Personal resilience at work

Resilience helps you to overcome and cope with stress and bounce back from set backs.  Resilience at work can be described as the capability to maintain performance and well-being.  Resilient people are able to sustain successful performance and positive well-being in the face of adversity and recover from, or adjust to, change.

Research has revealed a lot about how resilience works and shows it's a set of skills that can be taught.  The research of renowned positive psychologist Dr Martin Seligman has evidenced much about resilience.

It involves:

  • Raising specific skills levels.  Being more resilient involves some specific competencies.
  • Adjusting how we think (perception) and changing our 'explanatory style'.

Learning to be resilient

Resilience skills are practical and can be learned and developed.  That's good news!  It means we can all be resilient!  It's a combination of amending personal characteristics and using certain well developed skills, and adopting others.  We need to adapt our natural style and tendencies (habits) so that things work for us in tough situations.

At work

Our employer wants us to be productive, perform well, be healthy and supported, especially during times of change and uncertainty.  Research shows that a lot of what we nee dot do involves adjusting thinking.  Also, part of the need to feel good at work, for example, is that we feel we have autonomy and that we have the resources and information needed to do our jobs.  Our perceptions are just that - what we think something means - and they are influenced by many things including our personalities, attitudes, emotional maturity, experience and so on.  Our resilience in different circumstances can be different.  

Understand your own resilience at work - assess yourself

This is a good place to start.  Understand your own resilience and what it involves.  Work through these questions and assess your answers:

  1. List one or more examples of challenges you handled effectively in the last week (or your own time frame) that involved being resilient at work.  What and how did you do it?  What thoughts helped you deal with the challenge?
  2. What are your strengths?  What abilities, skills and attitudes serve you well when being resilient in your job?
  3. Name a person alive or dead whom you regard as resilient, for example, a famous person from history or someone you work with or know you regard as resilient.  Identify what specifically makes/made them resilient.  What can you take and use from this insight?

Four pillars of resilience

A smart way into learning some skills that help you improve resilience quickly is to use the four pillars: confidence, social support, purposefulness and adaptability.  All actions are within your control and achievable, i.e. work on those aspects which you, not others, control (which is you - your thinking, your attitude, your feelings, your words, your behaviour).   Pick one that needs a boost:

  1. Social support - this part of resilience is not doing things on your own.  Seeking support and help from others is crucial.
  2. Adaptability - this means working on recovering from change more quickly and being flexible and adaptable in changing circumstances.
  3. Purposefulness - this aspect of resilience is to know what your values are; to have a clear sense of purpose as an individual; to have drive and direction to help you persist in the face of set backs.  Remember - a set back is an event, not a perpetual state.
  4. Confidence - this part of resilience is that you believe you are competent, that you are able to cope in stressful situations; for this you need to build your self esteem and harness and use positive emotions.

James Victore sums up confidence: 

"My definition of confidence is being there.  This means being in the moment and acting with intention, not distracted by second thoughts or 'being in your head'; not listening to your inner critics or assuming what others are thinking of you, judging or presupposing their reaction instead of just moving forward."

Final tips

  • Work on things within your control, even if they are small.
  • Focus on what is right, what is working, what is progressing.
  • Check in with your thinking when thoughts run away with you and be more adaptable.
  • Ask for help.  Your employer should have an employee assistance programme (EAP) and well-being policies and practice in place; get external professional support.
  • Learn the skills you need that are out of balance with being resilient.

Resilience training and coaching

Get in touch if you'd like some coaching or in house training on personal resilience at work.