Life

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My HR consulting career is in a lull. It happens. No big deal. I wanted to create some friction in my life. I’m trying to work on my start-up and mostly ignoring my consultancy except when business falls into my lap.

(And here’s a lesson from Warren Buffet: that’s not how business happens.)

You can’t spend a billion hours a day working on a start-up — just like you can’t spend a billion hours being a rock star or working at Waffle House — so I decided to start volunteering.

I know that I can’t volunteer with animals. For one, I keep them. For twosies, animal people are weird and don’t like people. That’s why they are animal people and not “people people.”

So animals are out.

I’m passionate about women and children, so I signed up for an informational session at Interact of Wake County. It’s a domestic violence shelter and so much more. Nationally, more than 60% of women return to men who have abused them after a stay in a domestic violence shelter. Interact has been able to help 90% of women leave their abusers and never return.

Those numbers are very impressive. I thought — I’m a public speaker. I could be a public advocate for the organization.

I went to the first session on a weeknight. There were at least fifty chairs, and all of them were filled. Men and women from all over the area want to learn more. That’s reassuring.

The volunteer coordinator stood at the front of the room and presented an overview of the shelter. She was great, but something was off. I felt super hot. I kept looking around and wondering — is anybody else hot in here? Are the lights in the room too bright? And, oh, man, I have a headache. Is it stuffy in here? Can you breathe? Also, why is the volunteer coordinator shouting at me?

It turns out, nobody was yelling. It wasn’t hot. I was having a mild panic attack.

In retrospect, a domestic violence shelter isn’t suitable for me. Women and children in my family were routinely subjected to violence. That’s a polite way of saying that I was freaking out about my past, which I assumed was in the past and is clearly just under the surface. Dammit.

Thankfully, the info session was short. The volunteer coordinator ended with some wise words. She said — if you’re interested in volunteering, we need you to fill out an application and you’ll be called for an interview. But we also rely on you to screen yourself for emotional suitability. This work isn’t for everybody. It’s better to figure this out sooner rather than later.

And I thought, oh my god, she’s talking to me.

I also thought, oh my god, thank you.

Giving someone permission to “opt out” is a gift, but it’s also important to recognize that you have the power to self-select out of anything: an interview, a job, marriage, a pending agreement with a client that doesn’t feel right. Nothing is final even when it feels final. Some jobs and relationships aren’t emotionally suitable for everyone, and this includes volunteer jobs.

If the paid or volunteer work you do is oppressive and stifling, this is your sign: opt out.

It’s better for everybody if you do.

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I have a mean aunt who lives on the west coast.

I’m not sure she would call herself mean, but she’s an elderly woman who is angry with me because I’m basically a worthless family member. And, you know, she’s right. When it comes to my family of origin, I don’t do much for the people who love me.

(Turns out that familial love is subjective, and, often, a one-way street.)

Anyway, about a decade ago, my aunt was infuriated with me. She sent me an email that said, “You’re nothing but a childless liberal.”

She meant — you’re selfish.

But my mind went elsewhere. I thought, wow, that liberal word is wrong because I’m actually very conservative when it comes to keeping government out of my private life. I understood that it wasn’t the moment to debate politics, so I let her call me a childless liberal and haven’t communicated with her since.

(Families, man! The only thing that manages drama is an email filter that bypasses your inbox and sends shit like that to the garbage!)

But, being a childless liberal, I’ve come to realize that she was right. For years, I lacked empathy for people who struggled with work-life balance issues. I helped my mother through several illnesses while working full-time in HR, but I always did it with a chip on my shoulder. And while I’m all about work-life balance for myself on a beach in Bermuda, I haven’t always been sensitive to individuals who have kids by choice.

“Of course it’s hard. What did you expect?”

(I’ve learned that you don’t say that kind of stuff to parents who seemed surprised when their kids are sick in the middle of the workweek. You just nod your head in sympathy and go wash your hands so you don’t catch norovirus.)

Now, in my 40s, I’m having my version of work-life balance issues. The husband and I both travel for work. I have an elderly cat. I don’t have any family in town, and I have to rely on housesitters and paid help to manage my life when I travel.

