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Thriving in Times of Disturbance

April 17, 2020
Wendy Rowe

Resilience during Crisis

While disturbances in our social order or in organizational systems creates personal feelings of negativity, resistance, stress, anxiety and fear, as witnessed with the current COVID-19 pandemic, people possess many resources to cope and be resilient during these times. It is common for people to cope using strategies of protection, inoculation, emotional shutdown or denial. However, far better than just simply coping or surviving the ordeal is the opportunity to thrive (Park, 1998). Thriving is to be “better off after adversity” (Carver, 1998 p. 247). Thriving is a “psychological state in which individuals experience both a sense of vitality and a sense of learning” (Spreitzer et al p. 538). 

Strategies to Thrive

In the Walinga and Rowe (2013) study with managers experiencing serious organizational crisis, critical to thriving in the face of disturbance was learning to regulate emotional reactions, reframing the problem or crisis as an opportunity for change, thinking systemically to see the larger picture, collaborating with others to implement creative action, gathering accurate facts and perspectives, remaining adaptive and focused on recovery outcomes. Thriving requires engaging with others, sharing information widely and implementing action that leads to new learning. Problems do not go away but they can become solvable. When using these strategies, leaders inspire trust and confidence (Rowe, Walinga and Anderson (2017) which results in enhanced use of transparent and open communication strategies and collaborative efforts to address the negative effects of the disturbance. Consequently, people engaged in these actions experience a sense of hope, energy and renewal – hence thriving in the face of crisis and disturbance.  




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Park, C.L. (1998). Stress-related growth and thriving through coping: The roles of personality and cognitive processes. Journal of Social Issues , 54 (2), 267-277.
Rowe, W., Walinga, J., & Anderson, M. (2017) When Managers Thrive in the Face of Organizational Complexity and Disturbance: 
Strategies for Effective Leadership. unpublished manuscript.
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Walinga, J & Rowe, W. (2013) Transforming stress in complex work environments: Exploring the capabilities of middle managers in the public sector.  International Journal of Workplace Health Management, 6(1), 66–88.