Original publication in The HR Director in October 2019
Do you experience stress, frustration or a sense of stuckness in your organisation? This may be nothing to do with resistance from staff, but rather a normalisation of a low resilience level.
Whilst 95% really care about their performance in work, 77% compromise their wellbeing to deliver that. The aspects of wellbeing compromised most are mental energy, exercise and quality time with others. We know from previous research that the demand for resilience is high and rising, and this compromise of wellbeing is rising also.
The juggle, the busy-busy-busy, not having enough time with family, the over-coffee’d, sleep-deprived executive; these are issues we have normalised. They are only part of the equation. More seriously at the dangerous end of stress, there is a chronic long-hours culture, fear of being at risk of losing the job and the fear of damaged reputation especially amongst those who have been off already with stress. These effects of long term stress are dangerous for wellbeing and of course to the individual’s performance in work.
Stress triggers all sorts of behaviours. Procrastination is the number one impact of stress. Other negative effects include short-termism, a demand for clarity (rather than developing skills in navigating ambiguous, complex situations), and a drop in empathic decision making. Stress directly undermines performance.
These effects cause ‘the mediocrity loop’, a continual loop of coping to not coping back to coping again, where an organisation wobbles between feeling out of control, galvanises immense focus to get back in control which ends in relief, only for that to be knocked back and the whole cycle to be triggered again. It’s an exhausting loop to run around, and has little effect other than maintaining the status quo.
Mediocrity is what you get if drive performance at the expense of wellbeing. It needn’t be like that. It is entirely possible to have both performance and wellbeing, both without compromise. This is what resilience gives. Resilience is your ability to adapt, or your capacity for change. It is dynamic, going up and down according to context. Supporting resilience within an organisation means enabling each staff member to understand and develop their own resilience potential versus the resilience demand upon them. It means enabling teams to foster the conditions for their own collective resilience. Resilience delivers successful change. Indeed it drives high performance. Resilient leaders have higher capacity, better and clearer prioritisation, perspective, and surplus energy that releases creativity and innovation. All these are needed to navigate our VUCA world successfully.
High resilience requires an investment into a set of resilience-enhancing habits day to day. These habits are not rocket science but they are rigorous. If your organisation wants to stop the rot of compromise to wellbeing and the negative impacts of stress, investing in resilience is an assured path. It’s a pathway to psychological safety, autonomy, time to think and the release of capacity towards risk taking and innovation. It means understanding what resilience is and what it offers, and creating a culture that supports and extends it. The results are transformative. 23% of our survey participants do not compromise either performance or wellbeing. They know what it means to drive both at the top of their game:
“I have always felt work is important to me and I want to do the best that I can.”
“I recognise that to perform well I have to look after myself.”
“It’s part of my pride in myself”
We think these quotes from our survey say it all.
Written by Jenny Campbell