How much do you enjoy your work relationships?…

If you answered ‘a lot’ to this question you’re likely to be significantly more resilient than people who answered ‘not at all’…

We invest a lot of our time and energy at work, it can be miserable when relationships are strained, and now research has shown that it’s not only unpleasant, it is detrimental to the organisation as well as the individual. [1]

We now know that social support in the workplace is an important factor  in determining whether an organisation successfully navigates a turbulent environment or not. Organisational change programmes are a case in question, they’re difficult enough when effectively managed but when the individuals and teams affected don’t have resilience strategies to help them to cope and relationships become strained the chance of the programme being a success reduces dramatically.

At both the individual and organisational level, social support is a critical factor in bolstering the capacity to bounce back from challenges, stress or hardship. Working collaboratively builds relationships and resilience.

Do you invest enough time in your work relationships?

Are you able to invest time into your work relationships? Is your organisational culture conducive to this? I still remember with affection, a team that I worked in over 20 years ago, there were 3 of us, all in HR working a fast paced retail environment in central London.

The relationship had formed over a hectic 2-year period where we problem solved together, helped each other out and were open and non- judgmental. No one told us to be this way, it just happened because the relationships were there and we looked after and respected each other.

Relationships inside and outside of work provide all sorts of help during tough times, whether its colleagues, old friends, new friends, social networks or family. [2]

They help in 3 main ways;

‘Sharing’ builds resilience

Simply sharing your concerns with others is helpful and can help to build your resilience. People you know that you can talk to about fears or worries that you might have… literally sharing your problems.

Sharing strengthens in other ways too, sharing a journey with someone is generally perceived as more fun than doing it alone, as is eating out.

Building resilience during the good times helps to keep the channels of emotional communication open, meaning that it’ll be far easier and more natural to then share feelings when the pressure is on.

Belonging builds resilience

Having people around you that you can socialise with and get a sense of ‘belonging to’ is really important. It may feel like you’ve ‘found your tribe’; People that you really connect with, and perhaps have a shared interest with either inside or outside of work. That sense of belonging also brings a sense a priorities and purpose. You’re more likely to help and support those around you if you share a common purpose. When you draw on your social network you immediately have access to a far greater number of ideas, skills, connections and opportunities, as well as support and encouragement all of which, critically, help people to recover and remain resilient.

“This could be one reason why extroverted individuals tend to be more resilient; they may be more likely to reach out to others when they need support” [1]

Practical support builds resilience

If your basement flooded and your partner was away – who would you call for help? Personal resilience is higher when there are people around you who can provide practical support and help when its needed i.e. in times of trauma or simply with domestic tasks. It’s worth nurturing those reciprocal, mutually beneficial relationships as it also engenders a sense of community.

Resilience relies on the social support network that surrounds you as much as it relies on internal factors like physical health and having a positive mindset. An individual’s social network provides an essential buffer against life’s stresses, not only because the social support helps people manage stress, but because social support helps people solve their challenges and find new opportunities.

Positive Psychology Interventions that help to build resilience in relationships.

There are lots of positive psychology interventions that will help to build resilience in relationships, including evidence based interventions such as kindness, gratitude, empathy, strengths utilisation and open-mindedness – they all help.

If you’d like to know how resilient your relationships are we can measure it using a psychometric and then develop resilience levels with support and coaching. Development programs can effectively increase resilience, which is good news for organisations that recognise its importance.

The impact of these programs, however, is not universal. One-on-one coaching and mentoring tend to perform better than group-level training, e-learning, or train-the- trainer programs. After just 3-4 months of coaching, resilience increased across all individuals by an average of 9%; Burnout decreased by 19%, and stress decreased by 24%. [1] If you think you and your teams would benefit I’d love to hear from you.


[1] Betterup ‘5 key questions about employee resilience’

[2] Dr Matthew Critchlow. University of Westminster


About the Author: Janette Kirk-Willis


‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’


Find out more about positive psychology courses and training at 

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