RESILIENCE - No cement eating required

Recently, I was invited to be on a discussion panel for an Institute of Managers and Leaders – IML, Leadership Outlook event; talking about the importance of creating mentally healthy workplaces.

There were a number of questions about RESILIENCE; like: ‘Are we supposed to just put up with toxic workplaces, toughen up and be more resilient?’  And this one:

‘Where does resilience stop and calling out crap behaviour start?’

I was taken back with this question. The inference being that you had to choose one or the other … resilience or speaking up?  My immediate thinking was: why would standing up for yourself or calling out unacceptable behaviour, impact negatively on or deplete your resilience levels?  Can’t they coexist?  In fact, your resilience levels will support you, when you need to stand up and push back?

RESILIENCE – as an Emotional Intelligence competency, sits in the self-management area of the SEIP quadrant framework  we use with our leadership coaching clients. It is fuelled by building your inner strength, your inner knowing and belief that you will always be OK, despite the setbacks that pop up along the way.  

RESILIENCE – is about perseverance, diligence and knowing how to cope and bounce back from the tough stuff that gets thrown at you – the adversity and disappointments that will inevitably happen.


  • Sucking it up in silence … or just ignoring toxic behaviour in workplaces
  • Selling your soul to the devil … dropping your own values, beliefs, integrity and morals to ‘fit in’, to belong with the mob, or at least - survival within the cesspool
  • Becoming a robot, a tinman, numb …  showing no emotions or feelings and allowing the situation to reduce your personal power and value to insignificance
  • Eating a ‘spoonful of cement’ … becoming so tough on the inside that genuine engagement with you is impossible because of the self-protection brick walls you’ve built

None of those responses will build your resilience levels.  In fact, these behaviours will deplete your inner strength, fuel a deep resentment and anger that slowly eats away at your happiness levels, and create negative self-talk that makes you feel stuck and not see a way forward; in a nutshell – resulting in a mentally unhealthy you.

Toxic workplaces evolve and survive when nothing is said or done about it.  It takes resilient people to bravely stand up and boldly call out unacceptable behaviour.

From my observations, people with strong personal resilience levels, are the ones who are willing, ready, and able to call the behaviour; trusting in their own personal power, sticking to their values and moral judgements that are consistent with who they are and what they expect.  They are willing to overcome obstacles to drive necessary changes, and they are realistically aware of, and flexible to accept the consequences – some they will have no control over.

Yes, there’s good reason I’m known as a Change Champion.  Having been through many changes in my life – some I instigated, some I didn’t; my resilience levels enable me to bounce back and rise up even stronger.  I’ve taken chances [some riskier than others] and made choices that align with my values. I’ve often been the one to speak up when changes are needed; with an inner knowing that I will always be OK when I am true to my core self, and the greater good purpose that drives me.

Sure, I’ve taken some deep dives.  I shared a personal experience story at the recent IML event [will share again in another article]. What I’ve learned is the importance a deep sense of self-awareness and what I do is lots of self-talking to keep my resilience at a healthy level.

My RESILENCE muscle building formula:

1.        Check in on your strengths and your ‘must have’ values.

-        the things that strengthen you … deliberately choose to do more of that

-        the things that suck your energy or motivation … take action to improve that, delegate it to others, or get rid of it


2.       Know what you CAN influence and/or control … and know what you CAN’T. 

-          If you think you can’t influence change at all … ask yourself: REALLY? Is there absolutely nothing I can do here?  Is it ‘I can’t’ or is it ‘I won’t’

Can’t’ is a reality I can accept ... ‘won’t’ is a choice I can change.

-          Be OK with the things you can’t influence or control. It will help you clarify your choices.


1+2=3.  Prepare for action.

-        If you CAN influence or drive change:  Will you feel or become stronger, and/or make a bigger difference by standing up for your values and for the greater good purpose of the organisation? What will you do? Who can you enlist to support you [you don’t have to go it alone]?  When?

-        If you CAN’T influence or drive change: Will the situation not change in the foreseeable future, regardless of what I do?  Will it likely continue to chip away at my inner strength and resilience levels?  What are my alternative choices?  Then, start exploring other opportunities.

Sometimes walking away IS the answer.  Walking away is not weak or ‘not being resilient enough’. Sometimes, it’s the right thing to do to ensure your resilience muscle stays strong, bounces back quickly, remains flexible, ready and able to cope with the next chapter. It’s a valid choice.

However, walking away does not mean ‘staying silent’ or doing nothing. Sometimes you can more effectively drive positive change to toxic workplaces from the outside, than from within.

Standing up and calling out bad behaviour requires bravery and a willingness to be vulnerable; to see potential setbacks as temporary or short-term hurdles that you can handle. And that, requires a strong resilience muscle.

So, rather than eating ‘a spoonful of cement’ and becoming hardened to the proverbial crap that gets flung across your path; build your resilience by being flexible, adaptable and having the courage to stand up to workplace bullying and insidious behaviours that cause toxic workplace cultures.

Most importantly, make decisions that are good for you, good for those who matter to you, and good for the greater good. Know that you always have choices. You deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. You deserve to work in a mentally healthy environment.

Everyone deserves that.


Written by Jilinda Lee - recognised leadership coach and mentor for government sector leaders and managers, the Institute of Leaders and Managers, and champion partner of the Lean In global movement – encouraging and enabling more women to step up into lead roles.

Founder and Managing Director of Vital Leaders, Jilinda is a passionate presenter, thought leading commentator, and writer on all things leadership related. Vital Leaders mission is develop more dynamic, emotionally intelligent leaders. All Vital Leaders programs have embedded emotional intelligence development in their core frameworks. 

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