Resilience in the workplace

Coping with constant change: What we should know about Resilience for individuals and organisations

By Desiree Anderson

What is Resilience?


Resilience can be defined as how we ADAPT TO CHANGE. In the current climate of uncertainty the ability to be resilient will most likely be a key determinant of Business Success.

If individual’s don’t figure a way of coping better internally and organisations don’t develop cultures, practices and processes to nurture their market and their people – the prevailing seismic changes could result in people and businesses faltering.

Organisational Resilience

Forbes undertook a study after the first UK lockdown of 36 international organisations with 15000 responses. The results give us an insight into what organisations could do better to improve business and employee resilience.

It seems that there needs to be more of the following:

  1. Allowing individuals to contribute and feel valued
  2. Clarifying changes to teams by communicating regularly and honestly
  3. Being decisive in a crisis and communicating a path forward
  4. Making employee engagement a key focus
  5. Helping people work through how to change their work and lives
  6. Clarifying remote working practices as well as technology to help with new ways of working
  7. Reflecting the company culture in leader actions

The above points highlight the importance of COMMUNICATION in the midst of uncertainty.These research results have parallels with Simon Sinek’s advice below:

More information is always better than less. When people know the reason things are happening, even if it’s bad news, they can adjust their expectations and react accordingly. Keeping people in the dark only serves to stir negative emotions. Simon Sinek

“More information is always better than less. When people know the reason things are happening, even if it’s bad news, they can adjust their expectations and react accordingly. Keeping people in the dark only serves to stir negative emotions.” – Simon Sinek


Another recent Forbes article (Feb, 2020) on resilience advocates that whilst creating “safe spaces” for ourselves and our employees, it’s important to encourage and build up tolerance to ambivalence in the face of setbacks. Making decisions even if we are not 100% sure of the outcome is part of this process. An ability to ACT in the face of adversity despite the outcome, will build up our resilience.


Therefore it looks to me as if we need a balance between providing psychological safety and helping employees feel valued whilst at the same time encouraging risk taking and creativity.


Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede in his book, “Culture’s Consequences” talks about ‘uncertainty avoidance cultures’ and ‘uncertainty acceptance’ organisations. Those organisations that accept uncertainty will have more flexibility, diversity and be more open to new ideas.


Individual resilience

Before the Covid outbreak, our lives outside of work could be as separate as we wanted it to be. Nowadays, there is a blurring of the roles of work and home and with it an uneasy conflict of identity especially for home workers.

Advocates of authentic leadership and vulnerability such as Brene Brown encourage us to show up warts and all in all facets of our lives. This is great for putting us in touch with that part of us that is flawed, scared and simply doesn’t know what to do.

“Vulnerability is not about winning or losing. It’s having the courage to show up even when you can’t control the outcome” Brene Brown

Without self-insight we will perhaps run the risk of seeing ourselves as victims and not learning to grow and strengthen ourselves in the face of adversity.


In my opinion, taking responsibility for our actions and circumstances forms a vital part of the vulnerability process. In my coaching practice, I use the Kolb’s (1984) tried and tested “Learning styles and experiential learning cycle” model with client’s to encourage deeper self -awareness, experimentation and adjustment to feedback. Kolb’s model is shown alongside.

Encouraging reflection helps individuals examine their reactions and judgements together with the ways in which they practice success and impact their wellbeing positively. Reflective practice can also reduce the negative effect of stress in the workplace. Certainly maintaining mental wellbeing is a vital aspect of resilience for individuals. Mind (2020) says that Resilience includes “your capacity to adapt in the face of challenging circumstances, whilst maintaining a stable mental wellbeing”.


 As we face a second national lockdown in England, RESILIENCE is a word that is on our minds along with the need for personal and business survival.

It’s clear that we need to build emotional resilience on both an organisational and individual level to help ourselves deal productively with the monumental changes we are facing. This calls for a combination of action and reflection and a balance of keeping ourselves safe and growing.

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