Human Intelligence

Hard Times Are Coming. Here’s How to Build Your Company’s Resilience to Endure Them


It’s time to retire the saying “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” That’s because when hard times hit, what you’ll need more than anything from your staff (and yourself) is resilience.

Necessary to counter workplace stress, resilience is all about bouncing back and learning from mistakes. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Center for Workplace Mental Health, workplace stress causes 120,000 deaths and about $190 billion in health care costs annually. Stress contributes to everything from an increase in chronic depression to a reduction in immune system functioning. “Resilience,” says Robert Goldberg, founder and managing partner of Greensboro, N.C.-based consulting firm Organization Insight, “is like a force field.”

“If a group learns it can withstand pressures, failures, and setbacks, it can rally together under enormous strain,” says Goldberg. ”On the other hand, we’ve seen countless times where a lack of resilience leads to self-victimization, fracturing of relationships, and half-hearted efforts.” 

According to Goldberg, resilience is most important in workplaces “where there is external pressure beyond the norm, where there is a lot of disruption amid an uncertain future—in short, in most organizations today.”

But the hardest thing about relying on your team members’ resilience is that until tough times hit, there’s no way to know how much bounce back they’ve got. But that’s okay. While you can’t teach your team members how to be resilient, you can take several very important steps to help them find it within themselves.

Here are are four key ways Goldberg says you can help your team find out how they can help bolster the group’s collective resilience, and stand tall during both personal and company challenges:

Be a resilience role model. “Don’t cave in when confronted with challenges,” says Goldberg. According to research out of Johns Hopkins University, there are five factors of human resilience: self awareness, mindfulness, self care, positive relationships, and purpose. Start buttressing your team by assessing which of these are your strengths (and weaknesses), and model the ones that can help your organization, when things go wrong.

Get to know your people. You know Robert in the back office? Well, you don’t, because he prefers to go by Bob. And if this and other facts have eluded you, it’s time to step up the personal engagement at your company. Nobody expects you to join Bob’s fantasy league, but at the very least, get to know enough about him so that he’s more than Back Office Bob—and so that he knows you’re more than just the boss. Then, when Bob goes through hard times, you’ll be able to “express compassion for their personal situations and remind them of the tough times they’ve gone through before.” That last bit is how you help people see how much resilience they have inside of them and, through those conversations, you’ll get to see your team member’s strengths.

Make sure your people are connected with each other. You may (or may not) be the glue, but each member of your organization is a vital piece. Before your group faces adversity, help your people stick together so they can “support each other as a team in order to counter social isolation, which is the enemy of resilience,” says Goldberg.

Help your team members understand how they contribute to getting through tough times. By letting them know that you see them and how they help work toward company goals, you’ll help cement their own feeling that they are integral to the group’s mission—through good times and bad.

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