So far no one has challenged Laurie on her premise that work is broken. Until today. Eric Barker is the author of the bestselling book, Barking Up The Wrong Tree, and he believes that issues with managing people and organizing them to accomplish things is a perennial challenge. In fact, he doesn’t believe work is broken because it was never fixed in the first place. Dive in with Laurie and Eric in this stimulating conversation about the state of work.
Eric explains why he doesn’t think work is broken, and it’s because he believes it was never fixed in the first place. From technology changes to cultural changes, work is a perennial problem, and you might be inclined to agree with him on this point.
Aside from loving the title of his book, it was also Laurie’s favorite non-fiction book of 2017. She asks him a pointed question about success. There are many misconceptions, so you might want to check your own beliefs about what success at works really means. Is it the quality of work? Is it the quantity? Does success in one department look the same as success in another? What about from one manager to the next, and personality conflicts? Eric tackles these tough topics and more.
Eric shares something EVERY job-searcher should know when they go into an interview. You see, peer pressure isn’t just something that affects teenagers. It affects us at every age, and the most insidious part of it according to Eric is that we don’t even realize it.
What is ‘learned helplessness’ at work? It’s when employees don’t have a sense of agency and felt like they actually could make choices, even exercise a single choice. It turns employees into victims, and Eric gives some very solid steps you can take today to pull yourself up from that position.
Volunteering can change your life. It’s true, but why? Eric and Laurie talk about the different thing you can do, and it’s not just about helping others. It’s about changing your sense of worth and identity. You aren’t your job. You are a person and we, as people, can easily get caught in destructive loops. And don’t worry; you don’t need to volunteer for 50 hours a week. You can do it for as little as 2 hours and feel the effects.
The Venn Diagram of happiness and success definitely overlap, but not completely. Eric and Laurie investigate what it really means when the two overlap, and the tricky areas where they don’t. Does your work environment allow you to do what you do best? Or what if you’re happy with your job but not successful? What’s in store for you when you’re outside of Venn’s sweet spot?
Let’s get one thing straight – if you’re going to fix work, you’ll have to start by fixing yourself. This concept can get VERY woo-woo when you listen to some of the inspirational speakers out there. They think they can make change by ‘whispering a few words’ in your ears. Laurie isn’t big on that. Mindfulness and meditation are good, no doubt, but she and Eric have a deep discussion about what kind of self-help is really needed. By the way… it’s your fault.
You can’t underestimate the importance of relationships in work and life. So much of the unhappiness in the world is caused by loneliness. Eric lays out some scenarios. Do any of these sound familiar to you in your life? If you’re going to invest in anything, invest in relationships.
You’re an influencer because you read HR blogs and talk about it at work, your mom is an influencer because she goes to Disney and tells her friends about her trips on Facebook, and your kid is an influencer because he has an Instagram account and does fidget spinner tricks.
The age of influence is over. I’m happy about it. I believe we’re moving towards the era of impact.
My friend Jennifer McClure is ahead of the curve. She started a podcast called Impact Makers and is interviewing people who have sway, magnetism, and a passion for solving problems. Every single one of her guests is focused on serving a community or sharing big ideas. These are individuals doing extraordinary things and sharing their journeys so you can do better.
Jennifer got me thinking about the people impacting my life. From a work perspective, one person who has made an enormous impact on me — and the entire work technology industry — is Bill Boorman. I remember the days before Bill Boorman, and the trade was filled with a lot of myopic product managers and self-loathing sales professionals who hated working in human resources and didn’t see the connection between HR technology and the future of work.
Were there some cool people saying exciting things before Bill? Sure. Did they get press? Of course. However, from the day Bill Boorman stepped out on stage and shared his ideas about systems and processes, you could tell that things were changing. He’s a futurist and an evangelist who cares about the human heart. Whether you know him, the technology that improves people’s lives and allows individuals to do their best work — and get paid for it — garners the attention it deserves because of Bill.
If that’s not the definition of an impact maker, I don’t know what is.
Do you want to solve significant problems in the human resources space? Better make sure you know what you’re talking about because Bill won’t let you ride the coattails of a rising industry and attach your shoddy tech to a movement that’s enabling people to be the best version of themselves at work.
Many people influence purchasing decisions in the HR technology space, but Bill Boorman’s ideas and energy have impacted the current landscape of technology. Also, I’d hate to think where we would be as an industry without him.
