New Insights into Building Resilience Are Being Developed Right Here In Our Backyard

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At different times the subject of resilience is raised in a variety of workplace contexts. We need more of it in today’s pressurised 24/7 workplace, some generations are said to have a great deal of it, while others are criticised for not having enough.

Let’s start with defining resilience. According to Dr Monique Crane from Sydney’s Macquarie University, resilience is the “capacity to adapt effectively to adversity”. In the workplace adversity can come in many guises: major change, work place conflict that has a myriad causes – poor leader, values differences, poor team or individual behaviour – and illness.

Because of the nature and expectations of people at work it is almost impossible for any workplace to be free of stress; therefore it’s reasonable to assume that people irrespective of their organisational level will, from time to time, be exposed to some level of stressors.

What is interesting is that Dr Crane through her research established there are different stressors that she calls ‘hindrance’ and ‘challenge’ stressors. Hindrance stressors are those that people perceive are barriers to goal accomplishment and/or personal growth. Some examples of hindrance stressors are when people receive conflicting messages and requests from different people about what they should be focusing on, when what they are supposed to be doing is unclear, or the ever present ‘red tape’ is prominent. Exposures to these types of stressors lead to negative outcomes and as a consequence limit individual capacity to ‘bounce back’.

On the other hand ‘challenge’ stressors   are those that are viewed as offering opportunities to develop and build personal resourcefulness, and produce positive outcomes and goal accomplishment. Challenge stressors include time and workload pressure and demand for focused application of skill and experience.

From her research Dr Crane concluded:

  • Under certain conditions some stressors will in fact contribute to increased resilience
  • Challenge stressors in the right conditions provide people with growth and development opportunities that lead to minor increases in resilience
  • Greater resilience protects people from everyday workplace stress

I know what you are thinking; leaders should expose their people to challenge stressors. Unfortunately it is not that simple as constant exposure to challenge stressors over time are viewed by some, not all, as hindrance stressors and therefore become counterproductive to the outcomes leaders are seeking.

In today’s work environment pressure is a constant; resilience enables people to function with reasonable levels of healthy tension and challenge. A leader’s role is to ensure that the people they lead are not pushed beyond these healthy stressors to a fatigue point so that resilience diminishes which in turn results in an inability to deal with the situation at hand.

Viventé Australia enables leaders and managers to create the conditions that allow their people to do their best work every day thus creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its outcomes.

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