The impact of disaster, trauma and distressing psychological reactions usually promote grief and a range of negative emotions. In most cases, such experiences impair coping. However, with resilience you can work through the effects of stress and emotions and not only bounce back, but actually thrive.
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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2015) defines individual resilience as the ability to withstand, adapt to, and recover from adversity and stress. Besides this, people also reveal resilience by maintaining or returning to their original state of mental health or well being through the use of effective coping strategies.
In order to grasp and effectively develop resilience it is critical to understand the contributing resilience factors and how it can be measured.
A study conducted by Windle, Bennett, & Noyes (2011) reviewed nineteen resilience measures. However, out of nineteen, only three of them received superior psychometric ratings, which are presented to you below in the hopes of displaying the contributing determinants of resilience.
3 Resilience Scales
1) Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC)
Connor Davidson-Resilience Scale was originally developed by Connor-Davidson (2003) as a self report scale to measure resilience within the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) clinical community (CD-RISC, n.d.). It is valid and widely recognized scale with 2,10 and 25 items which cover the resilience factors of:
- Personal competence
- Acceptance of change and secure relationships,
- Trust/tolerance/strengthening effects of stress,
- Control and
- Spiritual influences
With an extensive number of studies using this tool, done within a varied range of populations, the CD-RISC is considered one of the higher scoring scales in psychometric evaluation and intervention (Windle, Bennett, & Noyes, 2011).
2) Resilience Scale for Adults (RSA)
The RSA was authored by Friborg et al. (2003) as a self-report scale targeting adults, it’s recommended use is the health and clinical psychology population.
This scale also has five scoring items which examine the intra and interpersonal protective factors that promote adaptation to adversity.
The authors, Friborg et al. (2003), noted the key factors which developed resilient individuals, namely family support and cohesion, external support systems, and dispositional attitudes and behaviours, which the scale items are founded from. They are:
- Personal competence
- Social competence
- Social support
- Family coherence and
- Personal structure
A later study performed by Friborg et al. (2005) used the RSA to measure the relationship between personality, intelligence and resilience. They found many links between personality and resilience factors such as individuals with higher personal competence also scored high for emotional stability. There was however no significant findings related to cognitive ability (Friborg et al., 2005).
This is in line with Windle et al. (2011) who stated that the RSA is highly useful for assessing the protective factors which prevent psychological disorders.
3) Brief Resilience Scale
Whilst most resiliency assessment look into the factors which develop resilience, The Brief Resilience Scale (BRS) developed by Smith et al. (2008), is a self-rating questionnaire aimed at measuring an individuals ability to “bounce back from stress”. It has not been used in the clinical population however it could provide some key insights for individuals with health-related stress (Smith, et al., 2008).
Amat et al. (2014) explain that the BRS instrument consists of six items, three positively worded items and three negatively worded items. All six relate to the individual’s ability to bounce back from adversity. The scale’s development actually controlled for protective factors such as social support in order to get a reliable resilience measure (Smith, et al., 2008).
The Power of Resilience TED Talk
Before we move on to the different ways to improve resilience at work, here is Sam Goldstein’s TED Talk on the Power of Resilience.
Resilience at Work (And Why We Lack It)
“As a leader, apologise for making mistakes. Don’t don’t apologise for making decisions.”
In a work setting, a lack of resilience can manifest itself in many ways; the fear of presenting in front of an audience, the frustration after receiving criticism for one’s work, the guilt about not spending enough time with one’s family, the embarrassment one feels after a meeting that didn’t go well.
In the book The Resilience Factor, Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatté (2002) identify the five typical emotions that are associated with a lack of resilience, namely;
- sadness or depression
- anxiety or fear
Please note that these emotions are completely natural to experience from time to time. The key to recognizing these emotions as indicators of a lack of resilience is whether they are disproportionate to the event (looking back you might catch yourself thinking “that was over the top!”), or if the same event triggers the same emotion repeatedly.
