Warning signs about resilience and resilience-based HR practices

Warning signs about resilience: Closeup of teary-eyed black senior woman experiencing compromised resilience

Summary:

    1. "Resilience" is now "Uber Competency," HR systems (esp. hiring) are being redesigned for (around) it.
    2. In the context of a life-threatening global pandemic, compromised resilience isn't the exception, it's normal -- but norms don't move.
    3. Psychological "issues" (resilience being one), are notoriously prone to bias; extraordinary times belie ordinary norms. Both qualitative (interview) and psychometric (personality inventory) assessment practices are now likely to generate false positives (incorrect classification as "compromised resilience").
    4. As a socially stigmatized condition, low resilience is likely to be misinterpreted as a trait-based deficiency vs a more contextually dependent, state-based reaction. (see 2)
    5. This pandemic has disproportionately affected specific groups (i.e., people of color, aged), warning signs about resilience and HR practices are emerging.
    6. These groups are protected by law from discriminatory practices or impact.
    7. The stage is set for potential resilience-based adverse impact.

Resilience.

If your next book’s title doesn’t include this word, I recommend adding it. (Try, "The Resilience of Cooking"). If your hiring practices don’t include resilience, you're exceptional (and not in a good way). Resilience is THE thing of HR today.

Although I start with "tongue in cheek" language, I'm not at all flippant on this topic. Resilience is serious and I mean no disrespect. It's merely a matter of style. So, let me be clear:

This is NOT a repudiation of resilience.

Resilience is real. Great thinking has brought attention, understanding and sage counsel to the concept. I wholly support the construct for it's value to progressing organization theory and practice. Not by any fault of its origin or development, but for a number of reasons, I see warning signs about resilience risk and urge caution with use of resilience-based HR practices.

Specifically in the case of resilience, the risks of misunderstanding and misuse are greater than for previous super constructs ("Emotional Intelligence" comes to mind). The mere term, resilience, seems so relevant today that many have been, and others will be, drawn to its "solutions" like choosing a book by its cover. A book that has your name on it. Who doesn't want a resilient organization?

But these are the framing conditions that can rapidly lead to over dependence and over confidence with an apparently simple term that is more nuanced and potentially hazardous than it appears.

Ultimately, I urge you to consider what I see as early warning signs about resilience and its application in HR systems. You may disagree, and I may be wrong. But both the stakes and risks are high. And I'm comfortable to risk my reputation to raise awareness and stimulate deeper thought on this topic.

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The subtle but vital skill Covid19 has made difficult to learn

This subtle but vital skill is even more difficult to learn thanks to the pandemic

“Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.” -- Ron Burgundy, Anchor man

How true these words ring today from Will Ferrell’s laughable character in Anchor Man, a satirical comedy of buffoonery and over-the-top gender stereotyping resulting from the introduction of a woman to a news team. But in a very real and sobering way, here we have yet another case where reality is more incredible than fiction. Challenges resulting from the Covid19 global pandemic “really got out of hand fast.” Buried in the avalanche of effects, there's a subtle, but vital skill that Covid19 had made difficult to learn.

But here we are.

Since it’s explosion and unforgiving grip on the world stage, Covid19 has reaped havoc in all social systems in countless ways. In particular, there's a subtle, yet crucial skill Covid19 has made difficult to learn. And “no,” as is the case with any change for the ages, and this is one, we won’t go back to the way we were.

But let’s take a reality check.

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8 steps to address workplace stress when “reopening” during the pandemic

Businesswoman drinking coffee at work contemplative looking out the window of high rise skyscraper building during morning tea break. Workplace stress, mental health in the workplace.

"Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore." -- Judy Garland, The Wizard of Oz.

The world and workplace are reopening. And like Dorothy awaking from her vivid (not covid – couldn’t resist) dream, we’re beginning to realize that work and life aren’t exclusive of each other. If you ever thought you could “leave your work at the door” or “compartmentalize your life” this pandemic has certainly challenged those beliefs. Because, like this virus, anxiety knows no boundaries. Returning to “normal”? Not!  ... but not really. Things will be different, but not completely so. It’s more that now the “light” shines bright on the acts and actors of psychology, exposing shadows ever present, but now in vivid color. There’s going to be a lot more “color” now, in terms of people, their behavior and especially their feelings. And like a child waking from a bad dream, there’s going to be a need to comfort and reassure people at work, even if it’s in their home. Here, I provide a checklist of 8 steps to address workplace stress when “reopening” during the pandemic. (And they apply outside of work – whatever that is – too).

Getting down to work.

Workplace stress, and here I mean the non WFH place, is going to be a real issue for organizations (beyond the sum of individuals) for some time. Government imposed practices intended to limit virus transmission have already revealed psycho-social behavioral issues and conflicts. For some, uniform mandates have been a source of shelter. For others, they've been a source of infringement. To say they've been 'controversial' is an understatement -- especially in these times where everything seems controversial.

As restrictions originally imposed to mitigate the spread of CV-19 are relaxed, responsibility for one’s exposure to the virus increasingly falls to individuals – but especially on leaders of others. While organizations adopt their own policies in light of the pandemic such as those to enforce or support “social distancing” (a term I dislike), individuals will now primarily be responsible for their own “CV behavior” and may experience considerably more workplace stress.

Although stress isn't altogether bad, it almost always is when it reaches high levels. And like never before for most of us, we now live in a world of extraordinarily high stress -- especially in the workplace. Strong, confident, reassuring leadership will be paramount. Fortunately, research in psychology at work reveals practical steps leaders can take to manage varying levels of stress among employees.

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