AB Thinks  →  7th June 2023

Workplace resilience is a team sport

We’re hearing a lot about the ‘r’ word: resilience.

Within the IC world this relates to an organisation’s desire to find ways to build a kind of mental toughness that prevents colleagues from experiencing burnout and ultimately ensures the workforce provides optimum output with minimal disruption.

But it’s clear some are trying to magically instil resilience in colleagues simply be providing a workshop or a webinar, rather than considering it as a complex psychological state that can link back to our earliest experiences.

Indeed, our ability to bounce back from adversity is more of a team sport than we could have ever expected.

The latest guest on the Internal Comms Podcast, Bruce Daisley, warns of the dangers of relying on building resilience in a formal workshop setting.

“A friend of mine during the pandemic got sent on a resilience course,” he told Katie Macaulay. “She did that thing that I think a lot of us were feeling, like we could be honest and vulnerable… and she said to her boss she was feeling burnt out. And her boss said, ‘Great, I’m going to send you on this resilience course.’

“Throughout the course, she said, ‘I don’t feel any different. Now I’m scared to tell my boss because my boss will say, “Oh, well, you’ve been on the course. There must be something wrong with you.”’”

Today, people are less willing to ‘grin and bear’ a toxic workplace, and they’re voting with their feet. And one reaction to that is the omnipresence of resilience courses or ‘bootcamps’ that seek to do battle with burnout and nurture a workforce that is often labelled ‘too soft’.

So how can you build resilience in the workplace?
For starters, drop the ‘r’ word and give some respect to the people suffering in a culture where resilience is so idolised.

Those stories we’ve all heard about people attending a course that magically provides mental fortitude? They could be pushing colleagues further away.

“Those stories are taking something that’s happened to someone and somehow suggesting it’s their fault,” said Bruce.

“Rather than suggesting that we’ve created a toxic environment, or the demands of the moment are such that everyone’s feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, actually, it suggests ‘Oh, are you not resilient? Don’t worry, we’ve got a course for you.’

“Some people have found themselves thinking maybe resilience is an attempt to silence me, or an attempt to diminish what the system is doing to me and make me take responsibility for it.”

Research shows that true workforce resilience is curated over time. It’s built into the fabric of teams that respect each other, those that create an environment where each has the space and time to do their job in their own way, fully supported by the organisation.

True resilience is a team sport.

Listen to the full episode