Assertiveness: Flaw, Strength, or a Poo on the Desk?

pooping+dogLast week I wrote a post that ran at Recruiting Daily. Per my sources, this critique overview of SHRM activities got some pretty good viewership. It also led to numerous conversations and feedback as I received a fairly sizable number of emails and messages ranging from “woo hoo” to your “post on SHRM was awesome this week” to someone telling me I not only have guts but am also a clear thinker.

I also had an HR friend chastise me for tearing down the people I’m trying to change. His opinion was that I was merely advancing stereotypes of HR while simultaneously trashing the entire HR profession.


While I admit to a few well-placed generalizations in the post, I also noted that I, myself, FIT half those stereotypes. I wrote the post, I pointed out to him, because I do care. If I didn’t…I would be silent.

SHRM drama. Sigh.

In the larger scheme of things though it got me thinking…why did this seem like such a big deal? Is it because, to reference another generalization, human resources professionals are reluctant to state their opinion? Take a stand? State the uncomfortable truth – as they see it?

Chatting about SHRM’s lack of transparency is not a life or death situation. It barely ranks up there with taking a poop on the boss’ desk and resigning in a blaze of glory.

I gathered that my post just made some HR people uncomfortable. And not, may I state, only the SHRM diehards. Is that because in HR we’re expected to play it safe? “Keeping it sweet” is for followers of Warren Jeffs and the Duggars…not for HR professionals. With that attitude we are but one step away from the prairie dresses and ginormous hairdos.

Is assertiveness a bad word in HR? Most practitioners have built up the requisite skills to negotiate with vendors or brokers. We’ve developed a boastful pride in having the cajones to chastise a manager or participate in a meeting where an employee is given feedback. (note: this is also known as the “PIP” meeting. HR ladies love nothing more than making sure they sit in on every damn PIP meeting that occurs in the history of their company.)

But somehow we’re still left with a whole bunch of HR practitioners who never feel it’s safe to state exactly what they mean or to voice a personal opinion.

“Hey Ms. CEO…hiring Bob Smith as your VP of Sales is the dumbest thing you could ever do and here’s why…” “Hey Mr. CEO, I’m done cleaning up your messes; keep it in your pants or I’m out of here!” “Hey Ms. CHRO…you may be 3 layers up the totem pole from my lowly minion status but you are dead wrong with this initiative.”

I get it; it’s hard to do. It’s not easy to push back to the senior executive who seemingly holds our fate in his well-manicured hands.

But it takes courage and chutzpah and guts to work in human resources. You can be assertive and bold while still being direct and respectful.

You can be smart without being a know-it-all.

Assertiveness might just be the ticket to being a leader…versus being led.


image credit


The Ecosystem of Innovation – #DiceTalentNet

TalentNetAustinMeme (1)Last week I got the opportunity to attend #DiceTalentNet in Austin. Hosted by my friend Craig Fisher in partnership with Dice, this annual event serves as a catalyst to bring together talent acquisition professionals, recruiting leaders, tech geeks, inventors and provocateurs as a kick-off to SXSW. We gathered at the Whole Foods corporate headquarters (fantastic!) thanks to global recruiting leader Andres Traslavina, noshed on healthy food, and hoisted a glass or two over the course of several days.

As is always the case when I attend an event of this sort it takes me a few days to process what I learned. I like to pause, evaluate, and think about the conversations and the sessions. There was a lot to think about.

We had incredible wide-ranging discussions last week; Gerry Crispin spoke about the Candidate Experience, Bill Boorman discussed Data for Good vs. Data for Evil, and Matt Charney, Lars Schmidt and Ambrosia Humphrey discussed Boomerang Communities (those former employees who want to come back…or the ones we want back!). James Mayes discussed concepts around Bringing Engineering to Recruiting (fascinating!). Even my friend Kristi Jones and I got in on the action and led a session called Attack of the HR Ladies.

And, needless to say, there was much much MUCH more.

I’ve spent some time this week looking back over the years (decades really) that I’ve been involved in recruiting/HR/talent roles and reflecting on both how things have changed…and how things have stayed the same. So often, especially when going to a typical conference, we find that we re-hash the same topics, the same ideas, and the same solutions. Not so at #DiceTalentNet.

