Analysis: as workplaces become increasingly stressful and turbulent, resilience is required now more than ever

If you are reading this, you have a 100% success rate of getting through bad days. But how do we get through these bad days? What keeps us from not giving up? The answer is resilience, the ability to positively adapt when faced with adversity. The term, which originated from the Latin word resilire (to leap back), is more than a popular buzzword as it provides us with the ability to deal with stress. Individuals who are resilient see adversity as a challenge, compared to non-resilient individuals who consider it as a threat.

Resilience has been explained in many ways which has led to confusion. Some consider it as the ability to rise above challenges, for example. Others view it as maintaining the same level of functioning in the face of adversity and some see it as being able to bounce back to baseline wellbeing or health after experiencing trauma. Adversity is a core element of resilience but there are differing views on what it means. For example, is it one serious experience, such as workplace violence or exposure to war, or is it about less severe events, such as job demands and daily hassles and stresses?

Resilience in the workplace is required now more than ever as work environments are becoming increasingly stressful and turbulent. This is highlighted by the World Health Organisation, which has declared occupational stress as a worldwide epidemic. Research from CIPD highlights that stress is now the main reason for long term absence from work.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Radio 1's Marian Finucane show, psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist Sabina Brennan on how a resilient outlook can benefit us in our day-to-day lives

In the workplace, resilience exists at different levels (individual, team and organisational). At the individual level, resilience has been described in different ways. Some consider it as a developable capacity, others view it as a stable personality trait and some see it as a process. Individual resilience as a developable capacity suggests that resilience can be built: if you constantly face stressful situations at work, you will begin to adapt to these over time.

Considering individual resilience as a stable personality trait suggests that you are either resilient or you are not. Viewing resilience as a process suggests that personal characteristics, available social support, initial responses to adversity and self-regulatory processes (being able to control your behaviour, emotions, and thoughts) make up individual resilience.

Resilience at the individual level can be influenced by many factors. These include personal resources (job expertise, being able to manage work demands, feeling in control); personal attitudes (commitment, sense of meaning/purpose, professional mission); work resources (social support, feedback, learning culture); personality traits (being future orientated, open to new experiences and emotionally stable and personal emotions (having a positive attitude).

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Radio 1's The Business, business advisor Danica Murphy on understanding and using stress to build resilience

Individual resilience is important because it can lead to improved job performance. When employees are resilient, they are engaged, which leads to high levels of motivation and more effort at work. Mental and physical health is increased when individuals are resilient. Resilience enhances coping abilities and lowers symptoms of burnout and emotional exhaustion. Work-related attitudes such as work engagement, job satisfaction and work happiness are linked to individual resilience.

We know a lot more about individual resilience than team resilience. Team resilience has been considered as the mean of team members' individual resilience, but having resilient individuals on a team does not necessarily lead to team resilience because there are other factors to consider. If there is conflict on a team, for example, this could impact the team's resilience. Team resilience has also been considered as an outcome of team member interactions and contextual factors.

There are many factors that influence team resilience. These include team processes (such as connectivity and communication); job demands (role conflict and workload) and job resources (social support and autonomy). Team resilience is important because it can lead to increased team performance. Resilient teams can more easily find flexible and effective solutions when confronted with adversity. Team attitudes and behaviours, such as team cohesion and co-operation, are positively related to team resilience.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Radio 1's Ray Darcy Show, author Mathew Johnstone on his book The Big Little Book of Resilience about how resilience plays a key role in wellbeing

Organisational resilience has been considered as the ability to anticipate, cope and adapt to disruptions. Resilience in an organisational context differs from other similar constructs such as flexibility, robustness and agility. While agility and flexibility are important to cope with daily changes and problems, resilience is necessary to successfully deal with unexpected crisis and threats. Resilience is different to robustness as it helps organisations adapt and become stronger following a crisis, while robustness helps organisations keep the same levels of performance despite disruptions.

Organisational resilience is influenced by many factors. Having available resources such as material, financial and technological resources can impact organisational resilience. A positive organisational culture which considers challenges as opportunities whilst also encouraging creativity and innovation can influence resilience. 

READ: What positive psychology teaches us about resilience

Organisational resilience can be built through preparation and planning, like training exercises in adverse scenarios. Having a clear and shared vision set by leaders can also influence organisational resilience. It's important in organisations as it helps firms stay competitive and become more adaptive and flexible. Organisations that are resilient tend to have high job performance and organisational commitment, leading to lower turnover.


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