Nine Quotes by Thích Nhất Hạnh That Could Change the Way You Do HR (and Life)

Thich Nhat Hanh fake oil painting by Alvin Alexander

“Thích Nhất Hạnh is a real poet.” – Robert Lowell

I have maintained since day one of writing this blog that philosophy offers professionals a difference making outlook on life, work, love, and everything. To me, philosophy is about living one’s best life and acting on what is right.

Doing HR right is an act of philosophy to me. It is always important to create space to think, put things into perspective, and act well and correctly.

Buddhism straddles the line between philosophy and religion. The religion has monks, prayers, rituals, sacred texts, and all the things that make a religion a religion – well except a god (or gods).

Still, in many respects, its teachings are incredibly philosophical in ways other religions aren’t. The Buddha said:

  • “If anything is worth doing, do it with all your heart.”
  • “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”
  • “Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.”
  • “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”
  • “If we fail to look after others when they need help, who will look after us?”
  • “The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live.”
  • “The trouble is, you think you have time.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh is one of the most prolific Buddhist teachers of this age. Along with the Dalai Lama, no one individual is so influential to 20th and 21st century Buddhist thinking.

Thích Nhất Hạnh passed away this past January. I wrote about it here. While I am no Buddhist, his teachings have deeply influenced my line of thinking – personally and professionally for neither can be separate. The way one acts personally is how one acts professionally. I learned that from Thầy (Vietnamese for “teacher” – Hạnh’s nickname).

As such, here are nine powerful quotes from Thích Nhất Hạnh that can help us all become better professionals, and people!

  1. “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

It’s been said ad nauseum. HR is a hard job. People are messy. Empathy has its limits and takes its toll. I’m not saying anything that isn’t new. One of the few ways to combat this is to live a life of peace. Live a life that is so full of peace that even how we walk represents our love and affection for the universe.

  • “Because you are alive, everything is possible.” Living Buddha, Living Christ

It’s a mistake to say you only live once. You live EVERY DAY. You only die once. While alive, remember that anything is possible. Don’t put limitations on yourself. Don’t tell yourself it cannot happen. If you do, you’ve already lost. Don’t do that to yourself.

  • “Many people think excitement is happiness…But when you are excited you are not peaceful. True happiness is based on peace.” The Art of Power

I believe many have a warped understanding of happiness. Happiness is not a feeling, like joy. Many folks confuse joy and pleasure for happiness. Joy or pleasure are not happiness. They can help create the condition for happiness, but ultimately happiness is a state of mind. In the ancient context, happiness meant “a flourishing life.” Peace is the ultimate in flourishing. Work for peace – internal and external – and happiness follows.

  • “My actions are my only true belongings.” Understanding Our Mind: 50 Verses on Buddhist Psychology

Everything we have will disappear. Our cars. Our jobs. Our families. Our hair. Our health. Our feelings and emotions. Our lives. Everything is ephemeral. All of life is change. The only things that never goes away, never changes are our actions. The things we do. The echo in eternity. Remember that before each action, and hopefully, the right action follows.

  • “For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.” Being Peace

The old saying, perception is in the eye of the beholder, rings true. But how true are perceptions? Can you trust your eyes? Can you trust your ears? Can you trust your thoughts? Maybe. Maybe not. Ultimately, the truth often lays somewhere in the middle void – the middle path. Few times are things so concrete that new information or new experiences cannot make us think again. To let things become clear, we need to let go of our ego, and let go of our attachments to what we want. This can allow space to allow what is.

  • “Our own life has to be our message.” The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology

A poetic, beautiful way of saying – walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.

  • “It is my conviction that there is no way to peace—peace is the way.” The Art of Power

Often, humanity makes simple things complex. Peace is not hard. Pease is rather easy. Treat others well. Do not harm others. Be kind. Be nonjudgmental. Be grateful. However, human history, despite having many examples of these actions, is dominated by people treating others poorly, harmfully, unkindly, judgingly, ungratefully. Ultimately, we want peace (at work, in our lives, in the world), we need to embrace the simplicity of peace.

  • “What you are looking for is already in you…You already are everything you are seeking.” You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment

“When I get that new job, I will be happy.” “When I get married, I will be happy.” “When I get respect at the office, I will be happy.” The world is littered with people saying, thinking, feeling such phrases. However, as I wrote earlier, happiness is not a thing that can be brought from external sources. It can only come from internal sources. If one is not happy here, now, no amount of anything will bring it about.

  • “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” Peace Is Every Step

Truly, a revolutionary insight. Why do people stay at a toxic workplace? Why do people stay in toxic relationships? Why do people stay in communities they are not invested in? It’s because change is harder than doing nothing. Familiar pain is more comforting that unfamiliar happiness.

Bonus Quote:

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. When you are born a lotus flower, be a beautiful lotus flower, don’t try to be a magnolia flower. If you crave acceptance and recognition and try to change yourself to fit what other people want you to be, you will suffer all your life. True happiness and true power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, having confidence in yourself.” The Art of Power

I don’t need to add anything. This is beautiful as is. 😊

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved

#HRUnite! Conference 2022: Key Take Aways from an #HRAwesome Event!

Me at the HRUnite! 2022 Conference in Frankenmuth, MI. I’m excited I found it!

“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” – Chinese Proverb

There are those rare events that reinvigorate you, inspire you, help you remember why you do what you do. This is the point of “conferencing!” It is meant to help attendees learn new things while helping them recharge their batteries.

Remember, motivation doesn’t last. But neither does bathing, and it is recommended to do it often! 😊 So, conference going, learning, motivating events should be our norms! If we don’t nurture our growth, we stop growing and eventually whither.

I recently attended #HRUnite! Conference 2022 in Frankenmuth, Michigan. For those unfamiliar with HRUnite!, it is the adventure of Tina-Marie Wohlfield (who has quickly become one of my favorite people in the HR Community, nay, favorite people I know). From the website:

HRUnite! brings together HR professionals at all levels and specialties to provide opportunities to connect and build powerful professional relationships with others in the #HRcommunity. It is an outlet for those trying to enter the profession, advance their careers and surround themselves in a judgement free and supportive community with a purpose to share knowledge, resources, ideas and professional development opportunities in a non-sales solicitation environment.

I have admired HRUnite! from afar the last few years, and I was thrilled to join their conference live and in person. I got to hang out with longtime friends, friends I haven’t seen in real life for years, and new friends I have yet to meet in real life!

Writers take liberties from time to time, but this is not hyperbole – This was one of the best conferences I have ever been to! It was simple, which made the learning much more impactful. It was intimate, which made for better networking. Overall, I highly recommend HRUnite! Conference for any HR pro willing and able (Conference Committee deliberately caps attendance to maintain intimacy) to attend.

In fact, I am incredibly excited to announce I was asked to be a speaker at HRUnite! 2023 July 12-13, 2023! What topic will I speak about? I have a while to decide, but you know it will be, as Tina-Marie would say, #HRAwesome!

Until 2023, however, here are my top key takeaways from the HRUnite! Conference 2022.

