How Resilience Enhances Positive Work Behavior

Personality-based resilience concerns relatively stable individual differences in how people respond to potentially stressful events.

Resilient individuals are less likely to appraise events as stressful, less likely to have intense negative reactions to stressors, more likely to choose effective coping strategies, and less likely to experience adverse outcomes from stressors Opens in new window.

According to Wang, Sinclair, & Deese (2010), resilience traits can be described as cognitively-oriented information processing styles that people have for

  1. interpreting demanding events as potentially threatening or potentially rewarding,
  2. evaluating their own capacity to respond to demanding events, and
  3. constructing positive interpretations of prior experiences.

Resilience traits are relevant to mid and late careers because as individuals move forward in their careers, the broadened responsibility and the multiple work and non-work related roles that they have to fulfill are likely to create more stress for them.

As such, resilience traits may be particularly important for individuals in their mid and late careers to deal with stress and prevent disruption of their career advancement.

Two frequently studied resilience traits are psychological capital and hardiness.

Luthans et al., (2007) describe psychological capital Opens in new window as a composite of four strengths:

Hardiness consists of three dimensions: commitment, control, and challenge (Maddi, Kahn, & Maddi, 1998).

  • Commitment reflects a general tendency to be engaged by and finding meaning and purpose in one’s life.
  • Control reflects the belief that one is capable of effectively responding to demanding situations in their lives.
  • Finally, challenge includes cognitive flexibility and tolerance for ambiguity, which allow people to easily integrate unexpected or otherwise stressful events and to view them as opportunities for personal growth, rather than threats.

Although hardiness has received less attention in the organizational and vocational psychology literature than in military and health psychology, many studies link hardiness to health outcomes.

According to McAdams & Pals’ (2006) taxonomy, psychological capital and hardiness may be viewed as characteristic adaptations—traits reflecting relatively stable ways people learn to adapt to situations in their lives that may be modified through experience.

In general, it is believed that individuals with higher levels of psychological capital and hardiness are more likely to be able to effectively and quickly recover from setbacks and adapt to the changes in the environment.

They are also more likely to hold a positive attitude toward the tasks that they are performing and the environment that they are in when experiencing setbacks.

As such, these individuals with these traits are less likely to view the stressful events in their life as being threatening, but rather as challenges that they need to overcome. In turn, they may be less susceptible to the increased stress and hassles when they advance into mid and late career stages.

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In addition, previous research has shown that work-related stress is a prominent factor that “pushes” individuals into retirement (Wang et al., 2008).

Given the utility for psychological capital and hardiness to buffer the work-related stress, it is conceivable that individuals with higher levels of psychological capital are less likely to retire earlier than they planned.

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