Demonstrating personal resilience in the workplace

30 Sep 20

What your organisation needs from you changes over time. This means that you often have to try out new things or take on tasks that are challenging. Therefore, every individual needs to be permeable and dynamic in the workplace; they need to demonstrate personal resilience.

Key takeaways

  • Resilient people demonstrate optimism, solution orientation, individual accountability, openness and flexibility
  • The effective management of stress and anxiety is central to remaining resilient
  • Take a moment to consider whether you are showing resilience when dealing with a problematic situation
  • Resilience is fundamental to a successful career


What qualities does a resilient person possess?

A study carried out by the business psychologists Nicholson McBride identified five key characteristics that together make a person resilient:

  • Optimism
    They have a can-do attitude and look at things from a ‘glass half full’ perspective. They feel able to cope with what lies ahead and encourage others to feel positive too.
    BUT: This optimism needs to be pragmatic. It must be based on knowledge, experience and reality. Blind optimism can diminish your own resilience and the resilience of those around you because you fail to consider that things do not always turn out as you had hoped.
  • Solution orientation
    They have an effective early warning system ie they see a problem coming from a long way off and instead of allowing the anticipation to cause anxiety, they plan a solution. They display sound judgement, are decisive and take timely action. Indecision causes opportunities to be missed and creates uncertainty – solution orientation prevents this.
  • Individual accountability
    They have a strong sense of their own self-worth and believe in their own abilities, which means that they influence situations where they can rather than allowing themselves to become a victim of circumstance. They see challenges as opportunities to expand their comfort zone.
    BUT: Self-worth needs to be grounded – if it becomes excessive it begins to look like narcissism. Individual accountability doesn’t mean going at it alone; a resilient person trusts, cooperates and works with others.
  • Openness and flexibility
    They tolerate, and sometimes even enjoy, ambiguity. They learn from their successes and failures and are good listeners, emphasising with other peoples’ points of views and considering new information, even if it means changing their planned course of action.
  • Manage stress and anxiety
    They recognise when they are in a state of stress or anxiety and deal with it effectively; they do not let it consume them and lead to underperformance.


What steps can I take to ensure that I remain resilient in the workplace?

Follow these 10 steps to maintain resilience:

  • visualise realistic success
  • acknowledge your strengths
  • reflect on your self-efficacy
  • learn to be more optimistic
  • identify and reduce stressors
  • never avoid decisions
  • network with others
  • resolve conflicts early
  • consciously make an effort to keep learning
  • stay true to yourself and your core identity.


How should I approach a problem that is causing me anxiety and stress?

As we get older our idea of what we can control shrinks, but this should not produce a negative outlook.

In overcoming problems where ambiguity, uncertainty and volatility reign, look for accommodation rather than a solution, thereby moving your position to a slightly better place. Take a moment to accept that there are things we can control, things we can influence and things we can accept. Being unable to control something does not amount to failure.


Why is it important to be resilient?

Ultimately, resilient people become great leaders as they act as a stabilising force for the people around them. A resilient attitude will help you to meet your greatest challenges and leave you feeling ready to overcome whatever obstacle awaits around the next bend.


Questions for you

  • Can you recall a recent situation where you demonstrated resilience?
  • Likewise, can you think of a recent situation where you failed to remain resilient?
  • In the situation where you failed to remain resilient, which of the five key characteristics discussed above were you lacking?


Sources of further information

Being a strong voice in uncertain times – PFF article.

Senior leadership for crisis situations – PFF article.

CIPFA Leadership Development Programme – a course designed develop your ability and confidence to take on more senior roles in your organisation.

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