So, listen to Jennifer McClure’s podcast. Then think about people who have made an impact in your life or on your job. If you have a second, write a letter of thanks or publish a blog post in praise of people who changed your life.
I know that Bill Boorman has made an impact in my life — and in my industry — and I’m grateful for the opportunity to recognize his work and thank him for his contributions.
What is the future of work? Katie Augsburger is the Founder and Partner of Future Work Design, an organization that wants to smash the patriarchy and decenter whiteness. Okay – before anyone starts bristling about being pushed out, that’s not her intent. Katie has some amazing ideas of how helping those with least access can benefit all employees.
Katie has two answers to the question, ‘How do you fix work?’ The first one is pretty cheeky and involves smashing things, but the second one takes a deeper look at the design of work. But first, she shares a story of walking into a women’s bathroom and finding a row of urinals.
We’re told as women to lean into the systems, but they aren’t built for us. Part of what Katie does is to break systems. She talks about how she doesn’t try to get rid of white men; she’s trying to make room for women. If you haven’t heard of the ‘curbside’ effect, then you need to listen to the analogy.
Using her theory of the curbside effect, she comes into companies with a radically different way of looking at things. How can we put the least advantaged people in the center of the design, and how will that help everyone succeed?
One of the best ways Katie get results is to ask questions. Not the typical questions managers ask quarterly or whatever, but deep reaching questions from the bottom all the way to the top. She talks about how smashing the old system and creating something new has worked out for one of her clients.
Companies tend to hire for skills and tech, but fire for behavior and soft skills. It’s this systematized, procedural way of looking at things that create problems. But Katie believes it’s the soft skills, the behaviors, that will make or break the systems and processes.
Laurie poses the question: is it harder for companies to hold an open dialogue on gender issues or race issues? Katie and Laurie share their theories on why it’s more difficult to talk about race.
Not every company needs to be smashed. Katie shares a case study of a call center that, despite being an undesirable job, has managed to make THEIR work meaningful and impactful to their employees. Another great company Katie likes is Airbnb, and she reveals why.
Katie wraps up the episode with her approach to smashing the patriarchy and decentralizing whiteness, and it comes from a place of great compassion. She’s not interested in pushing out anyone who is white or male; instead, she wants to make things better for everyone by making it better for those who are great employees but don’t measure up on the outdated yardstick.
Ben Brooks was THE guy in HR. He had it all, but then he left it all to became an entrepreneur. Today Ben and Laurie talk about how executive coaching can help you fix yourself AND your work. Not sure what life coaching is, how it differs from executive coaching, or why it matters? They’ll answer these questions and more in today’s episode.
Ben talks about this ‘arranged marriage’ to corporate America, and how it really didn’t fit with his ideas of innovation and making things better. In fact, one of his peers told him point blank: he had outgrown a 50,000-person company. Ben shares what a gift that message was.
Ben took a little time before beginning his journey into entrepreneurship, and what finally changed his mind about it was a name tag. Would he choose unemployed, entrepreneur, or employee? After a week among entrepreneurs, Ben realized he’d found his tribe.
Ben did what a lot of new entrepreneurs do: he started without a real business plan. He reveals what he learned about business plans, what his first little while was like, and when things finally took a positive turn for him. He shares his thought about generalist advisers, and what he says will surprise you: you don’t absolutely NEED to be in a niche, not in today’s world.
Ben talks about what he calls ‘democratizing executive coaching.’ In a nutshell, it means getting coaching to more people, when they need it, and at prices they can afford. He explains why he was driven to do this rather than set up a $500/hr coaching practice. Ben’s revelation about group coaching surprises Laurie, and it will probably surprise you, too.
One of the problems Ben ran into with Pilot, his coaching company, was that people loved it but they believed their company should pay for employment coaching. So he turned to companies, and while many of them won’t invest in it, there is a distinct group of forward-thinking leaders who have, like those at MetLife.
Do you need an executive coach? Before you answer, listen to what Ben has to say about it. He likens it to marriage counseling. If you’ve ever been fired or left a job, are you able to see past your emotions and understand what really went wrong? Are you able to fix it for yourself? The answer may not be to start your OWN business, because if you aren’t able to fix yourself, entrepreneurship won’t do it for you.