  • Always remember that FMLA/ADA overlaps. Any seasoned HR pro knows that just because FMLA ends doesn’t mean that it’s time to terminate the employee. ADA likely kicks in! And let me say, any HR professional worth their weight in gold knows it’s not about terminating and moving on from employees anyway! It’s about HELPING them, SUPPORTING them! But that’s an aside. James Reid reminded attendees that if it is not an undue hardship, additional leave of absence following FMLA exhaustion can be a reasonable accommodation under ADA. What is reasonable amount of time? Well, in classic lawyer speak, it depends. But this reminder is always important to keep top of mind.
  • Leave people better than when you found them. This prompt from Terry Bean can never be said enough. It is a reminder that leadership is for the follower, not the leader. How you do that is through better questions! Terry reminded us of the Toyota Five Why technique.  This is a simple but powerful tool for getting through the symptoms of a problem to reveal its underlying causes, so that one can deal with it once and for all. A lot like an inquisitive toddler, continually asking why is a simple approach to finding the root cause and then addressing it. See below chart for an example. When coupled with active listening, leaders can craft ways to treat people well, listen to them, show them they care and are valued, and hopefully leave them in a better place.
  • HR needs to be on a Performance Improvement Plan. Dear HR, according to Tina-Marie, you’re now on a PIP. Please sign the form after adding any commentary of your own. We will meet again in 30-60-90 days to ensure you meet the plan! Here’s your PIP:
  1. Create processes that correct and support your people.
  2. Make every interaction with your stakeholders incredible regardless how small.
  4. Avoid complacency – inaction costs more than action.
  5. Hold HR to the same standards you hold other leaders/departments.
  6. Acknowledge opportunities, and learn from failure.
  7. Embrace your #HRCommunity (support and network).
  • What’s new on LinkedIn in 2022. Anyone who knows me knows I am a HUGE social media proponent for ALL HR folks! I give talks on the subject! There is so much untapped potential for HR professionals on social media – LinkedIn in particular. Brenda Meller gave an awesome presentation on how HR pros can use LinkedIn as a platform to expand networks, get their name out there, and have fun! For 2022, she discussed that LinkedIn had a lot of new features including profile videos, name pronunciation, gender pronouns, newsletter links, and so much more. I purchased her book Social Media Pie and I cannot wait to dive in and learn more from her!
  • Agile doesn’t mean HR needs to be all things to all people. Dr. Melanie Peacock is one of the most authentically wonderful people I have ever met. She is genuine, positive, warm, funny, and encouraging! She gave a talk about change management for HR professionals, which she wrote a book about. Agility and change go hand in hand. To be agile, we need to not fight against the current of change. To be agile is to be like water. Change is neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so. You can’t deny that we’ve seen A LOT of change these past few years, and it’s not stopping. We are all likely going through some sort of change fatigue. Even those who embrace change need some stability from time to time. The human mind evolved to rely on stability. But to be leaders, HR needs to accept changes are always going to occur, and we need to embrace helping our employees through the journey! This doesn’t mean HR needs to be all things to all folks. It means we help people where they are through vision, creating dissatisfaction with the status quo, and encouraging first steps. Remember, you can lead an employee to the water fountain, but you can’t make them drink. Do your part. That’s what matters!
  • It is NOT hard finding people. It IS hard convincing them to join your company! Tim Sackett is a great follow for those in the recruiting and talent acquisition space. His years of experience and innovation are meaningful. I always try to listen to what Tim Sackett is talking about. His talk at HRUnite! did not disappoint. His point is well taken that there is a lot of talent out there, but it is increasingly hard to convince them to join a crappy company for crappy pay to work with a crappy hiring manager. I can’t say I disagree with him. It’s about managing the disease, not the symptoms. Can’t hire folks? Start with the “why” – like Terry advised – with what’s wrong with your company, and not what’s wrong with the talent.
  • Before you ask how DEI shows up at work, ask how it shows up in your life. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful folks over the years. At every conference, there is always at least one person who shocks me at how awesome they are. Niki Ramirez was that person for me at HRUnite! Her genuine warmth and care was evident the moment she greeted you. It was even more evident in her conference presentation. You could easily tell how much she cared about her fellow human beings, and she went out of her way to provide personal stories to break down walls of vulnerability to make her point. Ultimately, I learned so much from her in such a short amount of time. For one, she reacquainted me with the idea of “discretionary effort,” or the effort one reserves for those they care about. This is a great concept for work. We don’t have to like one another at work, but it does make it easier to work with other people when you do! Ultimately, though, some people don’t deserve respect, but we must always act civilly to others. I agree. And lastly, she mentioned that for many disadvantaged communities, knowing how to show up to a job interview isn’t something they learn. She mentioned that when she is scheduling an interview, she sends candidates an email with a note saying “if you wish to prepare, please review some of these questions which may ne asked.” I thought that is a game changing tip that can help lessen the gap between those who know and those who never had the opportunity to know.
  • HR, be unapologetic! One of the best for last. Dr. Lee Meadows closed the conference with his slide-less presentation. It was old school, and I loved it! His message was one EVERY HR PRO needs to hear. He wants us all to know that sharpening our swords through the daily grind makes us all much better wielders of the steel! HR issues – issue with an “s” – make us better! And, others need to recognize this! He wants HR pros to have a mantra of being unapologetic about our value as professionals (and people). Remember, YOU KNOW HR! You know what you’re talking about! Do not accept being undervalued, being under-recognized! No more apologies. Other leaders in the organization need to know what WE KNOW, and we know people! I am doing Dr. Meadows a disservice by typing this here, as I cannot appropriately or adequately state how his delivery added to his message. It was powerful, inspiring. It made me want to stand up and proclaim loudly: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” Thank you, Dr. Meadows. Your talk has reminded me – I know my shit. I’ll make sure I speak up to let others know.

Ultimately, HRUnite! did what it was supposed to do – it refilled my cup! I’m reenergized in a way I haven’t been in a while. The love, positivity, and kind no-nonsense talks were infectious. I’m hooked again on our profession. It was the message I needed to hear. Thank you, Tina-Marie, the Conference Committee, and all HRUnite! speakers.

Next year I humbly get to take the stage… 😊 July 12-13, 2022… see you then, but until then, remain #HRAwesome!

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved.

Random Thoughts as the World Burns

Photo by Pixabay on

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” — Leo Tolstoy

Note: I wrote this as a random scattering of thoughts following a tumultuous June. Mass shootings, the end of Roe v. Wade, January 6th Hearings – a United States in crisis. It was therapeutic to write… if not projecting any solutions other than continuing to work on myself. I can change nothing but myself. If you want to change the world, change yourself. I learned this from a very intelligent source.

I had a whole bunch of new blog post ideas that I was working on. I was reaching out to folks to discuss their ideas, work on some collaborations, and tease out some really cool posts.

All that just seems… I am unsure… pointless? That isn’t the right word. It’s too strong. I will eventually write about the ideas I had. But for now, there seems to be bigger things going on in the world, and I lack motivation… that’s a me issue, though.

