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Building Resilience and Creating Psychologically Safe and Healthy Work Practices

With the challenges of working in these unstable and uncertain times, many of the leaders and executives we are coaching and assessing as part of our talent practice and consulting have been demonstrating a higher level of stress and a greater prevalence of burnout. Many of our clients are therefore seeking to measure, build and understand resilience as a route to supporting leaders.

This research was consequently conducted to help people in business understand how they feel on both a good and bad day and how their emotions impact their ability to cope with stress and difficulty at work. Our intention was to understand, articulate and find a simple way of assessing people’s level of resilience, so that we could identify and build better coping strategies. We achieved this by researching, designing, and validating the BeTalent.com Resilience Questionnaire, which assesses nine dimensions of resilience.

Every day we experience a myriad of emotions both good and bad, depending on the situation, people, and circumstances we face. Some days, it feels as though we just need to grit our teeth and struggle through the day, battling with the demands placed upon us, refusing to spend time thinking about the impact our actions have on the way we see ourselves and the world around us. Other days, we embark upon the day almost joyfully, looking forward to each event, attending to how we are feeling and recognising the impact we are making at work and for our customers, stakeholders, or clients.

In understanding ourselves and how we can become more resilient, we need to move away from the desire and need to be persistent. Persistence can sometimes be the enemy of resilience. Persistence is single minded, determined, and dogged, whereas resilience is agile, emotionally intelligent and attentive. Being resilient is about understanding and facing up to the negative emotions and understanding why we feel the way we do. It is also about identifying better coping strategies for dealing with those negative emotions and finding ways to feel better about ourselves and the situation we are in.

Understanding how we can help people to be more resilient is critically important with such a large proportion of our working leaders experiencing burnout in their careers. Mental illness is often invisible, for example, a colleague could appear calm, and still be terribly anxious. They could experience depression or negative thoughts, and still come to work smiling, and even more worrying is that a colleague could have suicidal thoughts and still turn up to work every day and function with some level of efficiency.

To help people be more aware and build their level of resilience, we need to ask more questions and take time to truly actively listen and understand. We all fall fowl of autobiographical listening where we attend to the information that confirms what we believe and tune out when it does not. We need to be truly active listeners where we attend to both what is and what is not being said.

Creating a psychologically safe environment is key to enabling this to happen. With the stigma of mental illness still existing, leaders are less likely to seek help from colleagues, and are more likely to seek help from friends and family. We need to create an environment where conversations about how we are feeling are acceptable and helpful, and thus we hope that the Resilience Questionnaire and card sort exercises will enable this to happen.

We hope you find this white paper, our research and the BeTalent.com Resilience Questionnaire useful to enable greater strategies for coping within your organisation.