Director Anita Douglas explains some practical techniques to help build up resilience in the workplace and guide you through some difficult situations that you may be faced with.
When I am coaching resilience in the workplace, there is a fantastic quote I like to use by Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and a famous Austrian psychiatrist who says: “When you can no longer change the situation, you are forced to change yourself.”
I like it because it sums up resilience.
Resilience is certainly not easy to teach in, or out, of a work environment. It’s hard work for people to face because it is basically all about themselves. We all put our guard up when we are asked to talk about ourselves, our reactions and our feelings.
In public-facing businesses, staff are likely to come into contact with customers who are going to be angry at times, if the company has made a mistake or not delivered the level of service they expect.
The customer may know it’s not actually your fault personally, but they will not be reacting logically or irrationally because they are angry and they are going to go for it and complain to you.
Resilience is about not standing toe-to-toe in an argument at this moment, but reappraising that situation and turning it around to benefit you and work towards a positive outcome.
Our immediate response in this situation is to see an angry customer as a threat and our reaction is to go into that ‘fight or flight’ mode. We put our hackles up and can get defensive.
With resilience training, I am teaching you to be aware of that ‘fight or flight’ response and making you aware of where those emotions like anger and frustration come from.
You need to be aware that while you may not be able to change the situation you are in, you can create a positive outcome by how you react to it.
That is difficult for employees to grasp because they realise that they are the ones who can control the emotion of the situation. Once people get that, it becomes a lot easier.
I am making people aware that a lack of resilience might not be helpful and making them realise what type of techniques that can use to avoid getting into the ‘fight or flight’ response.
One of the best techniques that can be learned is around the question of: ‘What If’?
If an employee is facing a customer who is less than pleased with the service they have received, that employee might immediately start worrying and ask themselves questions like:
1.What if I get hauled into the office after this confrontation?
2. What if my boss has to get involved?
3. What if the customer gets really angry?
We create a series of ‘What Ifs’ in our head and that doesn’t help us.
It’s like we are creating a movie in our head, asking ourselves what might happen next and putting a load of negative options on the table. Those possibilities create worry, fear or frustration in our minds.
But they are not what is actually happening there and then.
A strategy to deal with that is to get rid of the phrase ‘What If’ from your vocabulary – and turn it into ‘How do I’?
How do I?
This makes your brain focus on a very different picture and the employee asks themselves a series of different questions.
1.How do I keep this customer calm?
2. How do I best put a situation in front of the customer they are satisfied with?
3. How do I get the customer to come into the office with me and calm down?
4. How do I approach this to stop them getting cross again?
This is a simple technique and the customers that we have worked with have found it very useful indeed. In feedback, they have told us that it is not only a good technique for work – but it has also helped them in their personal lives too.
It’s about learning and applying it to a situation you may find yourself in, not just in the workplace.
You can’t do anything about the situation but you can do something about how to deal with it and crucially, change it in your favour.