Depression, anxiety and stress have all increased in the workplace.  The pace of constant change is stressing out employees at all organizations across all industries.
It feels even worse for leaders – we expect too much of them. Among their day to day responsibilities, we expect leaders to set goals, coach, facilitate, overcome barriers, provide direction, motivate, drive change, and provide feedback. It’s not surprising that when we talk to leaders in our programs they say “it feels overwhelming.”
This workplace stress in also costing corporate performance. In the U.S. alone, it’s costing organizations up to $1 trillion dollars  in increased health care costs, lost productivity, and missed opportunities.
We’ve learned that traditional solutions (time away from work, employee gym benefits, fun at work, etc), although well intended, have reached their limit. For example, more than 50% of employees don’t take their full amount of time away and struggle to remain unplugged while on vacation. These focus on the symptoms rather than the underlying cause of stress.
The question becomes, how can we build resilience and thrive in turbulent times?
In the digital age, we need to shift our focus from “cope” to “building resilience” in our organization.
An inoculation introduces a small amount of disease to the body, so it can build antibodies against it. It’s the same for organizations and people – resilience is built when people steer into the causes of stress and grapple with it. It’s important to remember resilience is a mindset and that stress and challenge are required to build resilience.
There are three key leadership practices that support the building of these kind of resilient organizational antibodies.
Adopt a team-centric approach
Building resilience is a team sport. Shift the locus of responsibility from human resources/management to the teams. Engaging the entire team in an activity that is peer enforced, will help shift the pressures that an individual employee feels.
Dynamically establish clarity
Take the time as a team to identify the root causes of the stressors. Match expectations-setting with the pace of change in your organization.
Use the concept of experimentation to leverage the stressors to mitigate their causes and increase organizational learning. Create a true learning environment by having a fail-forward approach to learn through experimentation.
All of this requires a strong foundation of trust. The pace of change we ask teams and individuals to cope with, will not service without a foundation of trust. Without trust, people will not move quickly, they’ll doubt, and potentially sabotage efforts.
We’ve found all of this and more to be true in our organization, along with those we work with. Especially in the notion of building trust, we’ve taken steps to become more transparent. One example of this is our Leadership Laboratory, where our employees share every day leadership moments they encounter and struggle with.
Our approach and thinking to developing resilience in organizations is a three month blended learning journey. Our program, Leading for Resilience, includes practical tools, application activities, vILT sessions and more to take us on a journey to integrate resilience into the workplace dynamic. Leading for Resilience is a part of our larger Leading in the Digital Age suite of offerings designed specifically to support leadership success in the digital age.
Building resilience has the power to transform the stress of working and leading in today’s turbulent times into opportunities to learn, adapt and thrive.
 Bohannon & Marquez, Building Resilient Organizations to Overcome Workplace Stress, AchieveForum, August 2018