Admin Apr 06, 2022

Resilience in the workplace

As an employee have you ever found yourself wondering what makes some more successful at work than others?

As an employee have you ever found yourself wondering what makes some more successful at work than others?

Like many, you might think that success at work is a combination of high intelligence with working extra hours and taking on more commitments than what is given in your job description.

Even though this may contribute to success at some level, given our modern workplace which is marked by deadlines, rivalry, organisational change and staff cutbacks, an individual’s success depends on how they cope with and thrive when faced with stressors that are not in their control.

Generally, resilience is the ability to ‘bounce back’ after facing adversities in life. The workplace is presented with many sorts of stressors that are outside the control of employees. However, how you tackle these unwarranted situations is what makes you a resilient or non-resilient individual.

Resilience is a skill and like all skills, with practice it can be learnt and eventually implemented to all facets of ones life, work and personal.

Resilience is an important and desirable trait for everyone to possess. It not only helps individuals personally, it also helps employees develop their personality for workplace issues along with promoting organisational resilience, making it a work-wide culture.

According to the Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing (2006), resilience is an active and dynamic process. The personality trait of hardiness (the ability to endure difficult conditions) has been found to buffer or lessen the negative effects of stressful events or adversity (Jackson, Frito & Edenborough, 2007). By developing effective strategies for reducing vulnerability to stress and the impact of adversity, it is possible to strengthen and develop personal resilience.

When we talk about resilience in the workplace and how to become better at it, we should consider what it is that resilient employees do when faced with stressful situations at workplace.

Resilient employees build strong connections and relationships with others (Davis Laak, 2014). These connections are characterised by effective communication in which an individual listens actively and is responsive to their colleague and the emotions they display (Davis Laak, 2014).

A resilient worker will do what they can in their capability to help another person achieve success in the workplace. This constitutes for positive workplace relationships.

Social support also plays a pivotal role in workplace resilience (Jackson, Firtko & Edenborough, 2007). It is advantageous to develop personal as well as professional contacts, which can in return be a source of guidance and support when faced with stress.

Resilient employees nurture the work networks they have developed, by consistently building trust with others. Research has found that resilient employees do not take the work environment too seriously, as they introduce an element of ‘play’ to the workplace which helps in cultivating positive emotions amongst employees.

Resilient employees are not only able to manage stress effectively so its not overwhelming and detrimental (Davis Laak, 2014) but can also be role models to their peers on how to manage stressful situations.

Another characteristic of a resilient employee is that the individual is true their ‘real’ self (Davis Laak, 2014). They are real and behave in a way which aligns with their values and beliefs. Resilient workers are seen to be more able to manage inevitable changes. They are also more skilled at dealing with setbacks and have the capacity to move on after they encounter difficulties.

How can individuals build their resilience in the workplace?

1. Positivity

By having a positive attitude, employees are more able to adapt to adversity and also have a sense of control over their work environment. Putting energy and motivation into work, or ‘vigour’ as described by Shirom (2004) is also associated with building personal resilience.

Vigour is identified as having the capacity to put in the maximum effort at work and thus building personal resilience (Shirom, 2004).

2.Emotional Insight

Developing and emotional insight is another example of building personal resilience at work. Insight is closely related to emotional intelligence. Individuals who have a high level of insight have a level of awareness about the full range of emotions they experience from negative to positive. They are aware of their own reactions and behaviours that could have an effect on others. Psychologically resilient individuals can be described as emotionally intelligence (Tugade & Fredrickson, 2004).


Individuals can build personal resilience at work by achieving a healthy work life balance. In the current times that we live in, access to technology also means that employees have can be expected to work 24 hours a day.

In order to be able to bounce back from stressful situations is to be resilient. Workers need the time and space to unwind and recuperate from their long work week in order to be healthy enough to deal with stressful situations, when they are faced with them.


Having a sense of spirituality has been linked to developing resilience at work. Finding meaning in the work you do and feeling that the work you do contributes to a greater good can act as a buffer against the effects of stress.

It is said to be that maybe due to spirituality, employees view even stressful situations as having positive aspects or a purpose and looking at as a silver lining attitude.


Being reflective is another way individuals can build resilience at work. It is the ability to being in touch with one’s emotional and emotional reactions, which can serve as a buffer against the effect of stress. An individual who is aware of what triggers them, can help them prepare and gather resources so they are able to handle the situation when they are faced with it. This will help them use appropriate coping strategies in difficult circumstances

Why is Resilience so Important?

Resilience is a critical life skill that has its roots in human survival. This is a known fact in our everyday life. But why is considered an important factor to have with regards to the workplace?

To begin with, the workplace has many stressors that employees are faced with. Occupational stress affects personal and performance outcomes (Rees, Breen, Cusack and Hegney, 2015). Furthermore, workplace stress is associated with high levels of depression, anxiety and burnout (Rees, et al, 2015).

As early as 1978, the effects of a stressful workplace were reported by Pines and Maslach, who coined the term ‘burnout’ a state whereby employees experience physical and emotional exhaustion and a sense of low personal accomplishment.

Burnout has a heavy toll on workplace, both productively and economically. Burnout is associated with increased rates of absenteeism and reduced productivity and negative impact it has on employees. Psychologically resilient employees are better able to cope with stress and are less likely to suffer from burnout.

From all the studies and research, there is clear evidence that having resilient employees in the workplace is beneficial. Management of companies should invest in enhancing the skills of resilience in employees and build a more resilient workplace culture. This will be a win-win situation, for employees and employers.