"One of my fondest memories as a young adult on visiting my native place was going by the river and sitting idly on the bank. There I would enjoy the peace and quiet, watch the water rush downstream, and listen to the chirps of birds and the rustling of leaves in the trees. I would also watch the bamboo trees bend under pressure from the wind and watch them return gracefully to their upright or original position after the wind had died down.
When I think about the bamboo tree’s ability to bounce back or return to its original position, the word that immediately comes to mind is ‘resilience’."
Each individual has to face some or other difficult situation at some point of his/her life. It can be death of a loved one, loss of a job, serious illness, terrorist attacks or any such traumatic event. But, how do people deal with such difficult events that change their lives? Many feel emotionally drained, mentally exhausted and they tend to experience a sense of uncertainty. Yet people generally adapt well over time to life changing situations and stressful conditions. What enables them to do so? It involves resilience, an ongoing process that requires time and effort and engages people in taking a number of steps.
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Resilient behaviour is not restricted to individuals only. It is applicable to groups and organizations as well. For example, an organization may receive a setback in the course of doing its business. In such a situation, the resilient nature of the organization will help it in overcoming the problem and put it back on track. We can provide similar examples for a group also.
As we can see, resilience is one of most important qualities a person or a group or an organization needs to possess to make their journey smooth.
The word “resilience” is derived from the Latin verb “salire,” which means to jump. The prefix “re-” means “back” or “again.” Thus, “resilience” is literally about jumping back (as in jumping back into a prior state) or jumping again (as in rebounding). It describes recuperative power.
So, we define resilience as the ability of people or things to feel better quickly after happening of something that is unpleasant.
Application of the concept:
Resilience is applicable to individuals, families, communities, organizations at some or other point of time as each of them are bound to encounter something unpleasant during the journey of their life.
In the context of an organization, there is a huge amount of discussion going on about organizational resilience and the critical strategic advantage it gives to business in today’s world. Organizations that lack resilience are apt to be destined for failure. Those that have it are likely be workplaces where one can find high employee morale, effective teamwork, constant innovation, great productivity, and enviable success and profitability. Hence, the concept of work place resilience turned very important for the organizations.
From the point of view of an organization, resilience can be looked at as:
- The ability to handle pressure well
- The ability to respond to change with confidence and flexibility
- The ability to bounce back from defeat and disaster
- The ability to maintain good cheer despite the hassles and frustrations that are part of everyday work life
Components of Resilience:
A combination of factors contributes to resilience. Many studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Relationships that create love and trust, provide role models, and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster a person’s resilience.
Several additional factors are associated with resilience, including:
- The capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out
- A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities
- Skills in communication and problem solving
- The capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses
The scope of resilience can be defined at two levels.
- Individual level
- Group/Organizational level
It is important to understand that organizational resilience starts with, and depends on, the personal resilience of every member in the organization. The group’s overall resilience is the product of the personal resilience of each of its individual members. When all members are highly resilient, the product of their individual levels of resilience is huge, and the resulting group resilience is palpable. One cannot reasonably expect to build a resilient organization on top of members who summarily lack personal resilience.
Review of Literature:
The definitions of ‘Resilience’ that are given by various sources are presented below:
Resilience is the capacity to maintain competent functioning in the face of major life stressors. (Kaplan, Turner, Norman, & Stillson, 1996, p. 158)
George Vaillant (1993) defines resilience as the “self-righting tendencies” of the person, “both the capacity to be bent without breaking and the capacity, once bent, to spring back”. (Goldstein, 1997, p. 30)
Resilience means the skills, abilities, knowledge, and insight that accumulate over time as people struggle to surmount adversity and meet challenges. It is an ongoing and developing fund of energy and skill that can be used in current struggles. (Garmezy, 1994 in Saleebey, 1996, p. 298)
Resilience is the capacity for successful adaptation, positive functioning or competence despite high-risk status, chronic stress, or following prolonged or severe trauma. (Egeland, Carlson, & Sroufe, 1993, in Sonn & Fisher, 1998, p. 458)
Resilience is the outcome from negotiations between individuals and their environments for the resources to define themselves as healthy amidst conditions collectively viewed as adverse (Ungar, M. (2004)Youth & Society, 35(3), 341-365)
Review – Article 1:
Barnard, C. P. (1994). Resiliency: A shift in our perception – American Journal of Family Therapy, 22(2)
Barnard identified nine individual phenomena that the literature repeatedly has shown to correlate with resiliency:
Being perceived as more cuddly and affectionate in infancy and beyond.
Having no sibling born within 20-24 months of one’s own birth.
A higher level of intelligence.
Capacity and skills for developing intimate relationships.
Achievement orientation in and outside of school.
