Over the past few years, employers started to recognize and address the need for greater mental health support across their organizations, both for the wellbeing of their employees and as an essential part of improving diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. In 2022, mental health support in the workplace is now a must-have as Americans reel from close to three years of extraordinary challenges including the pandemic, natural disasters, political unrest, continued racial injustice, and, now, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
It’s important to note that mental health is more than the absence of disorders;1 it is also the presence of positive mental habits—such as resilience. Employers that understand this link between resilience and mental health can offer solutions that support employee wellbeing while mitigating common issues associated with poor mental health in the workplace.2
Keep reading to learn more about the characteristics of resilient people, the negative implications of too much resilience, and how to foster a healthy, resilient workforce.
What does resilience look like in practice?
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of trauma or tragedy, threats, or other significant sources of stress.3 Some people may be more resilient at work but struggle to bounce back from setbacks or trauma in their personal lives, and vice versa.
However, no one is born resilient—it’s a skill learned through experience, as well as through the intentional development of thoughts, behaviors, and actions.4 Based on research that led to the development of the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC), the characteristics of resilience include:5
- Viewing change as a challenge or opportunity
- Recognition of limits to control
- Engaging the support of others
- Close, secure attachment to others
- Personal or collective goals
- Strengthening effect of stress
- Past successes
- Realistic sense of control/having choices
- Sense of humor
- Action-oriented approach
- Tolerance of negative affect
- Adaptability to change
Businesses can evaluate the resiliency of their employees using these identifying characteristics and use the insights they gain to develop a strategy for improving the mental health and resilience of their workforce.6
Overall, having resilient employees is a metric of a healthy work environment in which workers maintain a sense of balance between work and their personal lives, feel supported by leadership and colleagues, and are celebrated not only for the value they bring to the team but for being who they are as an individual.6
The impact of too much resilience on organizations and employees
As companies work to support employees in developing the mental skills needed to build resilience, it’s wise to keep in mind that there is such a thing as too much resilience.7
Extreme resilience happens when workers over-adapt to adversity, leading them to stay in unhealthy or unengaging jobs, tolerate abusive bosses and colleagues, or endlessly pursue unattainable goals. In other words, people who are too resilient may find that their capacity for coping with adverse situations expands to the point where what once was a strength has become a weakness.8
When this overabundance of resiliency is encouraged and rewarded, employees may get caught in a loop of negative behavior patterns—such as overestimating their performance and capabilities, taking on too much responsibility, and demonstrating a lack of ability to interact with others appropriately.7
Ultimately, this can lead to crippling burnout and mental health issues that take a significant toll on the employee, their team, and the company at large—effectively counteracting the organization’s efforts to support mental health and resilience in the first place.9
How to support employee resilience in a healthy way
Resilience is most often developed by going through hardships, setbacks, challenges, and traumas and coming out stronger on the other side. But training your employees to be resilient by making them suffer through constant stress, pressure, and adversity at work isn’t the best strategy.
Instead, companies should implement a hybrid EAP and digital mental health solution that fits seamlessly into employees’ lives while reducing stigma and improving access to work-life services, behavioral health professionals, and CBT-based content covering various topics, including resilience.