Updated: Sep 21, 2020
Workplaces are ever-changing and stressful environments, and the challenges they present can truly test a person’s tenacity. However, some people are not only comfortable facing difficult challenges, they are even successful in handling them. How do these people manage to make the most out of a bad situation? What prevents them from being personally affected when things do not go as they planned? This competency is often defined as ‘resilience’.
Resilience may be defined as the ability to adapt and bounce back when things don't go as expected, by acknowledging the situation, learning from the mistakes, and then moving forward, without dwelling on failures.
Importance of Resilience at Workplace
A resilient workforce benefits the business in many ways, by keeping people more motivated, capable of dealing with change, and less susceptible to burnout. It also improves their performance.
Benefits of Resilient Workforce
Handling Challenges: Prevents negative thoughts, focusing on problem solving rather than blaming, building constructive solutions.
Improved Communication: Self-assurance and confidence, ability to express ideas more clearly and constructively, encourages creativity.
Reduced Burnout and Presenteeism: Holds onto that spark for the job and brings their whole selves to it. Handles frustration and overwhelming exhaustion.
Creates Competitive Business: Rides out times of change and weathers difficult times.
Setting Realistic Expectations: Better understanding of their own and others’ needs, keeping in mind peoples’ capabilities, which in turn allows them to work more efficiently and amicably.
Better Relationship among Teams: Builds strong relationships with colleagues. Prevents friction amongst teammates.
Open to Upskilling and Developing: Promotes growth mind-set
Willingness to Give and Receive Support: Value reaching out to others to help them overcome challenges and receive crucial support during times of personal difficulties.
Building Resilience at Workplace
Building resilience is very much a personal journey that takes self-reflection, time, and practice. However, team leaders and managers can support an individual’s development by providing the right tools and training. Facilitating resilience from a senior level also promotes organizational resilience, making it a work-wide culture. This encourages associates to commit time for development
Basic elements of resilience
Emotional well being: How well one manages one’s emotions and thoughts, and how healthy and realistic are the views of oneself and the world.
Inner drive: Ability to set goals and motivate self, as well as adopt a forward-thinking approach to progress through life.
Future focus: Foresight, as well as an ability to focus on solutions and positive change. It also encompasses acceptance of failures and adversity.
Relationships: A strong social network with friends, family, colleagues, etc., which provides emotional and physical support.
Physical health: Recognizing the importance of looking after oneself physically, as poor physical well being can directly impact the other factors. These elements are all interlinked and contain their own individual building blocks, which one must develop to become stronger as a whole. For example, one of the essential components of emotional well being is understanding and regulating one’s thoughts. By recognizing how many different personal elements must be tended to, one will be in a good starting position to develop self and others’ resilience. It will enable one to identify areas that they or others already perform well in and those which need working on.
Analyzing strengths and weaknesses
A person can effectively develop their resilience with self-reflection. They need to consider and identify which areas they need to work on. Giving and receiving feedback in the workplace can help tremendously with this. Good opportunities for doing so include having frequent one-to-one sessions between managers and employees and prompting people to complete a 360 feedback for everyone in their team. When people get into the habit of identifying their strengths and weaknesses, they learn how to focus on success and opportunities for growth.
Improving emotional wellbeing
Building emotional resilience in the workplace takes time and calls for a willingness to break out of deeply-rooted harmful habits. For example, negative automatic thoughts are a barrier to many people’s resilience. The best way to challenge these and improve one’s emotional resilience is by physical tracking and correcting, i.e., by writing down negative thoughts and analyzing their validity. Ideally, this should be done as soon as one can after they occur. Over time, the mind will divert from automatically creating a detrimental thought to challenging it instead. Eventually, with practice, the mind will learn to ignore and replace negative thoughts with a healthier and more realistic one.
Promoting an inner drive
Being self-driven is essential for finding greater success and productivity at work and preventing issues from becoming overwhelming. Without it, people can often feel like projects are dragging and may not put their heart into them. One way to enhance inner drive is through effective goal setting. One commonly used framework is SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound. Any tasks and projects that teams carry out should be checked against the SMART framework, to ensure they are realistic and doable. Establishing clear-cut goals boosts a person’s inner drive and, with practice, will help maintain the momentum for motivation.
Fostering a future focus
Looking towards the future is a fundamental way to keep moving forward constructively and smoothly. Therefore, one needs to know how to promote a growth mindset. Not only does this allow openness to change and adaptation, but it also enables healthy responses to unexpected challenges and problems. Two areas to develop are critical thinking and accountability. As a manager or senior member of the staff, an effective way to promote this in the team is leading by example. Critical thinking requires stopping and thinking logically, rather than being swayed by emotions. It also means being open to admitting that one may not know everything and can ask questions to learn more. Accountability means taking responsibility for one’s actions and emotions. It means recognizing that one can’t change the past, but one can positively affect the future. Rather than waste time in placing meaningless and potentially inflammatory blame, this allows one to take a forward-thinking approach for a situation and learn from it.
Developing healthy relationships
Relationships take time to develop and really cannot be forced. However, the end result is feeling better understood, supported, and inspired by others, so it is worth the effort. Three areas one should focus on at work are addressing toxic relationships, building genuine connections, and finding or becoming a role model or mentor. If there are people who bring negativity to work, think about what can be done. Often, people don’t fully realize what they’re doing and how it affects others until someone else challenges it. Feedback can help with this. Building genuine connections is as simple as expressing real interest in others, including their differences, and being mindful of their views and values. Opening up one’s mind to how others live expands perceptions and can lead to fulfilling relationships in ways one never expected. Finding or becoming a role mentor is an excellent way to develop the core elements of resilience. Therefore, encourage the team to learn from those around them. This could be as simple as observing what they do from a distance or having direct one-on-one discussions. In turn, let people know that one is willing to support their growth and help by sharing one’s experiences with them.
Supporting physical wellbeing
A person’s physical state is closely linked to their mental and emotional one, so it can have a huge knock-in effect as to how resilient a person feels. There’s only so much one can do to support others, as physical fitness is very much a personal thing. However, one can help people gain the physical and emotional rest needed by promoting a good work-life balance. There really is no reason for people to take work home with them. If they do, chances are the work hasn’t been organized properly or that they are being overworked. This is detrimental to productivity. When people come into work after a proper break, they are much more switched on.
Providing personal/professional development planning
Ongoing development is key to resilience. Team leaders are in an excellent position to encourage this. Therefore, one should fit in time to create a Personal or Professional Development Plan (PDP) together with the team members. Effective PDPs can help to prevent development from feeling overwhelming, as it can often feel daunting before getting started.
In the present day volatile and changing environment, resilience has become a key managerial competency. Organizations would do well to inculcate this trait amongst the staff.