Workplaces with sound leadership can significantly help strengthen personal and emotional resilience. Resilience in the workplace typically happens when management’s behavior and attitude is supportive, fair and adaptive to employee needs.
Years ago I counseled Rachel, who was repeatedly criticized by her manager. She was told she was either too verbal at meetings or not speaking up enough. From her childhood upbringing, Rachel struggled to believe she was important, a person of value. She began to crumble emotionally from her manager’s discouraging comments and ended up leaving her place of employment.
Contrast Rachel’s situation to my experience of working under the supervision of a psychologist, James McPhail. When he told me that my report had an error in it and would need editing, I heard an old childhood echo in my head saying, “You’re stupid!” But then James laughed and reminded me that we all make mistakes. I was supported and thrived under his watch.
What was different from Rachel’s situation and mine? In James, I had a manager who nurtured and facilitated my resilience at work. Did he do it consciously? It does not matter. This is what matters:
Leaders who are currently not building employee resilience can do so with some fairly easy changes.
In a conversation with Nan Henderson, international speaker and author of Mentoring for Resiliency, she mentioned that all environments–families, schools, communities, and workplaces–can help strengthen our personal resilience or weaken it. She said that The 100 Best Companies to Work For named by Fortune Magazine are organizations that provide environments where resilience can be seen in action.
Conditions that Build Resilience
Here is what some researchers such as Nan Henderson, Robert Brooks, Tyrone Donnon, Wayne Hammond and others describe as conditions that nurture resilience:
- Opportunities for meaningful participation.
- High expectations for success.
- Opportunities to connect with others.
- Those in authority provide healthy role models.
- Available guidance and help.
- A safe place to express feelings, concerns and to have fun.
- A place where making mistakes is safe and provides learning.
- Communication is clear with consistent expectations and boundaries.
- Personal strengths are acknowledged and supported.
- Accomplishments are celebrated.
Criteria for Resilience Building Workplaces
Nan Henderson’s comments about Fortune Magazine’s The 100 Best Companies to Work For inspired me to visit the magazine’s website. This is what I learned. Each year they examine the procedures and the practices of applicant companies and feedback from employees. They compile their data into four areas:
One: credibility (communication to employees)
Two: respect (opportunities and benefits)
Three: fairness (compensation, diversity)
Four: pride/camaraderie (philanthropy, celebrations)
Some of the aspects addressed include:
- Communication is open, clear and consistent.
- Professional development is supported.
- Appreciation is expressed.
- Employees connect with a sense of family or team.
- Management listens.
- Management accepts and supports employees’ personal lives.
- There are opportunities to use talents.
- Employees receive unbiased feedback.
- There are opportunities to learn from mistakes.
- There are opportunities to make a difference.
- The company cares about the community, country and/or environment.
- Differences are valued.
A Canadian resource for a listing of workplaces that build resilience is The Great Place to Work® Institute, Inc. Hopefully, they are proud to do so.
I encourage you to notice if the leadership or management of your place of employment helps sustain your health and the ability to bounce back. If not, make a plan to address your distressful work environment. You may need to leave for a more aware and employee-friendly employer. Take charge of your well-being. Take the time to research employers who enable employees to work in a safe and empowering space. As Maya Angelou said, “Nothing will work unless you do.”
Resilience in the workplace is possible but it does take committed leadership.