I once had a boss who thought that holiday forms were nothing less than a scivers’ charter.Rex, as I shall call him in homage to my favourite type of dinosaur, was generous in sharing this opinion with his underlings, as he liked to call us.
He was also kind in treating any completed form in the same way that he treated all paperwork apart from his own expenses claims. One would be hidden in a bulging in-tray, the other would be personally signed, sealed and hand-delivered to the accounts department before Rex could shout, ‘coffee with two, now, Chris.’
Rex would never miss an opportunity to invite would-be holidaymakers to ‘think of us slaving away.’
Or to greet returners with a cheery ‘where have you been? We thought you’d left.’
His occasional holidays were things entirely of necessity. Driven by unavoidable and unwelcome family commitments and empty of all enjoyment. For Rex. And probably his family. Though not for his team, back at a ranch that was suddenly more palatable.
Rex’s last words before departing on vacation would be something like: ‘I don’t need holidays, I’m far too resilient for that. That’s what you lot of island-hopping beach bums could do with, an injection of resilience.’
Rex clearly thought that being in the office, working long hours and failing to trouble his holiday allowance represented a show of resilience.
While many of his 1980s management practices have fallen by the wayside, this view of resilience still seems to hold firm today.
Its continuing power represents a dilemma for coaches and mentors.
Any encouragement for the client to book time off might at best be fended off with an admonishment for promoting self-indulgence. Lets not stray in to work/life balance, lets focus on the to-do list.
At worst, the coach might be labelled soft. Not living in the real world. Failing to understand commercial pressures.
Against which arguments I offer the wisdom of Carole Pemberton’s Resilience.
Pemberton points to the origin of the word ‘resilience’ being in the physical sciences, where ‘it is seen as the ability of a material to return to its original state after it has been bent or stretched.’
In relation to human behaviour she defines resilience as being: ‘the capacity to remain flexible in our thoughts, feelings and behaviours when faced by…extended periods of pressure so that we emerge…stronger, wiser and more able.’
This definition is a long way from trying to show resilience by carrying on regardless. Simply getting through. In these situations one might be showing doggedness, fortitude or persistence. Not resilience.
I take from Pemberton that resilience has to be fed.
It has to be nourished by behaviours and actions that help us to return to our optimum state; one in which we’ve learned from our recent trials and added new knowledge to our previous body of wisdom.
So if booking a holiday and the prospect of a week or two on a sun-bed helps you to return to your optimum self, do it.
Likewise going to a gig, visiting a museum, walking the dog, staring out to sea or at a cinema screen.
All of which would have featured highly on Rex’s scivers’ charter.
But all of which might save you from inflicting on your colleagues your embattled lesser-self, determined to endure a war of attrition in which your unstinting efforts are defined by the law off diminishing returns.