DO WE NEED A “RESILIENCE” CULTURE?
We are seeing a growing trend towards employers trying to make workers more able to withstand stress rather than making workplaces more healthy.
This new approach is called “resilience” and it is fast becoming a buzz-word among managers. Consultants are promoting packages aimed at improving our resilience. Even professional bodies like CIPD which represents personnel staff and IOSH, the UK body for health and safety professionals, are promoting it.
Employers love concepts like resilience because they are less challenging than preventing stress. Workers sometimes like them because their employer appears to be doing something. It is another component of the well-being agenda used by some employers as an alternative to preventing injury and ill-health by removing and controlling risk.
And if you look for proof that people can be moulded in this way there is no evidence that resilience training actually works. Like a lot of management techniques much of it is “emperor’s new clothes”.
Basically, resilience aims to improve the ability to react to stress. One of the aims of resilience that makes it so attractive to managers, is that it tries to ensure that people can work in more stressful conditions without becoming ill. This is completely against the principles of prevention that say that first of all you remove the hazard or reduce the risk. Given that stress is a hazard covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act, just the same as a dangerous chemical or an unguarded machine, it should be treated no differently by either employers or enforcing agencies. Despite this we still have people selling resilience as the answer to stress in the workplace.
For trade unionists, the bottom line is that if you have a problem with stress in the workplace change the workplace – not the worker.
If you want to know more about why resilience is missing the real point then you can read my article in the new issue of Hazards magazine at http://www.hazards.org/stress/resilience