That Time I Urinated on Myself at an HR Conference

wc-265278_1280-1-1For years, I resisted getting a cell phone. Until peer pressure eventually caught up to me. So by the time nearly everyone else on the planet was sending emojis, GIFs, and dick pics on fancy devices, I finally got a flip phone.

People, we aren’t talking the ’90s here. Not even the early aughts.

I didn’t start T9ing on my iPhone 0.5 until some time after 2010. And for a while, that sufficed. I shuddered and shunned at the idea of owning a smartphone. I saw what having one did to my friends, how the growth of a third appendage that promised greater connection spurred persistent disconnection, how something that was supposed to be a tool ended up making you a tool. No thanks.

Besides, word on the streets of Newark was that the CEO of Prudential (my employer for a couple of years starting in 2014) used a flip phone. Maybe this was an urban legend, but I figured, hey, if such a device was good enough for John Strangfeld, then I was obviously on the path toward becoming chief executive of a Fortune 50 company.

In 2016, peer pressure caught up to me again. I got my first smartphone — the iPhone 5s, originally released in 2013. Baby steps, OK?

Flash-forward to today. I still have that same 5s. I am afflicted with a third appendage. I am connected but disconnected. I am the tool I feared and predicted I’d become.

This was really clear a few months ago when I attended DisruptHR Long Island. During a break between speakers, I went to the bathroom. Even though I needed only to urinate, I decided to sit in a stall to multitask by checking texts and emails.

Quick aside: I’m no amateur at this. I’m often on the toilet at home with my laptop, pretending to pay attention to my workplace’s daily morning meetings. “Sorry, peeps. I was on mute. Oh, and yeah, my camera is kind of glitchy right now.”

Back to DisruptHR: It wasn’t until I finished answering a couple of texts and deleting some CVS and Seamless crap that I realized a national tragedy had just happened: Having paid more attention to my phone than the direction of my urine stream, I ended up drenching parts of my jeans.

OMG, OMG, OMG! I thought. I have to walk out of this restroom and through the crowd sporting pee-soaked pants. Worse, I have to take the stage as a speaker in about 20 minutes — and you know that denim takes about 55 years to fully dry! Granted, my shirt was able to conceal some spots, but only some spots.

I rushed to my seat and texted my friend Mary Faulkner, who coincidentally organizes DisruptHR Denver. Something terrible happened, I told her. “I spilled a drink all over my jeans.”

“Just tell the crowd you peed on yourself,” she joked.

So I did. I also followed up by explaining that I was kidding. It was clearly just some spilled water. Clearly!

I nailed my presentation because, you know, I’m a professional (something that you might be doubting right now). Nonetheless, the moral here is probably evident. I let my addiction to technology take over. I couldn’t even allow a few moments to relieve myself because of my compulsion to what? I don’t know. Get a dopamine rush by clearing junk email and answering some dumb texts? (The irony that I messaged Mary about pee-gate almost immediately after pee-gate is not lost on me.)

Look, I recognize that technology isn’t the problem. The problem is me. It’s probably you, too. So let’s all do better in 2019. Let’s do our bathroom business without mixing in other business. Let’s not check our phones 8 billion times a day. This is one of my resolutions this year. Maybe it can be yours — if for no other reason than because pee pants are not a cute look for 2019. Urine is never in.

By the way, here’s my DisruptHR Long Island presentation, “Shut Up About Authenticity”:

Recognition Is About Me! (OK, Fine, You Too.)

chess-1483735_1280 (1) (1) (1) (1) (1).jpgI’m tired. I know you are too. I’m tired of work. I’m tired of life. I’m tired of reading the same articles on millennials. I’m tired of Bethenny Frankel (Team Carole!). I’m tired of a dumb president. I’m tired of drinking. I’m tired from drinking. I’m tired of seeing that same TV commercial over and over (we all have one). I’m tired of you. I’m tired of me. I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired.

Many months ago, I was on a call with someone. We were commiserating about our weariness. Between work, life, more work, and more life, he was telling me how some days left him completely wiped out.

But then he told me something else. He mentioned that no matter how exhausted he is on some nights, he makes sure to spend a few minutes shooting a quick email to recognize someone. He said this to me very quickly, very much in passing.

Good thing I wasn’t too tired to catch what he said. Continue reading

Do You Deserve a Bad Boss?

download.jpgIs your boss a jerk? Good! Thank the creep for being so horrible and consider yourself lucky to work for a bad manager today. Otherwise, how else would you become a good one tomorrow? Or here’s the better question:

Do you need to work for a crappy leader to eventually grow into a great one yourself?

Notice what I’m not asking here. I’m not questioning whether someone can learn from bad managers. Obviously, most of us can recognize positive and negative attributes in other people in ways that might influence our own leadership abilities.  Continue reading

Are You an Email Elitist?

e48a542f0a78d21a636308b05860f6d9 (1) (1).jpgDid you see the recently released groundbreaking study revealing that job candidates with Gmail addresses go on to become high-performers? This group also boasts lower turnover, higher productivity, and higher engagement than people with Hotmail and Yahoo emails. Most importantly, stay away from losers with AOL addresses — 83 percent of them ultimately fail to meet their managers’ expectations.

Did you read this study?

I didn’t think so. Because it doesn’t exist. Yet you’d never know it based on the prejudice that persists against candidates who dare not conform to superficial email snobbery.  Continue reading

Are Perks Ruining Your Company?

dragon-2099840_1280 (1).jpgI have a friend who —

OK, fine. It’s not a friend, It’s me. I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed or proud of the kinda-sorta juvenile workplace shenanigans I’m about to describe, but in the interest of making a larger point, here goes.

