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Don’t sweat the small stuff

Achieving sustainable resilience

Resilience is the ability to ‘bounce back’ - to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change and keep going in the face of adversity. Resilience is often thought of in the context of major traumas or tragedies, where individuals show incredible capacity for recovery. I feel ashamed that we should even think about it in the context of ‘a little workplace stress’, but resilience is subjective - what causes one person extreme stress can be water off a duck’s back for another.

Workplace pressures are considered by many to be the biggest drain on their resilience reserves, with office politics, managing difficult people, overwork and personal criticism being cited as key stressors. Resilience is now commonly used to refer to the ability to overcome the challenges of the modern workplace.

But we need to be cautious; workplace resilience should not be synonymous with enduring long hours, tolerating disrespect or bullying, meeting unreasonable expectations or performing on little sleep. Workplace resilience should be about equipping individuals to respond positively to change, put things in perspective and manage time and workloads effectively - to achieve a resilient mindset for when the big challenges come. It’s about managing positive pressure, but reducing or removing negative stress.

Working in the heavily regulated environment that we do can often drain our resilience reserves - that red, impersonal ‘rejected’ stamp in Zinc has taken its toll on many a writer!

As individuals, we need to adopt resilient attitudes and behaviours to help us manage workplace challenges. As responsible employers, we should be seeking to build resilience into workplace culture.

Diane Coutu, former editor and writer for Harvard Business Review, cited the characteristics of resilient people and companies as:

  • Facing reality with staunchness (brace, and go forward)
  • Making meaning of hardship instead of crying out in despair (don’t make a drama out of a crisis and rise from those flames)
  • Improvising from thin air (winging it).

Behind these characteristics are a broad set of tactics that anyone, or any organisation, can learn and adopt. Perhaps most importantly, using challenges as opportunities to develop new skills and build a resilient mindset.

We mustn’t encourage the extremes of resilience or confuse resilience with tolerance - but instead find that balance of ‘sustainable resilience’ that helps us develop and thrive, whatever life throws at us.

Tori McKillen is a partner at Acteon

in association with

acteon

4th August 2017

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