I am an amateur historian. I majored in it in college; and though I didn’t pursue it in grad school, history has always remained with me in spirit. If one studies it intently and purposefully, you will realize there is nothing new under the sun.

Marcus Aurelius reminded himself:

“To bear in mind constantly that all of this has happened before. And will happen again—the same plot from beginning to end, the identical staging.”

As far as American History is concerned, we never were one country. The divide we now see has been with us since 1776 – probably longer. It’s just been masked at different times, subdued during different eras, magnified in others.

South of the Mason-Dixon Line, this territory has always been what it is today – conservative, slow going, religious. Racism has existed here since the advent of chaining Black folks into Constitutional bondage simply because they were Black.

North of the Mason-Dixon Line isn’t “pure,” however. Slavery existed there, too, sometimes well past the time it was abolished. Chicago, for example, is considered one of the most segregated cities in the US, north or south. One of the worst race riots in history happened in East St. Louis, Illinois in 1917.

If you look at the political lines today, they almost mirror the political lines from the Civil War. America was never a country of E Pluribus Unum. Likely, E Pluribus Divisa makes more sense, or turbat societatem – “uneasy alliance.” Like Aurelius had wrote, more eloquently, America today is the same shit, just different century. Our tumultuous time isn’t new. It isn’t a changing America. This is and always has been America.

This recent article by the Atlantic does a superbly better job than I could at outlining this Country’s complex (and sometimes overlooked) history.

Our world continues to appear shattered at the seams, but I am not so certain it was ever tightly woven to begin with. I don’t have answers. All I have is my actions, how I behave. I’m not perfect, but I continue to try as hard as I can to behave with compassion, courage, kindness towards our fellow communities.

Ultimately, I circle back to myself. Where am I? How am I? What am I doing to make myself better, and thus the world around me better? I try to have a micro-focus as anything I do will not change the world. Anything I do will not end racism. Anything I do will not end hatred. Anything I do is ultimately nothing but dust in a universe that is large, unforgiving, and careless.

However, I focus on the micro because I may not end racism, but I can end racism around me – my world. I don’t have to tolerate it, and thus it becomes weakened in my presence. The same for hatred.

“I am convinced that people are much better off when their whole city is flourishing than when certain citizens prosper but the community has gone off course. When a man is doing well for himself but his country is falling to pieces he goes to pieces along with it, but a struggling individual has much better hopes if his country is thriving.” — Pericles, Athens 431 BC.

I believe this quote by Pericles. It seems like this is where we are now, and it’s a place many of us have forgotten. I want only me me me me, and I want it at the expense of everyone else. When the bee suffers, the hive suffers. When the hive suffers, so does the bee. Humanity has seemingly lost sight of this fact. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

I cannot change the world, but I can change myself. I can’t stop the world form burning, but I don’t have to spread the flames. And sometimes, maybe through my actions, I can help put out a little bit of the flame.

Maybe I can start by pushing through and writing those other collaborative pieces I discussed earlier on.

As Ryan Holliday writes:

Be good to each other, that was the prevailing belief of Marcus’s life. A disease like the plague, “can only threaten your life,” he said in Meditations, but evil, selfishness, pride, hypocrisy, fear—these things “attack our humanity.”

“Which is why we must use this terrible crisis as an opportunity to learn, to remember the core virtues that Marcus Aurelius tried to live by: Humility. Kindness. Service. Wisdom. We can’t waste time. We can’t take people or things or our health for granted. 

“Even if we may now lack the kind of sacrificial leadership who can show us the way by example—we can turn to the past to tell us what that leadership looks like and to teach us about all these things we must cherish.”

In other words, be good to one another. We’re all we really have – for now….

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved.

Changing Careers

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” – John C. Maxwell

The Great Resignation is a lot of things. Some of them true, some of them REALLY true. One stat, in particular, strikes me as incredibly interesting!

Last year, 53% of those who quit did so for a career change. That’s incredible to me. Over half of those who quit didn’t move on to the same or similar role – they outright said “NOPE! See you later [insert industry here].”

Have you ever changed careers midstream? I have – sort of. I began my professional career as a nonprofit program director. My job was to ensure the senior citizen bus ran on time. However, along the way, I discovered this little thing called human resources. I nudged my way into a dual role of program director and HR Director. Eventually, I shed the program to focus solely on HR.

My wife changed careers – twice! She was a daycare director, then a nonprofit director, and now she’s a FT early learning teacher.

The point is, I have been around career changes, and I know it’s not without scariness, nor is it without stress and uncertainty.

A friend recently messaged me on LinkedIn. She told me that she left a highly stressful job doing the only thing she’s known her entire career. Unfortunately, the toxic culture led her to lose her love of what she was doing. She wrote:

“You should write a piece about mid-career changes. How does one move from a role they have done for 15 years but has burnt out on. How do they transition? How do you build a resume to help highlight the skills necessary for a new kind of role, etc.. current situation and I think an HR perspective would be cool!”

The HR perspective isn’t that different, I would say, from the general one. HR professionals leave the industry and enter the industry same as other. But one thing we may (or should) have over others is a perspective that skills make the person, not the industry experience. It’s hard to break into new careers without getting someone to give you a shot. Hiring managers get too stuck on “industry” knowledge, instead of focusing on how this person’s skill set or personality will add value. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, as the old saying goes.

HR can help hiring managers get past this by vetting and presenting talent that can be great additions to any team. I think HR professionals should stress skills and personality more with hiring managers than focusing solely on “industry.”

I don’t want to give the impression industry experience isn’t valuable. It is. But in the context of career change, it’s an artificial construct that keeps many from hiring incredible talent simply because they lack “industry” knowledge. Industry knowledge can be taught and learned. It is a concern, but it doesn’t register high on my list. Skills, attitude, thought process, innovation, ideas – these things register higher on my “wants” list. I think we need to focus on potential more than we do. These things are transferable. It just sometimes takes some clever marketing to showcase that having a skill that served X-Industry can also serve Y-Industry. Sometimes BETTER than one would have thought. Unique perspectives cannot, nor should be, overlooked by employers – especially in today’s employment market.

Another thing I think that gets lost is the importance of NETWORKING! People make hires base don relationships. Is it 100% fair? Maybe not always, but it’s not as bad as it many make it out to be, in my opinion. If you know someone and you trust them, of course you want to work with that individual. Nothing wrong with that. So, get out and build a network of people you can lean on in good times and bad.

Another thing that networks do oh so awesome at is offering up their wisdom and guidance and mentoring!

I took to Twitter to ask some of my favorite HR pros their thoughts to get the “HR” perspective.

