how to have fun at work

Is Work Supposed to Be Fun?

We think work should be fun. We think it has to be fun! Who ever created anything amazing when they weren’t having a great time?

Here is Liz Ryan’s story “How to Have Fun at Work” on LinkedIn.

Leave us a comment and tell us what you love about your work. If you don’t love the work you’re doing now, or if you’re not working, leave a comment and tell us what you plan to love in a future job. We want to hear from you!


Enough with the Zombie Resume Language!

Here’s a story about putting a human voice in your resume, complete with a handout that shows a BEFORE resume (written in typical Darth Vader resume language) and a Human-Voiced Resume. Take a look! Leave a comment and let us know what you think about putting a human voice in your own resume.

Downloadable Tool: Ten Ways to Get Unstuck

Ten Ways to Get Unstuck download  Here is a new download, “Ten Ways to Get Unstuck.” Use it for yourself, or at a staff meeting to spark a discussion about getting stuck and unstuck. Leave a comment and tell us which topics you’d like us to cover in future downloads!

Enjoy your week!



Executive Search with a Human Voice

I’ve worked with search people (a/k/a headhunters) since the mid-eighties. Some search folks, like my buddies Bob & Steve in Chicago, were my best mentors and advisors during the years that I was coming up as an HR person.

I liked the swashbuckling nature of search. I liked the fact that the best search people could put a hiring manager together with a candidate without seeing the job spec. I liked the fact that sometimes while I was describing a job opening to a search person, they’d say “I have the guy. I have the guy.” They knew what I wanted better than I knew it myself.

I never thought about doing search myself. I didn’t like the transactional nature of it. Let’s be honest: in a lot of circles, executive search is considered tawdry. In the unspoken hierarchy of work, from the tippy-top executive boardroom to the shop floor, search is often considered a low-level-floor affair. It isn’t different when it’s retained search for a $450K position. It’s still headhunting, with all the connotations that come with that designation.

Also, since we’re being honest, a disproportionate number of the search people I met over the years were arrogant jerks. How well can they treat their candidates, I wondered, if they treat people like me so badly? I was naive. I didn’t realize that corporate HR people are seen as the devil in search circles. The idea, I guess, is that corporate HR folks like me kept search people away from the hiring managers they wanted to reach. I couldn’t care less about the search fees – the departments paid them, not me.

If a department manager wanted to use a search guy, I’d say “Be my guest.” When arrogant search folks reviled me, they didn’t realize that the hiring managers had already said “Please, be the gatekeeper. Keep this jerk away from me.”

The awesome, human search guys, like Bob & Steve that I mentioned before, never had trouble getting through to the hiring managers. They would ask me “How can we help you?” I would ask them “How can I help you?” There is always room for conflict in business, if you want to find it. There is always room for collaboration, if you’re open to that.

When I left corporate HR, the very first job offer I got was from a search firm. I’ve had a few more of those overtures through the years. I was busy writing and doing online community things and speaking about the nature of work and more recently, about the Human Workplace. Then my colleague Molly and I got a heartfelt request from a client. Please, please, he said, fill this job for me. Molly and I went out for coffee to talk about it. We could do that, we said. It would  be fun. It would be good learning.

One of our favorite sayings at Human Workplace is “everything is fractal.” The more closely we look at a topic, the more is revealed. We did the search. We listened to the client, and asked him a million questions. We walked around the facility and talked to everyone we met. We sat in meetings. We led a few meetings. Aha, we said. We get this place.

We ran an ad. We developed a search protocol. The first thing we agreed on is that we won’t do a search for a manager who insists on X, Y and Z. No formal job requirements. Tell us your movie! We said. Our clients are dying to tell us their movies, anyway. Of course, we put a human voice in the job ads. The second thing we agreed on was this: we won’t ask questions of the job candidates. We’ll ask them to ask us questions, instead. We learn so much more that way!

We interviewed a zillion people. There was no top-down energy. Tell us what you want, we said. Tell us what’s important to you. We stopped some of the interviews halfway through and switched to career coaching mode. This isn’t the right assignment for you, we said. Two of the folks we interviewed for that first search got good jobs and thanked us for the advice. It is fractal, we said.

We made one more decision. We’ll present the candidates to the hiring manager one at a time. The CEO who hired us first was fine with that, and so have our clients been since then. Look, we say. We think we heard what you want, and here is the candidate who resonates with that message. If this isn’t the person, we have an important conversation in front of us, because we missed something in your movie.

Now that we have steeped in the search teacup, we are horrified that a search person would say “Meet these five candidates and pick one.” How is that ethical? I was party to searches like that, for my whole corporate HR career. We don’t like that approach, now that we have thought about it, pulled back the truck to get a longer view, and talked about it endlessly. As a search person, either you heard the hiring manager or you didn’t. We aren’t going to put five or seven candidates through the interview process, and put a hiring manager and his or her peers through the same process, only to say “Look at the fine selection!” These are people we’re talking about.