According to people smarter than us, one of the biggest factors of happiness at work is self-advocacy. Ben and Laurie discuss what that means and why it seems to be more difficult for women. They also reveal what to do to be a better advocate for yourself.
Ben leaves his final message that everyone needs to hear: Take command of your career. It’s the tagline of his business, Pilot. He shares the inspiration behind it, and why it will change your life.
Have you ever effed something up so badly you’re not sure if anything will get better ever again? Laurie has. In this candid, bonus episode, she shares her biggest failure – a product called GlitchPlan that was supposed to help you do pre-mortem on a situation. What’s that? Laurie explains the concept and talks about how she’d been doing it herself for a lifetime. It was a sure thing, or so she thought.
Laurie explains what the concept of pre-mortem is and shares some very painful moments in her past where she was forced to use it to make life-changing decisions. It’s one of her core mantras: if you can see it, you can beat it.
Laurie and her partner pulled together a team of 5, all of whom were experts, but all of whom were also employed elsewhere. Except Laurie. That was the first indicator of failure. Laurie talks about what her life was like being a CEO of a company whose employees weren’t engaged. But the employees weren’t the only ones to blame. Laurie talks about how she failed them.
One of the next indicators of failure Laurie shares was that, in hindsight, if your tech team won’t even use what they’re building, there’s something wrong. Laurie was using it, though, and her pre-mortem problem lists weren’t being avoided. They were happening right before her eyes. In other words, she used her own product to watch its development fail. Oh, the irony.
Laurie ended up firing part of her team, but she wasn’t finished with GlitchPath just yet. After some reflection, she brought together another set of people – and she has great experience as a recruiter. But she said something in her job ad that had people coming out of the woodwork to gripe at her. It was just two little words and it was the best thing she did during the entire GlitchPath experience.
Version two of Laurie’s team was amazing. Except for two things. The team wouldn’t use it. Again. Laurie tells the story of the development of a product no one wanted to use. The second problem? No one else wanted to use it. Laurie reveals the interesting reason why; it has to do with fear at work.
Laurie’s third goal was to integrate GlitchPath into other apps and tools on the market: Slack, Asana, Basecamp, etc. Her two lessons there were 1) most companies use weird project management, and 2) none of those tool companies would every buy her out, which she had hoped for from the beginning.
Laurie still loves the pre-mortem concept, but GlitchPath was a dead end. She brought her team together and killed it for the second, and final, time. She shares the big lessons she learned from GlitchPath, personally and professionally.
Enjoy this bonus episode? Do you want more like it? We’re thinking about putting together a community where you’ll get all normal content PLUS juicy tidbits, stories, access to Laurie, and an inside look at how she’s fixing work. Let us know! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org sign up for weekly updates.
Think of somebody who rubs you the wrong way at work. The dude who opens his mouth and annoys you. The woman whose emails make you feel an impending sense of dread.
You are that somebody to someone else at work.
One of my favorite theories of work is that there’s work-math in every office environment that looks like Hammurabi’s Code intersecting with Newton’s third law. For every person who makes your blood boil, you cause the same reaction to one of your colleagues.
Hate the look of a coworker for no reason? Don’t like the cut of your officemate’s jib? Wonder why the chick down the hall is such a loud talker? That’s because those other people are you, and there’s an individual talking shit about your sloppy work habits on Slack.
And they’re not wrong.
Introspection + Insight = Change
I’m a big fan of Cy Wakeman, who is a noted workplace tension expert, and she tackles the big stuff. If you have severe conflict issues at work, she’s your thinker and researcher on all things drama.
I know that most of you hate reading books, and some of you are thriving contrarians like me. You wouldn’t listen to good advice, anyway. So, maybe you can do a few experiments at work and see if there’s a way to de-escalate workplace conflict and live a better life without reading a workbook or watching a webinar.
First thing I do when someone bugs me at work? Well, I think back to a time when I behaved poorly and wasn’t proud of it. Last year, I took a consulting job at Zenefits. There was a VP who wasn’t my biggest fan, and she was disinterested in forming a relationship with me.
The culture in Silicon Valley in insane — and warrants another blog post or maybe bonus material on Let’s Fix Work — and she didn’t become VP of anything by suffering fools. She summed me up, didn’t like what she saw for many reasons, and wrote me off. And, at first, it was confusing. Then it was maddening. Then it broke my heart.