Here’s what many had to say:

Highlight how your transferable skills can make an immediate impact. Make a plan to deal with the PTSD from your old role. Think deeply about what type of leader you need, & the type of organization you want to join. Clearly define what brings you joy. – @BozemanKimberly

Be very clear on what you want and what you won’t sacrifice on.  Know thyself.  That being said, be realistic and if you have to take a job to pay the bills in between do it. – @mjmullady

Stay #Curious and have a #BiasForAction – the rest will fall in place #Career. BTW #CareerPath is a lagging metric for most humans 😉 – @anisharavind

If it was me and I had an idea of what kind of work would bring me joy, I would make a list of obvious transferable skills, and a sub-list of outside the box transferable skills. Reach out to old pals, and network with new pals. And most importantly do all the things that make you happy to refill the cup that the toxic place drained from you. Family time and silly dog videos on YouTube work wonders. — @TheRealGappa

Is it really a desire for a career change or was the toxic workplace driving need for the career change?

Why? What are you wanting to do now? Are you realistically qualified to make that change? Transferable skills? Can you take the potential hit to salary if the change requires a comp decrease to start? Who do you know in the career to info interview with? Are there prof associations to join and build your network? Are there current connections in your network to chat with? – @murtaughj

Go to therapy to get closure from the toxic work environment and then hire me as their coach to help them move on to the next best thing. — @iamjulieturney

To an extent, the advice depends on factors like: do they know what profession/industry they want to pivot to, do they need to maintain a certain income level while they’re pivoting, etc. Maybe I’m getting too granular? Sorry to answer a question with a question. 🤷🏻️ — @KeithCEnochs

Leaving a toxic place is liberating. Tomorrow is full of possibilities. Take a deep breath & relax. Next, reflect on what worked & didn’t work, and identify your needs for your next role. Reach out to mentors, learn, and read. Be diligent in finding the next role and move on. — @baski_LA

Be realistic about your financial situation. Do you need a stop gap to pay bills? That’s totally okay. Take it and then take the time to decide what’s next. — @mfaulkner43

Overtly understand what U don’t like in current circumstances & ensure that new org won’t have same issues. Be sure 2 compare salary, learning opps & benefits, i.e. total rewards offered. Investigate culture of org you move to. Don’t romanticize current or future situations. — @doublempeacock

1st Visualize: What would your dream job be? Research companies & positions. Who do you know in that company or industry? What are the key requirements? Do you have those skills? If not, develop a plan to gain those new skills. Brush up that old resume. Develop a 90-day plan to land a new job: Outline how many jobs you will apply for each week & how many people you will connect with each week. Update & use #LinkedIn to learn new skills, find new jobs & connect w/ recruiters. #HRCommunity #HRPhilosopher — @ebonyagrey

@RobDromgoole posted a quote by @mikeroweworks

Heal first so you can make good decisions about what you want. Right now, you are clear on what you don’t want, which is also important but not the same. Also, the question is not what you want to be or do; it’s what would you like to try next? — @heatherbussing

Make a list of what you want in your next role & company. Also, make a list of what you want to avoid. Have that laid out before you start looking. Stick to your lists !! It’s just as important for you to interview the company as they are interviewing you. Get a meaningful network of people to help you now AND remain as a resource for you (and you for them) going forward. #Networking is a #Business skill – NOT a #jobseekers skill. Great folks give you encouragement, a sounding board and support. #HRCommunity – @sbrownehr

I was just about to say what Steve said. I say make a list of the “energy givers” – the things you most look forward to doing & that give you energy. Then make a list of the “energy suckers” – the things that suck the energy from you. Once you have your lists, identify the non-negotiables – the things that must absolutely exist & the things that must absolutely not exist. This will help you look at your skills in a new way- what’s transferable – and the type of environment/company you want to work in/for. And in the words of one certain mentor/friend: “Don’t underestimate your ability to create your own position in a company…” — @KyraMatkovichHR

Is it what they did or where they did it? Focus your interview with new orgs on examples of them living their mission, mission & values. An aspect of the former job they loved, that they can be focus of next gig. Transferable skills they can use for a role that will bring joy. – @JeffreyWShapiro

Some thoughts:

1) what is it you want to do and what are the skills/competencies you need?

2) what skills/competencies do you already have – and what are transferable?

3) if you aren’t already, network (and never stop)

4) share your interest and skills with that network. — @tomrdaniels419

So, themes I am seeing:

  • Truly ask yourself what is making you not like where you currently are. Be honest with yourself.
  • Identify those things that bring you joy in work, or things you at least don’t mind. Focus on the next phase of your life through those “life givers.”
  • Focus on the value your skills and attitude bring to an organization.
  • Do not forget the HEALING. Sometimes, if not often times, a toxic workplace stays with you for a long time, much like pollution of the ocean. It takes time to clean that all out.
  • Organize your social media to highlight your value and what you bring to the table.

Ultimately, this is amazing advice. Much of it was brought to you by folks who went through similar situations as you! I’d like to add, based on my own experiences switching careers:

  • Do not go into it thinking it will be quick! It took me over a year to finally find a place to take a shot on my skills (I didn’t have their industry experience). Be patient, as hard as that is when you need to shed toxicity.
  • Don’t forget your value. Don’t convince yourself that you are not what you lack. You are what you are, and that has value!
  • Get used to rejection, but don’t take it personally. Every rejection is a redirection. Easier said than done, but you will end up where you need to be!
  • Don’t settle. Sometimes, you need to be OUT. If that is the case, do it. If you can wait, then ensure you’re getting in with the right folks.
  • Don’t neglect your mental health. Do what you do that gives you life – cooking, reading, exercising, vegging out(within reason). This is needed more than we like to admit.

For those looking to change careers, do it! Life is short. It’s brutishly short. Why use the limited amount of time we have hating your existence. The only person we need to answer to every single day is the person in the mirror. If the Great Resignation has taught me anything, it’s that making that person feel better will make your life (and the people in it) that much better.

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved.

Amplifying Voices

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” – Dalai Lama

My parents divorced when I was seven. Raised by a single mother, my three brothers and I had a challenging life. Was it horrible? No. Not at all! But one cannot discount the negatives that affect fractured families.

Still, I honestly didn’t think much of it. It didn’t matter to me a whole lot. Despite these challenges while growing up, I made it out OK in the end. Not entirely without wounds, but certainly living a life many would consider thriving.

I say all this for one reason. These setbacks I mentioned, none of them were due to my race. Being a White male did not add more burden to an already burdened life.

This is the definition of privilege.

I’ve learned that having privilege doesn’t mean I am a bad person. It doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle or get hurt along the way. I just know that my race played no factor in my struggles.

I didn’t have to worry about being pulled over driving while Black. I didn’t have to worry about having weed I didn’t own or have on my possession mysteriously show up on the ground next to me during a suspicious arrest. I didn’t have to worry that my name held me back on resumes. And, most of all, I didn’t have to worry that I wouldn’t come home that night while getting groceries.

The more I read, the more I listen, the more I research, I am convinced that I need to use whatever means I must educate others, speak up, and ensure I am being a positive influence towards a more just tomorrow. What injures the hive, injures the bee. I want to be good for the hive.

So, this blog post is about amplifying voices. Specifically, it is about amplifying voices of Black and brown professionals for White ears. For anything to change, my fellow White folks need to acknowledge a great many things about American history – about world history. The narrative isn’t what many have been taught. Racism isn’t just real. It’s what this country was built on. Sometimes implicitly. Many times explicitly. Always destructively.