It almost always works, but when it doesn’t, things come to a halt. This week? I had to reconfigure my schedule because life wasn’t smooth. And you know what? Nobody died. It’s stressful and I’m missing out on a lot of fun, but I’m going to survive.

The people in my social circles are listening to me complain about this week’s work-life drama and saying, “Hey, aren’t you that childless liberal who doesn’t really pay attention to work-life issues?”

And I’m saying, “No, I’m the small government Democrat who thinks you shouldn’t have a bunch of kids and complain about the price of daycare. But I’m going to keep those opinions to myself because someone has to raise our future doctors and science geniuses. I’m glad it’s you.”

But it sucks when work-life balance issues get in the way of work. Or life. Or both.

Maybe the conversation isn’t about work-life balance or priorities. Maybe it’s about compassion and community. You help me out, I’ll help you out. No judging. No expectations. That kind of vibe. There are places in the world where that happens, right? Scandanavia? Small towns in Iowa?

We’d be happier human beings if more of us — childless liberals, exhausted parents, crabby aunties — dropped our emotional armor and asked for help. Which is why I decided to stay home a few days, this week, instead of trying to make HR Tech happen.

I miss you guys. I’m coming later in the week. And I hope to see you at my session on Thursday.

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dt2This week is the HR Technology & Conference Expo in Chicago. It goes without saying, but I write the best guides to having fun and learning about technology at HR Tech. There are other guides out there, but they could be better. It’s just a fact.

Nobody brings you HR Tech coverage like me. Nobody.

I’ve been reading blog posts from my friends in the HR blogging and analyst community — and they are tremendous friends — but I’m disappointed.

I don’t know, but it seems to me we’re losing out there. Where’s the fun? Where’s the creativity? It’s like we don’t know how to win at HR Tech anymore.

Maybe there’s a great new guide out there. People tell me there are some great blog posts out there. I don’t know, I haven’t seen any, but I’d like to see it.

So in the absence of terrific blog posts about the HR Technology Conference & Expo, here’s my list of three things you need to know.

And this is going to be a post, I think, like no other. I’m not controlled by the vendor community. I’m not controlled by anybody.

1. HR makes HR great again.

I know human resources. Nobody knows HR better than me. And in these HR offices, it looks like a third-world country. You visit your regional offices, and they’re still using fax machines. The ceilings are crumbling. The phones don’t work.

Let’s be honest. HR products are purchased for three reasons: the product solves a problem for HR, the product solves a problem for finance, or the product solves a problem for the operations team.

So let’s take big data, which has been a total disaster. Instead of being smart, HR vendors have been dumb. They’ve been trying to sell HR buyers on big data for years, and they’re losing. Who needs big data? Nobody. Nobody needs big data. Companies need magic that happens behind the scenes — don’t give them too many details — so people can do their jobs better and go see their kids play soccer after work.

With my direction — and I’ve had tremendous success with this — my little consulting company has taught vendors to de-emphasize big data and change their sales and marketing language to be more human.

The technology companies that win at HR Tech? They just want to help HR make HR great again. And they know the secret: it’s not the feature that sells. It’s the experience of winning, powered by magic, that sells.

That’s what makes HR great again.

2. Artificial intelligence is everywhere.

Something is wrong, my friends. Look at all these great American companies. They’re losing, and they’re losing big. Manufacturing is going to China and Mexico. Companies are making bad deals. And nobody is focused on jobs.

HR Tech is full of AI, and it’s impacting all the jobs. AI is recommending candidates based on the context of the job and your company’s culture, not keywords. It’s making selection decisions based on multiple sources of information. And it’s deciding winners and losers in a whole host of areas from performance to diversity to compensation.

And there’s a lot at stake.

Someone behind the scenes — an engineer or developer who probably stole the job from an American, you tell me — is writing code and making implicit decisions for HR and recruiters. And you’re either okay with AI being the boss of you, or you’re not.

So even if nobody mentions AI at this year’s HR Technology Conference & Exposition — although they will — you should know about it. And you should ask yourself, and I think this is a huge question, “Will AI take my job?”

Because, and other people tell me this is true, HR people might lose their jobs to algorithms and robots.