In such cases, an increase in resilience would be hugely beneficial.
In the workplace, a reaction which shows lack of resilience can really become an issue when it prevents you from developing your skills and interacting effectively with others. For example, a fear of public speaking may lead you to remain silent even when you know you have something to contribute in a discussion. Another example is if you become defensive when receiving negative feedback, loosing the opportunity to learn and grow as a person.
In short, a lack of resilience can have an immediate impact on motivation, cognitive functioning and emotional well being. In the worst case scenario, it leads to helplessness and feeling you are a victim of circumstance.
Conversely, we all know people who immediately pick themselves up and dust themselves off regardless of what stressors and tragedies life throws at them. In general, resilience is defined as the ability to bounce back from adversity and resilient people have this ability by assessing and exploring the variety of options before taking action making it unlikely they repeat unhelpful past experiences.
For us to flourish and thrive at work (and at home for that matter) we need to ensure we recognize those emotions as they arise, assess whether they are appropriate, take responsibility for our lack of resilience if that is the case and apply the tools to reframe our experiences, thus learning to act appropriately.
4 Reasons Why Organizations Should Pay Attention to Resilience
For organizations, it is extremely important to understand the indicators of a lack of resilience and teach leaders and employees how to respond to difficult situations in order to increase their resilience.
Here are just four of the many reasons why organizations should understand the contributors of resilience and start introducing programs which build resilience:
- General well being – while organizations can work to address workload issues in parallel, resilience skills directly benefit employees’ psychological well being by helping them reframe their perception of stress.
- Career development – employees looking to grow and develop their skills will benefit from learning to cope with adverse work situations, such as negative feedback. Managers who understand the dynamics of resilience can coach their employees much more effectively as research has shown that people, women in particular, who tend to attribute their failures to personal shortcomings would greatly benefit from learning resilience skills or are at risk of losing confidence over time.
- Innovation & learning curve – most companies these days need to innovate on an ongoing basis. This means that employees constantly need to upgrade their skills. Whilst learning most people experience the so-called learning curve – essentially experiencing a dip in skill and motivation as they learn to apply a new skill. This can be frustrating, and possibly lead to stagnation if the new skills are not applied successfully. Managers who recognize that their employees are displaying signs of “non-resilience” during this learning curve (rather than interpreting the same behavior as non-cooperation, for example) can jump right in and begin providing the appropriate support thus ensuring effective learning and thus successful innovation.
- Teamwork – a lack of resilience often becomes apparent in our interpersonal situations. By understanding typical behaviors linked to “non-resilience” leaders can encourage employees to examine their thinking patterns and change their interpretation of the situation, thereby reducing negative feelings between team members and improving team dynamics.
Building Resilience At Work And Beyond
To quote Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2002, p.200):
“The ability to take misfortune and make something good come of it is a rare gift. Those who possess it (…) are said to have resilience or courage.”
However, lucky for us, some of the necessary skills of resilience can also be learned when practiced over time.
There are a number of useful models and tools that offer frames for understanding and building resilience. The following three models address the topic of resilience from various angles and can provide useful insights.
1. The ABCDE model
Briefly described by Seligman (2011) and addressed in detail in Reivich and Shatté (2002), this model explains how the five key emotions mentioned earlier in this article are linked to specific experiences. Feeling angry is usually linked to the perceived violation of one’s rights. Feeling embarrassed is usually the result of unfavourable social comparison, whilst sadness and depression are linked to the loss of self-worth.
These 5 specific steps introduced in this ABCDE model offer the keys to building resilience:
- Adversity (recognizing any unfavorable thought patterns)
- Beliefs (finding the true reason behind the emotions)
- Consequences (recognising the negative impact of these emotions)
- Disputation (learning to challenge them)
- Energization (begin choosing new and more effective courses of action)
2. The 7 Pillars of Resilience
This model by German psychotherapist Micheline Rampe (2010) is useful for understanding the key steps that need to be taken by an individual on their journey to resilience. Many of the strategies described by Rampe (2010) are compatible with approaches recommended in positive psychology literature.