Racism must end, and I am only one man, but I cannot sit idly by and do nothing!

I have a voice and platform. I want to use them to enhance the voices of individuals from whom I have learned. These folks have something worth saying, and I want to share that with others. I am a better person for hearing what they have to say, and many of us will be if we open our minds and silence our own biases and assumptions.

To all White folks – Read. Learn. Get uncomfortable. And then change things.

Note: Apologies for the links. I wanted to embed these posts, but LinkedIn and WordPress don’t play nice together! If anyone knows anything I don’t, happy to learn, but I didn’t want technology to stop my sharing these posts!

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved.

HR Social Hour Half Hour Podcast: A Story

“Personal values are the measuring sticks by which we determine what is a successful and meaningful life.” – Mark Manson

How do you know you “made it?” Depends on what you value.

Personally, I value relationships. I value being of service to others. I value trying to make the world a better place. How did I know I made it in the HR community? It was the day Jon Thurmond reached out to me to ask if I’d be a guest on the HR Social Hour Half Hour Podcast!

I remember exactly where I was when we spoke for the first time. I was in my office and this big voice says “Hey there Paul! So nice to get in touch with you!” I hadn’t met Jon prior to that, but it felt like we had known each other for a long while! I was active in the monthly (at the time) HR Social Hour Twitter Chat. I had listened to him and Wendy Dailey on the HR Social Hour Half Hour Podcast.

Their guests taught me so much. And many were HUGE in the HR community. Steve Browne, Jennifer McClure, Katrina Kibben, Laurie Ruettimann, Mary Faulkner – these were “HR royalty” in my mind. I admired them and was deeply influenced by them. And Jon and Wendy wanted ME to join their podcast, the same podcast where they conversed with these giants in the industry?

It meant so much.

I never told Jon and Wendy, but when they asked me to be on the podcast, I was going through a particularly difficult time in my life. I’m not sure I hid it well or not, but during the interview, I was going through a deep depression. Having this interview helped me. Jon and Wendy helped remind me, even if briefly, that I had value. I had worth.

Being an HR Social Hour Half Hour Podcast alumnus means a lot. It means, I made it!

I asked Jon where he thought the podcast was going when he and Wendy started it. He told me:

“I expected to do 50 episodes with the people we knew from the Twitter chat, we’d have fun talking to them and be done.  I never would have imagined that we’d go on to be pushing 300 total episodes with listeners in more than 125 countries and have guests from literally the other side of the globe take part in our conversations.”

“It’s truly changed my perspective on our profession and community.”

It changed my perspective, too. The HR Community is unlike any other I’ve been a part of. HR pros care for one another, look out for each other, and want what is best.

I’ve had the honor of being on the podcast not once, but twice! I’ve been on other podcasts, as well, and I value all those conversations, but you always remember your first time! 😊

You can listen to all the HR Social Hour Half Hour Podcasts where you can download podcasts. Here’s a link to the complete list, but here are some of my favorite listens! Make sure you download as many episodes as you can, listen as often as you can, and don’t forget to connect, give back, and network!

Tiffany Toussaint

Key Take Away: Tiffany is an X-Files nerd. Also, she’s great at talent acquisition and knows the ins and outs!

Best Line: “Anything related to baseball. Whether it’s coaching my son’s team, cheering him on, trying to cheer him on without yelling at someone from the stands is always enjoyable!”

Anthony Paradiso

Key Take Away: DEI from the LGTBQ+ point of view is one we cannot lose sight of!

Best Line: “If a company is not inclusive, people are not going to stay there.”

Claire Stroh Petrie

Key Take Away: Claire went “the opposite” direction most go in! From corporate HR recruiting to third party HR talent acquisition! More proof to show she’s one of a kind and does things by the “Book of Claire!”

Best Line: “The biggest thing is to explore your options early and network!” (On how young professionals can break into HR).

Jennifer McClure (Disrupt HR Edition)

Key Take Away: Jennifer’s story about founding HR Disrupt is just fascinating! As someone who had the opportunity to present at Disrupt HR event, it’s worth attending and learning more about!

Best Line: “Water is boring.”

Mike Spinale

Key Take Away: Mike changed majors several times in college, which is an amazing reminder that not knowing what you want to do is fine! Just keep doing, and you’ll find what you want and need!

Best Line: “Speak up more. You know what’s right in these situations, and don’t be afraid of who else is in the room. Let them know what you have to say.”

Kim Bozeman

Key Take Away: Kim is a huge advocate for small businesses – she especially feels public policy is skewed too far away form helping them!

Best Line: “Maybe I’m a freak of nature! I love the craziness that is California (HR practice). It keeps me on my toes!”

Shenise Cook

Key Take Away: Her Twitter origin story is the best of all time.

Best Line: “I did one closeout [in payroll processing], and I decided that was not the route I wanted to go again!”

While I chose to highlight these episodes, let me tell you, it was incredibly difficult to do so! The breadth of interviews and people they’ve talked to is staggering! I had to leave out so many episodes I loved listening to!

Again, make sure you download as many episodes as you can, listen as often as you can, and don’t forget to connect, give back, and network!

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved.

Stockholm Syndrome, Toxicity, and Work

“You, what do you own the world? How do you own disorder? Disorder.” – System of a Down, Toxicity

I first heard of Patty Hearst in high school. Her story is an interesting one, if not tragic. She was abducted and held hostage by a terrorist group in San Francisco in the 1970s. The group began robbing banks to fund their activities, and police were baffled when they saw security footage of Patty helping her captors with the robberies! She eventually came to identify with her captors and joined them.

This is a phenomenon known as Stockholm Syndrome, named after events from a 1973 hostage situation in Stockholm, Sweden, where the captors came to identify with and support those who held them hostage – going so far as to not even support the police investigation into their captivity!

Sociologists are not unanimous with their support that Stockholm Syndrome is a legitimate illness, but the condition tends to have the following traits, according to Sundaram’s “Stockholm Syndrome” (2013):

  1. A hostage’s development of positive feelings towards the captor,
  2. No previous relationship between hostage and captor,
  3. A refusal by hostages to cooperate with police and other government authorities, and
  4. A hostage’s belief in the humanity of the captor, ceasing to perceive them as a threat, when the victim holds the same values as the aggressor.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, people who have Stockholm syndrome have:

  • Positive feelings toward the captors or abusers.
  • Sympathy for their captors’ beliefs and behaviors.
  • Negative feelings toward police or other authority figures.

I recently began wondering why people don’t leave jobs they hate. It certainly isn’t the same, but I can’t help but wonder if there’s some sort of workplace Stockholm Syndrome going on with folks who refuse to leave toxic jobs. There may not be positive feelings, but there is little to no action towards leaving a toxic workplace for many folks.

I know you know someone, or have known someone, who hates their job. Yet, they remain rather than find new work. Bitching and complaining register the emotions rather than determination to better their experiences.

Not everyone stays, obviously. What’s the old saying? Something to the effect that the best leave toxicity while those who don’t, stay and underperform causing the toxicity to spread further and deeper until it permeates all facets of the organization.

