Developing + Workplace + Resilience

What is resilience?

Most of us think of resilience as the ability to NOT break, bounce back, and perhaps even grow in the face of adverse life experiences. In reality, resilience is an individual thinking, feeling, behavioural and emotional response to events that are often out of our control.
Resilience is not a rare quality given to a chosen few we all have the capacity for resilience. We also know that resilient responses can be learned and are within the grasp of all of us. While many factors affect the development of resilience, the most important one is the attitude you adopt to deal with adversity. Therefore attitude is at the heart of resilience.
It’s normal to experience emotions at work: frustration, anger, fear, excitement. How we handle our feelings at work can go a long way to developing resilience. By recognising negative self-talk, such as I can’t do this, I can’t cope with change, she mustn’t treat me this way, I can’t stand criticism, we immerse ourselves in the feelings rather than trying to find another way of looking at the problem.

Don’t worry, we do not have to accept injustice, unfair criticism and bullying, but getting upset, angry, anxious over a frustration does not normally remove it and will add to our distress. Distinguish what you can and cannot change! For example, your boss criticises you, and you accept this criticism, you don’t like what she has said but you accept she is your boss and you make a commitment to change the situation. Changing how you think changes how you feel, thereby reducing the frequency, intensity and duration of your negative feelings. Self-belief embraces compassionate self-acceptance as a fallible human being. Remember, your thoughts and feelings and behaviours are within your control even if the adversity isn’t, learning to respond in ways that help rather than hinder you is resilience.

How do I develop workplace resilience?

  • The first step in developing resilience is taking personal responsibility for guiding yourself through the tough times with all its pain and struggle, trial and error.
  • Resilience is, coming back, rather than ‘bouncing back’ from adversity.
  • Adaptability to changing circumstances is one of the strengths and appeal of resilience.
  • Being resilient means being flexible so that you’re not stuck in your negative feelings and they don’t paralyse you.
  • Adopting self-belief is the strong (but not unrealistic) conviction that can move your life in the direction you want it to go.
  • Remember that you feel as you think.

Other areas in which attitudes determine resilience include;

  • Perfectionism

Those who are perfectionists tend to be overly concerned with achievement and the pursuit of unrelenting standards. The antidote to perfectionism is having high standards and a flexible preference for order and organisation and conscientious orientation to tasks and performance accompanied by low criticism and negativity, and high support and self-esteem. This is the resilient high achiever.

  • Procrastination

Procrastination usually involves ignoring an unpleasant, but likely more important task, in favour of one that is more enjoyable or easier. Procrastination can lead to increased stress, health problems, and poorer performance. One of the biggest reasons people procrastinate is because they catastrophize; this hinders your self-esteem with the guilt, shame, or self-critical thoughts that can result from putting off tasks. It may be related to how tough, how boring, how painful or how unbearable it will be to complete the task. Developing strategies to avoid procrastination will result in a more resilient work/ life balance.

  • Micromanagement vs self-management.

Trying to personally control and monitor everything in a team situation will result in resentment. The ability to relinquish control, trust and delegate to your team will result in empowerment, independence and objective decision making. Promoting self-management rather than micromanaging will result in a more resilient team.

  • Learning from failure

Overcoming failure is a painful but often necessary path to growth, and if you take its lessons and pointers seriously, you might just find that it allows you to operate at a level that you didn’t think was possible. Failing at something does not mean you are a failure. Acceptance, positive thinking, a strong sense of purpose and a strong sense of self, will result in emotional intelligence. Challenges can be our greatest learning opportunities. Feel grateful alongside the disappointment, this fosters optimism and quickly leaves behind the crippling effect of negativity. Resilient people look for the lessons and challenges alongside the disappointment.

  • Maintaining your resilient outlook

Having come through dark times successfully, you might believe you are now stress-resistant and can rest on your laurels. Your resilience attitude is likely to decay if you don’t practice. Maintaining resilience is a lifelong project to provide you with an increasing range of attitudes and skills that you can draw on when misfortune enters your life.


Where can I go for help?


  • Friends and family. Sometimes just telling the people close to you how you’re feeling can make a big difference – and they might be able to help you out in other ways too.
  • Support at work, such as your line manager, human resources (HR) department, union representatives, or employee assistance schemes. Try not to worry that talking to your manager or colleagues about stress will be seen as a sign of weakness – your wellbeing is important and responsible employers will take it seriously. If you’re worried that the culture in your workplace might not be very supportive, you might find it helpful to take a look at:
  • Support at university or college, such as your tutors, student union or student services.
  • Peer support. Sometimes sharing your experiences with people who’ve been through something similar can help you feel less alone. Elefriends and Togetherall both offer supportive online communities where you can talk openly about stress and your mental health.
  • Specialist websites and organisations.
  • Your GP. If you feel like you need some professional support, you can speak to your doctor. They can check your overall health, and help you access support and treatments. They could also recommend that you take some time off work, university or college, and sign a medical note for you.
  • Your local Mind. You might find your local Mind branch runs a course to help you look after your wellbeing, build resilience or manage stress. Or they may offer another service that could help you. Find your local Mind here.


Mallinger, A.; DeWyze, J. (1992). “Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of Control”. New York: Fawcett Columbine

Grotberg, E.H.(2003) What is resilience? How do you promote it? How do you use it, in E.H.Grotberg (ed.) resilience for today: gaining strength from adversity. Westport, CT: Praeger


Written by:

Marie Church
RN BSc Specialist Community Public Health Nurse (OH) Expert Witness
Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist MSc (BABCP Accredited)