The concept of personal resilience
Resilience is a complex concept with numerous deﬁnitions.
Central to most of these deﬁnitions is the notion that resilience involves being able to withstand and overcome adversity and unpleasant or difficult events successfully and to be able to adapt to change and uncertainty (Coutu, 2002).
The term bounce back is frequently used to describe how resilient people respond to obstacles and setbacks in their lives. Broadly, resilience involves the capacity to manage and recover from demands and challenges in a consistent and effective way.
Resilience incorporates some sense of personal growth as each adverse experience is used not only to enhance coping but also to better manage the next set-back. In essence, each event provides an opportunity to learn new skills and anticipate, plan for, and better manage the next situation encountered.
This all implies that resilience can only be developed through experiencing setbacks and working through them. Avoiding or being protected from problems is not useful and can be detrimental to future coping capacity when issues arise that cannot be ignored. For example, a manager who protects a new graduate from conﬂict, rather than mentoring in skills to manage conﬂict, is not supporting development of skills that will inevitably be needed.
Considerable attention has been given to whether resilience is an inherent personal trait or a process. Whereas it is acknowledged that there are aspects of our personality that contribute to resilience, there is now consensus that it is a dynamic process that can be developed in most of us (Masten, 2001). This means that whereas some people may have more resilient personal characteristics such as optimism and ﬂexibility, it is possible to learn and develop the thoughts and behaviours that underpin it.
Against the framework of the Resilience At Work (RAW Scale), personal work resilience can be deﬁned as ‘
The individual capacity to manage the everyday stress of work and remain healthy; rebound and learn from unexpected setbacks, and prepare for future challenges proactively’. ( Kathryn McEwen)
Despite the fact that the concept of personal resilience has been extensively explored and researched, its importance within the work environment has emerged more recently.
Such interest is in response to rapid organisational change, increased stress and complexity within work roles combined with very busy out-of-work demands.
Of particular interest has been identifying strategies that employees and employers can engage to build resiliency that are independent of personal attributes.
The screening of prospective job candidates for traits correlated with resiliency is increasing across industry sectors that involve high-pressure work.
However, the reality is that all workplaces will comprise a cross-section of the population with many less predisposed to inherent resiliency.
An inter-play between personal characteristics and the environment reinforces the need to also focus on developing work behaviours and climates that promote resiliency rather than to just recruit those possessing resilient characteristics.
The Resilient at work scale is targeted specifically to the workplace; it gives a simple and powerful guide both to areas of behaviors which are successful as well as suboptimal behaviors to be modified and developed
The RAW-S fills a gap in existent measures and provides 2 essential benefits to the individual and teams
First a diagnostic guide to the overall adaptive and effective performance that the individual and the team is demonstrating
Secondly it provides essentially practical guidance of things to continue to do or things to change or improve in order to build resilience as a skill
The 21st century world of work has become characterised by the demand for increasingly greater out pout from increasingly fewer workers
The phenomenon of work intensification has reach the limits of human capacity to withstand
As a consequence there has been a substantial increase in the incidence of work related stress injury
These injuries at the organizational level lead to high level of costs which has been estimated to absorb as much as 45% of company operating profits (employee stress the true cost, john Riner review 1997)
Companies have lately developed an awareness of the importance and value that their employees as human capital and a most significant asset the organization possesses meriting appropriate and meaningful protection
It has been also observed that some individual across the work spectrum seem to manifest a capacity to cope with high work demands far more successfully than others
They are said to possess high resilience
However they are no universal definition of such resilience
Defining resilience today will always include two commonalities
Resilience involves some sort of adversity or challenge
That is followed by some degree of positive adaptation
“resilience is the process of negotiating, managing, and adapting to significant sources of stress or trauma;
Assets and resources within the individual their life and environment facilitate the capacity for adaptation and bouncing back in the face of adversity
Some description of resilience identify it as a personality trait or genetic predisposition, but within the existential reality there is a view that resilience can also be conceptualized as a dynamic and interactive process. Such a perspective views it as a function of individual conscious interaction with their external environment
This suggests that rather than being a fixed quantity determined by relatively unchanging genetic factors resilience is malleable and as such is capable of development; it suggests also the possibility that it is teachable
In other words we are looking to understand the element of workplace resilience as a skill that could be taught, practiced, and developed
The scale is associated with behaviors that reliably facilitates recovery from work stress experience
It is hence correlated with measure of recovery from work demands
Measure of engagement at work
Measure of physical health
Measure of chronic fatigue and poor sleep
The RAW Scale
The Resilience at Work (RAW) Scale, a 20-item self-report instrument that measures individual workplace resilience (McEwen and Winwood, 2011). In developing the RAW
Scale, the focus was on behaviours that promote resilience in professional and semi professional roles that involves a degree of autonomy and skill. The value
of the scale is its focus on the discretionary capacity of an individual as opposed to personality characteristics that are less able to be changed.
Seven factors were found to contribute to individual work resilience that can each be improved through self-awareness of current effectiveness followed by the employment of speciﬁc strategies (Fig. 1).
Descriptor of each of these factors is as follows.
Living Authentically: Knowing and holding onto personal values, deploying personal strengths and having a good level of emotional awareness and regulation.
Work is more satisfying and less stressful if it is consistent with personal values and strengths. When personal and organisational values collide, such as valuing honesty in a team with no transparency and trust, individuals feel integrity in the job is lost and
struggle with what is required. This mismatch causes a constant tension. Similarly, a position that capitalises on strengths rather than works outside of these is performed more easily and has more capacity for personal growth.
