HR needs to Chop Wood; Carry Water

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Some days just are awful.  I mean really awful.

You hear of a team member’s passing.  You become overwhelmed with workload.  A good friend disappoints and rejects you. Your husband leaves you.  Your wife doesn’t trust you. You learn you have to lay off 1/3 of your workforce.

Humans have remarkable resilience.  But also have a deep need to help, solve, connect and save.  If there is one group of “savers” in an organization  – it’s HR. And it can be overwhelming.

I went through a divorce, wow, in 2007 (so a long time ago).  I was overwhelmed.  Although the divorce was very amicable, AND we didn’t have kids (which makes it a lot easier), I was still incredibly sad and overwhelmed.  I mean, holy crap, 1 week after we parted my computer crashed.  My ex always handled that s**t, and he’s not here and I don’t feel like dealing with this but I have to pay my bills and I need my computer to do that and I’ll get behind on my mortgage and I’ll lose my house and people will think I’m out of control ……


Or, I just got through handling an acquisition, and now half of the leadership team has left and 2 of my team members quit and if I don’t get help we’ll overlook that important employee relations issue and then we’ll get sued and then our new equity partners will fire me and then I won’t be able to pay my mortgage…..


My friend said, “Dawn, today you just need to chop wood and carry water”.


“Chop wood and carry water. Today you need to do just the essentials.  If you were stranded on a desert island, to survive you would just need to chop wood for a fire/shelter and carry water to drink.  That’s it.  The rest needs to go into a box for you to open up later.”

“Huh.  Really. That’s it.”  

Yep.  That’s it.

So the Zen phrase actually goes, “Before enlightenment chop wood, carry water…after enlightenment chop wood, carry water.” Essentially, there are times you must break life down into the simplicity of the present moment.  Do only what is necessary.  Don’t multitask. Stay present.

HR Pros.  Some days you just have to compartmentalize.  Handle what you can.  Just do the essentials.  Don’t get ahead of yourself.  Don’t panic.

Chop wood; Carry Water.











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Dawn Hrdlica-Burke

VP People & Culture/ Talent Consulting at Kinetix. Advisor. Speaker. Writer.

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