Management Behaviours and their Impact on Resilience

IPANZ Executive Director Shenagh Gleisner talked with Geoff Plimmer from Victoria University and Esme Franken from the Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia.  They are undertaking research looking at resilience in the workplace, including thinking about management behaviours that enhance or hinder resilience. Here are some emerging findings from their interviews and focus groups.

People can thrive personally and professionally under a good boss. Unfortunately, under a bad, or even just mediocre boss, their resilience can be reduced. 

Bosses who are able to build resilience in their staff:

  • care about both the career, and personal development, of their subordinates. They go beyond a narrow focus on skills and tasks by considering personal interests and circumstances. These behaviours are often done informally but were seen as part of their job as leaders — not as an added imposition;
  • avoid highly directive, micromanaging behaviours, as well as hands-off, laissez faire leadership. They strike a balance between providing appropriate control and allowing employee autonomy;
  • manage teams, not just a set of one-on-one relationships. They do this through behaviours such as setting collective tasks and involving themselves in collaboration with the team;
  • help staff build networks inside and outside the organisation, learn from feedback and experience in constructive and open ways, and also adapt and try new things.

Bosses who hinder the development of resilience in their staff:

  • tend to manage up, but not down, and so do not develop their staff either professionally or personally;
  • offer low social and career support — which leads to dissatisfied, stressed and risk averse staff;
  • can be highly reactive — fighting fires and managing impressions rather than showing skills around planning and strategic foresight. This can result in a culture of constant urgency; and
  • tend to be unreflective personally, and so fail to learn from experience themselves.

Having a competent boss matters — and mediocre bosses are more destructive than it seems on the surface. The good leadership behaviours identified above contribute to positive employee outcomes, including resilience, commitment, job satisfaction, and wellbeing.

Hopefully this research will encourage public sector organisations to take management behaviours ever more seriously.