Warning signs about resilience and resilience-based HR practices

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


    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.


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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