And isn’t the Great Resignation driven at least partially by folks no longer willing to tolerate toxic work environments?

All true! For the first time in, well, probably ever, employees are not tolerating horrible working conditions. They are leaving in droves, and rightfully so! No one should be subjected to shitty work environments.

But still, what drives people to stay! Because not everyone is leaving, and until the COVID-19 Pandemic, people were not leaving workplaces as quickly or as readily as they are now.

So, why are these folks staying? Is it generational? Is it cultural? Is it something else?

Richard Chambers from the Audit Beacon had a pretty interesting blog post on the topic. He feels people stay because:

  1. People believe they are doing good work despite the culture.
  2. People feel it would be disloyal to leave those who are suffering along with them.
  3. People feel trapped by their circumstances.
  4. Some people don’t want to be held accountable.
  5. People become infected by the culture.

“Some workers are attracted to a toxic culture because it provides protection and advancement for all the wrong reasons.”

This makes sense to me. Many people feed off negativity. It helps them scratch whatever itch they have. Similarly, Thich Nhat Hanh once put into perspective that:

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”

Still, some of this sounds like Stockholm Syndrome. Like, folks know something is off, but they aren’t sure. So instead they buckle in and begin aiding and abetting.

I used to be like this. I had stayed in some past jobs despite the toxic work environment and despite my heath suffering. Why did I do this? Partially because, I think, I didn’t know I was in a toxic place. I was still young and just trying to earn a dollar.

Do you know anyone like that? Maybe it’s you. How is someone to know the environment they are in is bad unless they experience it first? If you were like me and didn’t know, you can turn to others and learn!

Brigette Hyacinth has a good piece she wrote with her 10 Signs of a toxic workplace culture.

  1. Company core values do not serve as the basis for how the organization functions.
  2. Employee suggestions are discarded. People are afraid to give honest feedback.
  3. Micromanaging -Little to no autonomy is given to employees in performing their jobs.
  4. Blaming and punishment from management is the norm.
  5. Excessive absenteeism, illness and high employee turn over.
  6. Overworking is a badge of honor and is expected.
  7. Little or strained interaction between employees and management.
  8. Gossiping and/or social cliques.
  9. Favoritism and office politics.
  10. Aggressive or bullying behavior.

I’ve experienced a lot of these in the workplace over the years. And yet, I stayed. So, maybe my point in exploring this topic is less about other folks’ motivations, and it’s more about mine. Regardless, isn’t that why we read and write? To learn from mistakes of others and to make sense of the world?

Ultimately, why folks stay in toxic environments should not be any of my business. It’s interesting to me, but there really isn’t anything for me to do about it. People make their own way in the world, and that sometimes means staying in situations that are self-harming.

The only goal I have is to ensure I use whatever influence I have to build positive, supportive, and kind workplace cultures. I can control what I do for others – and for myself. If that means leaving a shitty workplace, then it means I’ve grown and learned. It means I’ve become aware of being kinder to me, by not allowing others to destroy my inner sense of self-worth.

Self-recognition is the key to avoiding Stockholm Syndrome at work. Recognize who you are. Recognize what you can control. And recognize that you always have a choice. Always.

Marcus Aurelius wrote that we should “Leave other people’s mistakes where they lie.” Our job as HR folks shouldn’t be figuring out why folks stay in bad work environments. We should figure out how to destroy bad work environments so people don’t have to leave.

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved.

People Leaders, Beware the One Ring of Power

The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it. – Galadriel, The Lord of the Rings

Something is indeed in the water. It is in the earth, the air. Something was lost, and people in power do remember it and are trying to get it back.

Is it the One Ring of Power? One ring to rule all employees? Kind of.

What a lot of employers seem to want back is their illusion of control – where people work, how people work. They care more about these artificial things than what actually matters – the work results themself!

This is conjecture. I haven’t done any deep dive studies. I just notice things. I pay attention. There just seems to be a attitude of “when we all get back to the office….” Hell, even the President of the United States stated something to this effect during his State of the Union!

But those folks are wrong, as is the President. Returning to the office is about calming an ego. It is not about “culture” or “symbiosis” or any other word thrown out there. Return to the office is about control and about ego.

That’s it. That’s the tea, that’s the tweet, as some may say.

I recently shared a post on LinkedIn about work from home. It went viral!

See original post here.

Over half a million views, almost 11,000 reactions, almost 1,200 shares, and over 200 comments (and counting) – obviously, it struck a chord with folks.

And why is that? Overwhelmingly, the comments and reaction has been SUPPORTIVE of allowing folks the work flexibility they’ve adapted to. Ultimately, if the work is being done and at an acceptable level, then what’s the issue with continuing down the path of work flexibility?

“Love this! When did we lose sight of paying employees for results instead of their time?”

“Am I the only one who finds it odd that results weren’t the measurement of success to begin with?”

“I was discussing this concept with a colleague late last year and they weren’t grasping the concept at all. I couldn’t think of an easier way to explain it. People are so focused on, ‘But what if they finish all their work in less than 40 hours? I should give them extra work! That is how people eventually get promotions!!!’ But that isn’t, is it? That is how people get overworked, and taken advantage of for years with no advancement because they’ll do more work for the same pay as their peers.”

“One more time for those in the back! Focus on results, not the clock – such an important point!!”

“I’m also convinced Managers don’t like people working from home because they fear they are going to have to manage differently. They can’t just look up and see that they are at their desk. They may have to engage more directly and make individual contact to see how people are going, what they need to succeed, etc.”

These were some of the comments. Not all were supportive. Some comments were sarcastic strawmen arguments against allowing work from home and flex scheduling. Thus is the internets, so spoke Zarathustra. Regardless, the overwhelming majority supported the idea of allowing employee choice.

I am an optimist. I never used to be, but I trained myself to be one over time. I do believe in people. What I don’t trust is ego and power. Both corrupt. So, this optimist hates to think it, but Laurie Ruettimann is right. Work is broken. It’s beyond repair if people leaders cannot figure out how to get work done in new ways, only to try reverting back to the old paradigm the moment an opportunity presents itself.

Like Russia invading Ukraine, old world people leaders are trying to hold onto a past that no longer exists. They are trying to force THEIR world views on a world that doesn’t want that outdated view, nor can support it.

And we wonder why people don’t want to go back? Who wants to be around a system that is broken? Much like the KGB of old, these misguided at best (and failed at worst) leaders want to force breadlines, bank runs, and obtuse morals on their people against their will for no other reason other than it satisfies an ego that cannot be controlled.

Work Sucks. Here’s The Real Reason You Hate Your Job

26 Shocking Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Statistics [2021 Update]

Being a Working Parent Sucks Right Now

Why many Black employees don’t want to return to the office

Why Managers Matter

Why forcing employees to return to work can be a bad idea

This isn’t necessarily new. It has been simmering for decades. The Pandemic just brought this environment to the consciousness of employees. And guess what? Employees are no longer taking this abuse laying down.

No More Working for Jerks!

Starbucks union campaign pushes on, with at least 16 stores now organized.

