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Resilience initiatives deflect blame


Initiatives focusing on resilience as a solution to workplace stress suggest that the person experiencing the stress wouldn’t suffer so much if they were more resilient.


The blame for the stress, therefore, is placed on the individual for not being resilient enough. It’s not helpful at all to sufferers and in fact, may make them feel worse.


We need to tackle the root causes of workplace stress, but doing so is often against the interests of those responsible for the working environment. Some people or organisations keep the focus on resilience deliberately.


If any questions are asked of how they’re tackling workplace stress, a shiny document focusing on “resilience” deflects the blame back on to the sufferers, and away from their own responsibilities to address the root causes.


Where people and organisations spend enough time around others who take that approach, they can become infected with the same mentality.


They may become willfully blind to the root causes – essentially, captured by those with vested interests in keeping the focus on resilience. Or, they may simply not care what it does to the sufferer.


Bear in mind that the sufferers will include those with clinical mental health conditions. So when you think about it, taking an approach which places the blame upon them at a time they’re looking for help is pretty sick.


Point these issues out to the proponents of resilience, and they may insist that it’s a good thing – benign. But such insistence does nothing at all to change the impact on the sufferer.


I recently read the following:


“When things come into your head, take out a notebook and jot them down, then forget about them until it’s worry o’clock… At a specified time in the day, allow yourself time to worry; this should be no longer than an hour.”


Let’s just break that down.


Instead of asking why professionals are stressed in the first place, it’s asking them to *actually schedule in time to worry*. And to take time out of their probably-already-busy-day to do it.


Far from addressing the root causes of workplace stress – the workplace or environmental factors – this approach normalises stress and places responsibility for planning to be stressed on the sufferer.


It appears to be a new low.


The suggestion that all their worries can be contained into a 1-hour slot each day betrays an absolute lack of understanding of stress and mental health issues. Hopefully, nobody reading this would provide such advice to a depressed or anxious patient.


It’s not necessary to name the proponents of this stuff, but it needs calling out publicly because it risks damaging the cause they’re meant to represent.


Because here’s the irony: it hasn’t come from those with a vested interest in shifting the focus, but rather, some of the proponents of this actually have a responsibility for helping people to address workplace stress.


Which means that not only is the workplace broken for the sufferer, but the advice is broken too.


What hope have they got?


Before anyone suggests “have you emailed the proponent privately about it” – check yourself. It’s against the interests of an organisation to withdraw something like this and apologise for it when it’s pointed out.


Also, once they’ve published it, they’ve made it public themselves – so that’s where the debate needs to be, so that any sufferers thinking “what the actual…” know that they’re not alone in finding it ridiculous.


This is an opinion piece by Greg Lawton who is a pharmacist.



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