I’m not all doom and gloom. I went to Wharton, and I did very well for myself, and I know that we have the cards. WE HAVE THE CARDS. Don’t you forget it. DON’T YOU FORGET IT. AI and robots can’t take our HR jobs if we stay one step ahead and add value in ways that are different than the robots.

3. “Thought-leaders” aren’t always thought-leaders.

I know HR better than anyone who has ever been at HR Tech. I am the only one who can tell you that thought-leaders aren’t thought-leaders. They are crooked entrepreneurs and innovators trying to sell the audience a product or service.

That’s right. Crooked. Not all of them. There are a few good thought-leaders and they’ve endorsed this blog post. But some of them are crooks. The system is rigged, people. Believe me, I know.

But the people in the audience? You people are really smart. You can’t be bought with swag, and you can’t be fooled by someone on stage with a fancy suit or a good blow-out.

There will be a massive turnout for some sessions, but anyone who tries to push too hard and call themselves a thought-leader is suspect. Remember, if they don’t name the sources that consider them thought-leaders, the sources don’t exist.

So those are my three things to know about HR Tech.

For the few people knocking me for writing this post, at least you know I’m awake and writing something original. Every on-line poll has me winning the coverage for HR Tech. That’s just a fact. Who’s better? Tim Sackett? Wrong. Kris Dunn? Wrong.

I do this hard work because you’re amazing. I’ve had tremendous success at building the blog readership, and I’ve sacrificed a lot to be successful. There is such great love in my audience. Such love, my friends, and nobody can deny it.

Listen, I know HR can be great again. That’s why I still write about the HR Technology & Conference Expo. And, most importantly, I hope you’ll attend my session about employee-centric HR on Thursday at 4PM.

See you soon!

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During a week when Time Magazine wondered why the internet is so full of rage, and Leslie Jones’s personal website was hacked, I learned that some of Kobe Bryant’s fans want to rape me.

Not all of his fans. Just a few on Twitter.

I tweeted about a past rape allegation against Kobe Bryant on “Kobe Bryant Day.” And that’s when the floodgates opened. Yes, I received rape threats. More importantly, I learned that Kobe once dropped 81 points so he gets one rape. Some of his fans told me that I’m racist for bringing up past rape accusations when so many white dudes are rapists. And a few thought I should kill myself. I also found out that I’m an autist. Only a salty bitch with a big nose would bring up the past like that.

It’s amazing how the internet knows me so well.

The Response

Surprisingly, Twitter was super-responsive. They locked accounts and made the scariest tweets go away. And I’m grateful that it wasn’t worse.

But mostly I’m heartbroken. I’m walking the typical “victim walk of shame” where I’m blaming myself for what happened. I’m also mad at a fucked up system that allows online harassment and bullying to occur in the first place. How did that happen?

Oh, right, any platform used for speech will cover both ends of the spectrum: from the sanctimonious to the vulgar.

The Solution

Blame is boring and pointless, although there’s a lot of blame to go around. I’m pretty upset and confused about what happened, but it’s not really Twitter’s fault that I was threatened with rape. You don’t hit a pothole on the highway and blame the inventor of asphalt. You blame the local department of transportation for the current conditions of the highway, or maybe you blame yourself for driving like a moron.

Twitter is a fast-moving highway, and in that way, we’re all responsible for its care and maintenance. When someone is bullied or harassed, it’s our collective fault. There is no hate speech if we check ourselves. There is no harassment and bullying if we, as an online community, pay attention and call out the abusers.

But that’s never going to happen.

So until there’s a software-driven solution that instantly enforces community guidelines while not infringing upon protected speech, I’m left to solve this problem the old fashioned way by limiting my time on Twitter. I’m not going to delete my account and get back into the kitchen as some of Kobe Bryant’s fans suggested, but I am going to spend my time elsewhere.

Big deal, right? Nobody cares what I think about Kobe Bryant, anyway. And it’s clear that some Kobe Bryant fans just want a chance to threaten a woman from behind a pay-as-you-go data plan.

No thanks. I don’t want that for my life.

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A couple of months ago, I attended an event where a bunch of HR ladies discussed talent-related topics and drank champagne and rosé.

(It’s too bad. I didn’t know that bubbles had jumped the shark.)

