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Thought Leadership 09 May 2017

Resilience at work: or, don’t let rudeness grind you down

When you encounter rudeness in the workplace, how does that affect your performance? You may think it doesn’t impact you at all – you’re pretty resilient, right? – but a recent study shows that you’re probably wrong. In fact, dealing with rude people can have quite an impact indeed.

The study, conducted by the Coller School of Management at Tel Aviv University, simulated common scenarios that take place in a neonatal unit, where the most vulnerable babies receive critical care.  What it found was that, in the face of the rude parents of these ill babies, ‘individual and team performance deteriorated to the point where procedural skills and team communication were impaired … The team’s ability to perform was affected for the rest of the day.”

Those are some startling outcomes – and for anyone who leads teams, pretty instructive. For if fairly minor slights are enough to throw your whole team’s performance off for the rest of the day, what does that mean for the dynamics in the team and how they impact your ability to deliver on your goals?

Build your own scenario

Think for a minute about how this might play out in your world, if healthcare isn’t your industry. Let’s say your team leader goes to make a coffee and overhears someone from Team X saying something fairly innocuous-but-bitchy about the team, such as “What do they even DO all day?”

When they get back to their desk, feeling rattled by the comment, the phone rings: it’s a request from Team X. Without even realising it, the domino effect has just fallen into motion. The team lead feels (even subconsciously) less inclined to give Team X their best service today; members of the team aren’t given all of the information they need – quickly – in order to get the work started, and before you know it, you’ve got a complaint on your hands from the head of Department X, who is wondering why their request has gone unanswered.

It’s pretty easy to see how the smallest moments can escalate into something that impacts intrinsic morale, team communication and, ultimately, overall business performance.

It’s all about resilience

The key to dealing with rude parents, customers, colleagues or anyone else is in how resilient your people are. Those who have developed resilience are likely to use adversity as a trigger for developing coping strategies in a measured, coordinated way, whereas those who lack resilience will be more likely to either attack or escape – neither of which is ideal.

Organisations can choose to become places in which innovation, mistakes, and even failure, are seen as opportunities to learn and grow – that’s the basis of a growth mindset. It helps people (and teams) foster resilience, because they are allowed – and encouraged – to bounce back, bigger and stronger, from projects or interactions that went awry.

Leading with a growth mindset

When you lead with a growth mindset, you acknowledge that the potential of everyone in your team is unknown. That idea is motivational, because people are encouraged to strive, even when the outcome is unknown. Passion, motivation, engagement, adaptability, risk-taking – all of these increase where team are lead into developing a growth mindset.

But the big win here is sowing the seeds of resilience in your people and teams, which can then blossom and spread to entire organisations. So that the next time someone encounters a difficult customer or colleague, they won’t lose a day’s work stewing over it and doubting their abilities; they’ll be able to assess the situation, adapt their approach to it, and bounce back bigger and better, with lessons learned for the next time.

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