This article is not going to start with that old chestnut about interesting times, because let’s face it, we all live in interesting times. Whether it is dysfunctional governments, workplace restructures or pressure at home, all of us are in some sort of flux one way or another.
Building resilience to workplace stress is somewhat like building resilience out of the workplace but in a much more defined but un-controllable environment. In truth, unless you are the business owner you might as well face the idea - you may have the sense of a lack of control. The best thing to do is to find a way to cope.
This is where building emotional resilience really makes sense. The smarter companies are beginning to recognise this, especially as we continue the transition away from industries like manufacturing and towards a more service-based workplace environment.
What is emotional resilience? Another way of putting it is the ability to roll with the punches. It is the idea that you do not get side-tracked or thrown off course when something untoward happens at work. In the past when work was a lot more manual or systematic for people, the worst thing that happened was there was a hiccup in a mechanical process. When it happened, someone fixed it and everything started up again.
Even if you were involved in office work, the chances were you had a more defined or simplistic role - you did what you do and then went home. Those types of jobs are few and far between now. Most of them have been outsourced to places where they can be done more cheaply, without the labour implications for the bigger corporates.
Today’s workforce is now being asked to be creative, to be problem solvers and team workers, to do more with less. It is a very different job requirement and even though the recruitment ads demand “must be a team player”, who is going to respond to the question with a denial? “Not me, I can’t stand working with other people…” It’s never going to happen.
As a result, being able to survive in an ever-changing work landscape comes down to how the individual adapts to change – ultimately it is how resilient they are.
The good news is building resilience to workplace stress is something that can be taught. There are skills involved. Just like the ability to be able to weld one piece of metal to another, building emotional resilience can be learned. It takes a certain type of person to be able to teach it. They need to be adept at dealing with shifting sands underfoot and the possibility of office politics. But as they are emotionally resilient this should be a walk in the park.
Why would an organisation teach this skill? Ultimately, it is to their own advantage. An emotionally resilient employee is going to perform better than the one who runs around with their hair on fire. But luckily for everyone, this is a win-win.
We can’t control the events of our lives, but we can learn to better control our reactions to them.