HR is Hard, But Only If You Do It Right

XKCD is one of my favorite webcomics.  I’ve talked about it before, but the this comic about Marie Curie made me think a more than laugh…

Although not permanently


Yes, good stuff indeed.  And a nice little punchline at the end.  (Did you hover over the image for that alt text punchline?  Don’t miss that one.)  But there is a line here that really caught my attention and made me stop.  There in the bottom left panel.

“You don’t become great by trying to be great.  You become great by wanting to do something, and then doing it so hard that you become great in the process.”

If I think about the people around me who are great at something, it is not because they decided to do something great.  It is usually more of a case that they do something they love, something that comes naturally, or something that has personal meaning for them.

And they do it really, really hard.

You can’t be great in HR, or any job, by going through the motions.  You can’t be great as an adviser, business partner, mentor, counselor, mediator, and coach unless you do all of those things hard.  People who think HR is an easy job (and I promise you, there are a lot of people who think that way) are watching someone not doing it hard enough.

How hard are you working today?


  1. I think that “hard” and “hard work” are often used interchangeably, and I don’t think they always should be.

    HR as a concept is easy: Hire great people and then get the hell out of the way so they can do awesome stuff.

    HR in practice is hard because staying out of people’s way – creating processes and practices that help rather than hinder – requires constant vigilance. There’s the unpredictable human nature. There’s no unifying theory of human behavior, other than that we’re irrational, unpredictable creatures.

    So HR isn’t hard, even if you do it right. But it is hard work.

    LOVE the comic, btw. I hadn’t seen that one before.

  2. Great point. Fame doesn’t come from trying to be famous, but rather, from fine tuning your skills. In this new world of overly accessible PR/self promotion – I wish there was I way everyone could read this post!! It’s important to get back to those fundamentals, and I’m glad you tackle that in your blog.

    As an aside though, I was optimistically awaiting the “So what does this Marie Curie comic have to do with HR?” line… I guess, till next time 🙂

    • Thank you, Kathy. I think that approach is what keeps people going when they aren’t getting the love they need for their organization.

  3. Gotta love xkcd – especially when put in an HR context.

    I think there’s a line here that’s also applicable to employees. Yes, you can’t be great in HR just by going through the motions, but I’m sure we’ve all encountered employees that are looking for additional recognition and fame for their work. This comic applies to those situations as well.

    Either way, I’m sure that from now on, every time I hear a comment about someone being the next someone else, there will be a voice in my head calling out “Zombie Marie Curie!”

    • Thanks, Joseph. You are correct, it is a standard to which all can be held. Or at least, one we can use to guide them.

      And I don’t think there is a bad time to exclaim “Zombie Marie Curie!” I do it a couple of times a day.

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