Thoughts about hr and management in the real world – extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.

Building Resilience

Have you ever suffered a horrific loss in your life?

Have you gone through something incredibly traumatic?


Many of us have, and at the time it can feel extremely difficult to cope.

For Sheryl Sandberg this was 2 years ago when her husband Dave Goldberg passed away. In an incredible honest and raw book, Sheryl shares the story of her grief. However she also focuses on different ways you can build resilience to cope better with trauma and loss.

The name of the book came from when Sheryl was organising for a male friend to step in to take her son to a father / son event. She said to him that she just wanted Dave to be able to go. Her friend said that was Option A and it didn’t exist, so they were going to kick the heck out of Option B.

Having been through a horrible two years myself as I fought anxiety, panic attacks and depression and as my business and personal relationships suffered – I often thought “Why can’t HRINZ just stop suing me?” However that was Option A and it wasn’t going to happen, so it was about focusing on Option B. Option B was to fight against negative behaviour, stand up for what I believed was right and try and find ways to come through the experience in one piece.

I did learn some tools to cope but was looking forward to seeing what Sheryl shared. Reading Option B, there were a couple of really useful and interesting tools that stood out for me in there. The first is from research conducted by Martin Seligman, about what stunts our recovery after trauma. He found the following 3 P’s came into play:

  • Personalisation – this is about blaming yourself. After trauma or loss many of say that it was our fault it happened. To be resilience you have to stop blaming yourself and understand that things happen to us but not because of us.
  • Pervasiveness – this is about thinking your loss or trauma will affect your whole life. That there will be aftershocks everywhere. You might say that you can’t work, your friends will stop seeing you, you’ll lose your home etc. To be resilient you have to learn to compartmentalise the trauma and see that it’s not going to affect everything.
  • Permanence – this is about thinking that it will be forever. Resilient people release that you will feel awful for a period of time, but things will get better eventually.

It was also interesting to read that after trauma, being resilient is often focused on as trying to get back to normal. To get back to the same place you were before the trauma or loss. However Joe Kaspar in his research found that some people actually experience post traumatic growth. This can be in a number of ways:

  1. Finding personal strength – that you can cope with more than you thought
  2. Gaining appreciation – understanding that things can be much worse and appreciating what you do have and learning to enjoy that
  3. Forming deeper relationships – with the people that matter to you
  4. Discovering more meaning in life – taking action to help other people with their loss, or finding other ways to contribute and make a difference
  5. Seeing new possibilities – changing your life in ways you would never have thought of before the trauma or loss

From my trauma, I found that I did experience personal growth in all five of these factors. The one that has changed my life the most was suddenly being able to see new possibilities.

This led Fraser and I to completely change the business model for Elephant and now we’re a global business.

Stepping in and getting involved with the Association of People Professionals it’s meant I’ve got more ideas on ways to bring together HR, Learning, Payroll and Talent.

And personally it’s meant we are now able to live between NZ, the UK and California.

I would really recommend reading Option B if you’re looking for some ideas on how to become more resilient. Sheryl is so honest with what’s happened to her but along with Adam Grant, also shares really interesting research and techniques.

As for my copy – I’m going to send it to someone I think might find it useful. And I think it would be a great addition to any company library for managers and employees to read.

If you have any advice or tips on how you’ve coped with loss or built resilience, please feel free to share them here.


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This entry was posted on May 2, 2017 by in mental health and tagged , , .
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