The importance of emotional resilience at work

How do you keep going in the face of such a fast-changing, dynamic workplace, particularly when more and more of those in the workplace are also faced by a fast-changing, pressurised dynamic at home?

For Geetu Bharwaney, an experienced practitioner working globally in the application of Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Resilience, emotions play a crucial role in what we do at work and how we do it. Understanding that will help get better results, she states in her new book Emotional Resilience. “Emotional resilience requires focus; it is not a skill to be learned today and forgotten tomorrow,” she says. “The process of learning involves time and thought…but the more you do, the better will be your results. People who have invested in these skills, abilities and ways of thinking before you take from it many benefits into their work.”

The book is based on her work with thousands of employees and coaching senior executives in top companies around the world and it provides a framework for developing emotional resilience.

She covers both personal and team resilience. Personal resilience begins with developing a sense of self worth. She starts from the basics – ensuring you eat well, exercise, have a good support network around you and extends this to the workplace, for instance, seeking positive mentors, colleagues who affirm your contribution, asking for help when you need it and having a better understanding of your skills and who you are.

Through a series of activities, based on observation and diaries, Bharwaney takes readers through how to act responsibly rather than emotionally, how to be empathetic and how to reduce tensions at work.
Much of what she writes about applies to team work so in a section on understanding she talks about the need to be aware of colleagues’ work styles, including their strengths and weaknesses, attitudes and views, skills and interests, concerns and needs, personal circumstances and how these might affect their work and their aspirations.

There is also a section on caring. Bharwaney says: “Caring is one of the behaviours that indicates an outstanding versus a mediocre team.” She adds that research shows teams improve their performance by 25 per cent when they work on team emotional intelligence. She states: “Caring is about doing what is right by the people in the situation, not what is easiest.”

That might involve listening and drawing in quieter members of the team or helping a team member before an important deadline if they are overloaded. Questions at meetings such as “who haven’t we heard from?” and “what other perspectives are there on this problem?” can invite quieter members in. Caring can also involve simple acts such as a thank you or a compliment.

Bharwaney says research with top management teams has identified that the single most important factor in predicting organisational performance was the ratio of positive statements to negative statements during interactions in a team. That doesn’t mean avoiding negative feedback, but couching it in terms which are constructive and specific and which take into account the individual’s response to feedback.

In addition to dealing with the many aspects of building individual and team resilience, Bharwaney also talks about the importance of time management in today’s hectic working day. That includes planning tomorrow today, listing all tasks – both work and home, prioritising, understanding your high energy times of day and doing the most important tasks then, working in longer cycles so you can plan for the long term as well as the short term, asking if a meeting is really necessary before you set one up, saying no more often, ensuring you have some quiet times during the day, delegating both authority and responsibility and not ensuring that helping others doesn’t mean you are overloaded.

Bharwaney is strong on the legacy and influence that individuals can have at work. She says: “The way we conduct ourselves in teams and groups in our jobs will influence both how others perceive us and how well we get on it our jobs.” That includes standing up for your rights, taking initiative, encouraging debate and being resilient in the face of negative feedback.

She ends by emphasising the importance of understanding how emotions influence work productivity, health, personal effectiveness and team performance and says most organisations ignore this.

She states: “Emotional resilience distinguishes the people who perform and cope with stress effectively from those who just get by, one project or one day at a time…As Charles Darwin discovered: ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change’…Emotional resilience provides the foundation for human adaptability.”

*Emotional Resilience is published by Pearson [], price £12.99.

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