Resilience at Work

Image of resilience at work
Diagram of Resilience at Work

Have you experienced an increase in workplace stress? Does the notion of Work-Life balance make sense to you or just some weird sort of pipe dream? Do you feel like you can be a success in your chosen field? Or, do you like so many, spend time mining Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat looking for that magic idea that will help them make Six Figures?

So how can a person become successful in their chosen field or in any area? How can you be more resilient at work? The answer may surprise you!

Like so many of my generation and the generations that have followed we were told that that “secret to success” is being smart, talented, and going above and beyond the requirements of the job, taking additional tasks, and maybe even sacrifice your personal time for the good of the organization.

Sounds like the Sirens of the Odyssey, distractions from the digital wasteland beckon us to follow some types of “path to riches.” 

There is no doubt that there is a rapid increase in work-related stress. I know, because I have worked as an Employee Assistance Consultant for several years. A big part of that job is helping both employees and employers find ways to increase productivity and positive outcomes while at the same time, minimizing the effects of stress. This is one reason that the workplace is seeing the rapid growth of Work-Life presentations and training.

Just think about the past 10 years, the workplace has been impacted with furloughs, downsizing, massive technological advances along with monumental shift is the way business is done. The “Amazonification” of the retail work has shaken many traditional business models. Globalization has had an impact on all manner of business from small mom and pop shops, governmental agencies, as well as such well older, established nationally branded companies. On an even deeper level, the rapidly escalating field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be taking us places that we have never imagined.

Whew! That last paragraph made me feel some stress!

With all of these changes, you must learn how to increase your capacity to manage stress and become more resilient.

Resilience is a word that has been thrown around for years but began to become more prominent after 911.

Resilience is the ability to face adversity and work-related challenges and not only bounce back, but to experience personal growth.

The workplace, whether in a manufacturing plant or the corner office or a high-rise offers a broad range of stressors to people. 

From meeting production quotas to dealing with the ever-changing landscape of various service-related business to the work of big business and governmental agencies, we are seeing a dramatic increase in stress-related issues.

So, what does resilience in the workplace look like? Why is it important? Is it possible for a person to become more resilient?

Here is some promising news!

Resilience is both a mindset and a skill that can be strengthened. As with any life skill, resilience can be enhanced with practice.

Resilience is an active, fluid, and dynamic process.

So, what sets a resilient employee apart from everybody else?

Resilient employees have made healthy connections and have a variety of relationships, both on and off the job. The trademark of these supportive relationships is that there is a history of excellent, two-way communication.

Resilient workers will do what they can do to help others, they are consistent team players.

Another quality of resilient workers that they understand the importance of social support at work, home, and in the community.

They understand the benefits of developing both personal and professional networks, which can be a significant source of guidance, support, and accountability at all times, whether gold or bad.

Some additional qualities of resilient workers are that they habitually demonstrate the ability to build trust with others. One of the unique findings in the research was that resilient team members don’t take work too seriously. They generally tend to be “playful” at times[i], which increases the overall sense of positivity in the workplace.

The modern workplace is stressful. Technology, the rapid & immense shifts in the way we do business, can be a constant source of stress. Rare is the individual who starts a career in one place and stays there until they are retirement eligible unless they are government workers or military.

Employees who are resilient have an ability to managing stress effectively and to keep pressure from becoming detrimental and overwhelming. They are more likely to focus on self-care, after a stressful event. In other words, they take kinetic and focused measures to avoid compassion fatigue and, worse, burnout.

A final characteristic of a resilient employee is they are authentic and strive to behave in a way that is consistent with their core values. They practice what they preach.

They have grit!

Have you ever wondered what grit is? It goes hand in hand with be resilient.

According to the research of psychologist Susan Kobasa, three elements appear to be essential when we look at grit to exist: challenge, personal control, and commitment. Kobasa called these the three ‘Cs.’[ii]

Commitment.  They have a sense of purpose in their life.  They are committed to their dreams and tackle challenges head-on. Part of the reason hardy people can stay in the game and persist in their coping efforts is that as a group, they are committed to an active, engaged stance towards life. They feel that their life has a purpose (whatever shape that may be). That purpose motivates them to actively attempt to influence their surroundings and to persevere even when their attempts to influence their surroundings don’t appear to be working out. A person who has no purpose in life –no motivation and no commitment –will not be able to lead a resilient life. On the other hand, resilient people find meaning in their activities even when faced with significant adversity precisely because they are committed to taking an active, problem-solving approach to life.

Challenge. Individuals with grit have a sense of purpose in life see problems as challenges, and they devote time, effort and energy into solving them

They are connected to their dreams and their mission. They tackle things head-on.  People with grit remain involved in an endeavor despite stressful circumstances such as changes in the marketplace, business systems, and the economy. People lacking grit tend to pull back from their dream or opportunity and drift into isolation or alienation.  People with grit view stress as a challenge that they can potentially overcome when they can understand it correctly. Their habit of looking at problems to be overcome motivates them to address the causes of their stress in positive ways.

I remember one of my early mentors who used to continually say things like, “We don’t have problems, we have opportunities to grow, excel, and learn.

This active approach to life challenges may be contrasted with the more common approach, where stress and problems are viewed as an unfortunate, overwhelming, or even paralyzing force that overwhelms rather than motivates.

Personal Control.  Gritty people believe they are in charge of and responsible for their lives and that they have the power to change it. They understand that they cannot control what happens to them. They can only control their response to it. If they don’t have the skill sets to do something, they will go out of their way to get them.

As a group, people with grit people, people who are resilient tend to accept challenges and to work to overcome and master them. Even when true mastery of a challenge is not possible (e.g., when a situation is not possible to control), gritty people work to find what possibilities do exist for mastery and pursue them. When faced with the loss of employment, a hardy, or resilient person would seize upon opportunities for exploring new employment options rather than become depressed and demoralized.

How about you? Do you consider yourself a person with grit, are you someone who exemplifies hardiness? In your work and personal life, are you resilient?

In my next post, I will share the seven secrets to building resilience in your day to day life.



[i] Kobasa, S. C. (1979). Stressful life events, personality, and health: An inquiry into hardinessJournal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(1), 1-11. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.37.1.1 [http://psycnet.apa.org/record/1980-21134-001]

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