Your Resilience is Not My Problem. Or is it?

In a study of factors contributing to employee resilience, more than half (52%) of respondent’s believed that increasing the resilience of other employee’s is NOT part of their role. (HBR 2017)

The corporate landscape in 2020 is one defined by turbulence. These pressures challenge organisations to face the universal need to support employees in achieving and maintaining resilience, mental health and general well-being. Learning development teams are understandably busy now trying to implement support that really works.

In figuring out how to best help, the science on resilience consistently points to the value of social support and feeling part of a community. That is, at times of stress, the quality of your support systems both at work and at home, provide a buffering effect to the experience of stress. Building well-functioning internal resources such as improved physical health, mindfulness, good time management and improved mental thought processes are important. However, your inner health is only part of the equation. The other significant component is the health of your relationship connections at work and at home.

It is quite alarming then to consider that more than half of your peers at work believe that your personal resilience is more about you learning to cope more effectively than it is about their own working styles, their support and their patterns of behaviour. In a HBR & North Highland study of over 500 companies, it was surprising to discover that 52% of employees felt that it was NOT their role to help increase the resilience of others in their team.

Is it that we are conditioned to look out for signs that someone may not be coping well, so that we can help THEM cope better? Are organisations providing workshops and supports to help THEM cope better? Are we genuinely considering our own role as a peer or as a leader in providing valuable connection and understanding that has been proven to significantly buffer the impacts of stressors? Could we do more to build your team's capacity to support each other through 2020 and beyond? We would like to think so.

Beyond Blue, an Australian leader into research on mental health, has identified a number of factors that exist within individuals, their family, and the community which they exist that influence their resilience (2017). Factors within the person include the development of positive social skills and empathy as well as a sense of belonging. Within an individual’s family, positive relationships and a sense of connectedness and family identity are a focus. Factors within community (think your work community) include connections and interactions with peers, learning environments that provide positive encouragement and positive relationships, and social inclusion within community values and beliefs. The Black Dog Institute’s research also shares the belief that relationships at work are a key contributor to resilience. it also It is the very nature of our interconnection with others that will mitigate the stress.

We at TDA believe that building the capacity to support each other's resilience through improved relationship skills is critical for the success of your resilience efforts. Dr John and Dr Julie Gottman, both international award-winning psychologists, have spent over 4 decades understanding practical and proven ways to build healthy, supportive, connected relationships that survive the tests of time and adversity. What their research encourages is the skilful development of the following three areas:

  • Improved Friendship System. We must teach "I know you, I like you, and I am there for you". Throughout working periods of pressure and change we must engage employees in the practical skills of continuing to know each other, really know each other. What does their role mean to them in the context of their lives? What meaning could change have through their eyes? How are these times of pressure and change significant to them? Next, employees also can benefit by increasing the sense of feeling appreciated by their peers. Working at speed with tightened levels of accountability often can come at the expense of common appreciation. Find ways to build a healthy culture of appreciation into your workplace. Finally, develop an appreciation of what it means to truly 'be there' for your peers. How do they like you to turn-towards them at times of stress? Discover their silent bids for support. Understand what it means for them to know you've got their back.
  • Improved Conflict System. Is it any surprise that employees working in closer quarters, under all kinds of pressure, are highly prone to being triggered by their peers and reacting less than optimally to frustrations? Stress breeds stressed communication. Anxiety breeds anxious communication. Frustration triggers frustrated communication. Whatever your flavour, the science of managing conflict discussions is a life skill that benefits you and your peers throughout stress and frustration. Learn to turn criticism into non-triggering, constructive feedback. Turn defensiveness into strong team behaviours, allowing yourself to be influenced for the greater good of the team. Move from a grid-lock of mutual contempt to a culture where diverse thought and experience is appreciated and valued. Learn how to keep your cool and express yourself without strong negative emotion overriding your best communication.
  • Improved System of Mutual Purpose. Strive for a deeply aligned, purpose driven organisation. Your employees' resilience benefits from a shared connection to a common purpose. Build organisation vision and purpose. Communicate these regularly. Engage individuals and teams in a dialogue to discover how they fit within that organisational purpose. Help employees learn the significance of the team goals to individual motivations. Purpose is significant to individuals, lifting them into heartfelt appreciation for the work and challenges that go with that work.

We encourage you to seek to understand each other before attempting to fix. Resilient employees are built on healthy cultures, healthy relationships. Make your team culture work and you will improve their resilience.


“Building Resilience from Disruption” Harvard Business Review,

Gottman Institute, 2020.

Beyond Blue -

Black Dog Institute -