New Research Shows Resilience is the Antidote to a Toxic Work Environment

This post originally appeared on BusinessWire

New Research Shows Resilience is the Antidote to a Toxic Work Environment

BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–New research shows that resilience could be what individuals need to thrive in the face of a toxic work environment. “The Positive Effect of Resilience on Stress and Business Outcomes in Difficult Work Environments” found that greater resilience was linked to positive impacts on an individual regardless of work environment, a finding that runs counter to widespread belief that one’s environment is more influential than an individual’s resilience capability in determining an employee’s likelihood of success. The study was authored by researchers affiliated with meQuilibrium, the leading data-driven resilience solution for the workplace.

While a number of research studies have shown being in a high-demand work environment without flexibility or support makes for a toxic situation, this study, initially published in the latest edition of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, is the first to identify the independent protective effect of resilience against health issues like depression and negative workplace outcomes like burnout, absence and intent to quit in all work environments. In fact, even employees in the toughest environments can still have positive outcomes, such as greater job satisfaction, when they have resilience. More specifically:

  • The exact effect of resiliency varies—with those in less challenging environments experiencing strong protective effects on burnout and sleep, and those in more challenging environments seeing strong protective effects against depression, absence and productivity.
  • There is a strong connection and interconnection between resilience and social support, as people with high resilience and high social support at work have even more positive effects than people with just high resilience or just high social support.
  • While social support did show to make people successful at work, the research found it cannot overcome low resilience, meaning even a great boss or close friends at work will not help people overcome a bad environment if they are not resilient.

The research is based on an analysis of more than 2,000 survey respondents comparing an individual’s resilience capacity—that is, the ability to manage stress and bounce back from adversity—and their job strain, as measured by the job demand (e.g., pace of work, volume of decision making required and emotional impact), job influence (e.g., control over one’s work environment, daily tasks, etc.) and social support (e.g., supportive colleagues and understanding supervisors). It found that being resilient has protective effects in both high strain and low strain work environments—that is, highly resilient employees have better outcomes than those with low resilience across a number of qualities that are very important to employers–such as intent to quit, likelihood of absence and productivity.

“From call center workers, to coders, to those holding corner office positions, people benefit from resilience,” said Dr. Andrew Shatté, one of the study’s co-authors and the co-founder and chief science officer at meQuilibrium. “While we set out to examine whether resilience has a protective effect in difficult work environments, we found that environment is largely irrelevant. What really matters in keeping employees focused, productive, happy, engaged and retained is their own capacity to be resilient. In such a fast paced and changing world, employers may not be able to control all aspects of the work environment, but they can build resilience capacity in their people and create better outcomes as a result. Employers that aren’t investing in this are missing the mark.”The study’s authors are all leading experts in the study of resilience and business performance and, in addition to Dr. Shatté, include Dr. Adam Perlman, MD, Dr. Brad Smith, PhD and Dr. Wendy D. Lynch. This meQuilibrium-sponsored research is the first in a number of studies by the authors that will be unveiled on the business impact of resilience and further validates meQuilibrium’s 2016 “The Science Behind Resilience: A Study of Psychometric Measures and Business Outcomes” report, which measured resilience against industry-standard psychological metrics and desired business outcomes.

“The workplace as we know it is undergoing significant change as a trifecta of technological, socioeconomic and cultural forces requires that we give people new skills and tools to operate at peak performance,” said Jan Bruce, co-founder and CEO of meQuilibrium. “As businesses look to be more agile and innovative, their people must be resilient and ready to ride the waves of change. This study is the latest proof that building resilience at scale will be critical to the success of the modern-day enterprise.”

About meQuilibrium
meQuilibrium is the leader in data-driven human and organizational resilience solutions that have become essential for complex global enterprises to transform in today’s disruptive business environment. Using proprietary software and people analytics that are grounded in cognitive behavioral therapy, meQuilibrium empowers complex global enterprises to optimize talent, well-being and business opportunity by measurably and effectively building resilience capacity at scale. By driving adaptive thinking that results in adaptive behavior, organizations are able to not only increase the agility and purpose of their workforce, but also drive greater productivity and performance. Founded in 2010, the company is headquartered in Boston and its executives have penned some of the most authoritative works on resilience, including the Science Behind Resilience. For more information, visit and follow meQuilibrium on Twitter @meQuilibrium.

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