I generally consider myself pretty “woke” but honestly never thought of the side effects of using that term. Appreciate your insights as always and can’t wait to check out the book. Happy holidays, Laurie!

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