A Framework for Supporting Employee Resilience

Despite increased work demands and disruptions because of the pandemic, government employees continued to work hard, produce high-quality results, meet the needs of customers, and adapt to changing priorities. This resilience has been seen at the federal level, as shown in the recently released Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), as well as at the state and local levels.

Becoming resilient is something people can learn and that employers can and should support. But, resilience can’t be taught in a single webinar or mandated in a memo. It takes a wide variety of personal behaviors and actions, combined with an organization’s practices, resources, and culture — all working in harmony.

There isn’t one easy way to support and build employee resilience. But there is a spectrum of workplace conditions that your organization can use to form an environment that encourages and builds resilience.

Let’s explore six conditions that can serve as a framework for supporting resilience in your employees.

1. Goals

Knowing how their work relates to your agency’s goals can contribute to people’s sense of purpose and their resilience. By sharing specific information about goals with employees, you’ll help them understand the relationship between the effort they put in every day and why their work matters.

This goal clarity is a tool they can use to keep an eye on the bigger picture and avoid getting bogged down in minutiae. Goals can keep people motivated and less stressed when facing tough challenges. Making progress toward those shared agency goals can also help people feel job satisfaction and give them a reason to celebrate success.

2. Respect

Being treated with respect by supervisors and other colleagues is part dignity, part inclusiveness. True respect means valuing people as whole human beings and supporting them to be their best selves at work.

Lack of respect reduces a person’s sense of stability and belonging, which can weaken resilience. Disrespect comes in many forms, including micromanaging, undermining others, erratic behavior, bullying, and ignoring boundaries. Sometimes respect goes missing in seemingly subtle — yet no less harmful — ways, such as mispronouncing a person’s name or misgendering a colleague.

3. Balance

Supporting people’s need to balance work and other life issues is a core part of a resilient workforce. That’s no surprise, really, given that attaining and maintaining work-life balance is all about people having flexibility, autonomy, and healthy boundaries — qualities that also support overall resilience.

To be able to achieve work-life balance, a person needs to be able to minimize conflict between the demands arising both inside and outside the workplace. If work is always a source of stress, it can make coping with life’s challenges that much more difficult.

4. Cooperation

Having coworkers who cooperate to get the job done can only occur when people form positive relationships with their colleagues, communicate clearly and respectfully, and know they can trust others when they need support.

This ability to cooperate requires a workplace culture that nurtures and rewards collaboration, rather than one that pits colleagues against one another. Instead of putting energy into worrying about backstabbing, coworkers can look for ways to have each others’ backs when stressful situations arise. It helps individuals become more resilient — and builds team resilience as well.

5. Expectations

Making sure employees know what is expected of them on the job is an empowering way to build personal resilience at work. Give employees realistic, fair, and clear expectations of their roles and responsibilities, and they will have the insight they need to set their priorities, manage their workload, establish efficient routines and refocus when situations change.

This clarity about expectations also enables people to better recognize when their job performance is not meeting set standards and then correct their behaviors accordingly. It can give them a comforting sense of control, which can bolster their confidence in their abilities.

6. Listening

Having a supervisor who listens to what you have to say is about feeling valued. If people don’t think anyone wants to hear from them, especially their own organization’s leadership, they don’t speak up. And then good ideas go to waste, employees’ needs go unmet and frustrations rise.

Knowing that you are being heard and, importantly, understood by others increases your sense of connection and belonging. Sharing of yourself and having someone listen can also make stress more manageable, a key component of resilience.

Lauren Girardin is a marketing and communications consultant, storyteller, and freelance writer based in San Francisco. She helps organizations engage their communities and tell their stories. Her website is laurengirardin.com and you can connect with her on Twitter at @girardinl.

Photo by Cameron Sanborn on Unsplash

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