In most work environments, there are multiple challenges for both managers and staff.  These include the pressures to constantly deliver business results, the demands of meeting imposed financial and other goals, dealing with changes whether they be system, structural or people changes, and personality dynamics when you have a range of different ideas, beliefs and work styles in the mix.

Skills are needed to deal with these things effectively, including “people skills”.  But also, underneath the skill layer is something we call resilience.

My observation over the years has been that people who can self-assess well – they understand their own motivations and behaviours – and who maintain clear thought processes generally, are better able to cope with challenges along the way.

In his recent book “The Resilient Farmer”, Doug Avery says:

“Resilience isn’t about not having bad times. It’s about having the tools to recover from difficulties, to adapt, to bounce forward.  Part of resilience is being honest and self-aware about the feelings we carry inside ourselves”.

Steven Covey also reflects this concept in the paradigms and principles which are developed in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.

Research has shown that though 50% of our ability to cope with stress is genetic (we’re hard-wired with this); 10% can be attributed to circumstances (the things that happen which are beyond our control); and actually 40% is determined by our choices.  This means that we ourselves have a big influence over our ability to deal with challenges.  We can make healthy choices in these situations which enable us to become more resilient.

Resilience is our ability to weather the storms and “bounce forward” (rather than back).  And a significant factor underpinning our ability to cope with the challenges and stress of a work environment is our health – both mental and physical.

In stressful situations, we automatically apply the “fight or flight” response, but there is a huge drain on our human systems if this response is overused.  Flexibility and optimism I think are crucial buffers which enable us to manage our stressors differently. The feeling of being in control of oneself and one’s decisions is a significant feature in this.

But we’re not talking about individual survival in the work environment at the expense of others here.  Simply that the more individuals demonstrate these qualities, the more productive and successful the business is likely to be.

What attributes do resilient people have?

  • They understand change (i.e. change is always happening and we’ll never be at a point where “it’s all sorted”);
  • They always take a learning approach (even to mistakes we make – what can we do better next time);
  • They know what the “critical indicators” are (what really matters);
  • They let go of what’s not important (avoid being overwhelmed);
  • They celebrate “wins” (appreciate and acknowledge progress, even small things);
  • They are also able to cultivate networks before challenges hit (connect positively with others, have a support team in place).

Stress at Work

There’s often a hands-off response when employees are demonstrating signs of being “stressed” at work. It’s a red flag, but treated sometimes as if it will just sort itself out. Unfortunately – a bit like conflict – stress doesn’t usually resolve by being ignored!

I’ve been brought in to several situations where an employee has been so stressed that they’ve become ill with anxiety and physically unable to function normally. The difficulty in resolving the issues at this point includes identifying the exact sources of stress and clarifying employer vs individual responsibilities for dealing with them.

Stress is almost always a multi-faceted phenomenon and not likely to have a single cause. People bring, within themselves, their home experiences to work, and take their work experiences home. Some people develop good skills that enable them to “switch off” when they transition from one to the other. But as a person is a continuous entity, we can’t ever achieve this completely.

It’s interesting that one of the indicators that people are increasingly seeking when choosing their employment situations is “work-life balance”. We’re recognising, possibly from previous generations’ mistakes, that being a workaholic is not likely to result in quality of life. And, along with other strategies to achieve optimum health and wellbeing, we’re generally more focused than we used to be on the importance of that balance.

A certain amount of stress is actually good for us (this is called “eustress”) – it keeps us motivated and challenged. But it’s when stress is excessive and/or prolonged, that “burnout” can result, together with the increased risks of both physical and mental illness. I’ve included below the “burnout scale” for you to consider and see if you can gauge where you might be at the moment. Most people fluctuate between two or three levels – and most of us would want to be, as often as possible, near the top – the “thriving” level.

Burnout Scale

  1. Thriving: surrounded by successes, alert, active, positive, excited about possibilities, rarely sick, not reliant on “pick-me-up’s” (e.g. coffee or alcohol).
  2. Achieving: on top of things and motivated but tired and/or forgetful, get the flu a few times a year, need “pick-me-up’s” a few times a week.
  3. Surviving: managing most things but dropping a few balls, often disinterested, irritable and rely on “pick-me-up’s” daily.
  4. Burning Out: not keeping up with responsibilities, overwhelmed, lacking confidence, belligerent, relationships failing, sick a lot.
  5. Burnt Out: lost mobility and/or grasp on reality.

The more time you spend further down the scale, the more risk you pose not only to yourself but to those around you. The more likely you are to have an accident, the more likely you are to make poor judgements and poor decisions, the more likely you are to forget things and become incapable of taking care of anyone or anything. In fact the further down the scale people go, the more dysfunctional they become – they actually become a hazard.

If you’re a people manager, it’s really important to be managing yourself well so that you’re able to manage others well. And taking a preventative and/or proactive approach to understanding and managing the stress factors that influence your staff is likely to result in much better outcomes for you, your team, and your business.

Intro to Bronwyn’s Blog

Why have I started a blog?

Partly as a reflection of social media expectations in today’s world.  This is an accepted way that people seek and communicate information now.  Having said that, I think tailored advice is often what’s needed, rather than general commentary.

Mostly, my reason for blogging is to share expertise that may be useful, particularly for managers of people.  I have a substantial length and depth of experience in human resources management to enable me to put forward what I hope will be helpful knowledge and insight.

Please feel free to email me with your feedback or views on any of the posted blog topics.  Also, do let me know if there are any particular topics you’d like covered.  I welcome your input and participation.

kind regards