Friday, 18 June 2010

Corporate Development Part 142: Resilience

The one-day course I attended in Bristol the other week was about Resilience. Courses like that are either a complete waste of time; a pleasant confirmation that you're on the right track; or a rather harrowing experience. I had the pleasant confirmation bit.

Resilience is the ability to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching or being compressed; or being able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. It's the psychological analogue of fitness. (Fitness is about how quickly you recover from exertion: it's usually confused with strength and stamina.) Some of the things you need are: good health (the ability to withstand infection and recover from it if you are); a reasonable level of fitness, strength and stamina; a clear conscience and a reasonable amount of justified self-confidence; friends who care for you and a family that is a source of happiness; a job that pays you an adequate sufficiency with a manager who is a decent human being. Absent one of those things and you might get by, but two or more and you're screwed. Poor health, no fitness, self-doubt, shallow friendships, a family that drains you, too little money coming in and an insecure bullying jerk for a boss and you are not going to bounce back from anything. You're going to collect dents.

Which wasn't the way the course dealt with it. Their definition was "the capacity to face, overcome and be strengthened by experiences of adversity". The guy referred to the old Nietzsche saw about "that which does not kill me makes me stronger". Ol' Freddie was posturing when he came up with that one. Adversity, from the serious (your pension getting trashed) to the tragic (your ten year old son dying in a random car accident) to the infuriating (The Bank's bureaucracy) to the Kafka-esque (dealing with the Family Courts), rarely leaves anyone stronger. It leaves them with a few more dents at best and insolvent and barely sane at worst.

But we weren't discussing philosophical psychology. We being handed a message. Which was that The Bank knows that working there is tougher than it should be. It knows its systems are half-assed and frustrating to use. It knows that never in the history of human affairs have so many been employed to stop the so few from actually doing the work. It knows that it pays below the market rate and doesn't keep up with inflation. It knows that its managers abuse the staff appraisal system. And guess what? It ain't gonna change. Not one jot of a thing. So get over it. Here are some suggestions from your hired trainer.

Which turned out to be apple pie and homily. Don't take yourself so seriously. See a silver lining in every cloud. See something funny in the situation. Step back and get some perspective on it. View obstacles as challenges. Be able to learn from mistakes. Refuse to see yourself as a victim. Find some support from other people. Recognise what you can control, what you can influence and what you cannot do anything about.

On this last point, they guy said that he had total control over the meal he had eaten the previous evening, because he had ordered it from a menu. Obviously he's never been served a poor cut of steak, a rubbery omelette or coffee in any hotel in Great Britain. You have control over what you eat when you buy the ingredients yourself from a supplier you trust (as opposed to a supermarket who gets the stuff from God knows where) and cook them yourself. Otherwise you're in the lap of the sous-chef and brigade - if you're lucky - and more probably a barely-trained illegal immigrant on minimum wage.

But as I said, we weren't discussing abstruse philosophical concepts with homely examples. I knew the guy wasn't serious when he repeated a line that's caused me to stare incredulously more than once: "this is a performance organisation". It isn't. It really isn't. If it was organised to allow its people to perform at high levels, why would it need courses on handling the shit? The Bank is a dys-organisation and it does not perform. But more on that later.

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