These 7 pillars are:
- Developing optimism (leading to positive expectations enabling a person to take positive action)
- Acceptance of the situation
- Focusing on potential solutions
- Taking responsibility for one’s own life
- Escaping from the role as a victim of circumstance
- Building a support network
- Planning a flexible strategy for dealing with future challenges
These pillars offer key steps that give an individual the tools for dealing with adversity in a positive and constructive way.
Please note that in the absence of real, objective reasons that things are going to be better, hope and optimism can be counter-productive because there is a good chance they will lead to disappointment. If nothing changes about the plan or your course of action, how can you expect things to be different in the future? This is called big optimism and or false hope.
3. The Three Musketeers of Resilience
The book “Restore Yourself” by Edy Greenblatt (2009) presents strategies for combating professional exhaustion, through focusing on regular restoration of personal resources.
The “three musketeers” described by Greenblatt are;
- gaining an understanding of what restores or depletes a person’s energy (what may be perceived as stress by one person may be seen as relaxing for another, such as violent video games)
- questioning social tags such as “work” or “vacation” to identify their true restoration and depletion triggers (essentially getting more specific about situations that give or deplete energy both at work and in our private life)
- becoming aware that over time, a person’s sources of depletion and restoration will change and adapt accordingly
Want To Learn More About Resilience?
Download the ‘Road to Resilience‘ PDF by the Discovery Health Channel and American Psychological Association here.
Resilience is the ability to adapt and cope with adversities and stresses. We know we can develop resilience but in order to do so we need to know what factors contribute to it and how to measure it.
Windle et al. (2011) in their research offer us an extensive comparison of the three scales with the highest psychometric ratings. The CD-RISC, the RSA offer an understanding of what factors lead to resilient individuals, whilst the BRS provides a clear and concise measure for resilience to stress.
It is important to note that most resilience measures have been developed, researched and used in the West and when the scales are applied to the non-western population, validity and reliability issues arise. It is the imperative of every researcher to consider the internal consistency and validity of their selected scale in relation to their population (Amat et al. 2014).
If more organizations start paying attention to the indicators of lack of resilience and focus on building resilience at every level, they will be better able to prevent and combat stress and burn-out and build a thriving organization with flourishing individuals.
I wish you the best of luck as you use this information to measure, share and build resilience in your communities.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2002) Flow: The Psychology of Happiness. London: Random House
Greenblatt, E. (2009) Restore Yourself. Los Angeles: Execu-Care Press
Rampe, M. (2010). Der R-Faktor. Hamburg & Norderstedt: Books on Demand GmbH
Reivich, K. and Shatté, A. (2002) The Resilience Factor: 7 essential skills for overcoming life’s inevitable obstacles. New York: Three Rivers Press
Seligmann, M. (2011). Flourish. New York: Free Press
Amat, S., Subhan, M., Jaafar, W. M. W., Mahmud, Z., & Johari, K. S. K. (2014). Evaluation and psychometric status of the brief resilience scale in a sample of Malaysian international students. Asian Social Science, 10(18), 240. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/hp/Downloads/39739-136039-3-PB.pdf
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2015). Individual Resilience. Public Health and Medical Emergency Support for a National Prepared. Retrieved from http://www.phe.gov/Preparedness/planning/abc/Pages/individual-resilience.aspx
The Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (n.d.) In CD-RISC User Guide. Retrieved from http://www.cd-risc.com/user-guide.php, 12/7/2016
Windle, G., Bennett, K. M., & Noyes, J. (2011). A methodological review of resilience measurement scales. Health and quality of life outcomes, 9 (1), 1. Retrieved from https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/~kmb/MyPublishedPapers/Windleetal2011.pdf
Bernard, J., Dalen, J., Smith, B., Wiggins, K. (2008). The Brief Resilience Scale: Assessing the Ability to Bounce Back.