Disruptive forces like innovative technologies especially digitalization, creative business models and social diversities inevitably spawn many actions and reactions. Cumulatively, these revolutionary and evolutionary changes form the undercurrents of dynamic tensions in business management. To lead and manage in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world, managers have to be aware of the potent tensions and insidious negative effects that are present in their work environment, and then proceed to tackle them judiciously. In a VUCA world, a significant number of workers in urban countries have experienced some of the following negative effects both at work and at home:
At work: Blaming others due to frequent or unexpected changes and poor communication; Working long hours; Suffering strained inter-group working relations.
At home: Preoccupying with work often; Sacrificing personal, family and social obligations due to work commitments; Suffering from emotional work stress and even depression.
According to Andreassen et al. (2014; 2016), those who experience multiple problems mentioned above tend to be susceptible to moderate depression and anxiety problems.
A study by Power M.J. (2015) suggests that many workers seem to complain about:
- Tiredness due to poor quality sleep and long working hours without breaks
- Low mental capacity to multitask, take on difficult tasks under time pressure
- Uncertainty of unfolding events due to frequent changes in roles, threats of retrenchment and poor corporate performance
- Lack of social support
Given the rise of severity in the ways many workers have been adversely affected by the VUCA world, emotional resilience has become increasingly critical. There is a need for senior executives of an organization to help their people on the ability to:
- adapt to changes and adversities at the workplace
- stop self-defeating habits in life (e.g. being too aggressive or too avoidant)
- prevent the development of mental health problems such an anxiety and depression
When an organization takes initiative to help build its workers’ emotional resilience, it should achieve better overall job satisfaction and productivity in their employees.
Emotional Resilience: The ability to modify attention, thoughts, and responses when faced with work-related challenges in order to “bounce back” and accomplish goals.
Unhelpful automatic thoughts often lead people who are under stress into a variety of biased ways of thinking such as: “All or nothing”; Jumping to conclusion; Labelling; Over generalization; Exaggeration and Personalization (lack objectivity). Consequently, unhelpful automatic thoughts lead to negative responses such as:
- Fight – Anger leading to verbal irritation or shouting
- Flight – Anxiety leading to avoidance of difficult situations
- Freeze – Anxiety leading to do nothing
- Appease – Anxiety leading to giving in to others
There are 3 powerful methods that can help to overcome unhelpful automatic responses:
Method 1: Using attention to manage emotions
“Look at other people and ask yourself if you are really seeing them or just your thoughts about them.... Without knowing it, we are coloring everything, putting our spin on it all.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine. 1944-Present)
Method 2: Using thoughts to manage emotions
“Cognitive therapy seeks to alleviate psychological stresses by correcting faulty conceptions and self-signals. By correcting erroneous beliefs we can lower excessive reactions” (Aaron T. Beck, Psychiatrist. 1921 to present)
Method 3: Using responses to manage emotions
“Compassion is the courage to descent into the realty of human experience” (Paul Gilbert, Clinical Psychologist. 1951 to present)
To build a resilient workforce for high performance, it is imperative to help people to be emotionally resilient. Leaders need to encourage reflective thinking by asking the right questions and practise active listening as these skills are vital to helping others to overcome emotional stresses.