Bounce back – how to be resilient at work

resilient business woman, woman being hit by wrecking ball

Article provided by Dr Susan Kahn, coach, lecturer, consultant, mediator and author of Bounce Back (published by Kogan Page, 2019)

Failure, knock backs, constant demands and challenges feature in our working life.

There is little stability and constancy at work, this can make work enriching, exciting and stimulating.  However volatile working conditions, constant change, inevitable failure and 24/7 demands can test our resilience.

We do not arrive at work neutral, we bring with us both the stresses and joys of our lives at home – whether it’s the responsibility of caring for children, elderly parents, friends in need or our own physical and mental wellbeing. Before we even enter the office, our resilience is already being tested.

What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to adapt and change to the circumstances we face.  It is the capacity to adjust and modify when challenged, to recover emotionally, physically and psychologically. This does not mean that a resilient response returns us to the same place we were in before, inevitably we are changed by that experience, but we survive it, we learn from it.

How then can we ensure that when our resilience is tested we can bounce back, stronger and with greater understanding?

Four Ways to Bounce Back


Before rushing in with a response or reaction take a moment to acknowledge your situation. Take some deep breaths or leave the working space for a short brisk walk.  Acknowledge that this is hard.

Take the CRAB position

The crab is a creature with a thick protective shell.  It defends its territory fiercely and can move sideways as well as backwards and forwards. These qualities offer it resilience in the challenging ocean habitat. We too can choose to retreat, to move forwards, backwards or sideways:

C – change or disruption occurs

R – what is your resilient response?

A – what is your attitude to the change or challenge?

B – how are you going to behave?

Let go and smile

When we confront failure or disappointment we can dwell on that incessantly, replaying and reliving the event – we need to let it go.  Smiling relaxes hundreds of muscles in our face, it also relaxes our nervous system. In smiling we can also offer ourselves some compassion.

Cathartic Cure

Writing down our imagined fears can be a helpful way to process our cluttered thoughts.  Take ten minutes to write down everything associated with the challenge you are facing. Don’t worry about the quality of the writing – just get everything out.  These questions may be a helpful prompt

  • What is going on?
  • What do you imagine is going on?
  • How will this impact you?
  • What is the worst outcome?
  • What is the best outcome?
  • What are you worried about?
  • What are you excited about?
  • What talents and skills do you have to help you cope?
  • What do you need to learn?
  • Who can help you?

Resilience is not a binary condition – we do not have or not have it.  It is something that can be learnt and developed.  Resilience allows us to think in times of difficulty, to consider our behavioural and emotional responses, resilience allows us to deal with challenging situations in a constructive and creative way.

With resilience we can turn challenges into opportunities, learn from adversity and develop strategies to ensure that physical and mental collateral is manageable. You can bounce back.

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