Resilience (noun) – the ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions; physical, mental and/or emotional toughness
In Part 1 of this article, we discussed what resilience is and why it is so important for individuals and organizations. This week, we’ll take a closer look at how to build resilience.
While some people are innately more anxious or fearful than others, due in part to their genetic makeup, resilience is a skill that anyone can develop. There are numerous resilience training programs available, but they share a number of features. The Master Resilience Training Program, for example, teaches participants how to set realistic goals and plans and then how to take steps to carry out these plans. They develop commuSnication and problem-solving skills. Participants learn how to manage their emotions and impulses more effectively. They also learn to accept change, rather than struggling against it. Programs also encourage developing meaningful connections with others to create a support system.
Learn 10 Ways to Build Resilience from the American Psychological Association.
Helping a Fragile Employee
So what if you are the supervisor or manager of a fragile employee? First and foremost, don’t dismiss their feelings. Whether you think it justified or not, the pain they feel is real. Ridiculing an employee or telling them to “deal with it” rarely has a positive effect and can destroy the trust between leader and team member. After all, when was the last time someone telling you to “calm down” actually made you feel calmer?
Additionally, as individuals from different generations and cultural traditions enter the workforce in ever greater numbers, norms for expressing emotion in the workplace are changing. Traditional “suck it up” responses now may result in accusations of creating a hostile workplace. A difference in response to male and female employees who display emotion may leave a manager and/or company open to charges of gender discrimination. If there is an underlying medical and behavioral condition contributing to the individual’s response, they may be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Most importantly, you don’t want to miss the signs of desperation. Tragically, suicide rates are on the increase across all generational groups.
This doesn’t mean, however, that as a manager you have to accept any and all behavior. Emotional distress, and especially the blaming behavior discussed earlier, can spill over to other team members, creating more issues and a greater loss of productivity. As a leader, it’s your role to help employees deal effectively with change and its consequences. But you need to act with kindness and respect.
Strategies to Nurture Resilience
A recent article from 6Q lists excellent strategies for managing emotional employees. There are a few, however, that strike me as especially important.
Protect their dignity. Don’t ridicule or punish people for emotional displays. Instead, provide privacy to enable them to regain their composure. (Remember, some people will need more time than others.) Don’t discuss the incident with others and discourage gossip by others under your authority. Don’t “out” people who come to you in confidence.
Prepare employees for change. Whenever possible, alert your team that change or a crisis is coming. If you’re caught off guard too, take the first opportunity for communication. Be honest and straightforward about what’s happening and how it may impact them. In the absence of information, rumors abound. Address gossip head-on with the facts. Let your team know that you have confidence in their ability to deal with the situation effectively and that you will be there to guide and support them throughout.
Be aware of your own emotional energy. Team members look to you for an example of how to deal with change and crisis. Exhibit the behaviors you want them to adopt. Use positive reinforcement whenever possible, and carefully consider the impact your wording and tone will have on others when you communicate.
Help people understand and work through their emotional response to a situation. No one expects you to be a qualified counselor, of course; but if you can, help employees identify triggers cause them to become overwhelmed. Don’t settle for a superficial answer. Help them identify the underlying factors and develop a plan to address those circumstances. Know the resources available within your company and community to assist them. And once a crisis passes, follow up on the well-being of the employee – and of your team as a whole.
One Final Word
As with any other performance issue, document, document, document! Hopefully compassionate intervention and training will help a fragile employee weather the crisis. But if you have to let someone go because your work environment is too stressful for them, be prepared to show your efforts to nurture that person’s resilience.