Why Being Resilient Will Kill You

being resilient

Resilience in the workplace is a hot topic these days. We hear that leaders need to be more resilient because of the amount of change. We are told that team members need to be more resilient for the same reason.

According to the American Psychological Association, being resilient means adapting well in the face of adversity, threats or significant sources of stress.

More and more businesses are delivering resilience training to their managers and teams than ever before. And if you’re interested, here’s my view on what I think it takes to build resilience.

But all this talk of being resilient has me thinking. Have we gone too far?

Being resilient, in a bad way

A friend of mine told me about a situation she had seen at a processing plant. Some workers at the plant needed to access a conveyor belt to inspect part of the production line.

The only problem was, this conveyor was above ground level. There was no stable platform or ladder to climb up there. Instead of raising this as an issue, the team adapted.

They began stacking boxes on top of each other, until they had created a makeshift platform. This meant they were able to climb up and inspect the conveyor. However, this was all incredibly risky. The platform was not stable and could have resulted in a severe accident.

Luckily, that hadn’t happened. Yet.

Reading this, you may think that it is a ridiculous situation. Of course, they shouldn’t be creating such a dangerous workplace hazard. And you’re right.

Whether this was due to a poor safety culture, or a fear of consequences if workers spoke up, it doesn’t matter.

The fact remains – these workers adapted to the situation and overcame the challenge. They were being resilient, right?

Leaders need to be mindful not to take advantage of resilient people

Some leaders would say that the best team members are those that don’t complain, maintain a positive attitude and get on with the job.

However, these team members, while being resilient, are more likely to put up with the bad conditions that you throw at them.

Being resilient does not mean putting up with continuous poor working conditions, bad leadership and a toxic workplace culture. (I’ve tried that! Read my story of career burnout).

Being resilient means adapting to reasonable change and handling reasonable stress. What is considered reasonable will be different for every individual.

Listen to your body and your mind, to see if resilience is the answer

It’s important to understand what reasonable stress and reasonable change means for you.

Nobody can tell you to be more resilient. Only you can decide whether your situation works for you, or if it’s too much.

Over my career I’ve found there are a few conditions that tell me whether being resilient is a good approach, or whether things have gone too far. Let’s take a look.

1. Being resilient is pointless if your challenges have no clear end

I understand that leaders will always encounter challenges. When you overcome one, another will appear.

But if your particular circumstances are causing you stress and this won’t change any time soon, being resilient is not the answer. You will simply remain in a never-ending state of working hard, just to manage your stress levels.

2. Being resilient is pointless if there is no plan in place to improve the situation

Being resilient is great if it enables you to overcome short to medium term challenges. However, there are two angles that you need to pursue to create a positive situation.

Not only do you need to be resilient to handle the stress you are currently under. You also need to have a strategy to improve your situation, so that things eventually get better. Then, you will have no need to be so resilient.

Being resilient at work shouldn’t be required every day. It should be required when challenges arise and problems need to be overcome.

Long-term resilience will simply make you a target for prolonged stress and unhappiness.

3. Being resilient is pointless if you aren’t achieving your goals

Being resilient becomes pointless when you lose sight of why you are doing what you do.

Many people instinctively resist pressure.

They want to fight back on it, withstand it and defeat it. But there is a reason why floating with the current is far easier than swimming upstream.

If you find you are losing sight of your goals and aspirations and are simply fighting to keep your head above water, then being resilient is not serving you.

It is hurting you. And it’s probably hurting your team, too.

Being resilient is great, but it is not forever.

Sometimes, your work situation is not acceptable.

Sometimes, we lose sight of what we wanted to achieve in the first place, just because we are fighting to stay afloat.

Being resilient is a good thing. But don’t overdo it.

What’s your view on resilience at work? Leave a comment below!

By |2018-06-19T06:24:10+00:00May 25th, 2018|Resilience|

2 Comments

  1. Ayeoribe June 16, 2018 at 10:05 am - Reply

    Wow
    I am a very resilient person. All day all week and all year just to ensure things get well. This is new levels for me because most times I just got stressed. Thank you for this piece, I love it

    • Ben Brearley BSc BCM MBA June 16, 2018 at 12:11 pm - Reply

      The most resilient people I know believe in what they do, and make sure their goals are still relevant. Sounds like you are one of these!

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