The capacity to construct productive meanings for events in their world that enhances their understanding of these events.
Being able to selectively disengage from the home and engage with those outside, and then to reengage.
Being internally oriented and having an internal locus of control.
The absence of serious illness during adolescence.
Review – Article 2:
Pearlin, L. I., & Schooler, C. (1982) – The structure of coping – In H. I. McCubbin, A. E. Cauble, & J. M. Patterson (Eds.), Family stress, coping, and social support (pp. 109-135).
The capacity of an individual to cope during difficulty is central to their resilience. Pearlin and Schooler define coping as “the thing that people do to avoid being harmed by lifestrain.” These authors conducted 2300 interviews in the urbanized Chicago area and through content analysis of these interviews identified three main types of coping that serve distinct functions, viz:
Responses that change the situation out of which strainful experience arises
Responses that control the meaning of the strainful experience after it occurs but before the emergence of stress
Responses that function more for the control of the stress itself after it has emerged
By promoting positive, constructive coping skills, it is possible to make significant changes to the problems experienced by the individuals, even though these problems were not specifically addressed.
American Psychological Association – 10 ways to build resilience (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx)
The American Psychological Association suggests “10 Ways to Build Resilience”. They are
Maintaining good relationships with close family members, friends and others
To avoid seeing crises or stressful events as unbearable problems
To accept circumstances that cannot be changed
To develop realistic goals and move towards them
To take decisive actions in adverse situations
To look for opportunities of self-discovery after a struggle with loss
To keep a long-term perspective and consider the stressful event in a broader context
To maintain a hopeful outlook, expecting good things and visualizing what is wished
To take care of one’s mind and body, exercising regularly, paying attention to one’s own needs and feelings and engaging in relaxing activities that one enjoys
Learning from the past and maintaining flexibility and balance in life are also suggested along with the above 10 ways
The empirical study is conducted using the interview method. The interviewee 1 is chosen to depict the quality of individual resilience. Interview 2 is an example of workplace resilience in an organization.
Interviewee I3 reference came while I was taking the interview of I2. He was cited as an example for less ability to cope up with stress in an organization. I decided to take his interview to find out whether his resilience levels are actually low and hear his views on resilience.
The following questions are asked to 3 interviewees. Their answers are analysed and a generalization is arrived at.
- What is the importance of resilience to you?
- Give me one situation where you exhibited resilience?
- What factors motivate you to exhibit resilience?
- How do you mostly cope with problems or concerns (Talking to others, dealing with things on your own etc.?
- If resilience can be quantified, do you think the resilience shown by others in the above situation would have been the same?
- Do you think that the quality of resilience in a person comes by birth or is it influenced by the environment in which a person is brought up?
- Do you think resilience can be developed or improved in an individual?
- What are the factors that develop the quality of resilience in an individual?
- What is the importance of resilience of an individual to an organization?
- How will a bad event affect your performance in job?
- Do you think that resilient employee make up a resilient organization?
Profession: Business – Dealer in construction materials
I1 believes that resilience is the one of the most important qualities an individual need to possess to survive. He simply states that a person cannot live his life without having this quality. I1 suffered a great tragedy at the age of 16. He lost his entire family (parents, two sisters and a brother) in the floods and left with no one. But, he showed tremendous resilience at that early age of 16. With the help of his uncle, he started working. He used to attend college in the night after his working hours. He completed his diploma in civil engineering and started a business after taking a loan. With his enormous will power & determination, he developed the business over the years which currently has a turnover of 1.5 crore and employs around 20 people.
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When enquired about the factors that motivated him to exhibit resilience, he says the he cannot tolerate being left behind in any situation. Failure acts as a motivation for him to achieve success. He believes in dealing with his problems on his own. He thinks that individual abilities differ to a large extent and similarly the ability to cope up will also vary from person to person. A person might show low resilience and another might show high resilience. There is nothing like zero resilience. Also, he believes that this resilience is dependent on factors, of which some happen by birth like intelligence and some are determined by the environment in which he is brought up. When asked about the development of resilience in an individual, he is of the opinion that it can be done by a change in mindset of an individual.
Interviewee 2 (I2):
Occupation: Project Engineer at L&T
I2 feels that resilience is one of the most important qualities a person should possess. He believes that one has to come across many failures in his/her life and if a person is not resilient enough, he will remain back in the race. He explains me a situation when he was relocated to a construction site near panipat as part of his job. He found the conditions very tough as it was a site job and he was required to put 14-16 hours a day. He could not adapt himself to the new environment as he worked in a normal office setup for the past 2 years. Moreover, he could not digest the fact that he has to stay away from the luxuries of city life. He realized that his performance is slowly getting affected because of these factors. In these circumstances, his resilient attitude came to his rescue. He started to cope with the new environment and got himself adjusted in a couple of months.