For me, the theme (if you will) that emerged from #DiceTalentNet was INNOVATION. I know… it seems like an overused word but I think it fits what’s happening amongst the smart and curious people who tend to gather together to talk about these things. (note: #TalentNet attendees don’t show up for credits…they show up for community. Know how I could tell? The conversations about recruiting, tech, and talent were still going strong at midnight…and well into the wee hours of the morning).

So … innovation?

During #DiceTalentNet we had the perfect convergence of imagination and ideas. I heard about (and saw) initiatives that are designed to make things better. I had discussions about forming new alliances and creating new ways of doing things to satisfy the evolving (evolved) needs of organizations and recruiters.

I won’t call it disruption – although that word popped up now and again during the day. What I saw in action was thoughtful and informed. We talked about breaking barriers and knocking down pre-conceived notions…but doing so with purpose.

We even put it in action with a sourcing challenge using Dice Recruiter which, since I was too slow, I didn’t win; but kudos to Alice Case who did. (You can download the app here. note: The Dice Recruiter App requires a Dice Open Web account. Learn more about Open Web.)

So yeah. Innovation.

What a great day. And a great future.

“The future you create is the one you get prepared for”


#DiceTalentNet 2015


Thanks again to Craig and Dice for joining together and hosting; I definitely intend to return in 2016!


Where do ‘Brands’ go to Die?

cad_poke_stillI read a press release yesterday announcing that the Museum of Broadcast Communication in Chicago will present “A Salute to Advertisings Greatest Icons” beginning in May.

The exhibition will “examine the creation and evolution of the characters from their inception to contemporary use, through commercials, vintage print ads and packaging, and a wide variety of character memorabilia. Advertising agencies and brand historians will describe how the characters were designed and how they have evolved over the years.”

Among the brands/characters/pop culture icons showcased will be:

  • Pillsbury Doughboy (General Mills)
  • Jolly Green Giant (General Mills)
  • Tony the Tiger (Frosted Flakes) (Kelloggs)
  • Snap, Crackle & Pop (Rice Krispies) (Kelloggs)
  • Keebler Elves (Keebler…duh)
  • Ronald McDonald (McDonalds…duh again)
  • Procter & Gambles Mr. Clean (Procter & Gamble)
  • 9 Lives Morris the Cat (Procter & Gamble)
  • Charlie the Tuna (StarKist) (Procter & Gamble)
  • Raid Bugs (S.C. Johnson)

OMG…how I want to poke the belly of the Pillsbury Doughboy and make him giggle!

According to the president of the museum These beloved characters helped define many of the worlds top consumer brands, and each has become synonymous with their brand in commercials, print ads, packaging and on grocery shelves.” 

It’s kind of nifty that these characters continue to have active lives; Poppin’ Fresh (the doughboy) (OMG…he’s so cute!) has been getting a finger jammed in his tummy since 1965. Ronald McDonald has been scaring amusing children for the same length of time. Last year, you may recall, McDonald’s announced Ronald was getting a makeover. Not quite sure how that has turned out; I, along with countless others, thought it was creepy as hell.


This got me thinking about the types of brands we blather on about in HR and Recruiting; employer brand, culture brand, branded (aka ‘talent’) communities, HR brand, personal brand.

I can guarantee you, with some degree of certainty, there will never be a museum exhibit dedicated to fabulous branding by human resources teams.

And I wonder if one of the reasons is because so many of these “HR driven” branding initiatives wither away. Oh sure, there are employer brands that evolve, transform, and remain strong (Google, Apple, Starbucks, et al.). The HR brand within an organization may shift dramatically with the addition of a new CHRO. People dissect, re-imagine, and reposition their personal brands all the time.

But sometimes the brands that HR teams are ‘responsible’ for just go “pffffffft”.

Why? I can think of a few reasons:

  • Employer branding is siloed in talent acquisition instead of carried throughout the entire employee life cycle
  • There is no integration with the company’s consumer brand
  • Something is built or constructed in the belief that ‘if we build it … people will come’
  • People invested in the nurturing and furthering of the brand leave the organization

And isn’t that last point critical? We can grasp its importance in SMBs but I think it’s a relevant point in large multi-faceted enterprises as well.