Whereas some element of challenge and stretch is important to professional development,
working constantly in areas outside of strengths impacts on both productivity and well-being. An example may be promotion to a position involving more people management when the strength is in high analytical thinking. The other authenticity component is emotional regulation – the capacity to manage mood and emotional responses under pressure. As explored below, this is a critical factor in minimising overreaction when
under duress and in maintaining positive work relationships, especially in leadership positions.
Finding Your Calling: Seeking work that has purpose, a sense of belonging and a ﬁt with core values and beliefs.
This factor is more of an outcome than a strategy and demonstrates that individuals are more resilient when the work provides a meaning beyond daily tasks and where organisational values are congruent with personal beliefs.
The premise is that individuals will commit more and work harder when there is a sense of vocation rather than employment. Where individuals also have a feeling of connection and belonging with co-workers the commitment intensiﬁes through a sense of shared
purpose. Organisations that do this well have employees with a great sense of pride in belonging to the organisation.
Maintaining Perspective: Having the capacity to reframe setbacks, focus on problem solving and manage negativity.
Interpretation of events, especially negative ones, is central to resilient thinking. As an example, in times of job redundancy a resilient perspective involves both acceptance that this is part of employment in geosciences and optimism that employment opportunities will
improve. It also involves engaging in personal actions that can increase the likelihood of a new job and optimising use of down-time. Enhancing transferable skills, updating specialist knowledge and expanding networks all assist in this.
Managing Stress: Employing work and life routines that helps manage everyday stresses, maintain work–life balance and ensure time for relaxation.
All professional work is busy.
To manage this requires good self-care and time management techniques during the working day. It also involves ensuring adequate time out for rest and relaxation, with boundaries and routines that ensures that work demands do not overly intrude on home life. Examples of how this is achieved are explored below.
Interacting Cooperatively: Seeking feedback, advice and support and providing support to others. Resilience involves anticipating and preparing for future obstacles and set-backs in a positive way. Professionals who seek feedback on their performance are able to modify it in the right direction. Having access to a range of professional and practical support
and advice builds personal resilience through increasing resources and providing emotional support.
Interestingly, giving support is of equal value. This may in part be the value of altruism in psychological wellbeing, although within a work setting support needs reciprocation to be maintained. A key characteristic of resilient teams is mutual support.
Staying Healthy: Maintaining a good level of physical ﬁtness and a healthy diet.
Even in work that is not physically demanding, a sound level of physical health is critical to maintaining focus and stamina. A ﬁtness and nutritional regime that is consistent with work and home demands impacts directly on the cognitive and emotional capacity to get through what an individual needs to do on a daily basis.
In times of ill health, fatigue or injury other components of resilience such as perspective and support are needed to compensate for reduced physical capacity.
Building Networks: Developing and maintaining
personal support networks. Wide professional networks have long been advocated as a means of professional development and career progression. Resilience involves developing a network of support for all areas of work and home life. This may include practical help, advice, perspective, emotional support and debrieﬁng. The more extensive the network
of support, the more this assists in staying resilient at work. Ideally, employees invest in each of the seven factors, although limitations in one area can compensate for others.
As an example, in times of lack of support or when working in an environment inconsistent with personal values, additional stress management and perspective techniques may be needed.
The seven RAW Scale factors are mapped against four areas requiring personal
investment: physical health, stress management, adaptability to change or set-back and personal pro-activity
(Table 1). All factors interrelate and are of equal importance in overall resilience. Resilient workers invest in maintaining a healthy exercise and diet regime and ensure that they have the physical capacity to fulﬁl job needs. They also engage in effective self-care and stress management techniques and employ mechanisms to manage everyday work and home stressors.
Whereas good health and self-care are fundamental to keeping on top of day-to-day pressures, resilience also involves adapting to unexpected changes and setbacks.
Resilient people respond in a way that focuses on growth and solutions rather than non-coping. They are able to move on from negative events. This component is largely cognitive reframing as it is about the way in which a person interprets and makes sense of life events.
Finally resilience, as discussed here, comprises a proactive element of appreciating that there will be future challenges to prepare for. This demands an understanding of personal values, strengths and knowing how to best position oneself to maximise personal performance and well-being at work. It also comprises seeking work that offers meaning and purpose. A whole of-life approach is advocated, with the strategies applied to both work and personal lives in recognition of their interconnected impact on psychological and physical well-being. It is also important to recognise that a team of resilient geoscientists will not create a resilient team as
this requires additional elements such as mutual support, effective team processes, shared goals and values as well as the capability and talent to perform the work to be done. Whereas the focus of this article is on individual resilience, some strategies for team application are also listed.
Physical health Staying healthy Having the physical endurance and energy to complete the tasks demanded in the role Capacity to manage everyday stressors Managing stress Having sound self-care and time management techniques to bestdeal with workload and daily pressures
Building networks Maintaining work and non-work relationships and networks that provide
emotional, practical and professional support Developing effective emotional
regulation and maintaining positive mood
Adaptability in response to set-back and change
Maintaining perspective Adopting thinking styles and strategies that assist to minimise the impact of negative events and provide perspective rather than over-reaction or self-defeating thoughts
Interacting co-operatively Having an optimistic outlook and a solution-focus. Looking for opportunity in adversity Seeking feedback, support and advice Personal pro-activity Living authentically Understanding personal strengths and values and positioning work to use and
capitalise on these Finding your calling Having a sense of higher purpose and
meaning in the work