Questioning Authority: Fixing Your Workplace Will Not Fix Your Workforce

TLNT is launching a new series — Questioning Authority, which will challenge leading thinking by talking to leading thinkers. Each volume takes a conventional concept in HR and breaks it down — if not breaks it altogether — to gain a new, deeper understanding of how to improve work. 

The series was originally envisioned as a book club, but we quickly realized that great ideas also come from research reports, social-media threads, movies, you name it. So throughout the series, we’ll surface insights from anywhere and everywhere. Think of Questioning Authority like a beyond-books book club. We hope it will inform, inspire, and, yes, even incite you!

This article is part of the current QA volume: Fixing Your Workplace Will Not Fix Your Workforce. Click here to learn more about Questioning Authority.


Betting on You

If you’re like most HR professionals, you spend much of your day trying to figure out how to fix things. You’re tinkering with performance appraisals, learning and development courses, recognition programs, benefits offerings, recruiting processes, D&I initiatives, and updates to your employee handbook (even if you know that no one will read it). Of course, you’re doing all this in between handling worker complaints about old sandwiches in the company fridge and managing squabbles between colleagues. 

You do much of this to boost the employee experience. And over and over, you find that what you are doing is not working. 

Sure, having the right processes and policies can help improve the workplace. But they can only help so much. That’s because no matter how much you revamp this or fidget with that, some people will always find ways to ignore, circumvent, and undermine what you do. Because that’s just what people do.

Still, you continue to try to fix the workplace by trying to fix your workforce. Could it be that you’re going about this wrong?

Find out the answers to this and other questions during Can HR Fix People? Questioning Authority With Laurie Ruettimann, a webinar on Tuesday, January 19, at 2 p.m. ET.

You can also discover answers in Laurie’s upcoming book, Betting on You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career. Laurie writes that only one person can fix work — you. No, not you the HR professional. But you the worker. In other words, Laurie explains that people who are dissatisfied with work should not always rely on others to create the change they need for a more fulfilling experience. It’s up to them — not Linda in HR — to transform their professional and personal lives. 

Indeed, most people need to start with the personal if they have any hope of improving the professional — which is exactly what Laurie did as an unhappy HR lady. In her book, she draws on her experience and feelings working in an unfulfilling job and living an unfulfilling life to offer advice on how people can recast their own lives.

But this is not your typical self-help dribble. Laurie is an HR consultant, career coach, speaker, and writer who’s known for giving the finger to the status quo. 

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Full disclosure: I edited an HR column by her for several years in my former role as a senior editor at a business magazine. To this day, Laurie describes me as her former boss. But I can tell you that if you know Laurie, you know that ain’t no one bossing her around. She has no tolerance for B.S. and keeps it real throughout her book.

For example, Laurie writes, “We live in an era of uncertainty, but we are lying to ourselves if we believe that systems, processes, and programs were ever designed to make workers feel secure. From the dotcom bubble to the Great Recession, work has been restructured by consultants and leadership teams so that people in power will always end up doing just fine.”

Shots fired. But just as this isn’t some hokey advice tome, it also isn’t the stereotypical propaganda on why people should hate HR. Though her book is aimed at individual workers, there are lessons for HR practitioners, particularly around setting realistic expectations around HR’s role in fixing work. 

What should — and shouldn’t — HR do improve the employee experience? How do your responsibilities as an HR professional mix with those of individual employees to take accountability for their circumstances? And how did Courtney Love and “bulshit job” at Pfizer lead Laurie to Tijuana to get lap-band surgery?

Betting on You will have you pondering your own role as an HR professional. It will help you fix work — just not in the ways you might think. 

To learn more and interact with Laurie, register for the webinar: Can HR Fix People? Questioning Authority With Laurie Ruettimann, happening Tuesday, January 19, at 2 p.m. ET. Bring your questions, comments, and debate points! 

Click here to discover more resources in TLNT’s Questioning Authority series. 

Vadim Liberman is editor TLNT and ERE.net (the devil wears TJ Maxx) — a workplace renegade advancing how we think, work, and live. He has previously worked as a strategy consultant to HR and recruiting tech companies at The Starr Conspiracy, as a talent management professional at Prudential, and as senior editor of The Conference Board Review, a magazine for business leaders. Vadim loves to talk about all things HR, talent acquisition, and Bravo TV shows. Bring it!

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