When asked about his motivation to exhibit resilience, he immediately points out to his performance that got affected. He never wants to remain as underperformer in an organization. However, he feels that not everyone can exhibit similar type of behaviour. He cites example of his colleague who left the company as he could not cope with the new environment. He believes that the ability to cope up varies across individuals.
Also, he thinks that the resilient attitude in a person is developed because of the environment he was brought up at. And he believes that the quality of resilience can be developed in a person. He cites a few factors like maintaining relationships, improving confidence in self, which help in developing resilience in an individual.
When enquired about the relationship between the individual’s resilience and organizational resilience, he opines that both are closely related. In fact, he believes that the efficiency of organization is also dependant on the resilience of individuals. If a person is not resilient enough, he cannot perform well during the crisis period which will subsequently affect the organization’s performance. Absenteeism & Turnover costs will be less if the workplace resilience levels are high. Also, he says that an organization can be called resilient only if its employees are resilient.
After this interview, I decided to take the interview of the person whose reference was cited in the above interview as he left the organization unable to cope up with the stress of life at construction site. I decided to find out his characteristics pertaining to resilience. He was also a colleague of mine when I worked at L&T
Interviewee 3 (I3):
Work experience: 2 years at L&T
Currently pursuing MBA
I3 also believes that resilience is very important to an individual to cope with the stresses life offers during one’s journey. When asked about any situation where I3 exhibited the quality of resilience, he narrated his attempts to get admission at a B-school. He tried for 3 years but was unsuccessful in getting admission. He was depressed and lost his self confidence. However, his parents stood by him and encouraged him to try again. In the fourth year, he finally succeeded in getting admission to college of his choice.
When asked about his resignation at L&T, he says that he did not give any priority to job. Also, he thinks that a person will exhibit resilience in a situation only when he thinks that the result in that particular situation is important to him. As the job was not in his priority list, he did not find any urge to cope up with the stress offered by the job. So he resigned.
Also, talking about workplace resilience, he thinks that company suffers a lot if the employees are not resilient enough. In today’s world there is no job without stress and employees have to learn dealing with it or else both the employee and the company suffer. He also believes that resilience can be developed in the workforce and organizations should focus more on this.
Based on my empirical study, I arrived at the following generalizations.
Almost all individuals consider resilience as one of the most important qualities an individual needs to possess.
People exhibit resilience as they find it hard to be left behind in the race of life. Failure acts as a motivation for them to achieve their goals.
People tend to show resilience only in situations which they consider important to them. A situation may be important for one but not for the other (Ex: office work)
Ability to cope up with situations will vary from individual to individual. Some exhibit low resilience while some exhibit high resilience.
The amount of resilience shown by a person depends both on internal factors like intelligence and external factors like the environment in which he was brought up.
A person can develop resilience by methods such as maintaining better relationships with family, developing self confidence, accepting circumstances that cannot be changed etc.
Employee resilience is the key to organizational resilience.
Productivity of organizations increases if its employees are resilient and can cope up with stress at workplace. The costs of absenteeism and turnover will come down. The more resilient a workforce, the more they can handle heavy workloads, pressures, and major change without becoming stressed out.
Implication on Group work:
Resilience will help in improving the performance level of an individual immensely. It helps him to bounce back from defeat or disaster, perform under pressure, be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances and be cheerful despite the frustrations and hassles that are part of everyday work life.
Also, resilient individuals take the group performance levels to new heights.
The intellectual, emotional, and physical consequences of stress directly compromise the sources of competitive advantage in today’s marketplace. The more resilient a workforce, the more they can handle heavy workloads, pressures, and major change without becoming stressed out. Thus they improve the efficiency of the organization by a great degree.
Contribution to OB:
The above study of mine reaffirms the importance of resilience for an individual to cope with the challenges that life throws at him. There are some interesting finding both at the individual and the organizational level. The amount of resilience shown by a person in a situation is related to the importance he accords to that situation. Also, it varies from person to person. Also, the study find out that resilience can be developed in individuals.
From organizational perspective, the study discovers the importance of work place resilience for a performance of organization. Absenteeism and turnover will reduce in such organizations. Productivity will increase as people tend to perform efficiently.
The quality of resilience improves the quality of life of a person. People exhibit resilience as they cannot digest being defeated. Failure acts as a motivation for them to achieve their goals. This ability varies from person to person. There will be people who show less resilience and there will be ones who show high resilience. This depends on internal factors like their intelligence, ability to build relationships and external factors like the environment in which they were brought up, income of their parents etc.
Also, individual resilience plays a major part in the success of organization. An organization can be termed resilient only if its workforce is resilient. Resilient workforce can handle stress effectively which results in a better performance of the organization.
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