I jumped the shark a long time ago, and I never say no to free champagne. So I joined the ladies in a bunch of meaningless chit chat about the future of HR. My verdict? It’s all very boring. Let’s talk about something else.

That’s when one of them decided to tell me what she thinks of me.

“You know what’s dangerous about your blog? You write like you have no equal.”

Only in HR would someone call my blog dangerous. And only in HR would someone who has never met me offer unsolicited feedback while simultaneously considering herself to be a good leader.

But, okay, I’ll play along.

I said that maybe my blog seems dangerous because I’m a woman with a strong point-of-view. And I have no equals. My greatest competition is Joel Cheesman who blogs like it’s 2009 and job boards are hot. (Oh, wait!)

She told me, “No, that’s not it.”

I was informed that my blog is dangerous because of its “absolutism” about HR. My worldview is myopic, and I don’t see that other points of view might be relevant.

It’s not a particularly insightful or original critique of my blog, but it’s not entirely unfair. I don’t have any equals. My HR blogging excellence is unparalleled, mostly because it’s HR blogging and the standards are low.

The bubble-fueled HR lady wasn’t done assessing my blog, by the way. She also said, “You know, Laurie, here’s the thing. I don’t always agree with what you say. But I can’t lie. I love the way you say it.”

Here’s the thing — is that a compliment?

I have always felt like it’s an unfriendly way of showing superiority — as if my blog is cute, even if it’s not correct. And it’s hard not to be defensive. I am a classically trained HR generalist who’s been doing this for over twenty years. I’m not new at offering insights or commentary on the failing role of HR in corporate America. When someone shows up and shows me that HR isn’t full of ineffective and whiny leaders who need constant validation, I’ll pack up this blog and do something different.

Won’t be this bitch and her bubbles who shut me up, though.

I’m not an egomaniacal monster, and I truly don’t believe my own hype. Mostly because there is no hype. And I want more for this HR lady than to lob passive-aggressive compliments at a blogger. I wanted to tell her — if you think you have something to say that’s significant and noteworthy about HR and recruiting, the world is your oyster. Buy a domain, set up a blog, or just write on Medium or even LinkedIn.

There’s no shortage of ways to contribute — positively or negatively — to the ongoing discussion about the ways in which HR fails to make an impact. When you’re ready to share an idea, a small but engaged audience is waiting.

But what you shouldn’t ever do is think that you can read a blog or see a keynote speaker and do better than the person who’s trying her hardest to make a change in this world. Don’t let the bubbles fool you. You probably can’t do better. That’s why you still work in HR and yell insults from the peanut gallery.

So if you’re like this HR lady and flummoxed by people who don’t deserve the limelight, be brave and join the fray. Have an opinion, speak your mind, and try to unseat someone who doesn’t deserve her place on the stage.

Just don’t think you can read my blog, sip champagne with me, and consider yourself an equal. You’re not even close.

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billy bush lochte

I know everybody in America is mad at Ryan Lochte. Rightly so. He’s a fool and solely responsible for the lies that spewed from his lips.

But I’m also annoyed by NBC’s coverage of the Rio Olympics.

You know the lines between journalism and entertainment are blurred when Billy Bush — a cousin to George W. Bush and a journalist one step above Mario Lopez — is, mouth agape, interviewing a visibly drunk Olympic athlete on live television and not probing on critical issues related to the story.

Like:

You know, Ryan Lochte, I hear you. You’ve been victimized. But it seems like you’re pretty hammered, right now. You sure you got this right?

Wait, a gun was pointed at your forehead? Can you tell me this story again from the beginning? What happened?

Hold on. Maybe we should turn the cameras off and get you some water. Clearly, you’re in no shape to be on TV, right now. You smell like urine and an alleyway. Also, this story makes no fudging sense. Can we get an intern on this?

But to expect Bill Bush to do journalism is to expect NBC to have standards on what they air on The Today Show, which we know is a joke.

We live in a weird era of broadcast news where an event happens, and television executives use their editorial discretion to let “newsworthy” people tell their stories without any fact-checking or corroboration. The cycle goes like this:

Publish. Review. Edit. Redact.

