[DAYS_LEFT] days left of your Medeconomics free trial

Subscribe now

Your free trial has expired

Subscribe now to access Medeconomics

Resilience when under pressure

In the fourth part of our series on resilience, Fiona Dalziel looks at how being resilient can help individuals and organisations succeed in times of pressure.

Practices can take steps to make their employees more resilient (Picture: iStock)
Practices can take steps to make their employees more resilient (Picture: iStock)

Tesco is in trouble. Despite achieving such apparent dominance in recent years, they didn’t see the discount stores creeping up on them. So now the fight is on and the future of Tesco will depend in large part on how resilient the organisation is under pressure.

Every practice in the UK today is under pressure of some kind. Some seem to be thriving despite this, while some are buckling. A moderate amount of pressure can create drive and enthusiasm, but too much can be disabling.  

When enough is enough

Evidently, there can come a point in the best-led, most resilient organisation or individual where enough is enough. Sometimes, it gets to the point where the whole team feel that it’s time to give up and go home.  

And yet, this happens to different degrees to different people and practices. The reasons for this are complex and multiple but could some of this have to do with elements of resilience? Might we be better prepared to face a very uncertain future if we nurture individual and organisational resilience?

This won’t mean that the pressures won’t happen and won’t have an impact. It does, however, mean that both individuals and the practice get through it together and can get back on track.

Defining resilience

Previous articles in this series have included definitions of resilience. Cooper, Flint-Taylor and Pearn define it as ‘being able to bounce back from setbacks and to keep going in the face of tough demands and difficult circumstances, including the enduring strength that builds from coping well with challenging or stressful events’.

When looking at resilience under pressure, it is helpful to look at it on several levels.

Individual resilience under pressure

As employers, GPs (and practice managers) are responsible for the wellbeing of their staff while at work, especially when they are working under pressure. Many practices struggle with this; it simply gets left behind in the overwhelming tsunami of other priorities.  

A useful starting point is developing an awareness of the elements which can lead to a lack of resilience in an individual. What helps some staff step up to the mark when the going is tough while others feel unable to?

Alex Davda at Ashridge Business School found that the following are unhelpful ways of managing pressure:

  • Not accessing the right support
  • Poor work-life balance
  • Lack of goals and purpose
  • Emotional mis-management
  • Low self-belief and confidence
  • Being rigid in the face of change

At any one time, several team members may be in this position. Employers cannot manage all elements of an individual’s life, but having an understanding of what makes team members tick at work and recognising action you can take to make that individual a more resilient, and therefore more productive, member of the team just might be worth it. See ‘Building a resilient practice team’, for more on this.

The team’s resilience under pressure

The effectiveness of leadership in a practice will determine how resilient the practice is. A resilient practice will be led by someone who not only looks after the team but manages themselves as an individual, their impact on the team and their own reactions to pressure.

Reslient teams are successful because:

  • They have a sense of direction – goals are identified
  • They feel they are  effectively managed
  • They are given regular training and feedback
  • They feel valued
  • Conflict within the team is resolved

In a resilient team, despite challenges, there will be a feeling of wellbeing. The team will be able to cope with pressure and get back on track after setbacks. The team will be better able to maintain its performance even though it is under pressure, remaining focussed and productive.

Forming organisational resilience

As well as looking after individuals, the leader is responsible for the organisation as a whole. An effective leader will plan in order to be able to (as much as possible) anticipate change and identify sources of pressure. This helps individuals and the organisation to cope and bounce back.

Effective leadership will deliver change management which:

  • Recognises the emotional impact of the change on the individual
  • Helps individuals see the need for the change 
  • Acknowledges that past experiences of change may not have been positive
  • Listens to people’s fears and concerns and then takes action to address them
  • Supports people in recognising 'what’s in it for me?'
  • Manages the team through the messy stage of change where you have stopped the old way and the new way has not yet become 'normal'
  • Celebrates successes

We need to understand the relationship between effective leadership and resilience. Our final article in the series will explore this topic in more detail.

Further reading
Cary Cooper, Jill Flint-Taylor, Michael Pearn. Building Resilience for Success – A Resource for Managers and Organisations. Palgrave Macmillan: 2013


More in this series

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles
and free email bulletins.

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.

Database of GP Fees



Latest Jobs