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Is It Time to Retire Values Like Resiliency and Grit in the Workplace?

Tristam Hooley thinks so, and I agree.

Why it is time to end our obsession with ‘resilience’

The problem is that the more “resilient” you must be to be successful at work, the more likely you are to burn out and quit.

For example:

In a recent response to a parliamentary call on teacher recruitment and retention, Professor Maratos highlighted the jobs-demand resource model. Simply put, when job demands, such as high work pressure, emotionally demanding interactions or a challenging physical environment outstrip resources, the cumulative effects are poor physical and mental health, a strained and unhappy workforce, and broader issues of staff retention.

This is the key. We reward resilient workers. At one of my previous employers, we listed “Grit” as one of our core values. When pressed, of course, it was explained that grit was more than just overworking; it included many things involved with overcoming challenges and finding solutions to problems. However, when publicly recognizing employees for their “grit,” every instance involved someone working long hours.

Every. Single. One.

Think about the message that sends. “We value work-life balance, but our best employees work more than 40 hours per week, including nights and weekends.”

It also creates a culture of blaming the victim. Are you burned out and overworked? You should learn to be more resilient and handle stress better!

It’s never the workplace. It’s always you.

We are seeing a demand to create jobs that don’t require ever-growing amounts of grit and resilience. It’s not the worst idea I’ve heard. It places responsibility where it belongs—on employers. Instead of pushing people to break and replacing them with the next person and repeating the cycle, it allows workers to have a career and a life outside of work. I don’t think that is too much to expect.

Of course, to accomplish this, many employers will have to forego a culture designed to weed out people by constantly putting more pressure on them to see who doesn’t break. (I’m looking at you, law firms, and the Big Four.) They’ll have to upend years of tradition.

It’s time to do that. Employees only have so much resiliency from which to draw. It’s not a never-ending resource that employers can keep using. Eventually, you’ll create a job that very few people can, or want, to do. Good luck finding new hires in that environment.


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