I once worked for a company that had a chair policy. If you were above a certain pay grade, your reward was a chair with armrests. Peons who didn’t earn enough risked falling off the sides of their seats.

Back then, I knew little about HR. I wasn’t yet versed in the power of phrases like “reasonable workplace accommodation” to annoy Linda from HR into granting certain requests (regardless of whether I technically needed an accommodation.)

So instead of asking for a chair with arms, I took one. I simply strolled into a nearby conference room and wheeled out a chair that allowed me to sit comfortably. Luxuriously. Like I finally made it in corporate America.

Then Chair Nazi came.  Continue reading

Relationships With Ghosts

halloween-1743272_1280 (1)Imagine applying for a job, getting hired for the job, and then not showing up for the job. 

I can only imagine because, you know, I’m a decent(-ish) human being. But apparently, that’s exactly what 20 to 50 percent of applicants are doing, according to a USA Today article. The story explains:

In the hottest job market in decades, workers are holding all the cards. And they’re starting to play dirty. A growing number are ‘ghosting’ their jobs: blowing off scheduled job interviews, accepting offers but not showing up the first day and even vanishing from existing positions — all without giving notice.

The Copper Rule

Some speculate that such crappy behavior simply mirrors the equally crappy behavior of many recruiters. “I learned it by watching you!”

Basically, it’s the Copper Rule, the original golden sheen of which was corroded by incivility: Be as rude to others as they are to you.  Continue reading

Equality Is a Lie

Screen Shot 2017-09-10 at 11.04.06 AM (1) (1) (1).pngDo you think that people of different races are born equal? What about people of different genders?

I’m asking this because we’ve been talking a lot about equality lately, especially in the wake of the Google fiasco — you know, where that engineer was fired for writing a manifesto about gender roles. He said that women are biologically less suited for tech roles, and as a result, some of Google’s gender diversity efforts are misguided.

Except, he’s misguided. But not for the reasons you might think.

To understand why he’s wrong, it’s important to ask a larger question: What do we mean when we talk about equality? What should we mean?

Separating Wrong From Reich

To find out, everybody, hop on the bus! We’re going to take a road trip, y’all! We’re heading to Charlottesville, where I’m going to say something that only a “fine person” from Charlottesville would say: Black people are biologically dumber than white people. The most classically racist line there is, right?  Continue reading

Part of the 2 Percent

artworks-000049373797-uapeq3-t500x500 (1) (1) (1).jpgI’m part of the 2 percent. I work for the tiny fraction of U.S. companies that offer unlimited paid time off (PTO). That’s right, I get to watch The Price Is Right live as much as I want! Or something like that.

Are you jealous? Don’t be. You’re probably taking more vacation than I am — because workers under traditional use-it-or-lose-it policies usually take off more time than we 2 percenters.

At every organization, regardless of PTO policy, people feel reluctant to take days off. One study showed that 41 percent of Americans don’t take any vacation days at all. At. All.

Is that you? Are you someone who thinks your company is overpaying you so you choose to reject part of your compensation? (That’s what PTO is, after all.) Or do you fear that work will build up? (Don’t worry. Your plate will be full no matter what you can’t accomplish today, tomorrow, and many tomorrows after.) Or maybe you think your department will collapse if you’re not there for a few weeks? (The whole company, probably. Maybe even the country. The planet.) Or do you simply agonize over the optics of potentially taking off too many days? (Whatever “too many” means.)

The last concern is especially relevant under an unlimited PTO plan. At my company, I’m told that, really, no really, no but for real, really, people may take PTO as they wish. That’s why, after starting my job this past June, I’ll be taking the next six months off.  Continue reading

What If That Google Guy Were a Woman?

quiet-29763_960_720 (1).pngAs if you haven’t read enough opinions about the fiasco that a Google software engineer sparked with his memo about diversity, I’m about to offer viewpoint #67,945 on the matter. Here goes:

It was not what the guy said that offended people. It was that he had the balls to say it. I mean that literally. It was because he was a man.

Before I explain what I mean, here’s a brief recap of what went down. Googler James Damore recently penned an internal memo, “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” in which he posited biology’s role in explaining why women are underrepresented in tech.

“We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism,” Damore wrote, citing numerous stereotypes, assumptions, and opinions explaining that chicks don’t want jobs they aren’t inherently good at. (Just stick to nursing and teaching kindergarten, ladies.)

People got offended by what they perceived as sexist remarks. Not offended enough to vote for Damore for President of the United States, but just enough for Google to fire him. The company’s diversity chief, Danielle Brown, explained that Damore’s opinion is “not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages.”

Or even discusses, apparently.  Continue reading

The Lion, The Witch, and My Wardrobe

apple watchWhat’s the best part about being out of work?

When you’re no longer out of work. Obviously, getting hired was the highpoint of my recent job search. That aside, throughout my journey from unemployment to becoming Texas’ newest cowboy, I went through a range of experiences, some great, most mediocre, some far from great, and one that shocked me so much—and really, almost nothing surprises me since Nov. 8, 2016—that I can barely talk about it to this day.

Who am I kidding? I love talking about it! 

I love talking about a whole bunch of things that happened to me as I zigzagged through a process that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. (Who am I kidding? Of course I would!)

I could go on and on about the highs and the lows of my unemployment escapade, but instead, let me tell you about a couple of incidents at both extremes.  Continue reading