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Vicky Peel, July 17, 2023

Resilience in agency life

Why are we talking about resilience? Life at an agency can be exciting and challenging. When we are busy, we are really busy. And that brings its own pressures, while periods of quiet bring different stressors. In our professional and personal lives, we need to navigate difficult times and experiences. Resilience helps us as individuals, communities and organisations to cope well. And to grow.

Resilience is complex

Resilience is dynamic, complex and a term that’s often used incorrectly - particularly by people in various forms of power. Resilience shouldn’t mean putting up with disadvantage, discrimination or unfairness. It’s about the coping strategies we as individuals and organisations can call on to support our wellbeing. And the wellbeing of our communities and workplaces too.

Kindness and resilience

Prioritising kindness in our relationships, particularly at work, is so important. When we are kind to ourselves and to others around us, it improves our own resilience. Our relational network is one of the most important tools of support we have. In difficult times, friends and colleagues can offer us a different perspective, some reflection and reassurance.

For example, taking things very personally when a project has not gone well, means we can take on too much undue blame. This causes negative emotions and interactions. However, shifting our thinking to see our actions as part of something bigger than ourselves can help. We are better placed to feel more positive and to learn from our challenges. This also means being kind to others: accepting when things don’t go so well; or when people need some extra support.

Our emotional reactions

Martin Seligman's 3 P’s model of resilience refers to the three emotional reactions we often have towards adversity. From an evolutionary perspective, we are hard-wired to respond to threat and danger. It often serves us well. We no longer have to run from bears! But we often find ourselves overwhelmed with too much to do and lots of competing needs. Our resulting automatic responses are often negative.

Seligman refers to the automatic responses of personalisation - taking things very personally when something goes wrong; pervasiveness - assuming that negative situations spread across different areas of our lives. And permanence, that horrible feeling that bad experiences will last forever. Recognising these responses means we can develop our adaptability and learn to cope better with challenges.

Healthier relationships

We try hard to live our values at Unboxed. Paying care and attention to our relationships is one of the most important things we can do, as is acting with kindness wherever we can. The rollercoaster of agency life means we need to rely on each other to be effective and productive, to deliver well for our clients and balance our own wellbeing. At Unboxed, it’s a team sport.

Fostering a culture that is trusting, challenging and kind creates a more resilient workplace. People know they can make mistakes. They know they have the support of their colleagues. They know they can learn from each other and have conversations. They know that even when it’s hard, they can bounce back. Social support is a vital part of our resilience toolkit.

Ordinary magic

Being able to cope well is a skill we can all achieve. It’s not a character trait of extraordinary people. Research shows that most of us have the key skills of resilience. We often fail to recognise them though. Optimism and a solution focused mindset can increase our capacity to be resilient. Kindness, care and good relationships are key to coping well. But it is a personal journey and will look different for everyone at different times.