Building Resilience at Work

Kathryn McEwen

Private Practice

Our resilience, or capacity to bounce back and even thrive in pressured times, is critical in workplaces today. With higher workloads, declining resources and frequent change, together with the hectic pace of personal lives, resilience is almost a key to survival.
While strategies to build resilience have long been of interest in the arenas of parenting, education and disaster recovery, less focus has been placed on how these ideas can be translated into building resilient workplaces.
Resilient people are more optimistic, adaptable and independent. They are also better at solving problems and have sound levels of self-control. Resilient teams have similar characteristics, and find it easier to rebound from setbacks and adapt to change and pressure. All of these characteristics can be developed.
Based on sound psychological theory, Building Resilience at Work is a practical and easy-to-read book providing a proven path to self-help in developing personal resilience.

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About the Author

Kathryn McEwen is passionate about helping people and organisations realise their full potential. As a practising psychologist for more than 26 years, she has worked in management, academic and consulting roles across a diversity of occupations including the Australian Defence Force. Her expertise ranges from individual counselling and coaching through to leadership and team development. She currently runs her own consulting business in Adelaide, South Australia specialising in organisational psychology, as well as holding a part-time lectureship at the University of South Australia where she is also involved in collaborative research work.


Kathryn’s book, Building Resilience at Work, is like taking an everyday dose of work–life balance from an experienced and talented coach. It is a compilation of many of the techniques that have come from Kathryn’s expertise and years of experience in dealing with people in the workplace and the pressures they face. As a leader, or in any career, one of the greatest challenges that we will be faced with is dealing with other people. Kathryn’s book is a fantastic toolkit to support leaders as well as individuals, with practical examples of how to handle everyday situations step by step. — Darlene Mattiske-Wood, General Manager, Organisational Development, People’s Choice Credit Union  

This book is a clear and concise guide to the practical and theoretical aspects of maintaining workplace wellbeing. Particularly useful are the wide range of tools that can be applied as a self-help exercise for guided support, and also for group exercises. Kathryn has pulled together a diverse set of interventions from her many years of experience and all credit goes to her for sharing the resources. Thanks Kathryn! — Karen Osborne, Organisational Psychologist 

Building Resilience at Work is a great little practical management book — an easy read which not only puts many things you will already know into a handy framework, but also adds new concepts and ideas for the reader’s consideration. The book is in itself consistent with its philosophy of opening pathways for people to discover and learn for themselves — the author does not insist you ‘should’ adopt her ideas. Rather, she gives new ideas and ways of conceptualising for you to think about and add to your management behaviour if you like them. — Michael Dawson, Chief Executive Officer, Community Business Bureau Inc  

We are fortunate to have had Kathryn provide her enlightening training workshops at BreastScreen SA for many years, so I am delighted that her simple but thought-provoking messages and strategies are now available in this easy-to-read book, Building Resilience at Work. I love the bounce-back activities; simple exercises that help you to look at your own attitudes, behaviours and reactions, encouraging you to learn from the bad, enhance the good, and look after yourself on the journey. The ‘happy birthday strategy’ to diffuse negative thoughts is my personal favourite; it’s simple and it works! — Georgina Upton, Manager, Radiographic Services, BreastScreen SA  

In many workplaces traditional safety hazards are being replaced by health risks arising out of stress related to interpersonal conflict, workloads, performance issues, organisational change, lack of support or poor collaboration. It makes sense that building resilience at work will go a long way in supporting the health of workers at all levels in an organisation. When people are empowered to choose how they respond to events and behaviours at work, they will naturally be happier and more productive. Managers who recognise and embrace this will have healthy committed teams. We have long since needed a context and guidance for preventing and managing the escalating mental health risks at work, and this book by Kathryn McEwen provides a highly accessible road map for planning initiatives to tackle this aspect of occupational health and safety (OHS). Its completeness, readability, and practicality are refreshing and enlightening, and I thoroughly commend this book to all practitioners in OHS and Human Resources who can influence occupational health outcomes in their workplace. On a personal level, I was delighted and inspired in reading this book, and especially enjoyed the quotes which illuminated the text in a very powerful way. Whether you lack resilience, have a little or a lot, this book is for everyone who has or wants to make a start in building a more conscious and resilient constitution in themselves or their work teams.  — Lorraine Cocks, OHS Consultant, Sacred Heart College Senior


Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1 - Exploring resilience: Understanding the journey
  • Chapter 2 - Reframing problems: Developing the right mindset
  • Chapter 3 - Embracing life: More on mental toughness
  • Chapter 4 - Investing in self-care: Getting the body right
  • Chapter 5 - Rejuvenating the body: More on physical endurance
  • Chapter 6 - Channelling emotional energy: Achieving emotional balance
  • Chapter 7- Creating positivity: More on emotional resilience
  • Chapter 8 - Achieving purpose and meaning: Getting the soul right
  • Chapter 9 - Living in balance: More on getting the soul right
  • Chapter 10 - Sustaining resilience: Continuing on the journey
  • Endnotes