This may go against what we try to believe. We get behind the rallying cry “there’s no I in team” and discount the drive and contribution of that one person who is a fierce believer, promoter and passion-ista. The loss of that one team member, co-worker or leader can also mean the loss of ideas, excitement and brand energy.

And when that happens does the brand go somewhere else? Does it land in some sort of brand boneyard? Can it be resuscitated and resurrected?

I think it can; although it may never be the same. Sort of like a Zombie.

But zombies are sort of cool.








(1) Pillsbury Doughboy image

(2) image courtesy of WearYourBeer



Celebrate Others with Random Tweets of Kindness #RTOK

thank_you_pink_and_blue_love_birds_post_card_postcard-r5d63853a7bdd4f678c5cfcd5b5b32499_vgbaq_8byvr_324Last March my friend Lars Schmidt (@ThisisLars) chose a day and dedicated his timeline to “Random Tweets of Kindness.” He spent the day tweeting to people who had helped, supported, and inspired him over the years.

And we’re going to do it again!  As Lars wrote at Amplify Talent the other day:

Random Tweets Of Kindness Returns

The original #RTOK was conceived as an experiment. I had no aspirations beyond that day for this day of recognition, but when friends began suggesting we make it an annual event it was a sell. I’m excited to announce Wednesday 3/11/15 will be the next Random Tweets Of Kindness day (#RTOK). 

How To Participate

If you’d like to join us this year, here’s how:

  • Help spread the word with your networks ahead of 3/11
  • You can share this post, or even better write your own, and promote it using the #RTOK hashtag
  • On 3/11, send tweets throughout the day to anyone you feel deserves recognition for their work – or just some kindness
  • Keep an eye on #RTOK throughout the day on 3/11, RT any tweets you feel compelled to share


I’m in. Are you?


image: zazzle


The Plight of The Elderly in Love and Work

800px-Cane,_Walker_Cane_Hybrid,_WalkerBecause I turned a certain age recently I now receive “AARP The Magazine” delivered to my home each month. (as an aside: I still can’t figure out how they know the age of the entire populace of the United States. Satellites? US Census Reports? NSA?)

The cover of the February/March issue which recently landed in my mailbox features a sullen (what else) Bob Dylan and teases us with various tantalizing story headlines: “Heart Health Makeover” and “8 Easy Ways to Live Longer” among them.

Also on the cover, under the headline “Jobs & Money,” are several bullet points promising what lies within the pages. Among these, beginning on page 46, is a story entitled “Outsmart a Younger Boss.”

Because, apparently, when you reach a certain age you have to rely on tricks and wiles as opposed to your knowledge, experience and business savvy.


Yesterday, while performing a bit of business intelligence (also known as trolling the internet), I happened upon a company website which, on the “benefits” section of the career page, proudly states “An annual physical exam for employees 58 and older is provided, at no cost to the employee”

58 is, seemingly, a magic age for something. What that something is neither I nor multiple people on my Facebook timeline were able to determine.


And then, as if it wasn’t bad enough to realize I have to outsmart my boss and am considered to have one foot in the grave when I hit the age of 58, I learned that I’m also destined to be forever behind the 8 Ball in matters of hook-ups love and romance. Well, if I were single and cared about that.

Tinder announced that users of Tinder Plus in the US who are under the age of 30 will pay $9.99 per month for the service. However, if you want to use Tinder Plus but you’re past the age of 30, then you best be prepared to fork over $19.99 per month. Oh…and if you’re in the UK? You start paying more at age 28.

As Evie Nagy wrote in Fast Company “It’s hard, of course, not to see the move as a statement of desirability—set the entry bar higher for older users, you’ll get fewer older users in the pool of available daters. But the truth is probably as Tinder claims. Older people looking for love are willing to pay more for the premium app’s flexibility. We’ll see if that holds once the uneven pricing is now public.”

Play mind games with your boss. Get thee to the doctor. Realize that once you’re over the age of 30 you are undateable.

Got it.



image: wikimedia commons