Personal resilience helps us to survive and thrive in the face of set backs and tough times.  This first of two blogs provides illustrations of the personal ‘psychological attitudes’ that underpin resilience.  Part Two will outline some workplace characteristics that encourage these attitudes.

What is resilience?

Resilience refers to our ‘psychological ability to ‘bounce back from setbacks and stay effective in the face of tough demands and difficult circumstances [1].’

Why is it essential?

External pressures including globalisation, austerity, and technological change have created complex organisational challenges. As a result, employees now navigate multi layered change, uncertainty and increasingly frenetic workloads.

Personal resilience, or ‘bouncebackability’ helps us thrive in today’s employment landscape, protects us from the damaging impact of stress, and ultimately improves organisational performance.

The good news is that we can all grow our resilience. Research suggests [2] that this results from the interplay between our personal psychological attitudes and working environments that encourage their development.

Examples of the ‘attitudes’ that psychological research associates with resilience are highlighted below.


Jenny, manager of a children’s centre that was closing due to service reductions, illustrates the attitude of ‘commitment’, or the ability to ‘remain fully engaged with work and people, no matter how tough things are’.

Although personally affected, she and her team worked with service users and social services to deliver a highly effective exit strategy. Jenny says: ‘it was really tough. Our centre delivered a great service. My team and I were determined to do our best for families until the end. We did everything we could to identify alternative services, and reviewed and published our project’s ‘lessons learnt’ before closure.’

‘Staying committed’ increased Jenny’s skills and self-esteem. Strong two way support from service users and colleagues helped keep her going. As a result Jenny feels more able to withstand tough times and move forward.


People with an attitude of ‘control’ ‘believe they have influence, no matter what’.

Rami, a senior manager in a development agency, disagreed with an organisational decision to centralize funding. However, once the decision was made, he put his views aside and designed systems for involving community groups in allocating the centralized budget. He commented: ‘I had to move on to get the best outcome for service users and the organisation’.

By focusing on what he could influence, Rami felt ‘more able to see challenges from all perspectives and be flexible, and feel confident in the contribution I could make’.


‘People with high ‘challenge’ ‘see change as a meaningful experience – seeing opportunity in every difficulty’

In his first management role in a financial services company, Steve’s team routinely bypassed him in favour of more senior management. Facing this directly, Steve worked with a mentor and a coach. He says: ‘I considered quitting but am glad I didn’t: I learnt about my management style, how to have important but difficult conversations, and strategies for gaining my team’s confidence.  

By learning from challenging circumstances Steve has developed transferable skills and increased his self-belief.

How does resilience grow from the psychological attitudes?

Practising behaviours associated with commitment, control and challenge provides us  with new ways of thinking, enables us to take more effective action and reduces difficult  emotions associated with stressful circumstances. We them have more ability to ‘bounce back from setbacks and stay effective’.

Although only we as individuals can develop our personal resilience, workplace characteristics are key to encouaging our ‘bouncebackability’. These will be outlined in ‘Resilience at work: part two’.  

[1] Cooper C et al (2013) Building Resilience for Success: a resource for managers and organisations: Palgrave MacMillan: UK

[2] Maddi, S  Khoshaba, D M. Resilience at Work: How to succeed no matter what life throws at you:Amacon: New York: USA

If you are a CEO, senior leader, HR Director or senior manager with an interest in mental health at work, attend the event on September 13th (2 pm to 6 pm)  that is being co-hosted by Dynamic Voice, a learning and development consultancy, and Maytree Suicide Respite Centre. This highly interactive event will contribute to the vital organisational debate on mental health at work, challenge the mental health taboo, and identify practical actions that organisations of any size can take to enhance mental health at work.

For more information see our event information here:

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