Resiliency Climate April 6, 2010

Have you ever entered a room and felt the energy given off by the people who were already in the room? Believe it or not, the climate we live and work in has a feel to it. When people say, “This is what it is like to work her” or “Here’s how we treat each other” they are talking about climate. Sometimes that energy is positive, however, other times it may be negative. It’s hard to be in a room with someone that is in a bad mood without starting to feel a bit grumpy ourselves. Likewise, it would be difficult to sit in a room full of happy people without starting to feel happy ourselves. Our feelings are contagious; we can catch them from the people around us.

The first time I was introduced to the concept of resilient climate was just over ten years ago. I was working in an employee assistance program for a Fortune 500 company. I participated in a two-year research study looking at the impact resiliency had on their business. While I was aware that I felt certain ways in response to various situations I had encountered, I was not aware that this feeling I had about entering a room could be adjusted intentionally. This large corporation had tapped into a source of knowledge that gave them an edge over their competitors. They created a resiliency model that helped their employees grow and empowered them to make their work place environment the best possible. As a result, some findings from the study showed that employees took fewer sick days and spent less money on psychotropic medications.

I have been teaching Resiliency classes in Shakopee for over four years. The first year I taught the students were a bit quiet and cautious, not knowing what to expect. Few people knew what the course was about. Now I see individuals come to the first week of class upbeat and positive. They have heard from other women about the positive experience they had in class. Regardless of their motivation for attending the students show up ready to learn. This eagerness to learn impacts the climate in the classroom. You can feel the energy in the room.

Each week I see examples of the positive impact of climate in the classroom. Students listen respectfully as others discuss their challenges with daily prison life. Earlier this week I listened to one student offer hope to another who was struggling with her life sentence. She did it with respect, choosing her words carefully and building hope for the other woman. Near the end of her conversation, she offered information about a resource in the Transition Center as further help. As I listened to the interaction between the students, I felt proud of how well the first student handled the situation. Four years earlier she had approached me with a similar dilemma regarding her prison sentence and I had helped her change her thinking to find hope in dealing with her own incarceration. This is not a random act of kindness. I see situations like this happen in the classroom several times each week.

Whether I teach in Anthony, Broker, Bethune, or the Core building, I see the same impact on the climate when I walk into the room begin to set up for class. The women are ready and eager to learn. They are interested in hearing what I have to say. Rarely do I have to ask them to quiet down and pay attention. The way they feel about being there is displayed through the stories they tell.

Do you want to have a day room in your living unit be upbeat, supportive and respectful? You do have influence over that. I have always thought that there will be a day when the negative people will all go to their rooms just to get away from those in the dayroom with positive attitudes. I think we are very close to that day.

Students taking the Resiliency class learn how to be positive about their futures. As they grow in their abilities to change their lives, make better choices, and achieve success, they share their knowledge with other women here in Shakopee. Working together in this way can build support and enhance the workplace and living unit climate through:

Valuing: making positive comments; showing appreciation

Expressing hope and enthusiasm: being optimistic; showing positive anticipation and expectation; referring to obstacles we face as temporary and/or re-framing a situation in positive terms; helping change a mood from negative to positive; demonstrating excitement, curiosity, expressing hope

Acknowledging strengths: acknowledge progress or positive movement; noticing positive cause and effect; referring positively to individual skills, competencies, abilities and potential

Making positive connections with others: cooperating and collaborating; including others in a positive way; showing empathy; connecting with others

Remember, each of us can influence the resilience and climate of our living unit and work group “positively or negatively” with just about anything we say or do. The things we say and do that demonstrate valuing, expressing hope and enthusiasm, acknowledging, or making positive connections will help us enhance our workplace and living unit climate and promote the resilience of individuals.

06-04-10 Dr. Schanus.