But how many times have I acted that way? How many times have I felt threatened by other women or younger people? When haven’t I been insecure in a corporate job? Isn’t that why I quit corporate America in the first place?
Horizontal competition between two women isn’t new, and I could see a path forward with this VP because some of my biggest rivals at Pfizer are now my dearest and loveliest friends.
And, looking back, we weren’t even rivals. We were women who were trying to survive. So, whenever that VP was assertive and challenging, I put her behaviors — and mine — into perspective.
We’re all human. Unless you’re the founder or owner, the system is stacked against you at work. Especially as women. Someone has to be the change they want to see in the workplace, and I decided it would be me.
It’s funny how, six months later, neither one of us is at Zenefits. Maybe she was the change, too.
Don’t Be Somebody’s Asshole
The next time someone bothers you at work, take a second and think about a time you saw that behavior in yourself or another work-related situation. Then, apply the lessons to your life.
Someone bugging you? Tensions running high? Hate the look of your colleague? Be thoughtful, kind, and offer grace. The more you forgive the mundane, the higher the likelihood that someone will forgive you.
Forgiveness is one essential and undervalued way that we fix work.
One minute I’m listening to Nine Inch Nails and studying for finals in college, the next I’m married for fifteen-and-a-half years and wondering how to get sober and have a stable family like Trent Reznor.
What happened here? And how did Trent Reznor get a fantastic career and a caring family while I’ve spent the past few years struggling to get my act together? Well, I read a few interviews. It seems like he invested his time and energy in activities (and people) who align with his values.
What are Values?
Values are a person’s principles or standards of behavior. Values are the sum of what is important in life. And if you don’t know your values, you’ll never be grounded enough in your own beliefs to be of service to someone else.
I’ve been on a quest to figure out my values. I want people to have better experiences with me — my husband, my family, my friends, my colleagues — and I want to add more value to the world.
Like most middle-aged quests, the journey of self-improvement involves a ton of coaches and therapists. People who have expertise in human psychology and individual performance. And there have been crackpots who want to sell me trinkets and tokens to be a better person.
And, along the way, I’ve been reading a ton of books and collecting one-sheets. Boy, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that psychologists and licensed clinical social workers are like marketing professionals. They love handouts.
The other day, I was given a needs and values map. The instructions are simple: rate your experience with your partner and then rate how important the value is to your life.
Here’s what I love: If you look at this document, you can swap out “partner” and put in “employer.” This is a useful guide for whether you should quit your job.
What Are Your Values?
Work is a relationship, just like marriage or friendship, and healthy connections are based on values. Your experience as an employee is different from your experience as a partner or family member, but not that much different.
And, if you’re unhappy at work, it affects all areas of your life.
Feel free to use this document to look at your current work situation. Does your employer understand you, your feelings, and who you are? Is your employer loyal and honest? Does your employer show responsibility for things important to you?
Does any of it matter? To what degree?
If there’s a gap between what you experience and what’s essential to you, it’s time to close that gap. Unhealthy habits form when we get lost in the gulf between who we are and what we value. So, be like Trent Reznor. Get your values defined and aligned, figure out what’s important to you, and go make whatever version of art you’re put on this earth to create.
Maybe you despise work. Maybe you’re apathetic about it. Or maybe work would be bearable if it weren’t for that one co-worker who always… You get the picture. Most people aren’t passionate about their cubicles. We’ve had some interesting guests over the past few weeks, and today, Laurie shares her takeaways from those conversations and some of her own theories on how to fix work, starting with one very important thing: to fix work, you need to fix yourself.
Stop living in your head and comparing yourself to others. You ARE going to face things like institutionalized racism, sexism, ageism and more, and that’s terrible. But you can’t let that force you into your own mental prison. If you’re going to fix yourself, you need to live in the present and live mindfully. You need to be an active participant in your own life.
Scott Stratton, the author of UnMarketing, was Laurie’s first guest, and he was fearless in burning down his corporate career. The lesson to take from him is that when your job is killing your soul, you should burn down your professional life and build it back up again. You don’t have to do it like Scott did; Laurie argues for a slow, well-planned burn.
We had another Scott next, Scott Santens. He’s known as the foremost thinker and speaker on basic income. It’s not welfare; instead, it’s a dividend. Companies hide profits overseas. They lobby the government for their own benefit, not yours. And the money they save isn’t invested in employees, not at all. Laurie explains how the basic income is needed, and why it needed now more than ever.