Restaurant workers find greener pastures in coding, hairstyling and auto manufacturing

A Two-Year, 50-Million-Person Experiment in Changing How We Work

And worst of all, there’s a seemingly larger than should be contingency of people leaders covering their eyes, plugging their ears going “Nah nah nah nah nah! I can’t hear you! Nah nah nah nah nah!”

Fed-up managers declare WFH is over, as 77% say they’d fire you or cut your pay for not coming back to the office

This self-imposed childish ignorance is laughable – if it wasn’t such a threat to the overall wellbeing of workers. It’s fact, not fiction, that flexible work provides people with health and wellbeing that the old ways of working could not, so long as it’s done right. But then again, work is broken. If workplace leaders are truly concerned about the health of the employee, then flexible work schedules, work from home, hybrid scheduling, all of it, would not be under attack.

Forcing folks to come back to an office is not about the work. It never has been. It’s about control! It’s about ego! It’s about power dynamics. It’s about managers that don’t know how, nor care to know how, to manage a dispersed, empowered team.

Ultimately, yes, the employer needs to ensure that work is being done, that it’s being done well, and it is bringing value to an organization. I am not saying that those things should be ignored. No! I am saying that those things can be enhanced when an employee is allowed freedom, control, and creativity! This comes from the aforementioned work arrangements.

And honestly, good managers can get good work from their staff under any circumstance – in office or at home. The workplace matters not. It’s about results. Manage the person where they are, not where you want them to be – both physically and metaphysically speaking.

When organizational leaders refuse to entertain different ways of doing things simply because it’s easier to revert to old habits, then they take the risk of destroying their organization. People will leave. And those that don’t leave will not be motivated to provide the best quality of work.

Organizational leaders need to challenge themselves to think beyond what they know. They need to embrace the difficult. Let go of the ego, or it will convince you to jump into Mount Doom after a One Ring of Power that has been cast into the  volcanic fires – forever destroyed, yet foolishly held onto as one melts away clutching a Precious that never was.

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved.

Nine Quotes by Marcus Aurelius That Could Change the Way You Do HR (and Life)

“Marcus Aurelius is the noblest of all the men who, by sheer intelligence and force of character, have prized and achieved goodness for its own sake and not for any reward.” – Michael Grant, Historian

It’s no secret that the Stoics have deeply influenced my personal and professional life. When I need wisdom, I turn to the writings of these ancient philosophers, as well as their contemporary heirs.

Other than Ryan Holiday and his incredible breadth of Stoic works, few other Stoic philosopher are likely as influential or as widely read today as Marcus Aurelius.

Marcus Aurelius was Emperor of the Roman Empire from 161 to 180 CE. Known as one of the Five Good Emperors, his reign helped usher in much prosperity for the Roman people. Equally as impressive is that he is considered one of the few real-world examples of the Philosopher King that Plato so longed for. He was called “The Philosopher” in many ancient history texts, such as Historia Augusta.

Aurelius wrote what came to be known as Meditations over the course of his life, most likely near the end when he was on the battlefields in present day Austria. The book as we know it today is a collection of his journals that survived after his death. They were never meant to be published or shared, but by happenstance and Providence, we have this wisdom today.

Much like a Christian turning to the Bible, a Muslim turning to the Koran, or a Buddhist turning to their respective Buddhavacana, we can turn to the Meditations when we need some comfort, wisdom, or guidance.

The best thing about Meditations is that it’s not the “word of God” but the word of a very mortal, flawed human being written down in the morning or evening during his most private moments of solitude and reflection. I believe this makes it more relatable and applicable to our life. If the most powerful person in the world had a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, then it’s OK that so do we!

Meditations has inspired millions over time – from St. Augustine of Hippo, American Founder George Washington, former president Bill Clinton, the rappers Twista and Lupe Fiasco, former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, actresses Brie Larson and Anna Kendrick, and so so many more. It is a collection of wisdom written by a flawed man, read by flawed people – all trying to be less flawed.

That’s the beauty of the work. We keep trying to be better every single day. We will fall. We will stumble. We will fail. But though that failure, we get better and become better.

As I have maintained since day one of writing this blog, philosophy offers professionals a difference making outlook on life, work, love, and everything. And thankfully, philosophy is more than stuffy textbooks in a college classroom, as Meditations shows.

Philosophy is about living one’s best life and acting on what is right. Stoicism especially teaches this. So, in essence, I take that to heart.

Doing HR right is an act of philosophy to me. It is always important to create space to think, put things into perspective, and act on what is right. Marcus Aurelius has helped me with this!

Here are nine powerful quotes from Meditations that can help us all become better professionals, and people!

Note: There are numerous translations of the ancient text. I used the one by Gregory Hays. It is contemporary and easy to read by eschewing the “thous” and “thees” that make such texts difficult to read. Regardless, any translation can be a great starting point to deepen one’s understanding of the values that Aurelius tried to hold himself to. S/O to O’Brien McMahon for the recommendation!

  1. “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil.” – Meditations 2.1

Even Emperors, or especially Emperors, must face the daily barrage of people issues. People are messy. They have different priorities, sometimes conflicting priorities. They are annoying. They are backstabbing. They lie, cheat, steal. But people are our profession in HR, and we wouldn’t be in it if we didn’t know that they are also good. People need help, and we need people. We are here to bridge the gap between wrong and right. In our profession, we help them understand “good” and “evil,” or more contemporarily, we help them understand the culture, the expectations, and their potential! Just keep reminding yourself we’re here to guide them. Don’t let the 20% of your people ruin the other 80% of your experiences!

  • “The tranquility that comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think, or do. Only what you do.” – Meditations 4.18

This lesson is one learned through time and age, except for those very special personalities and young rebels. To listen to yourself over naysayers is something we can all hope to achieve. Whether it is finally taking that leap to start your own business, or taking the time to learn a new hobby, or fighting for that policy you know would benefit the people and the organization – listening to yourself starts with trusting yourself. Trust.

  • “The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.” – Meditations 5.16

In ancient Rome, purple symbolized the Imperium, and it has stuck with Western culture since antiquity. The purple dye came from the innards of shellfish from present day Lebanon. This comment is reference to that process. Much like dying wool, our minds are dyed by the colors we provide it. This isn’t just Stoic philosophizing. There are scientific studies that show people become what they think. The brain rewires itself to meet reality – or what we believe reality to be. This is powerful. Believe in yourself, as hokey as it sounds, and you will succeed because YOU define what success is. Self-fulfilling prophecies are amazing things. If you are a King. Be a King. If you are a Queen. Be a Queen. If you are a Monarch. Be a Monarch. And you will become royalty.

  • “Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and convers to its own purposes and obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way [emphasis mine].” – Meditations 5.20

This phrase changed my life. I’ve written about its influence and meaning a lot here, here, here, and here.

