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Building resilience in the workplace

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Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager
2017-02-01

The modern workplace can be a very stressful environment. Whether it’s the pressure of constant deadlines, increased workloads or tense working relationships, many employees are faced with significant daily demands from their job. However, some workers seem better equipped to respond to these demands, taking these challenges in their stride and overcoming work obstacles with ease. How do they do it? For these people, it's all about building resilience.

While resilience is a very admirable trait in anyone, it’s particularly valued by many employers in today’s workforce. Dr Monique Crane, Lecturer in Organisational Psychology at Macquarie University is a specialist in workplace resilience. She believes that being resilient is about having “the right fit of coping styles, thinking styles and behaviours for the context” and “being adaptive to [the] circumstance.” In this way, employees who are resilient can be seen to be happier at work, more productive and more successful in their career.

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Let’s look closer at how building resilience can help reduce stress levels in the workplace and bring benefits to your staff and organization.

The Benefits of Resilience for Organizations

Building a resilient mind-set is important for workers, as the way we view stress and adversity strongly affects how we succeed in our careers. By working to develop your resilience, you’ll improve your ability to respond flexibly to challenges that arise, bouncing back from adversity with renewed strength.

These workers will be considerably more adaptive and flexible to work stressors, without losing functionality on the job or being at risk of burning out. This is incredibly important for an individual’s mental and physical wellbeing, allowing them to deal comfortably with daily work demands and be better prepared for challenges as they arise.

Can Work Stressors Help Build Resilience?

  • Workplace stressors that hinder resilience – such as bureaucracy, red tape, frustrations with work culture, or job ambiguity; and
  • Challenge stressors that promote resilience – for example, learning new things, applying your skills in a new way, gaining a promotion.

In contrast, the second list of stressors are within the control of an individual, presenting them with goal-based challenges that help build resilience. Although starting a new job or dealing with an increased workload can certainly be tough, these experiences have the potential to create opportunities for positive growth. As employees successfully overcome these kinds of challenge stressors, they increase their resilience – and importantly, begin to see themselves as more resilient.

How Managers Can Help Build More Resilient Employees

Fortunately, resilience is a skill that can be learned, rather than a particular character trait found only in certain people. And the more you practice being resilient in everyday life, the more you’ll increase your skills in this area over time - like building up muscle!

While employers and managers can work to remove stressors from the workplace, there will always be certain challenges for employees to overcome. Therefore, it’s important for individuals to develop resilience before they need it. This will help staff adapt to changes in their job roles and organization.

You can help staff become more resilient by consciously framing your requests in the context of a challenge, focusing on the positive experience and end result for the individual. As we saw with the difference between various types of stressors, overcoming challenge stressors is one of the best ways for a person to increase their resilience. Managers may also like to enroll in this helpful online course, Developing Resilience, to increase their understanding in this area and help them build strong, flexible and well-balanced employees.

Being resilient can also mean knowing how to seek support when you need it – whether it’s talking to a friend, colleague, manager or a professional counsellor. So if you’re struggling at work and feel overcome with demands and stressors, putting your hand up can often be the strongest thing to do.

 

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