'Working Wounded': Are You Resilient?

DEAR WOUNDED: I remember when work was really easy. These days everything seems like it's a pain. The problem is that I feel like I'm becoming less resilient. Any thoughts on how I can become better able to handle all the garbage at work?

ANSWER: One of my dad's proudest moments occurred shortly after he had most of his stomach removed because of an ulcer. His doctor told him that he needed to quit drinking, so my dad went out and proudly downed 13 Manhattans.

My dad enjoyed 86 years of drinking and smoking. So when I think of resilient I think of him. My dad was born with his resilience, but the good news is that we can all learn how to be more resilient. I've listed some strategies below. For more, check out Maddi and Khoshaba's book, "Resilience at Work" (Amacom, 2005). The book is based on a 12-year study of Illinois Bell Telephone employees during a time when the company was downsized by almost half.

Are you committed? There is more resilience when a job warrants full attention, imagination and effort. It is easy to be committed to a job you love. It's more challenging to commit to a job that has challenging bosses, colleagues or customers. I'm not saying that you need to love something you dislike, simply that as long as you remain in a job it makes sense to try to make the best of it.

Do you feel a sense of control? Many people write to me about jobs that make them feel totally powerless. Some jobs will do that to you. But there are often opportunities to gain some small sense of control by serving on a task force, agreeing to tackle a difficult problem, etc. There are often opportunities to assert yourself but you usually have to go looking for them, they won't come looking for you.

Do you accept challenges? Often the bigger the challenge, the more room you'll have for mistakes and failures. So I always would gravitate to the really tough problems, figuring that I'd get a longer leash for agreeing to tackle them. That said, I'm not big on suicide missions. But often if you look hard enough you just may find situations where a particular assignment isn't as tough as people make it out to be.

Do you have allies? I'm a big believer in having people watch my back at work. How can you make this happen? Start watching other people's backs. It's amazing how many people will repay your support by looking out for you.

Do you maintain a sense of humor?I'm not suggesting that everyone should be a stand-up comic. But I do believe that everyone should be able to laugh at themselves, your co-workers, your boss and your company. A sense of humor is the most important tool that I've found for overcoming the workplace blahs.

Follow these tips and you might not live any longer, but at least you'll probably die with a smile on your face.

We'd like to hear your strategy for becoming more resilient at work. I'll give an autographed copy of "Working Wounded: Advice that adds insight to injury" (Warner, 2000) to the best submission. Send your entry, name & address via: http://workingwounded.com or via e-mail: bob@workingwounded.com. Entries must be received by Wednesday (May 26th).

Online Ballot and Contest

Here are the results from a recent workingwounded.com/ABCnews.com online ballot:
How would you rate the leaders you've experienced at work?

       Excellent, 1.7 percent
       Good, 21.4 percent
       Terrible, 33.9 percent
       Mediocre, 42.8 percent

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