Have we got employee wellbeing and resilience the wrong way round?


As an organisational psychologist, the number one question guaranteed to set me off ranting… “How can we hire more resilient people?”


So, after taking a couple of deep breaths to stop me actually exploding, I explain that they’re asking the wrong question. The question they should be asking themselves - What is it about my organisation that is breaking people? Because you can hire the most resilient person on the planet, but if you put them into an environment that you need to be superhuman to survive in, they will leave.


Or they will break.


“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”

This quote from Alexander Den Heijer can help shift your perspective. It clearly identifies where you should direct your focus when a colleague is struggling to thrive in your company. So, if you’re thinking that you need to bring in someone to help with resilience training or some kind of wellbeing support, ask yourself why your people are struggling to cope.


I love the Health & Safety Executive resources on stress and stress risk assessments which ask some really powerful questions.

  • Is the work environment helpful or harmful? Is the workload achievable? Do the work patterns suit your employees?

  • How much control do your employees have over the way they do their work? Can they do it their way, or do they have to follow strict procedures?

  • How supported do they feel? Do they have the resources to do their job? Are there barriers in the way to achieving their goals? Are they coached by their managers?

  • What emphasis is placed on having positive relationships? How is conflict managed and unacceptable behaviour dealt with?

  • Does everyone understand what their responsibilities are? Do they know how their efforts contribute to the success of the company? Are they confident about who they need to speak to to get their job done?

  • How are changes in the company managed? Do they feel that they have a say? Do they understand the change and how they will be impacted by these changes?

To be happy, employees need to feel that they are supported, protected and that they belong. So before you put the onus on your employees to partake in resilience training, or wellbeing activities, it really might be worthwhile to ensure the environment isn’t causing the problem.


Oh...and no amount of beanbags, yoga or free fruit fridays are going to make up for a toxic work environment.