Resilience in the Workplace

By: Emily Gumm, Search Coordinator, GattiHR

With the emergence of the Coronavirus and the sudden need to practice physical distancing we have all been inundated with every possible type of pop psychology tool for staying healthy, happy and safe. Just sorting through the information can be overwhelming. But one thing is certain, change is the only constant. Change will happen and the effects of social distancing will change how businesses operate and how we connect to some degree. We can’t know the affect or degree, but we can utilize the tool of resilience to move through this all. Simply put, resilience is defined as, “the ability to bounce back after a setback.” Resilience is a skill that can be cultivated and consciously brought into the workplace in a few simple ways.


Resilient people utilize optimism to understand the causes of events. Optimists see the causes of failure as temporary, specific and external. This means they can cognitively sort through causes without being caught in negative emotions. It also means that when optimists consider the outcome of events either negative or positive, they believe it will generally be positive. Taking an approach of, “In the end it’s all going to be ok, and if it’s not ok than it’s not the end,” is a great way to work through and push onward during difficult times. Optimism can help individuals increase their endurance during challenging times, however, it’s not always the best strategy. Challenging and negative situations call for a dose or realism. Resilient people can utilize the next two points (emotional regulation and failure as feedback) to sort through how and when to employ optimism to its best use.

Emotional Regulation

Facing failure or a setback is an emotionally triggering experience. Depending on the scope it can cause a deep visceral reaction in a person. Part of being resilient is being able to experience emotions, feel them, acknowledge them but not necessary act on them. Resilience is understanding that something might feel like “it’s the end of the world” but being able to move through and past that feeling. Being overwhelmed by negative feelings can cause people to become stuck and unable to take the next action. Processing emotions through journaling or talking things out with a close friend allows a person to have the feelings without having a potentially damaging outburst or burst or becoming stuck and unable to move. It also means the person will be able to sort through cognitively what happened and be able to make changes or different choices.

Failures are a Form of Feedback Loop

Resilient people understand that life is not a string of successes but a mix of highs and lows. And when “lows” happen, resilient people can sort through the experience. They can look honestly at the experience of failure and consider it on an individual level. Instead of viewing the experience as global and something that was always going to happen and always will happen, they can view it for what it is and take it apart. They also attribute failure to external factors as opposed to internal factors. This means failure is not the result of individual being inherently flawed. Instead the individual can attribute failure to a lack of preparation or some other factor that can then be changed in the future.