Be an agent of change in the face of pushback: a resilience-based approach

Could you be the person to introduce positive change on a large scale in your company? Perhaps you would like to help your coworkers and your organisation adopt more healthy behaviours. But such huge change feels daunting...


How can you demonstrate resilience against pushback?


Could you be the person to introduce positive change in your company? Perhaps you are passionate about health and wellness and you would like to help your coworkers and your organisation adopt more healthy behaviours. Perhaps you came to the realisation that the culture of your company sometimes clashes with health and wellbeing objectives - and you would like to help people consider that better health habits will tangibly help the bottom line.

But you feel that it's "just you"... How can you achieve change at this scale, on your own?

Implementing large-scale change in any organisation can prove difficult: it's very likely that not everybody will come round to your arguments on the first attempt. This is especially true of changes, like exercising more or stopping smoking, that are among the most difficult to implement in one's personal life. You may meet some resistance on the part of your senior management team or finance department when looking for their buy-in, time or financial support. Resilience will be a useful concept.


Read: Build resilience in your organisation.


Empathy is the first step in talking others around


As per the classic HBR piece "How Resilience Works", there are three key elements to acting resiliently. First, start off from a position of reality and empathy. It may be the case that the company has been going through difficult times, budgets are tight or that some people in the leadership team feel that it's not their responsibility to be taking care of the health of other adults (and hence are blind to the benefits of this alignment).

In this case, put yourself in their shoes and look through their eyes at what's important to them and also what's not. They may not have the resources to invest heavily in an initiative at your suggestion , so that you will need to start off with free or very low-cost measures. They may not want to have to put in any effort and hence, you will have to champion this cause by encouraging others innovatively. As with all successes, when the first couple of wins are visible, motivating, with demonstrable results, you will soon bring the masses with you.


Find your deeper why


Second, take some time to reflect on the meaning of your proposed project. In the case of a wellness initiative for example, of course, the company's bottom line will benefit, but there will be huge, life-long, life-affirming, deeply meaningful impact for the lives of your colleagues. If they are healthier, they can live longer, prevent diseases such as diabetes, have better quality of life throughout their lives, see their kids grow up and be able to take more of a physical role in that journey, sleep better and be in a much better mood. If they are happier, they can be an integral part of a happier household, family, marriage, friendships and society in general. The impact of what you're about to instigate is truly monumental.


Related: Fighting childhood obesity: What really works


Focus on small practical steps


Thirdly, you need to be resourceful to be resilient. What could you do with what you have already got, to start, maintain, build or scale this initiative? I've put together a plethora of ideas for you to consider, from simple and immediate to wide-ranging and cost-intensive.


Wellness Workplace Savvy Woman


Practical suggestions for Wellness in the Workplace


There are a range of simple things that you could do:

  • issuing "flu jab vouchers" to all staff to prevent the Winter bug
  • implement a "no e-mail policy" during holiday leave to enable staff to return actually rejuvenated
  • mandatory workplace safety training
  • encourage fellow members of staff to sign up for a charity fundraiser around wellbeing e.g. mini-marathon
  • download free posters, print them and hang them up in communal areas
  • invite a WeightWatchers or Slimming World leader to host regular sessions in your workplace
  • organise lunchtime pilates classes for staff
  • offer subsidised gym memberships
  • give employees a choice between a Christmas bonus and a full health check for their family, health insurance or other wellness related outlay they may consider making
  • change the menu in your canteen away from processed foods and sugary snacks to organic, slow-release meals and healthy stop-gaps
  • invite somebody from Diabetes Ireland to come to your workplace and give a talk on preventing and managing the condition
  • adapt your culture from "time spent" in the office to "outcomes" irrespective of location. If people want to work from home or come in at different times that suit their own biorhythms better than the traditional 9-to-5, then allow them as long as aims and objectives are achieved
  • discourage presenteeism when staff are ill. If people are sick, encourage them to go home and recover. Coming in to work ill means more mistakes at work, potentially passing on an illness to coworkers, and it slows down recovery time. Don't have a macho culture of "sickness is for weak people" as it only hurts your colleagues, the business and the bottom line in the long run.
  • avoid sending non-urgent e-mails outside of working hours so that people can spend their time off actually off and enjoying work/life balance


Practise what you preach


Finally, let me reiterate the point that you need to lead by example. If you want an initiative of any sort to be embedded into an organisational culture, then you need to do as you say. You need to participate in the activities that you organize. You need to highlight milestones and achievements as they happen.

Leadership, resilience and wellness can all work very cohesively as three cogs of a well-oiled wheel to the benefit of the company, your colleagues, your promotional opportunities, yourself and everybody's bottom line.


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