Developing Physical and Emotional Resilience

Monday, June 3, 2013 - 08:17

By Leon Gettler

With organisations changing all the time, managers can’t assume that all staff will adapt. What they need to do is create systems that support individual resilience. If they don’t, staff won’t be working that well. Productivity will slip.

According to Sydney-based resilience specialists Risk Logic, organisations without systems creating resilience will risk industrial relations issues and loss of key staff through resignation or absenteeism. This will result in reduced capacity.

They suggest such measures as running crisis management exercises and tests, training staff to manage high stress and giving them tips for managing stress such as relaxation techniques, physical exercise and healthy eating. If they can’t train everyone, they should put it on the intranet or run it in in team meetings. Managers are also advised to look at policies like overtime or time-off-in-lieu arrangements for people who are being forced to work excessive hours. They should also ensure lines of communication with staff remain open. Stress levels in the organisation need to be monitored.

It’s all a good investment of time and resources.

“The emotional resilience of staff to cope with the stresses of the rapid and uncertain change that is a crisis will significantly contribute to an organisation’s ability to respond, adapt and recover from such an event”.

Consultants say emotional resilience can be learnt as a skillset, or a set of behaviours. That would help people cope better under pressure. “It is important for employees feeling pressurised to have the means to solve problems on their own, and have a certain degree of control over their working life. If staff can have some input into the amount of work they have and flexibility around the hours they work, it can help them deal with pressure better.”

They say managers can also provide such services as an employee assistance programme, or a health plan that includes telephone and face-to-face counselling.

Writing for the Australian Psychological Society,  Ellen Jackson and Rachel Clements say it appears that those most vulnerable to psychological injury are individuals working in organisations more likely to be exposed to critical incidents. Work related factors like performance investigations or complaints, performance management, exposure to aggressive clients, conflict with colleagues, high workload, the poor management skills of supervisors, transfers and poor person-job fit are also relevant.

They suggest a number of strategies.

“In terms of mitigating the risk of psychological injury caused by these and other work and non-work factors, there are a range of individual and organisational-level strategies that can be implemented,’’ they write. “At the individual level, strategies include management training in skills such as providing performance feedback and managing underperformance, coaching and mentoring staff, managing the impact of organisational change on others, managing critical incidents, and conflict management and grievance handling. Career coaching to manage issues such as vocational discontent and the early warning signs of distress associated with this can also be helpful, as can occupational stress resilience programs aimed at enhancing emotional resilience in the workplace and the prevention of burnout.

“Improving the quality of workplace relationships is also important in mitigating the risk of psychological injury and in helping individuals to recover from emotional distress and return to work. Relevant interventions for improving workplace relationships include training employees in improving individual communication, understanding and resolving differences, assertiveness and teamwork.

“At the organisational level, strategies such as well-developed recruitment and selection processes incorporating psychometric assessment can ensure better job-person fit. This can be particularly effective in reducing the risk of psychological injury resulting from non-work factors such as personality styles that increase the likelihood of individuals becoming vulnerable to distress under certain circumstances.”