Resilience is the hot topic at moment. It is taught in schools, is on the HR radar within many large organisations and is studied in student bodies and within certain patient populations.
Unsurprisingly given the many traumatic events hitting people around the world, the idea of resilient communities has also taken hold.
It seems obvious that having a certain level of personal resilience, being able to manage the inevitable ups and downs of life would be useful, if not essential for individuals. When we take this into the challenging working environment of the 21st century it can become even more important. The prevalence of jobs within the gig economy and generally the emergence of less certainty in the workplace the idea of having and developing resilience would seem beneficial.
Resilience was once considered to be a fixed attribute that you either had or didn’t have; what was seen in some as an extraordinary invincibility in the face of adversity is now seen to be a basic part of the human adaptive system. Resilience is now acknowledged as an interactive process and not a fixed attribute; it is the dynamic between the individual and their environment, between risk factors and protective factors. Understanding this helps us to appreciate how resilience may grow or decline over time depending on what is happening between the individual and their environment (e.g., changes at work, a particularly good or bad boss); and the risk and protective factors in their life (e.g., family relationships).
Individuals do need to look after themselves and supporting people to make healthy choices around physical, mental and emotional well-being can only be a good thing. However, we must also ensure that organisations recognise the part they play in encouraging or reducing resilience across their workforce. When organisations ask me to come up with “some resilience training” or suggest it as a critical topic for a leadership group to explore, I often find myself asking ‘what are the expectations of such interventions?’. If the HR department is able to tick it off a list of training options offered to people, does that mean the organisation has really discharged its responsibilities in this area?
There is some great work being done around resilience with all manner of psychometric tools, workshops, books and resources to help people increase their own resilience. As Occupational Psychologists I believe it is our responsibility to also hold the mirror up to the organisations we work with and ask them to take responsibility too.
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