That’s a flow formerly reserved for bloggers, but which now applies to major newspapers and media outlets. It’s old news to report that being the first to break a false story is better than being the last to report a fair and accurate account of boring events; however, newsrooms are now allegedly run like corporations. NBC didn’t have to give Lochte a platform for his story. That was a judgment call, which is why I think Bill Bush and his cadre of producers bear some responsibility for opening the door to this mess.

And what’s worse is the sanctimonious way in which Matt Lauer and Al Roker have worked overtime to shame Lochte. I didn’t see one substantive report from NBC during the Olympics on how the Rio where the government continues to be in shambles, women and tourists are not always safe, and the beaches continue to be polluted with toxic viruses and waste. But Lochte? Oh my god, this is breaking news.

When NBC stops chasing ratings and starts chasing the truth between 7-9 AM ET, I’ll listen to Lauer and Roker wax poetic about the privilege and trustworthiness baked into our society. Until then, someone ought to put that whole Rio reporting team on a 90-day performance improvement plan.

So for all of you future journalists and storytellers out there, I’m appealing to the better angels of your nature. Just because you have a microphone or a camera doesn’t mean you have to use it when a random story drops in your lap like a gift from God. Just because someone famous says something doesn’t mean you need to cover it. And when a random story comes out of nowhere, you have permission to use your education and senses to seek out the truth.

You have a college degree and tens of thousands of dollars in debt. You might as well use your skills. As Trump says — what the hell do you have to lose?

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I went to India, and all I got you is this lousy blog post.

(Sorry. It’s not like I could pack souvenirs in my carry-on for all of you.)

I won’t bore you with the details of my trip, but I will tell you that flying to India from North Carolina is no joke. If you go to India, you go hard. That’s why I tried to do 100 things in the two days I had as a tourist.

First of all, I spoke at a conference. I participated in roundtables, walked the expo floor, spoke on a panel, and delivered a keynote speech on failure. I did this with no sleep, no sleeping pills to aid my sleep, and no goal other than to meet people and have a few good conversations.

The conference was great, but the man who introduced me tried to make a joke. Here it is, to the best of my memory.

“Our next speaker is about to talk about failure. By the way, have you heard the one about an Indian hotel manager who hires an illiterate villager to clean the elevators? The villager goes missing for four days. When he comes back, the hotel manager is stunned. He said, ‘I thought you quit.’ The villager responds, ‘No, I’ve been cleaning the elevator this whole time. Did you know the hotel has twenty floors, and there are two doors on each floor?”

There was silence.

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Laurie Ruettimann.”

I dare you to step on stage and deliver an inspiring keynote after that.

Then I went to New Delhi and stayed at a nice hotel with a pillow menu. I don’t mess around. I tried every damn pillow because it’s criminal to pass that up.

Then I went to Agra, which is about three hours away from New Delhi, and saw the Taj Mahal with a driver named Sanjay Gupta. We also saw monkeys, feral pigs, oxen, water buffalo, beggars, a marble factory, and men defecating on the streets. It was a full day.

On my final day in Delhi, I visited all seven boroughs of the city. Highlights include a rickshaw ride, a visit to a famous Hindu temple, monkeys swinging on jury-rigged power lines, and not getting killed by motorbikes as I crossed the street in the heart of Old Delhi.

(You think you know traffic and congestion and pollution because you live in a big American city? You really don’t know shit until you see a woman riding side-saddle on the back of a motorbike going 55 mph with a toddler pressed between her and the driver. No helmets.)

Anyway, I had a wonderful trip. The people of India are very generous. But no matter where you live, there’s no place like home.

India 2016

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Have you heard the phrase ‘trigger warning’?

Per the internet, it’s a statement at the beginning of a piece of writing, video, etc., alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material. The warning is meant to help people — such as those with post-traumatic stress disorder — make a choice about what they’re about to witness.

I feel like the documentary Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru should come with a trigger warning.

If you don’t know anything about Tony Robbins, he’s a self-help guru who encourages people to achieve breakthroughs — whatever the heck that means. His movie highlights a week-long personal improvement seminar where severely broken people try to change their lives.

And it was tough to watch.

Right from the beginning, we learn that Robbins charges $5,000 per person for this event. There were 2500 attendees, and many told harrowing personal stories of physical abuse, sexual assault and even living in a cult.

