Resilience is a capacity that enables people and organisations respond well to challenge, setback and even crisis. It describes the ability to ‘bounce back’, to recover and respond with commitment and optimism. It is not an innate quality which people either have or don’t have, it can be learned and developed in anyone.

Organisations too can develop greater resilience. This is achieved partly through planning and foresight, but the most important aspect comes back to people again; resilient teams and employees means the organisation will be more resilient.

Being resilient doesn’t mean being problem-free, but the qualities that ensure a resilient character enable the individual can better respond to challenge because of their understanding of themselves, confidence in their ability and willingness to take appropriate action in the face of adversity. Marcos and Macauley say:

“Resilience won’t make your problems go away. But resilience can give you the ability to see past them, find enjoyment in life and handle stress better. If you aren’t as resilient as you’d like to be, you can develop skills to become more resilient.” (p.1 2008)

Personal Resilience

We all encounter stress, adversity, trauma or tragedy in our lives, and at work this often takes the form of change, redundancy and consequent uncertainty and increased demand all of which are stressful. Personal resilience means one can respond in a robust way to keep functioning, both psychologically and physically.

“Resilience isn’t about toughing it out or living by old cliches, such as “grin and bear it.” It doesn’t mean you ignore your feelings. When adversity strikes, you still experience anger, grief and pain, but you’re able to go on with daily tasks, remain generally optimistic and go on with your life. Being resilient also doesn’t mean being stoic or going it alone. In fact, being able to reach out to others for support is a key component of being resilient.” (Mayo Clinic)

Organisational resilience

Resilience is the organisational capacity to anticipate major events and change and respond to them proactively and in a way that maintains morale, performance, and productivity. Unpleasant or challenging events in the life of an organisation are not minimised or played down, but neither are they dramatised and exaggerated. A resilient organisation responds to critical period or crisis with purpose, commitment and future-focus.

“Resilient organisations”, say Marcus and Macaulay, “believe that with purpose, whatever disaster hits them, and regardless of the harm caused, they can recover and bounce back from trauma, quickly restoring business capabilities”.
In order for an organisation to have these capabilities, the people within it, must share the sense of purpose, optimism, and self-agency found in resilient individuals. Leaders and managers are vital in this regard. They act as role models and shape the culture to foster organisational resilience.

References

Macus, J. Macauley, S. (2008), Organisational Resilience: the Key to Anticipation, Adaptation and Recovery, Cranfield School of Management, available at: www.som.cranfield.ac.uk/ (accessed 21/01/11)

 Mayo Clinic staff , (2009), Resilience: Build skills to endure hardship [online],  Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.com [Accessed: 21.1.2011]