Why Resilience in the Workplace is Key in 2021
December 2, 2020
"[SHIFT] happens. The trick is to put yourself in a position to survive and even thrive when it does."
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb
We’ve got a problem, Houston! Humans suck at disruptive and exponential change. As if we need any more proof of how harsh and unkind 2020 has been, even the most focused and conditioned humans on the planet are being tested like never before. Just imagine where that leaves the rest of us!
Gerd Leonhard, a regarded futurist, summed up our challenge well: technology is exponential, but humans are not. Deloitte, in its "Rewriting the Rules for the Digital Age" report (p. 4), shared a graphic that depicts the challenge confronting all of us—individuals, businesses, and governments alike. Technology has created a sharp bend upward on the road to the future while people and organizations keep driving straight ahead, right off the proverbial cliff. Clearly, we must quickly acknowledge humans will be challenged like never before and that change will be hard, but not impossible!
What is Resilience in the Workplace?
Namely: Being resilient is about much more than just moving forward. It refers to the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It’s the capacity to respond to stress in a healthy way, to "bounce forward." It embeds an ability to help us navigate volatility, respond to uncertainty, recover from setbacks, and reimagine the unknown.
Why is Resilience Important in the Workplace Today?
Our "old normal" world thrived on efficiency. We thrived on predictability. We squeezed out variance for the sake of optimization. Squeezing out uncertainty became the holy grail in a predictable, linear-changing world.
But in the complex, exponentially changing world we now live in, our plans rarely go as expected. Trying to eliminate randomness and variability is a losing strategy. It doesn’t make us better or stronger; it makes us fragile. Resilience in the workplace encourages us to embrace change rather than focus our energy on restraining or ignoring it. Resilience allows us to grow forward even when we don’t understand everything. It allows us to reimagine the unknown, not avoid it. Some feel that resilience may even be a predictor of well-being. One survey found that resilience ability decreased average stress levels by 37%.
How to Build Emotional Resilience in the Workplace
There are two key drivers of resilience at work. First: Learning fosters resilience. For far too long, we’ve rewarded zero-defects and perfection at the expense of innovation and growth. We’ve stifled curiosity. We need to frame and reframe the conversation surrounding mistakes and failures to create a growth mindset culture and encourage everyone to learn from challenges. And sometimes, we need to learn to unlearn to "bounce forward." Resilience builds abilities and self-confidence. With ability and self-confidence, your employees experience optimism. With optimism, bouncing forward is more likely because they can keep the eye on the prize—growth, innovation and well-being.
And second: Recognition. Recognition is a basic human need. It shouldn’t be held back for special occasions. Every single person in your organization deserves a pat-on-the-back and/or acknowledgment of appreciation on a regular basis. (If they don’t, why are they still on your payroll?) But recognition goes beyond rewards. Feedback is constructive. It confirms what an employee does well. And when they mess up, feedback recognizes a learning moment. Recognition isn’t something Millennials cooked up to build up their self-confidence. People of all generations and ages appreciate recognition for their value-adding behavior, productive actions, and personal achievements. Just do it!
Let’s work together to leave no human behind. In the future, we can either break, or become resilient. Let’s teach people to be more resilient and embrace adaptability.