Learning to be Resilient at Work

Whether they face departmental reorganizations, technological upgrades, library renovations or budget cuts, library workers must adjust to change. Over the years I have noted common characteristics among co-workers who not only recover easily from change but in fact thrive on it. I was happy to see those same characteristics cited in social psychology literature as factors that can help employees become more resilient.

The three traits that this literature most often associates with resilience are commitment, a belief in one’s ability to influence outcomes; challenge, or ability to view difficulty as opportunity; and control, orthe conviction that one’s work is meaningful. By cultivating these traits, which can be learned, we can adjust our perception of workplace change (Maddi and Khoshaba 2005). I have listed below information on each trait along with steps you can take to incorporate them into your own work life, ultimately improving the way you deal with workplace change.

Commitment: Employees who believe they have the ability to positively influence change in their workplace have a stronger level of resilience. These employees are also able to accept areas that are outside their ability to influence and move on.

One way to feel that your actions have more power at work is to become involved in the decisions regarding change. Volunteer for a task force or a focus group that is charged with discussing the changes at work and how your work group can respond most effectively to them. Being involved in workplace issues can help you feel empowered to share your opinions and to shape the change, and it can help reduce your fears and anxieties (Kimbrough-Robinson 2008). Remember, though, that another element of this attitude is being able to accept those areas which are outside your ability to influence. If there are situations that are unlikely to be modified, learn why this may be the case. Then work on moving beyond that issue to concentrate on other areas that can be more affected by your efforts.

Challenge: It is not good enough just to tolerate change; employees need to embrace change as an opportunity or a challenge to be met. By being optimistic about new work patterns and procedures, they can adjust how you deal with them. Optimism may not change the stressors in their workplace, but it may alter how they see those stressors.

To embrace change in the workplace, concentrate on potential long-term outcomes rather than on the changes themselves. Think about what you might learn from the change and how you might use this knowledge when responding to future changes. Try also to think about how the change ultimately will affect you. As you begin to realize that change can benefit you personally, you may begin to look forward to it (Spiers 2006).

Control: Most library employees already believe in the meaningfulness of their work and the importance of the service they provide to patrons. That belief is an initial step in responding to workplace changes. The next step includes understanding not only their specific areas of work but also the whole organizational structure in which they work. Becoming immersed in an organization’s goals and its mission will bring about a better perspective on workplace change.

One way to nurture your sense of control is to find out more details about why the change is happening. What patron expectations brought about these changes? Are there other political forces dictating these changes? Pay attention to information presented at meetings, websites and blogs regarding work changes. You will be able to deal better with change if you are able to fully understand what to expect (Spiers 2006).

While you work on building up these mindsets, remember that you are not alone in attempting to deal with change. You can develop social support networks for change by looking for opportunities to discuss change with family, friends and colleagues (Kimbrough-Robinson 2008). I have found that my resilient colleagues, in particular, have helped me keep a positive outlook when it comes to workplace change. They are experts at reminding me that the best way to keep work changes in perspective is to HAVE FUN!

Works Cited

Kimbrough-Robinson, Carla. “Change happens: Deal with it.” Quill, Mar 2008, Vol. 96, No. 2.

Spiers, Carole. “Things Do Not Change, We Do.” Management Services; Summer 2006, Vol. 50, No. 2 (32-34).

Maddi, Salvatore R. and Deborah M. Khoshaba. Resilience at Work. New York:
American Management Association, 2005