Why is it that some people thrive in the face of challenge and adversity at work, while others panic and withdraw into themselves? And why is it some people appear to get ahead while others tread water, or slowly drown in the turbulent waters of life? Resilience is not a characteristic gifted to some individuals and not others. The key is that resilience is not a passive quality, but an active process.
In organisations it is fair to say that the effectiveness of large scale change is in some part due to the resilience of individuals to cope with the stress entailed in implementing or being on the receiving end of the change. While people can experience some stress as energising and exciting, too much stress is disabling and the circumstances that brought this about seen as adversity. Everyone has different resilience abilities and resources and luckily they can be built and enhanced.
Resilience is the ability to adapt well to stress, adversity, trauma or tragedy. It means that, overall, you remain stable and maintain healthy levels of psychological and physical functioning in the face of disruption or chaos. If you have resilience, you may experience temporary disruptions in your life when faced with challenges, for instance, you may have a few weeks when you don’t sleep as well as you typically do. But you’re able to continue on with daily tasks, remain generally optimistic about life and rebound quickly. Resilience is very important to assist people cope with change and deal with stressful situations.
Resilience can help people deal with disappointments and setbacks without becoming depressed or negative, endure loss, chronic stress, traumatic events and other challenges. It will enable individuals to develop a reservoir of internal resources that can be drawn on, and it may protect against developing some mental illnesses. Resilience helps people survive challenges and even thrive in the midst of chaos and hardship. Resilience is a form of emotional buoyancy.
So how can we develop it? Some actions and topics for training that help build resilience are:
I read a newspaper article today commenting on how employers are currently seeking and recruiting for staff who have ‘likeability’ as well as technical ability in their field. The description of traits linked to ‘likeability’ fell very much into the domain of what Daniel Goleman labelled Emotional Intelligence in his 1994 book of the same name. Goleman had the same conclusion as the newspaper article; organisations want employees who get on with others, have a positive approach, are good to be around and get the job done. Good social skills, empathy for others and a level of self-awareness are important traits for developing and maintaining effective relationships in and out of work.
Recently we have been working with a couple of organisations on projects to develop staff awareness and skills in Emotional Intelligence, to build workplaces where people are engaged and where performance is high. As part of this work we have heard many stories from employees about people at all levels who displayed a lack of emotional intelligence, resulting in lower morale and productivity for those working with them. Some of the behaviours people disliked included:
- Managers and staff with large mood swings so people feel like they are ‘walking on eggshells’. “From one day to the next you never know whether to approach them or not and what kind of reception you will get, so you end up avoiding them” was one comment.
- Shouting and aggressive behaviour.
- Managers giving feedback in front of the other team members or in a public place. “The manager corrected me in front of a customer and I was humiliated” said one person. It made her not want to work with customers or the manager again.
- People who don’t interact with others or participate in the social niceties of the office such as not saying good day or hello and acknowledging others. Many of us have parents or guardians who would call this a lack of manners!
- Team members who don’t do their fair share either in the work of the team or in office protocols. “We have one person here who never washes up their cup and plates, leaves them in the office sink and expects everyone else to do it. They get annoyed when we ask them to take their turn, so we end up not asking them and being resentful!” was one example of this.
- People who are negative about most things. “This person is cynical about almost everything that happens and it is depressing and tiring to be around them,” commented one team member.
On the positive side, the following examples of good use of emotional intelligence were provided:
Are your people leaders equipped to deal with the “greyer” areas of inappropriate workplace behavior in order to prevent bullying and harassment?