Resilience in the workplace
Personal resilience provides the ability to bounce back from challenges and setbacks in life. At work, how can our line managers help us to become more resilient?
To find out more, Jon Blackburn spoke to Dr Derek Mowbray, Director of Management Advisory Service about this issue. Dr Mowbray specialises in the primary prevention of psychological distress at work, with a focus on promoting wellbeing and performance.
How would you describe personal resilience and what types of things help us to be more resilient?
This is a two-part answer. Resilience is having the flexible strength of mind and positive attitude to overcome challenging situations successfully, along with the motivation to want to overcome challenging situations successfully. The second part is where the manager's role in the resilience of others comes in.
What components of personal resilience make us more engaged, productive and happy in our jobs?
Resilience comes from understanding our own achievements, successes and knowing where you've come unstuck before. Understanding yourself and your boundaries for coping enables you to weigh up each challenging situation and helps you to form an attitude towards the challenge - hopefully an attitude that enables you to overcome and benefit from the experience.
The 8 eight elements shown in the diagram are known to have the biggest impact on our resilience: self-awareness; determination; vision; self confidence (personal control over oneself); organisation; problem solving (personal control over events); interaction; and relationships (personal control over responses to people).
What is a line manager's role in personal and team resilience within an organisation?
Managers operate at all levels of the organisation. They set the tone, the climate and the expectations for the workforce. They manage a controlled community that we call the workplace. Managers wield enormous power over others and it is important that this power is used to achieve mental wellbeing and performance at work for organisations to achieve consistent peak performance.
Managers and organisations need to adopt an attitude that provokes a positive feeling amongst the workforce for the work they do and the organisation they work for if they wish to exceed expectations, out-perform their competitors and achieve great success.
Line managers in the UK have an increasing number of demands placed upon them – how can we make developing and implementing these skills as easy as possible for them?
There is no quick fix. Managing people is more challenging than managing the routine demands that they face on a daily basis, as it requires time, patience, and skills in interaction.
However, managers can do a lot that is common sense but often not common practice.
Everyone at work wants to feel significant, so managers need to reinforce this by providing clear purpose and direction, encouragement, routine and informal performance appraisal, provide challenges, meetings that have agendas with questions to be answered, and praise.
Managers need to prevent the events and poor behaviours that may trigger the need for resilience in others, and provoke positive attitudes within the workforce.
Managers need to:
make the workplace a fabulous place to work;
have a clear identity, clear values and know what they are doing;
create strong and positive attitudes in their staff, which predisposes them to be resilient in the face of challenges created by the manager;
get to know their team (and let them get to know them);
stimulate and provoke the team to feel a buzz, high level energy, strong social engagement, innovation - all contributing to peak performance; and
make each individual in their team feel as though they are uniquely >attentive towards them, that the success of the organisation is a shared responsibility and that they 'own' it and are part of its success.
In your experience, in what instances has resilience training for line managers provided the greatest success?
- where the resilience training has been embraced throughout the whole organisation with a top down approach;
- where the psychological wellbeing of the workforce has been placed at the centre of the organisation or team; where the culture of the organisation (or team) is one that encourages everyone to feel responsibility for, and a part of the success of the organisation; and
- where everyone takes responsibility for the psychological wellbeing of themselves and those they work with.
About Derek Mowbray
BA., MSc., Sc(Econ)., PhD., DipPsych., CPsychol., CSci., FBPsS, FIHM., FISMA.
Derek Mowbray is a Chartered Psychologist and Chartered Scientist, with a doctorate in the psychology of leadership. Derek is a past visiting Professor at the Universities of Northumbria and Gloucestershire.
Workplace Wellbeing Focus - 5 in five: Resilience in the workplace