How do you provide education on resilience when a person has nothing left in the tank?

Towards the end of a full day of training, the final topic of Resilience and Self-Care was the subject under discussion. The participants said that they were looking forward to this, they were clearly emotionally athletic in their roles.

However, this may have come at the cost of maintaining their personal resilience.
On this particular day, the materials I had prepared on the subject of applying theories of resilience into the workplace, our discussion on the impact of cognitive behaviours, mindfulness activities, essential daily practice and reflecting on organisational support, felt as though I was missing my audience’s needs. The participants looked bedraggled, as if they needed more than just concepts and ideas. As I ploughed through the well-rehearsed materials, I noticed a participants’ lip quiver. It felt like this quivering lip was saying, ‘In my role I give, give, give and there is just nothing left… I’m not even good at being resilient’.

At that moment, I could not see how the remainder of my session would support the organisation’s objectives.

A voice in my head went back to the day where my mother was helping me through a rough patch. ‘Make sure you get up and ready for the day, have three meals and try to get some sleep dear’. I pushed my resilience materials aside. These people were not looking for outcomes; they were not interested in content delivery and learning objectives. I felt that I needed to take my participants back to the basics of self-care and looking out for yourself.

I asked my participants, ‘What did you have for breakfast this morning? Who’s drunk some water today?’ We were going back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. For the life of me, I had no idea how valuable this activity would prove.

One of my participants would only drink soft drink. Yes, it was a bad habit and one which she wanted to break. So, I invited everyone to drink large glasses of water together. We all agreed, it was a deliciously refreshing drink! The quivering lip person did not feel she could take a break; her team ‘needed’ her and rest periods or short breaks for water or meals were just not possible.
Based on award and EBA, an employee is entitled to a rest or a meal break within 5-hours of their shift. An employee cannot be forced to take a break. However, organisations must consider the ramifications of unfortunate incidents for missing breaks. Consider getting home safely. What would happen if this person had fallen asleep at the wheel on the way home from work, caused primarily due to sheer exhaustion? Where would the liability sit? Not to mention unintended mistakes or oversights that may occur on the job due to fatigue.

The quivering lip started to realise that her martyr ways were serving no purpose. She boldly announced that the time had come to learn to take better care of herself. The participants, her colleagues, eagerly joined in and offered their support. They all had her back; if the new schedule did not work, then the team were right behind her, making sure she took her rest and meal breaks, allowed time for water and left work on time. There was no getting out of it. Self-care and perseverance had become top of the list of priorities.

I’ve learnt that as a facilitator with the aim to increase capability and productivity means you have to be in tune with your audience. An organisational development professional cannot just facilitate prescribed texts; we have a duty of care to make every session relevant to the needs of the individual and most importantly be the subjective ear on behalf of the organisation.

For privacy purposes and protection of participants attending workshops, this modified story of resilience in the workplace is vastly different to what occurred over several training sessions.

Felicity Donert is an experienced Organisational Development professional. Felicity’s skill set is to design, develop and facilitate development programs and align these to organisational initiatives, mission and values.
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