  • “Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter.” – Meditations 6.2

This one is both inspirational and frustrating. YES! Let’s do the right thing! It’s so easy! Except, what is the right thing to do? Sometimes, it is easy. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t invade Ukraine. Other times? Do we need to have layoffs? Will the company go under if we don’t? Do we hide this from employees, or do we be open about it? Sometimes, the right thing to do is not so easily known. However, the goal is always to strive towards doing the right thing with the information, feeling, and reason we have at the time. In the future, it may be proven true. Or, it might be proven that it wasn’t the right thing. Ultimately, we need to keep trying and keep our shared humanity at the center of making the decisions we make. Speaking of…

  • “My city and state are Rome… But as a human being? The world. So for me, ‘good’ can only mean what’s good for both communities.” – Meditations 6.44

“HR is just a shill for corporate.” Anyone in HR has heard this in some form or another! An employee once told me “I know where your loyalties lie.” In an uncharacteristic moment, I let my emotions get the better of me, and said rather curtly “You don’t know anything about my loyalties, so please don’t say that to me again.” The employee backed down, but still that cut me deep because despite all my work over my tenure to be as employee friendly as I could, I was still seen as the employer’s shill. This phrase means a lot to me because, yes, I am on the employers’ side, but I am also on the employees’ side. One cannot exist without the other! Why is this such a hard concept to grasp? We can have a mutually beneficial relationship. Life is not a zero-sum game. Ultimately, what is good for all is the direction HR should lead.

  • “You don’t have to turn this into something. It doesn’t have to upset you. Things can’t shape our decisions by themselves.” – Meditations 6.52

In today’s world of “hot takes” and “instant outrage” and “cancel culture,” it’s nice to know that we really don’t have to have an opinion on every little (or “big”) thing. That’s powerful. Do we really need hot takes on everything!?! Having no opinion on trivial garbage is so freeing! And it leaves us space to have opinions on what really matters! The decision to have an opinion is just that, a decision! Opinions are decisions, and we can change our opinions, or decide not to have them. There’s so much going on in the world, that being discerning with our thoughts adds more value than having a half-baked opinion on everything.

  • “Don’t be ashamed to need help.” – Meditations 7.7

The Emperor of the Roman Empire, one of the most powerful and consequential states in world history, wrote to himself that it’s OK to need help. If this man can accept help from others, why can’t you? Are you so proud? Are you so much better? No. All people need help, and we need to be more open and accepting of that – not only with others, but with ourselves. The mental health crisis in America and the world is only going to get worse with the continued fallout of COVID the renewed threat of nuclear holocaust. Just be kind to yourself and others. It’s OK to not be OK. Roll with it.

  • “To do harm is to do yourself harm. To do an injustice is to do yourself an injustice – it degrades you. And you can also commit injustice by doing nothing.” – Meditations 9.4-5

Now, seemingly more than ever, HR is at the apex of organizational right and wrong. If HR has historically been a gatekeeper, even if we despise and revile that term and role, then let’s make our gates open only for what is right and just. When HR acts inappropriately towards others, they hurt themselves. When they act on what is right for others, they do good for themselves. So, do good! Build policies for real DEI+ Belonging advancement. Build a culture that welcomes trusting and engaging with employees. Open the doors for pay transparency and pay equity. All of it while closing the door to bigotry, harassment, and social non-acceptance. HR is pivotal for changing our culture for the better. Accept the cause and take it up and run!

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved.

Agrippa’s Trilemma and the Meaning of Life

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The meaning of life is that it is to be lived, and it is not to be traded and conceptualized and squeezed into a pattern of systems.— Bruce Lee

Google “the meaning of life” and 1,260,000,000 results appear. It’s safe to say that this is a mystery many folks want to figure out. As with many other existential questions – like where do we come from?, what are we?, and where are we going? – the questions of what is the meaning of life is likely unanswerable.

Or, better yet, it likely has as many answers as there are humans on the planet. Despite his recent negative news coverage (some of it deserved, some of it not), Joe Rogan does have interesting and thoughtful guests on his podcast. Surprisingly, or maybe not if I were paying closer attention, Mike Tyson was an awe-inspiring guest, who had a thoughtful response about discipline that really made me reevaluate how I tackle my own self-discipline.

For the purposes of this piece, I recently saw a LinkedIn post with a minute clip of Rogan interviewing Naval Ravikant, a successful entrepreneur and investor. In the discussion, Ravikant brought up Agrippa’s Trilemma, also known as the Münchhausen trilemma.

Essentially, the Trilemma sets out to ask “is it possible to prove any truth?” Essentially, according to the argument, no, it is impossible to prove the validity of an argument. Ironic, no???

Broken out, the Trilemma states no argument is provable because the why can never be answered because of the following flaws:

  1. Circular Reasoning: A logical fallacy in which the reasoner begins with what they are trying to end with. “A is true because B is true; B is true because A is true.” Example: The HR Director told us lying to the boss is bad. Why is lying to the boss bad? Because the HR Director told us. So, lying is bad!
  • Infinite Regress: Those who have children can likely relate to this next example, or those who have an employee who is never satisfied with your response! A child asks a question. The parent gives a response. The child asks “why,” and the parent answers. The child asks “why,” and the parent answers. This continues FOR-EV-ER! The answer in the loop only exists because of the previous answer, and there is no answer that “why” cannot be a response.
  • Axiomatic Statements: This is a statement that is taken to be true, to serve as a starting point for further reasoning and arguments. It is a statement that doesn’t require proof! It is self-explanatory! You have likely heard conversations where someone says – maybe you – “it’s common sense.” Common sense demands that the person is aware of and familiar with certain things in the environment! Another is anything to do with “God” or religion. Maybe the “math says this” or “science says this.” When we hear these statements, we are to assume that what follows, or preceded, is true based on pre-existing knowledge that doesn’t require any other proof!

I will ironically ask, why is all this important? Raag Trivedi writes it is because of epistemology, or the study of how humans acquire knowledge and justify our arguments.

“We live in times where we are surrounded by all kinds of news. Media is playing a strong role on the global platform. Epistemology as a field, stresses on the importance of research and fact-checking for the individual. While we have the presence of media to provide us with information and shape our opinions, we should not alienate ourselves from this process.”

These ideas are important in the field of human resources, especially logical Fallacies –flawed, deceptive, or false arguments that can be proven wrong with reasoning. Knowing logical fallacies can help you to navigate future disputes with bosses and colleagues without descending into anger or judgement. By building better arguments and recognizing flaws in others’ logic, your work will be enhanced along with the organization!

Also important is the idea of how people learn! Today, we read article after article about how the future success of all organizations hinges on the training provided to employees, managers especially. Knowing how people learn best is the key to ensuring that these trainings don’t end up as fun exercises that are quickly forgotten once they leave the training room and reenter the workplace.

For what it’s worth, I currently believe the meaning of life is to live. It’s that simple in my mind. We are put on this earth, or we randomly find our selves on this earth, so we should make the most of it while we’re out and about! Just live. Do good by you and yours, and don’t hurt others. Ultimately, however, that seems easier said than done for many – yours truly included.

People are flawed. Fallible. It’s best to let them find their own truth, so long as it’s grounded in some form of logic and reasonableness. Unless you’re the Pope speaking ex cathedra. Shrug!

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