In a perfect world, every hiring manager would interview one person and hire that person. Whoever helped the hiring manager find that person — an internal HR person, a fellow employee, or a search partner – would be pleased that the first candidate interview was also the last. Why would we want to do search any other way?

There are a lot of good ways to learn about the talent marketplace, but dragging people into job interviews for the sake of talent-market-research is not one of them.

So that is it. Our search business is called Human Workplace Search, a division of Human Workplace. We only look for hard-to-find people, because it would be stupid to spend search fees on easy-to-find people. One client told us “It is actually executive coaching sold as search,” a good observation. That is okay with us. We are after human energy and healthy organizations, so search and team-building and curriculum and leadership development all look the same to us, anyway.

Before long we’ll build a resume-uploader thingy so that job-seekers can get their resumes to us easily. If you want to talk about a job opening that is vexing you, you can reach us here. 

Here is the Human Workplace Search brochure.

Welcome to the Human Workplace

Welcome to the Human Workplace! If you haven’t already joined us as a Human Workplace member, please jump here to join. (It’s free.)

Join as an individual member

Join for your organization

Here are a few new resources for you, and five ways to participate in the Human Workplace conversation:

Downloadable Human Workplace Resources

Networking Planning Tool: What Happened with Your Network in 2012?

Our new planning tool for individuals and employees, “What Happened with your Network in 2012?” is downloadable at this link.

Please share the tool with your employees and friends!

We would like to help people start thinking about their networks and their personal branding half as much as they think about the work on their desks (one-quarter as much would be okay, too).

Look for a new downloadable tool every week. Our tools in the works have to do with looking back at 2012, making personal and team leadership plans for 2013, and helping new employees come up to speed. Let us know what sorts of tools you’d like to see from us in 2013!

New Articles by Liz Ryan, from the Denver Post and Harvard Business Review

Here are some of Liz’s latest articles:

How to Play in the Human Workplace

 Here are four ways to join the Human Workplace conversation:


Thanks again for joining us as one of our first 100 members. Please write back and let us know how we can help you in your career or your organization.

Enjoy your week!





Liz Ryan

CEO & founder

Human Workplace



Redesigning work for humans

Inventing the Human Workplace

Human Workplace is live! Thank you for visiting, and huge thanks to everyone who helped us get up and running. Here’s the backstory.

I was an HR person forever, in corporate America and in startups. Almost from day one in my HR career, I thought “Someone needs to dig into this system, and figure it out.” I saw wonderful things – creativity and community and spark and joy – at work, and I saw awful things playing out too – jealousy and mistrust and unnecessary (not to mention talent-repelling and productivity-squashing) conflict. I was dying to write and speak and teach about all of it, but I didn’t have time. I was too busy stemming the tide of chaos every day.

In 1997 the company I worked for, U.S. Robotics, was sold, and I was free to try something new. I started writing a column for the Chicago Sun-Times. I wrote about workplace and career advice. I hadn’t quite found my voice as a writer, back then, but I plugged away at it. When blogs came into being, I started a blog. I began to write for Business Week Online and the Huffington Post and other publications. I started to speak about the changing workplace and the dramatic shifts in work and life and their intersection.

In 1999 I launched the online community ChicWIT, which became WorldWIT, the largest online community for professional women at that time. By 2007 we had 60,000 members and fantastic sponsors, but no central message or theme. I was frustrated. I folded up WorldWIT and launched Ask Liz Ryan, not quite sure what the answers (or even the questions) might be. I dug into job search, starting with how to get a job and leading inevitably to the question “Why is it so hard for job-seekers? Why is the hiring process so broken?” That inquiry led to the Human Workplace idea, but not without a huge intervention from my friend (and Human Workplace Director of Strategy) Molly Campbell, who kept telling me to pull back the truck, get a taller ladder, and enlarge the frame.

Our mission at Human Workplace is simple. We are re-designing work for people. We are re-writing the practices for employers, for universities teaching career topics, and for individuals on their career paths. We began with the Human-Voiced Resume™ and Pain Letter™ practices, and moved on to Interviewing with a Human Voice™ for folks on both sides of the interview table. Now we are working on a broader re-invention of recruiting practices, beginning with the definition for a new role and continuing on through job posting (that’s our Put a Human Voice in That Job Ad™ program), resume screening, interviewing and offer negotiation. This is our favorite thing to do.

Our partners are interested in reimagining work for the 21st century, the same way we are. Valerio DeWalt Train, our launch partner, is the most staunch advocate for creativity at work and the design of space for innovation that we have ever seen. I’m excited to interview Joe Valerio and his team members and share their ideas about workflow and design for humans with the Human Workplace community. Watch this blog for details on that conversation as it unfolds.

I am excited to hear your ideas and incorporate your observations into the Human Workplace project. Please reach us here and/or join our discussions on Facebook and LinkedIn. Individual membership in Human Workplace will always be free, and membership for organizations at the Collaborator level is also free during our launch. Please help us spread the word and let us know how we can support you in growing your flame!



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