Resiliency


Wikipedia defines psychological resilience as an individual’s ability to successfully adapt to life tasks in the face of social disadvantage or highly adverse conditions. The Oxford dictionary defines resilience itself as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.

How resilient therefore are you?

I have been graced these last couple of weeks with the tremendous privilege of assisting and supporting some very resilient people during their quest to find employment. I would love nothing more than to share their personal challenges with you as proof of both their individual and group resiliency, but to do so might be well-intended but harmful and a breach of confidentiality, so I will not. Suffice to say, you would I believe, like me, be impressed with them.

So here’s a question for you: How often do you get a chance to just work on one need in your life without having others distract you and need your attention?

Take job searching as an example. When looking for work, wouldn’t it be nice to only have looking for a new position as what’s on your mind? Amen to that! However, add to your job search what’s really going on in the real world. Bills are piling up, student debt repayment has you in the red, you’re more irritable with people (so unlike you), your budget for the little things in life you found so pleasurable has been self-curtailed. You’ve got housing issues with landlords threatening eviction, people feel sorry for you but at the same time don’t do much to help except go back and forth between saying, “You poor thing!” and “Can’t you get a job?” So unhelpful really.

Your ego is fragile; the degree to which is linked to how far in your mind you’ve fallen. You’ve had it in the past; the reputation and status, the good paying job, the cars, the house with the garden house and 4 door garage. Now you’re unemployed, raising a family of 4 or 5, and being looked to by them to provide. Your self-doubts, insecurities, personal worries; these you feel you have to suppress and lock away or deal with in isolation because you figure you’re the only one in the family who has the strength to handle them.

How am I doing? Sound familiar? Maybe not exactly your situation but am I close? If not you, does this sound like someone you may know? If not, count yourself most fortunate indeed!

There are a lot of very highly educated people who have held prestigious jobs who are now in receipt of social assistance; who find themselves unemployed. What I find amazing and truly remarkable is the upbeat attitude many have. It’s true! They have an unwavering belief that they will ultimately be successful and what’s more they haven’t let their present circumstances detract from their innate goodness; they are still positive, cheerful, optimistic and above all else…grateful for everything they do receive.

Grateful for everything they do receive; every piece of advice, support and guidance, suggestions and feedback, ideas and referrals – grateful. There’s no poor attitude, no one demands help and says, “You owe it to me – it’s your job so just do it and don’t expect any special thanks.” No, not one person is remotely holding this attitude of entitlement.

In the face of true adversity; they have not let their present circumstances feed and grow bitterness, resentment, coldness or anger. Now, to be sure they are under all kinds of stress and they would be lying to say they don’t have their moments when they feel, “Why me?” Yet, it’s what one does with these feelings that defines them.

They have done – and continue to do – one thing that I implore you to consider doing as well when you find yourself overwhelmed and susceptible to the dark places. While acknowledging your present circumstances, carry yourself as best your able; continue to help yourself. Each of the people I’m working with at the present was identified by a colleague of mine as someone who is committed to their own success, is open to feedback, receptive to change and above all has the right attitude.

As one person said to me, “Why let myself miss opportunities because I appear negative? All I’ll end up doing is surround myself with negative people if I do.”

Adapting and recovering are two key words if you picked them out from the opening definitions at the top of this article. Survivors adapt and recover. I have to tell you that all the while I am providing these job seekers with tips, suggestions, aid, support etc., they in turn are mentoring me – if I’m wise enough to recognize the moments of learning before me. Sometimes I miss those moments but I catch enough of them to realize they are before me. I’m fortunate you see to stand in front of them in a classroom but still stand there as a student myself, receptive to receiving what they share.

Should you – yes you – be unemployed and dealing with your own mounting issues that have you wondering just how many more things you can handle, I bow to your resiliency. Take that label and wear it like a badge of honour. When job interviewers say, “Tell me about yourself”,  count yourself as resilient. You’ll bounce back and get past these adverse life conditions that while present, won’t hold you down forever.

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A True Story About A Bullying Boss


I had a phone call yesterday from a former client of mine. It was exactly one year ago less a single day that she accepted an offer of employment through a job seeking workshop I ran. She’s out of work as of yesterday, and while she’s in shock, I’m just livid.

Now you have to understand this particular woman was one of those who truly impressed me. I mean she listened, put into practice the new skills she was exposed to, and while she questioned things she didn’t immediately grasp, she always did so respectfully and worked hard to earn her success. So it was that when she called me right out the blue yesterday, I could immediately recall her to mind.

It turns out that for the last year she’s not only found work, made enough to exit from the social services system that once provided her with food and rent funds, but she had rekindled her self-confidence in the process. Employment does that; so much more than just working for a living.

So the problem? Her boss. Her boss as it turned out was the son of the owner of the business, and the father is the one who had hired her. The son is a tragic example of all that is bad in people who have a taste of power and authority. She provided me with examples of how he would yell, curse, verbally abuse, belittle and demean not only her but others. Apparently there have been 5 people call in and report this person’s behaviour to the local Labour Relations Board in the past year alone.

When I spoke on the phone yesterday, she had just hours before taken all she could and things came to a climax. As she reports it, he ran out to her car and met her in the parking lot where he proceeded to tear a strip off her verbally. He yelled at her, telling her what she needed to do the second she got inside. Sure there was no one else in the parking lot, but what a start to your day. I mean who does that?

Once inside, she started to do the things he told her to do and then he kept on at her only this time in front of others. Up until yesterday she had taken all this verbal abuse because she needed the job and the income it provided her with. Yesterday however, she’d had enough and asked him not to speak to her that way. Well, not used to someone having a bit of a backbone, he told her loudly so that all could hear that he could talk to her anyway he pleased and added a few choice words to emphasize the point.

This intimidating, bullying behaviour continued and she then asked him to leave her alone to do the work, and that’s when he told her she was done and to get out; she was gone. Now in shock, publicly abused yet still clinging to some semblance of clarity, she went to the payroll person and asked for her ROE to be prepared for pick up or mailing and her last cheque. He came after her and told her she’d get it when he wanted her to get it and not before and if she didn’t leave he was calling the police. So she left.

And it was at that point she went home and not having any idea of what to really do, called me. Now it’s been a year as I say since I last spoke with her. I give her credit for having saved my contact information. By the time I’d called her back a few hours had passed. She told me she’d already got out all the handouts she’d been given by me a year ago and had started to re-read them to re-familiarize herself with good job search principles and actions. I was impressed anew.

She was still shaking, still in shock, crying a little, and it will be in the coming days that the full impact of things hits home. I shared with her what to do immediately, like call the Labour Board herself and make a report, file for Employment Insurance. I also told her that there’s two general things she could do for the next week; get right back into a job search or take a week off to mentally recover, compose herself and then set a target of next Monday to start looking for work. Depending on the person, either choice is the right one.

I made sure that she knew she had done the right thing, and that in no way should that kind of behaviour be tolerated in any workplace. Do you know the father who originally hired her actually called her to plead with her to come back to work? She had enough self-worth to decline this despite her financial worries. And she’d already called back to speak privately with the person in payroll to make sure if a reference called she could be assured that her employment dates would be verified.

She’s strong, resilient, deserves better and will succeed again. She’s going to stay in touch now, even though she’s no longer a client. And she needs a good answer to the future question, “Why did you leave your last job?” But I am dismayed this kind of person is still in a position of authority. No job is worth that kind of abuse.