March 29, 2022

The biggest myths about resilience in the workplace

Resilience is the maintenance of high levels of positive affect and well-being in the face of adversity. It is not that resilient individuals never experience negative affect, but rather that the negative affect does not persist.

Professor Richard Davidson

The world of work is rapidly changing. Remote and hybrid teams have become more common, and some return-to-workplace plans have repeatedly changed. Automation is becoming more mainstream and changing the nature of jobs. Turnover is sky-high, leaving remaining team members to pick up the slack while positions are backfilled. And these are just some of the challenges you and your your teammates may have faced in the past two years.

Resilience is a critical workplace skill that can help you adapt to change and thrive in the new normal. But there are many myths about resilience at work that may be holding you back. 

Myth #1: You’re either resilient or you’re not.

You may have heard the phrase, “Hire for attitude, train for skills.” Well, good news. Resilience is an emotional skill, not a personality trait—and it can be learned, practiced, and developed. For instance, you might take an eLearning course on resilience or utilize professional coaching to hone this valuable skill.

It’s also important to note that resilience can be a spectrum, varying by the situation or other external factors. For instance, people may be resilient when faced with stressful work situations, but not when dealing with a difficult family situation. Or consider the pandemic. People may have been more resilient if they were dealing with a health crisis, school closure, or social isolation independently, but less so when dealing with all three simultaneously. 

That’s why prioritizing your well-being is so essential. Even your most resilient teammates may be struggling more with stress or challenges at work when faced with adversity in other areas of their lives.

Myth #2: It’s entirely up to you to build your own resilience.

When you don’t have the coping mechanisms to effectively deal with stress, it can lead to burnout. And burnout isn’t just a personal issue—it also affects engagement, productivity, and turnover at your organization. Building individual resilience benefits everyone you work with. 

Company leaders can support their teams in building resilience and create healthier working environments that are less trying on employee resilience. For example, managers should focus performance conversations around challenges, areas where a team member might need support, and individual goals. This helps employees gain confidence and self-efficacy to become more resilient.

Myth #3: Resilient people aren’t bothered by stressful situations.

Resilience can help you overcome stressful and challenging situations before they lead to burnout. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be bothered by stressful situations—it just means you’ll know how to manage them better.

For example, someone with high resilience may reframe a challenging situation to find the good in it. A resilient person learns from their mistakes and failures. They take time for self-care and relaxation so they’re better equipped to handle stressful situations. And they lean on their support network for help when they need it. These mechanisms help you approach challenging situations with a can-do attitude.

So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Myth #4: Asking for help means you’re less resilient.

People are often afraid to ask for help because they see it as a sign of weakness. But in actuality, recognizing when you need support and seeking it are signs of strength and resilience. 

Resilient team members understand that everyone is working toward the same goals and lean on their support networks—including colleagues—to overcome challenges. This promotes social wellness and helps your team members feel supported and continue to approach challenging situations with a positive mindset. That’s because they know their team will back them up and help them succeed if needed.

Final thoughts on resilience at work

Resilience is a combination of grit, perseverance, and optimism in the face of challenges, with an elastic ability to recover from setbacks or difficulties. This is a crucial workplace skill that must be nurtured and developed in the ever-changing world of work. You should work to develop this emotional skill just as you would any other skill that helps you excel in your roles and be the best version of yourself.

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