Mar 22, 2017
Summary & Ideas for Action
Co-hosts Jan Rutherford and Jim Vaselopulos interview
Liz Ryan - the CEO and founder of Human
Workplace. According to Liz, the mistrust of employees is baked
into organizations. Liz says, “It’s toxic, it’s sick, and
it’s bad for profitability, for shareholders, for employee health,
and the planet.”
Liz advocates that leaders need to “be human,” and to make every
workplace a human workplace. Trust your people. Liz
considers infrastructure, control mechanisms, and performance
appraisals, to be disgusting. She says It’s a bad message: “You are
not a fully fledged, adult, independent, creative, vibrant, amazing
person, when you’re at work.”
Listen in to learn more about humanizing our
[1:51] Liz waited tables while in school. She dropped
out, moved to Chicago, and found she was too young to wait tables
in Illinois. She became an office worker, and later moved into HR,
with no experience. HR workshops and seminars taught her the laws,
but she felt that HR practices did not create a great working
environment, or take really good care of employees and
[3:38] In her first HR job, Liz’s efforts to improve
the workplace and hire great people accompanied a growth in annual
sales from $1 million to $200 million. Her second HR job was with a
tech startup. While she was there, the company grew from $15
million in annual sales, into a $3 billion company.
[6:21] Liz objects to the theory of HR’s and leaders’
roles being to guard against bad things that could potentially
happen, rather than to hire people who are unlikely to do bad
things. The mistrust of employees is baked into organizations. It’s
toxic, it’s sick, and it’s bad for profitability, for
employee health, and the planet. Liz calls this entrenched system
[9:54] Be human. Make every workplace a human
workplace. Trust your people. Liz considers infrastructure, control
mechanisms, and performance appraisals, to be disgusting. It’s a
bad message: “You are not a fully fledged, adult, independent,
creative, vibrant, amazing person, when you’re at work.”
[10:58] The transactional nature of employment can
obscure the real rewards beyond the check. If employees are paid
fairly decently, they appreciate different motivations, such as
intellectual growth and creative challenges. People need to connect
to their own power source, whatever that is. Work can be art. See
Liza’s article on rewarding employees for free. She wrote it in
response to multiple requests.
[14:30] Liz sees a paranoia, that when we let
employees work from home they’re going to be watching daytime soaps
and eating bonbons. In 2017, we are using an 1850s employment model
of a factory with supervisors watching from a catwalk, as in a
prison — it is hierarchical, bureaucratic “terror.”
[17:35] The fix is to embrace your power. You can
choose another job. You can speak up, or hold your tongue, because
you choose to, not out of fear. Whether you are entry-level, or in
the C-suite, you have the power to create a human workplace around
you. That is adulthood. You are the CEO of your own life.
[19:39] Liz says you must understand your path, and
get that vision of what your life is supposed to be. For her,
focusing on what you want, and where you are going, is not about
sacrifice, but about choice and determination. Really listen to
your gut and your heart, and follow them. Take a step every single
day. Come out of your comfort zone.
[21:50] Liz tells how she found her voice. She was
shot down for using calligraphy on internal mail. She got no
answers for questions about the roles of men and women at work. She
asked questions in her HR role that had no handbook answers. She
felt so strongly about things, that she just started speaking out.
The job is to be a human, not a bureaucrat. Liz did HR from the
heart, organically, and in the moment.
[32:27] The story of Kitty Genovese’s murder, where
37 witnesses didn’t act, is compared to the workplace, where we
have “permission” not to act, when it’s not our job. Workplace
hierarchy gives us permission to mistreat people. Instead, take
permission to treat people humanely. Run your career as a business.
Do not tolerate things in your business that should not be
tolerated. Do not abdicate control.
[37:07] Liz asserts that somebody restricting your
words and acts, because they pay you, is out of bounds. If you say
something, it’s personal, and it will have a personal impact on
someone. If you fear to say something important to you, say it
anyway. It will work out better for you, even if you lose your
[41:51] Liz tells a couple of frameshift stories
involving young people, to illustrate a point. Generation Y
employees are not impressed by authority and tradition, but want
opportunities to work to their strengths. Not every employee has
every strength, but the strengths they have can be great.
Books Mentioned in This Episode
"Ten Ways to Reward Your Employees — For Free," by Liz
Reinvention Roadmap: Break the Rules to Get the Job You Want
and Career You Deserve, by Liz Ryan
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert B.
Liz Ryan’s LinkedIn Bio
I was a Fortune 500 Human Resources SVP for eons. I've launched
HR departments for several successful startups. While I was
building HR functions from the ground up, I first questioned and
then rewrote the practices for HR, recruiting and leadership in
My vision for a workplace focused on people
became the Human Workplace in 2012.
Human Workplace is a publishing, coaching and
consulting firm whose mission is to reinvent work for
Our teaching and speaking, writing and artwork
coalesce to turn conventional leadership, employee communication,
recruitment and HR on its ear. The future of work is human, and
Human Workplace employers use our curriculum, tools, coaching and
private consultation to re-launch their cultures in the 21st
century mode, to meet the challenges of the new-millennium
I started writing about the workplace in 1997,
with a column for the Chicago Sun-Times. Now you can find my
stories and artwork here on LinkedIn, on Forbes, TIME, Business
Week, Kiplinger's Finance, Yahoo!, Inc., Huffington Post, Denver
Post, Harvard Business Review and other publications.
We launched Human Workplace to teach the
practices that I've been speaking and writing about for years.
Human Workplace is a global movement to humanize work, with
millions of numbers around the world.
I live in Boulder, Colorado. My husband and I
have five angelic bratty kids.I sing opera and draw the images you
see in our columns, eBooks and lessons.