In my role as organisational psychologist, I looked around at the faces, the hair and the dress of my group on a recent company-wide conference call. There was hair plastered back that is usually beautifully coiffed, the odd item of clothing that should probably be categorised as “sleepwear” and tired, tired faces peering at laptops with receding eyes. It didn’t help that summer had arrived with a vengeance – it was as hot as Hades, with humidity off the scale – but I realised this: we went into lockdown, we survived lockdown and… it’s still going on and we’re sick of it. I’m going to call this “resilience fatigue”.
We work a lot with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) at BOOST&Co, and I used the MBTI tool in April to predict how each of our employees would cope with lockdown. This turned out to be pretty useful – certainly pretty accurate – so we knew who would struggle the most. Every member of our team has been amazing, not just coping with their own lockdown woes, but supporting others who have been experiencing the situation differently. So far, so good.
We have been crazily busy since then. Different teams have had their ups and downs, in terms of the volume of work and the ways in which they have had to adapt, but everyone has ploughed on. Some individuals have had an absolutely rotten time – I’m thinking in particular of those who are incredibly social, yet found themselves alone for weeks at a time – but everyone has kept their peckers up. Everyone has shown immense resilience.
Growth Lending – a group comprising the lenders BOOST&Co, GapCap and KX Media Capital – was recently accredited for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), meaning that we are one of the companies the government is trusting to make state-backed loans to small firms. This was the culmination of everything we have been doing since March.
It took each member of our team to contribute to this success, and we are thrilled – not just because participating in the initiative keeps us on our path of growth, but because what we are doing will contribute to the UK’s economic recovery. We may be a money-making entity, but this sort of thing does give us a collective warm and fuzzy feeling.
The three types of resilience you need
This should mean that we’re all feeling tickety-boo, shouldn’t it? We aren’t. There are three distinct levels of resilience in business – organisational, team and individual resilience – and although we’re doing well on the first two, the smallest cracks are appearing in the third. It is helpful that we have an open culture in which our staff are actively encouraged to be themselves, or to be authentic, as we term it: honestly, we prefer these things to be out in the open. But in organisations that favour a different model, these cracks – even if you cannot yet see them – will be widening too.
What is resilience? As usual, there are many definitions, but in her book Grit, Angela Duckworth says: “Grit grows as we figure out our life philosophy, learn to dust ourselves off after rejection and disappointment, and learn to tell the difference between low-level goals that should be abandoned quickly and higher-level goals that demand more tenacity.”
This can easily be read in the context of our current circumstances: we have had to adapt quickly to a sub-optimal (or just dreadful) situation, we have worked out with help how to move forward and we are focusing on what needs to be done to ensure that we, and our organisations, come out at the other end.
The rub comes when we consider the length of time we’ve had in which to do this. We’ve had no time at all. In just 21 weeks, we have gone through an arc that, in normal times, would probably have taken us several years. I’m not even making a distinction between those of us who have been busy and those of us who haven’t. The important factor to recognise is the change in people, regardless of circumstances, and not the circumstances themselves.
How your MBTI type can help you cope
I have updated my MBTI research from April, which focused on how each of the 16 personality types was likely to cope with working from home, to focus on “resilience fatigue” and how to spot it in others. As the slides below show, there is a simple heuristic, or rule of thumb, that enables us to see if our colleagues are not doing well. If someone with a preference for Extraversion becomes quiet and withdrawn, they are probably not coping very well. If someone with an Introversion preference becomes more vocal and even more emotional, they are likely to need some support too.
Helping colleagues through resilience fatigue is reasonably straightforward, although it does require some sensitivity. For Extroverts, you need to coax them back into participating, in line with their overall personality type. For Introverts, you need to get over the shock of them becoming vocal (outbursts in some types, such as INTP, can be an unpleasant surprise for observers) and you need, again, to work with their specific personality type to provide the reassurance that will reduce their stress levels.
There is another cure for resilience fatigue and that is time off work. We have found that some employees, understandably, wanted to save their annual leave to take later in the year. However, a few weeks ago, we strongly encouraged everyone in the firm to take at least five days off, away from their home offices.
If you worry about asking people to take holiday, and generally do not actively encourage this, you need to think about whether you can clearly and calmly justify any changes to your regular ways of operating. These extraordinary circumstances have made everyone do a lot of things differently, and if you believe that you are helping people to work better at all three levels (organisationally, in teams and individually), then asking people to take a break is the right thing to do.
Use the slides below to find our tips on resilience fatigue, tailored to your personality type (and scroll to the bottom of the article to download them in fun origami form):
Persistence pays off
Even though we do have people who are going through resilience fatigue – the author included – we are ploughing onwards, just not regardless. It is important to support each member of the team as an individual, but as an organisation, we need to keep moving. Given that most MBTI types work best with structure, whether they create this themselves or rely on others, it’s vital to keep your company in good shape while you look after any temporary stragglers.
Once people are able to overcome their resilience fatigue, they need to be able to step back into an organisation with a clear shape and with a focus on the future. Those of us who worked through the recession in 2008 know that the businesses that succeeded were the ones that reframed their goals and kept moving forward. The important thing as a leader is to recognise that your followers may and will have wobbles along the way, and that this is only human, but if you maintain your focus, everyone will catch up in the end.
Origami time! Download your MBTI resilience fatigue “decision-makers” here: