Employee well-being should be at the top of business leader agendas. But why? And where does employee emotional resilience come into play?
Supporting your employees’ well-being is no longer a virtuous act for which benchmark employers can give themselves a pat on the back. It’s a vital business necessity, and here’s why:
Emotional resilience is probably a term you’ve heard more frequently over the past few years, and boy, have we needed it! Brexit, the pandemic and a looming global recession are testing some organisations to their limit. And it’s often the front-line staff who bear the brunt of these pressures.
For workers in all industries, personal and work life can be stressful. How we react in these stressful moments can affect our performance and well-being. Therefore, the need for emotional resilience is constant.
A lack of emotional resilience can have serious health and well-being implications. Initially, this may manifest in a lack of motivation or poor work performance, but not addressing them can lead to varying mental health issues. The impact of not having an emotionally resilient workforce is broad for businesses, leading to many “up the creek without a paddle” type scenarios.
But it’s time to end the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace and discuss what employers can do to support their teams better.
Scenarios induced by weakened employee emotional resilience vary in severity. It can start with an unmotivated workforce with low morale, working through to staff absence and a lack of coping mechanisms that could result in severe financial and commercial implications. The impact of stress on one’s behaviour and well-being, and the subsequent emotional reaction to being in high-stress scenarios, has become a topic of interest for academics and industry leaders.
Scholars and forward thinkers have widely discussed creating and nurturing an emotionally resilient workforce. In the modern era, we now accept that the emotional intelligence of individuals, groups and entire organisations can significantly impact the overall success of these entities at various levels.
As a business leader in the wilderness of employee emotional well-being, you may wonder, “How on Earth does one go about nurturing an emotionally resilient workforce?”.
This may be a daunting question for some but never fear. I’m here to tell you all you need to know!
(Also, not tooting my own trumpet, but my Master’s dissertation was on employee emotional intelligence. So, I’ve got the goods to back this information up!)
Alright then, what even is emotional resilience?
Well, frustratingly, there’s no straightforward answer.
Various academics and business authors have debated the definitions over the years, but the description I believe rings the truest to work and personal endeavours is:
“The Human capacity to deal with, overcome, learn from or even be transformed by the inevitable challenges of life.” (Grotberg, E 2017)
I’m drawn to this definition because it references the potential for life’s challenges in transforming individuals. Further, it suggests that the opportunity for growth and development can be triggered by what we may initially consider stressful situations.
Many modern theories around emotional intelligence start with the term “psychological capital” and extensive research shows how it can relate to employee attitudes, behaviours, and performance. The consensus is that workers with high psychological capital have the ability and a positive mindset that enable them to become resilient and optimistic at work, especially when faced with adversity.
And as with all worthwhile business concepts, this theory comes with a handy acronym to help you remember the concept's constituent parts: HERO
With this article, my goal is to help you manage the resilience element of this acronym (and keep an eye out for future articles on the other aspects of HERO).
So, now we have a grasp on the definition of emotional resilience and how it fits with the overall psychological capital of your employees (their overall psychological ability to cope at work), here are the top tips for supporting your employees’ emotional resilience.
Four tips for nurturing your employees’ emotional resilience:
Like so many concepts in the realm of people management, it all begins with communication. Giving employees at all levels a safe space to express their feelings without judgement will not only do wonders for your relationships with them, but it may also give you a good insight into which processes and business functions affect your employees’ emotional resilience. Understanding these may allow you to swiftly nip issues in the bud by acknowledging and subsequently improving your internal processes to alleviate key stressors for your team.
As a business leader, you will often have significant influence over the work-related information consumed by your workforce. And we all know that a bad diet, filled with overindulgent fast-food and large volumes of sugar, will likely harm your physical health. The same goes for our emotional resilience and the information we consume. So whether it’s over-sharing KPIs or unnecessary business updates, it can be worthwhile to re-evaluate what information you are presenting to your team.
Consider looking at your existing communication strategy and ask yourself the purpose. Is everyone in receipt of this information required to know this? Is it a vital part of their job role to be aware of this data?
Sometimes, holding certain information back from working groups (and I’m not suggesting abstaining from providing critical information) can help add a layer of protection to the emotional resilience of the employees in question.
You may have personally found yourself in a stressful work environment in the past, and you may have found yourself in the presence of colleagues who always seem to have it all together (I know I have!). These colleagues may have a particular way of coping with scenarios that allow them to float through working weeks unperturbed. They are efficient and seemingly unflappable regardless of inevitable challenges.
If you’re lucky enough to have these employees amongst your current workforce, consider talking to them rather than wishing every employee was as formidable as them (I made this mistake early on!). Acknowledging your observations with these employees can teach you how they have adapted their emotional resilience in your company. I was surprised that many of my employees in this category did not start this way.
As we discussed in the first section of this article, emotional resilience is often fine-tuned over time through experience as employees learn to adapt. It is usually a process of self-discovery that leads to developing healthy coping mechanisms to operate at a higher level. In addition, these employees may be willing to share their experience with other employees, informing them of processes and techniques that make more taxing days easier to bear.
Identifying these employees is also beneficial because they often make great leaders, perhaps not even in a direct management position. Still, they may have the skills to support smaller teams with their well-being to provide consistency and development.
As a leader, there is a specific limit to how you can directly support your employees. Your capacity primarily exists only during work-related activities. Therefore, helping your employees progressively nurture their emotional resilience as protection against stressful work activities is an absolute possibility (and a responsibility).
But life can throw all manners of stressful scenarios at individuals that will likely fall outside your influence. So it begs the question: What can employers do to help support their staff with financial issues, addiction problems, bereavement, mental health issues and other health concerns?
A solid employee benefits package is a great place to start. Look at an employee assistance programme that gives staff a safe place to discuss issues confidently. Another option could be an all-singing and dancing private medical insurance plan to give your team access to the best health facilities. These investments will reap the rewards in the long run.
Understanding where you can provide additional support and knowing when to lean on some expert third parties to help your team can be critical areas to clarify. Give it some thought!
It can be easy to dismiss employee emotional resilience. Some “stuck in their ways” business leaders may not see it as their issue.
This type of thinking will do your business no good. You are responsible for caring for your employees’ well-being and providing a safe working environment that’ll allow them to strengthen their emotional resilience.
The first step begins with communication; then, you must take action.
Do you have experience managing emotional resilience in the workplace?
I’d love to hear about it!
Or, if you still have concerns about addressing employee emotional resilience and want further support, I’m here to help.
Feel free to reach out, and we can discuss action plans!