Resilience is about finding ways to bounce back from challenge, adversity or disappointment; it is elasticity, the capacity to recover. The International Resilience Project describes resilience as ‘a universal capacity which allows a person, group or community to prevent, minimise or overcome the damaging effects of adversity’.
Psychologists have identified some factors that make a person resilient, including a positive attitude, optimism, self-awareness and emotional control, and the ability to see failure as a form of feedback.
Resilience is not rare or special; most people are resilient in at least some situations and it can be learned and developed by almost anyone. Building personal resilience helps prevent the adverse effects of psychological distress at work. Faced with setbacks a manager needs to get up and get on.
The American Psychological Association suggests ten ways to build resilience: maintain good relationships with close family members, friends and others; avoid seeing crises or stressful events as unbearable problems; accept circumstances that cannot be changed; develop realistic goals and move towards them; take decisive actions in adverse situations; look for opportunities for self-discovery; develop self-confidence; keep a long-term perspective and consider stressful events in a broader context; maintain a hopeful outlook, expect good things and visualise what is wished; take care of mind and body, exercise regularly, pay attention to needs and feelings.
A demanding working environment means many of us are under pressure and dealing with stressful situations takes a toll on employees and their performance. Building resilience enables staff to cope with stress-provoking challenges to respond to such events without experiencing stress-related problems while maintaining high quality performance. They build a belief in their self-efficacy and are able to cope with change and adapt and respond in a dynamic and challenging environment.
It’s important that HR professionals work to build a culture and corporate identity that supports and motivates staff and ensures organisational stability and resilience in the long term. Creating an open and honest environment is key, with a two-way communication process which facilitates the identification of risks and finds effective ways to support employees.
Supporting new managers in building resilience pays off – providing them with the resources to use their personal strengths in dealing with conflict and overcoming barriers to success. We know that managers who are confident and resilient develop an optimistic perspective and encourage the same trait in their team and staff.
We suggest you focus on these key areas:
- Creation and maintenance of networks for managers and teams which promote confidence and engagement through
- Building strong and mutually trusting relationships through all levels
- Developing sills and opportunities for independence, autonomy and mastery of tasks
- Giving structured feedback, mentoring and career planning.
Research on resilience in the workplace shows that resilient people are less likely to suffer mental or physical illness during adversity; experience more hope, optimism and positivity, and are better able to cope with job demands; cope better with tough times, such as job loss and economic hardship; and are able to learn new skills and knowledge when their existing skillset is outdated. When competing for a job or promotion, the more resilient person has a better chance of succeeding.
In developing personal resilience, there are obvious benefits for the organisation and the challenge for businesses is to provide an environment where employees can explore the behaviours that create a resilient response, giving them time and space to build resilience. It’s not something that can be turned on and off, so a degree of patience and trust is required.