What do we mean we use the word resilience? It is one of those buzzwords that regularly headlines corporate workshops.
Companies spend a lot of money teaching their staff to be more resilient and it is increasingly being taught in schools too. For HR departments, resilience training has become a popular response to well-being surveys that reveal how stressed and overworked employees say they are.
But I believe the issue needs to be addressed in a different way, as we do here at THP. What resilience workshops often teach, particularly at multinationals, are coping skills on an individual level and how to bounce back after failing to achieve goals.
What they rarely teach are the well-being benefits that we all derive from being part of a mutually supportive group. This also enhances our fortitude to use the title of an interesting new book that examines the subject – Fortitude: Unlocking the Secrets of Inner Strength – by the British work-life coach Bruce Daisley.
Group-based support is a far more Asian concept, than a Western one, which historically emphasises the individual. But it lies at the very heart of THP’s training and the basis for most inter-company events.
When we teach our employees about the spirit of business ownership, we do so by emphasising that individual success is measured by how much someone helps others.
Many of our events are structured along group lines too. At our Anniversary Day this October, we featured singing and dancing from many different departments. Providing staff members with opportunities to come together in shared activities helps to promote inter-departmental bonding and stronger working relationships.
There is a lot of scientific and observational data to back all of this up. For example, when we feel part of a supportive group we release endorphins, the feel-good hormones that provide the body’s antidote to stress.
One of the best demonstrations of this in action is how people react during and after an extreme event like a natural disaster. What social scientists have found is that instead of exhibiting dog-eat-dog behaviour, most people discover their common humanity and try to help each other.
The Fukushima Earthquake, which rocked Japan in 2011, provides a recent example of this. Studies showed that there was plenty of time for the able-bodied to get to safety, but not the sick, bedridden or elderly. Yet many lives were saved because the able bodied paused to help those less fortunate than themselves.
In his book Tribe, the American author Sebastian Junger suggests that catastrophes instantly turn our DNA clock back many thousands of years. “Self interest gets subsumed in group interest because there is no survival outside the group,” he says.
In his own book, Daisley also quotes Junger’s conclusion that this social bond is so powerful that many people miss it as life gets back to normal.
We saw something similar, but of a much smaller magnitude during Covid-19. Having to ask all our employees to work, eat and sleep at the factory at the peak of the pandemic was very difficult because it took people away from their families for weeks on end.
And yet, while we were all at the factory together we found strength and a common purpose from sharing those difficult times together.