Perceptions of Nursing and Midwifery

Personal and professional resilience in a complex work system

According to the study of 2,063 individuals (Paterson, Goens and Reed 2009) , the conditions that erode resilience are working in high-demand jobs with very low influence on their jobs - for example, having little control over their work environment or daily tasks) and lack of social support - for example, lacking supportive colleagues and understanding supervisors.


What are typical high demand jobs?

1. quantitative demands such as consistently having to complete all work tasks under pressure of deadlines,

2. cognitive demands such as having to make difficult decisions and

3. emotional demands such as work that puts an employee in emotionally-disturbing situations.


As a safeguarding team we need to continually be effectively role modelling as system leaders and so we will continue to ask the following questions for our internal team and those who deliver safeguarding in the field - 

Is work too demanding with constant pressures and deadlines? 

Are people asked to continuously juggle multiple concurrent projects without proper support? 

Are workplace conditions creating ongoing versus occasional stress? 

Do people have some control over their work?

Are there any toxic-branding issues with any of our programmes of work?

Is there a lack of collaboration in our partnerships or in the office?

Do people treat each other with indifference and a lack of kindness?


These question help us to support each other to identify where we derive resilience from ~                        


It may also be helpful to understand where personal resilience may come from. Here are a few areas you may want to think about.


Resilience From Within Ourselves

One of the primary sources of resilience may stem from within ourselves.

Skills such as problem-solving and the ability to regulate our emotional reactions may help us be more resilient when the going gets tough. As does having hope and cultivating a positive view of ourselves and our projects. 


Resilience From External Sources

Another important source of resilience may come from cultivating supporting relationships with others including family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and others in our community.


Resilience From Meaning, Purpose and Values

Other factors that may increase our resilience include finding meaning in our work and having a worthwhile purpose that gets us out of bed in the morning. This may also include our internal value system; our political values or our faith or other spiritual beliefs.


Help employees boost their resilience at work.

Having analyzed what's going on in our workplace in terms of drains on employee resilience, and considering some of the sources for personal resilience, the next step might be establishing a few of the following practices for increasing team members' resilience:


Evaluate team members' roles and responsibilities through reflective practice - 

Is there a possible mismatch between some job demands and skills?

What can you do to fix this?

Is there perhaps a lack of clarity on what exactly is expected of each team member? 


Uncertainty and lack of clarity in direction and purpose may cause stress, which can lower resilience. Lift the fog for people by establishing clear short-term goals, not just long-term ones. Setting unequivocal expectations can help, as can giving people immediate feedback on how they're doing so that they may know what adjustments they need to make.


Some projects conduct a frustration audit.

Ongoing frustrations may lower resilience. Consider asking people on the team what frustrates them in their quest to complete projects. 

What gets in the way of a smooth workflow? 

Do they encounter too many obstacles such as having to wait too long for decisions? 

Do they have to deal with too much bureaucracy?


Consider evaluating all responses from people who are closest to the work and see if there's merit in what you discover. This can inspire you to take a fresh look at procedures that may hamper rather than help your business. Opening narrowing gates may relieve employee frustrations and may help people be more productive and feel better about their work.


Help team members maintain a positive view of themselves.

Think about all of the people you work with or are responsible for and ask yourself how you could help them boost their self-confidence and have a positive view of themselves. For example, when mistakes or setbacks happen, rather than laying blame, consider asking:

What can we learn from this that can make us stronger?

You can also work on not second guessing people's decisions, so they can learn to trust their decisions.

Are there team members who may be struggling with a new project? 

Consider establishing check-ins to provide positive feedback and support along the way. This is why we have business huddles. 







It also helps to keep in mind that meetings may be cauldrons of emotion. It's human nature to want to perform well in meetings. We should help team members prepare for meetings. For example, if you're not in the practice of doing this, consider distributing an agenda and draft papers before the meeting, whenever possible. This may help some team members gather their thoughts and remember it doesn’t need to be the senior person who owns the agenda. 


Encourage a bias for action.

Letting problems fester due to inaction may make them more difficult to solve. This could start a cycle of people feeling helpless in tackling difficult issues, which in turn may lower their resilience when faced with problems.


There are numerous ways to help people take decisive action rather than procrastinate. For example, consider making it easy for them to come to you when there's a problem. You might also consider empowering people to make some decisions within acceptable boundaries, rather than have to wait for others to make a decision.


Promote a culture of kindness.

You can encourage team leads, supervisors or anyone else who's in charge of people to actively support team members. You could also enlist mentors, or draw on your high performers to coach colleagues who may be struggling.


Remind people not to hoard information that could be helpful to other team members. These practices can help develop a culture of kindness and compassion towards those who may need a helping hand. Remember kindness is contagious, especially between teams. 


Help people develop adaptive coping skills to strengthen resilience.

Not everyone is equally able to ride the waves. That's why training for resilience can be effective, according to a 2016 study involving 28 employees facing downsizing and restructuring. The study showed that a mere five hours of resilience training helped employees boost their resilience and cope with the changes in their company. Participants showed improvements in several key aspects of resilience including maintaining perspective, managing stress and staying healthy.

Other types of training that can help people increase their resilience are emotional self-awareness and self-management, conflict resolution and time management.


Remind people of the significance of their work.

It's safe to say that many people look for more than just a job to pay the bills. People could be inspired and energized by being reminded that their work matters beyond just accomplishing the daily tasks. Connecting the dots for people can help them see the meaningfulness of the work they do. This can strengthen their resilience and help them roll with the waves of change.

In these times of accelerating change and uncertainty, boosting our team's resilience is a priority for us and may be a powerful way to preserve and grow your human capital.

I hope you found my reflective practice helpful for the various work teams you belong to or in other aspects of you life. 

Thanks for reading. 

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