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A 3-Step Plan to Help Teach Your Team Resilience

Excessive workloads, a lack of autonomy and conflict in the workplace can chip away at employee resilience. Find out what you could do to help boost it.
May 16, 2017

As a leader or business owner, you have an opportunity to teach your team how to boost their resilience in order to maintain a mentally healthy workplace. Resilience is the process of being able to adapt well to adversity, stressful changes or uncertainties. It's having the ability to bounce back when experiencing challenges or difficulties.

If you're looking to boost your team's resilience, consider these three steps to get you started.

1. Identify what drains resilience at work.

A 2017 survey published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that working in difficult environments may drain workers' resilience.

According to the study of 2,063 individuals, the conditions that erode resilience are working in high-demand jobs with very low influence on their jobs (for example, having little control over their work environment or daily tasks) and lack of social support (for example, lacking supportive colleagues and understanding supervisors).

High-demand jobs include:

  • quantitative demands such as consistently having to complete all work tasks under pressure of deadlines,
  • cognitive demands such as having to make difficult decisions and
  • emotional demands such as work that puts an employee in emotionally-disturbing situations.

In these times of accelerating change and uncertainty, boosting your team's resilience may be a powerful way to preserve and grow your human capital.

Increasing your awareness of what could be going on in your office may be a place to start. Consider asking yourself the following questions to determine what is affecting your team's resilience:

  • Is the workload too demanding, with constant pressures and tight deadlines?
  • Are people asked to continuously juggle multiple concurrent projects without proper support?
  • Are workplace conditions creating ongoing versus occasional stress?
  • Do people have some control over their work?
  • Is there a toxic atmosphere in the office?
  • Do people treat each other with indifference and a lack of kindness?

2. Identify where we derive resilience from.

It may also be helpful to understand where personal resilience may come from. Here are a few areas you may want to think about.

Resilience From Within Ourselves

One of the primary sources of resilience may stem from within ourselves.

Skills such as problem-solving and the ability to regulate our emotional reactions may help us be more resilient when the going gets rough. So does having hope and cultivating a positive view of ourselves.

Resilience From External Sources

Another important source of resilience may come from cultivating supporting relationships with others including family, friends, colleagues, neighbors and others in our community.

Resilience From Meaning, Purpose and Values

Other factors that may increase our resilience include finding meaning in our work and having a worthwhile purpose that gets us out of bed in the morning. This may also include our value system and our faith or other spiritual beliefs.

3. Help employees boost their resilience at work.

Having analyzed what's going on in your workplace in terms of drains on employee resilience, and considering some of the sources for personal resilience, the next step might be establishing a few of the following practices for increasing team members' resilience:

Evaluate team members' roles and responsibilities.

Is there a possible mismatch between some job demands and skills? What can you do to fix this?

Is there perhaps a lack of clarity on what exactly is expected of each team member? Uncertainty and lack of clarity in direction and purpose may cause stress, which can lower resilience. Lift the fog for people by establishing clear short-term goals, not just long-term ones. Setting unequivocal expectations can help, as can giving people immediate feedback on how they're doing so that they may know what adjustments they need to make.

Conduct a frustration audit.

Ongoing frustrations may lower resilience. Consider asking people on the team what frustrates them in their quest to complete projects. What gets in the way of a smooth workflow? Do they encounter too many obstacles such as having to wait too long for decisions? Do they have to deal with too much bureaucracy?

Consider evaluating all responses from people who are closest to the work and see if there's merit in what you discover. This can inspire you to take a fresh look at procedures that may hamper rather than help your business. Opening narrowing gates may relieve employee frustrations and may help people be more productive and feel better about their work.

Help team members maintain a positive view of themselves.

Think about all of the people you are responsible for and ask yourself how you could help them boost their self confidence and have a positive view of themselves. For example, when mistakes or setbacks happen, rather than laying blame, consider asking: What can we learn from this that can make us stronger? You can also work on not second guessing people's decisions, so they can learn to trust their decisions.

Are there team members who may be struggling with a new project? Consider establishing check-ins to provide positive feedback and support along the way.

It also helps to keep in mind that meetings may be cauldrons of emotion. It's safe to say that it's human nature to want to perform well in meetings. Help team members prepare for meetings. For example, if you're not in the practice of doing this, consider distributing an agenda before the meeting, whenever possible. This may help some team members gather their thoughts rather than feel ambushed. It may help them shine in meetings which can boost their self-confidence.

Encourage a bias for action.

Letting problems fester due to inaction may make them more difficult to solve. This could start a cycle of people feeling helpless in tackling difficult issues, which in turn may lower their resilience when faced with problems.

There are numerous ways to help people take decisive action rather than procrastinate. For example, consider making it easy for them to come to you when there's a problem. You might also consider empowering people to make some decisions within acceptable boundaries, rather than have to wait for others to make a decision.

Promote a culture of kindness.

You can encourage team leads, supervisors or anyone else who's in charge of people to actively support team members. You could also enlist mentors, or draw on your high performers to coach colleagues who may be struggling.

Remind people not to hoard information that could be helpful to team members. These practices can help develop a culture of kindness and compassion towards those who may need a helping hand.

Help people develop adaptive coping skills to strengthen resilience.

Not everyone is equally able to ride the waves. That's why training for resilience can be effective, according to a 2016 study involving 28 employees of an Australian energy company facing downsizing and restructuring.

The study showed that a mere five hours of resilience training helped employees boost their resilience and cope with the changes in their company. Participants showed improvements in several key aspects of resilience including maintaining perspective, managing stress and staying healthy.

Other types of training that can help people increase their resilience are emotional self-awareness and self-management, conflict resolution and time management.

Remind people of the significance of their work.

It's safe to say that many people look for more than just a job to pay the bills. People could be inspired and energized by being reminded that their work matters beyond just accomplishing the daily tasks. Connecting the dots for people can help them see the meaningfulness of the work they do. This can strengthen their resilience and help them roll with the punches.

In these times of accelerating change and uncertainty, boosting your team's resilience may be a powerful way to preserve and grow your human capital.

Read more articles on leadership.

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