I was overcome by the sheer sadness of the documentary. Honestly, it knocked me back on my ass. I saw how people would give anything to unburden themselves from the pain of humanity, and all I kept thinking is that the biggest breakthroughs in life don’t come from seminars and programs. They come from deep, quiet, private, thoughtful work that takes more than six days.

Not that a weeklong Tony Robbins course isn’t helpful. Sorta. Maybe. 

From mindfulness to purpose, he’s offering a crash course in resiliency and project management. I can see why business leaders and celebrities love him. And if you’re a smart person with the means to attend one of these courses, you’ll probably come away with tools and tips to begin a journey.

But, oh man, it’s a journey.

And when Tony Robbins tells his audience that he knows human behavior and pain — and we fucking know that he fucking knows it, according to his own language — I want to counter by asking, “So what?”

Because knowing something on an intellectual level is different than understanding it at a profound level and being able to affect change.

And, just like Tony Robbins, I know people. I fucking know people. While a roadmap and a six-day seminar can be helpful in breaking through some pain and achieving an increase in your life on an incremental level, his approach feels reckless and uninformed. 

I truly worry about some of the attendees who are shown in film. I worry about those who show up at one of his seminars feeling suicidal or trying to overcome the psychological impact of sexual and physical abuse. A week-long workshop with Tony could be helpful, but it looks pretty dangerous. 

When someone slaps a “buyer beware” sign on his product and tells you that he’s not your guru, you should believe him. Whatever you’re looking for, keep looking.

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Lifetime Fitness It’s hot in America. Too damn hot. Wildfires are flaring up, asphalt is buckling, and I’m over here trying to figure out ways to beat the heat and train for my GDMF-ing marathon.

Not gonna happen.

Since I pay a monthly fee to Lifetime Fitness, which should be considered a charitable donation, I decided to do my weekly “long run” on a treadmill.

That’s right. I ran for two hours and twenty minutes on a treadmill.

Let me tell you what: it was pretty awful.

I tried to make things easier and break the run into four stages so that I could hydrate and eat something. Didn’t help. I wasn’t going that fast, but the air conditioning could not keep me fresh and clean.

When I finished running, I had salt streaks on my face and a rank body odor. Normally I’m hanging out with other nasty runners, and we cancel our smells out. That’s science. But with Lifetime’s air conditioning and a gentle breeze from overhead fans? Yeah, didn’t do much for my sweatiness. I pretty much infected an entire row of treadmills with my funk.

After my run, I tried to clean up as much as possible. Then I realized I would have a hypoglycemic anxiety attack if I tried to drive home without eating. So I went to the cafeteria and ordered a veggie burger, and I noticed that people kept a healthy distance from me.

I was the most disgusting thing in Raleigh since Donald Trump’s last campaign stop here.

This isn’t my first rodeo, and I’m not put off by an awkward and smelly run. But I’m pretty sure that running the Chicago Marathon in October will be easier than running double-digits on a treadmill.

But thank god for Lifetime Fitness. Boy, it’s hot outside!

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My friends are bad with computers.

It’s interesting because they are the earliest adopters of social media and blogging. They’re not just early adopters in the human resources industry. They’re among the earliest adopters in the world.

But they just don’t do computers. That’s fine. Leave the infrastructure stuff to the experts. 

Unfortunately, they are currently hosting their blogs on some two-bit server in another friend’s basement. And the friend with the server? He’s awesome, but he’s not an IT help desk. He’s got a life.

So my friends need some help moving their blogs to new hosts and doing some routine maintenance. But they’re like, yeah, we’d rather complain than pay someone to fix this for us.

That stops today.

America’s big sister is swooping in to do a job search. I’m now “hiring” someone for myself — reporting to me — who will be an IT/blogging resource to the HR community. And while it won’t be free, it will be a good price because this is not an expensive proposition and we can do this.

So let me know if you’re a web generalist (everybody’s favorite!) who can move blogs, set my friends up with hosting, and provide regular web support. Maybe do a new WordPress theme. Link all that shit to social. You know the drill.

The contact form is below. I’d like to know what you’d charge each blogger for set-up and ongoing support. And please tell me why you’re awesome and/or capable. I’d like to know.

I’ll respond to serious applications within 24 hours.

Thanks for your interest.

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