People need to get fairly paid for their work, and that will only happen with wage transparency, both with employees and employers. Laurie challenges you to ask YOUR potential employers a series of questions that, while they might make them uncomfortable, you need to, and have a RIGHT to know.
Jason Lauritsen was up next as a guest, and he and Laurie delved into what you can do to get clear on your goal for your work life. Sure, he hates work. But he doesn’t hate working. They talked about his evolution from cubicle to entrepreneurship and doing it the safer way. It all began with learning.
Laurie shares another of her insights to work: we fix work by deprioritizing it in our lives. Hard to do? Of course it is! We need to pay our bills. But even when you’re paying your bills, you can still separate your identity from your job title, and Laure tells you how to do it. She also dares you to only give 80% at work.
Guest #4 was Amanda Hite, another of Laurie’s friends. Amanda has had an interesting life, and at one point, she had a boss who encouraged her to stay in the closet to advance her career. Really. Now that Amanda is a successful CEO, she wants people to be their whole selves at work, and she campaigns for employees to be heard and honored, even if it makes management a little more challenging.
You need to drop the mask you’re wearing on an everyday basis. It’s not doing you any good to pretend to be someone else, to try to fulfill a role that isn’t you. You can’t live two lives. Laurie believes that we can fix work by having a harmonized personality that reflects your passion, your sense of purpose, and our core values. There’s only one you. So be you.
Tim Sackett was the next guest, and he is an expert on recruiters. Yes – the Jerry McGuire type of recruiter who fights to put the best talent in the best jobs. Except they aren’t usually like that. Some – or most – are shady paper-pushers who are only in it for the money. It doesn’t have to be that way, but since you can’t change the recruiters, you can be your OWN talent agent. Laurie explains how.
Laurie had a careers reporter from Business Insider as her most recent guest. Áine Cain is the type of woman who breaks the barriers and smashes stereotypes for the next generation of workers in offices. From #MeToo to robot workers, Áine has an exciting breadth of knowledge from her role in Business Insider. She also thinks you should smash your own pseudo-science around generational thinking. Laurie shares what you SHOULD be thinking about instead.
Are you interested in a ‘Let’s Fix Work’ community, where you can get freebies, early access to the podcast, interact with Laurie and guests? Are you interested in sponsoring the podcast? Let’s talk! Email us at email@example.com.
Wanna know why work sucks? Ask Áine Cain. She’s a careers and employment reporter for Business Insider, and her experience covering multiple workplaces gives her a unique insight into what makes a great – or terrible – place to work. From the #MeToo movement to the gig economy, and lotus-eaters to a robot invasion, Laurie and Áine talk about the current state of work and its future.
Are there still great places to work? Yes, but don’t be lured by ‘perks’ companies. Áine explains what they are and why they create a culture of complacency and wasting away.
According to a Gallup poll, nearly 70% of employees aren’t engaged at work, and naturally, these employees blame their managers. There’s an argument there to be made, but Áine points at two of the major themes she sees frequently, and it’s not managers.
What makes a place great to work at? Áine has a lovely acronym to explain what companies are doing right. CCE – co-workers, compensation, engagement. She explains what each of them means.
The #MeToo movement has been instrumental in raising awareness of issues at work, but you have to wonder: will awareness lead to long-lasting change? Laurie and Áine tackle that tough question with some anecdotes and insights that will change the way you think about the future of work.
Yes, men need to behave better at work. But there’s a second change that needs to take place, and that’s in the systems at work. Laurie and Áine talk about how businesses can replace their antiquated systems.
So at whose feet do we lay the burden of fixing work? Management, HR, employees? Laurie and Áine talk about where change needs to happen to make a great workplace, both the ideal and the realistic ways.
No one wants to work in the ‘bro culture.’ Áine digs into why that mentality fails and what employees really want to become more engaged and invested in their job. From generational gaps to the advent of the internet, so many different things have contributed to the current job climate.
You’ve heard the term ‘gig economy.’ But have you ever stopped to think about what it really is? Find out who is a real part of the gig economy, who it benefits, and whether or not it’s a good thing.
We promised robots. Áine says they’re taking over. We’re probably not going to tell you something you don’t know, but you definitely want to hear what Áine says about how the robot takeover will probably mirror the industrial revolution in terms of unemployment. Laurie and Áine discuss some of the ways that can be prevented.