Ways to develop emotional resiliency at work

Emotional resiliency skills can help you be healthier in your life and more successful in your work role.

The day-to-day realities of balancing work, family and personal lives present challenges for many people. For some, this contributes to chronic stress, mental and physical health challenges.This can lead to lowered productivity and employee dissatisfaction—which is critical because a Gallop poll found that 70 percent of the American workforce is disengaged at work. Too many workers feel exhausted, overwhelmed, disgruntled and burned out in today’s workplaces.

The behaviors of supervisors and those “in charge” also has a significant impact. Research shows that bosses behaviors impact employee health – for good or for ill. For example, when workers experience their leaders and supervisors as authoritarian, harsh, dishonest or distant, they get sick more often, take more sick leave and are at higher risk for having a heart attack.

In addition to professional development for supervisors and other efforts that help to create climates that are more supportive of workers, employees can learn skills that help them develop emotional resiliency at work. Whether you are the leader, supervisor, boss, employee or front-line worker, you can develop emotional resiliency skills to help you be healthier in your life and more successful in your role. In their book “Work without stress: Building a resilient mindset for lasting success,” authors Derek Roger, Ph.D. and Nick Petrie offer suggestions for developing a healthy perspective that can help you cope with adversity, change and challenges. Based on their research, they offer eight measures or characteristics that can be barriers or opportunities to developing a resilient personality. The first five characteristics include rumination, emotional inhibition, toxic achieving, avoidance coping and perfect control. Three additional characteristics include:

Detached Coping

Rather than assuming the worst, seeing a situation as catastrophic and making things worse than they are, detached coping is about keeping perspective. When situations are challenging or stressful, we can respond by staying engaged—and stepping back and allowing ourselves to be reflective (rather than reactive). Detachment doesn’t mean not caring. It means being awake and aware of your own thoughts and feelings so that you can see things more clearly and access a full range of options and solutions.

Sensitivity is about being able to sense and accurately read the emotions of others. Linked with the concept of detachment, the authors discuss the importance of “detached compassion.” Detached compassion is about being sensitive to the emotions of others without being swept up in or taking on those emotions. Sensitivity and detached compassion are about seeing things from others’ perspectives and the importance of developing empathy as a skill for emotional resiliency.

Flexibility is about accepting the inevitability of change rather than resisting and denying it. For some, the mention of change provokes anxiety and other strong feelings. Flexible people are more emotionally resilient because they are able to adapt more quickly and easily to change. That said, employees often appreciate supervisors who involve them in change processes and ask for their ideas and perspectives on what is working and what is not.

Authors Roger and Petrie describe additional measures and characteristics that can lead to developing emotional resilience at work including the practice of mindfulness. According to the authors, all of these characteristics interact in important, connected and complex ways and can be strengthened, learned and unlearned (if necessary).

Michigan State University Extension provides resources and educational sessions focused on social and emotional health and wellbeing including RELAX and Stress Less with Mindfulness.

Other articles in this series:

Developing emotional resiliency at work

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