What is workplace resilience really all about and where does the responsibility lie?
Much Ado About Nothing is about resilience. In many places resilience is the new fad, hitting every employee’s mandated training schedule. The good bits are often lost in the hype and the hype is misdirecting what resilience is really about and where the responsibility lies.
What’s it all about?
There are many definitions and schools of thought to explain resilience but I like this one:
“resilience is a combination of assets and resources within the individual and their environment that facilitate the individual’s capacity to adapt in the face of adversity’Fletcher & Sarkar, 2013; Windle, 2011
Karen Tonkin, a Chartered Organisational Psychologist and Psychometric Specialist here in New Zealand makes the distinction between employee resilience, which concerns the individual, and organisational resilience, which refers to the organisation’s resilience. These two differences are quite obvious but until she had researched this space, there was no empirical studies or evidence connecting the two or investigating casual linkages.
Often workplaces focus on employee resilience in order for the organisation to benefit. These skillsets are sold as desired, or even, required for individuals to build and gain in order to support the organisation. There are usually mandated courses for employees to attend and this is where it starts to go awry.
Traditional approaches to resilience fail by a one size fits all approach
Where resilience training fails employees is that it is often delivered in a group format and it is not tailored to the individual. While you can grow resilience traits and become resilient, it is not as simple as attending a one day course.
There have been new studies that reveal the organisations that do achieve increased levels of employee resilience have a more holistic view of resilience and they target programmes and offer initiatives at an individual level. This way of approaching resilience is successful because it acknowledges that an employee is a person with many different emotions and life circumstances that can come with them to work. The work environment must strive to be supportive and be willing to support employees wellbeing.
Leadership must lead
Organisations that are successful in increasing resilience in their employees are ditching the outdated notion of resilience as “emotional coping” and investing in the development of their people and teams.
Top performing teams were noted as having the following traits in their leaders.
- Being present
- Fostering positive work environments
- Making employees feel valued and supported
- Not ruling with an iron fist, flexibility around working styles, hours and productivity
- Creating and maintaining healthy team dynamics
Organisations need to stop focusing on outdated concepts of resilience, stop one size fits all training, recognise the latest research and benefits of wellbeing. Leaders need to walk the talk as resilience is the cultural heartbeat of a team.
Can we build it? Yes we can!
What happens when an organisation or environment is not supportive and doesn’t tick any of the boxes above? Can you build your individual resilience in spite of your environment? The answer is yes! I have been researching various individual strategies and techniques that can help.
Building micro resilience
The topics covered so far can be considered to be rather macro. If we drill down into the concept of micro resilience, we can start to see how as individuals we can build resilience within ourselves in order be adaptable and healthy in any environment we find ourselves in.
Micro resilience involves a concept of self, it’s about the smaller interactions of the day to day, the characteristics of personality that act as building blocks to make the whole person and the daily actions you take to build your strength of character.
A recent study by Bonnie St John has combined many existing research papers, papers, books and practices to provide helpful information for people to cultivate their own micro resilience in their every day life.
Mirco resilience hacks
- Note where you spend your time and what you spend your time doing, this is what you’re choosing to define yourself as. Starting point? What drains you? Make a list then think about interventions to minimise these things
- Look after your health and body
- Clarify your goals and purpose, know your direction but then set it free. Once the bigger things are set, focus on smaller daily actions that build up to those goals
- Stake out the time for yourself and your goals, create focus times – even if this means getting away from everyone for periods of time and completely blocking out your calendar
- Reframe negative emotions into positives or alternative views, writing these down can really help
- Take your wellbeing seriously, priortise time to wind down when you can. Meditation, yoga, reading, playing in a rock band! Whatever it takes
The important thing is to become self-aware, know where you spend your time, what you want to change or achieve and how you are going to back yourself to get the things you need. Build your own toolbox and keep working with these tools until you can regulate emotions like a pro and take strategic pop shots at life when difficult situations arise.
While the battle grounds of the macro resilience world are most likely too much for an individual to expect to overcome or change, we can take accountability to train our own micro resilience muscles.
Please share any cool organisational training you’ve been involved in or your own personal tips and tricks!