Resilience and Organizations: A State of the Art

DOI: 10.4236/jhrss.2018.62037   PDF   HTML   XML   770 Downloads   1,406 Views   Citations


The article reviews the discourses in relation to the concept of resilience and its link with the productivity of subjects in organizations. It is based on two conceptual orders. On one hand, from the view of Kotliarenco, Cáceres and Fontecilla, resilient people arise from extremely insane environments, either physically or mentally. Therefore Flores proposes that it is from the initial phase of the recruitment and selection of personnel, to be able to identify the resilience capacity of human resources, since in the work environment they must face a variety of adverse situations. The second conceptual order refers to the personnel employed, in relation to which preventive or corrective measures should be implemented focused on developing resilient capacity, taking into consideration that all people who interact in working environments face situations that put their health at risk according to Gil-Monte, Unda-Rojas, Marrau and Sandoval; which are reflected in indicators such as accidents at work, disabilities, absenteeism and low productivity according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).

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Arteaga, A. , Arteaga, D. , Mayo, A. and Trujillo, L. (2018) Resilience and Organizations: A State of the Art. Journal of Human Resource and Sustainability Studies, 6, 194-209. doi: 10.4236/jhrss.2018.62037.

1. Introduction

The voices regarding resilience in Mexico are relatively recent; the pioneer is Doctor Dagoberto Flores Olvera, who in 2006 focused his studies on resilience and business agility applied to educational institutions; finding that resilience is directly related to performance, which indicates a high result even in the presence of turbulent and changing environments. For reasons such as this, it is the organizations that have been interested in developing the coping capacity in their collaborators, since they gain a competitive advantage over their competitors. Thus resilience has been studied under different approaches or disciplines such as sociology, administration, social psychology, neurosciences, anthropology and genetics; including some international organizations interested in deepening the issue of resilience such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the World Bank, among others [1] . This is the case of Rutter [2] cited by Flores [1] , who studies resilience in the 80’s, from the point of view of the processes and mechanisms that cause it; in this respect, he says that resilience must be understood as the interaction that occurs naturally and actively or dynamically, between a person and his daily environment.

2. Revised Literature

2.1. What Is Resilience?

It is important to understand resilience from different perspectives; One of Kotliarenco, Cáceres and Fontecilla [3] who express that resilience is interesting to observe those conditions that enable or impel people to initiate a healthier and positive development despite being born or living under Difficult circumstances, precariousness or even in an insane environment from the psychological point of view or even in environments of high risk for their physical and mental health; Rather than typecasting themselves in trying to understand why they are in any of these situations.

From the conceptualization of Flores in relation to resilience: the potential capacity that an individual must face adversity and get strengthened from it, where the characteristics necessary for a person to be called resilient gnomic would be: self-esteem, autonomy, Coping skills, awareness, hope, responsibility, sociability, and tolerance for frustration [1] .

In addition to defining the concept of resilience, it is important to know some other concepts that are related to resilience in the workplace, either directly or indirectly, such as: stress and health.

In relation to stress, this is conceptualized as the physical and/or emotional response to damage caused by an imbalance between the demands of the environment and the resources and capabilities that an individual must meet those requirements.

By relating stress to work, it is possible to appreciate that according to the Work Organization, it is determined by: the design of work and labor relations, and occurs when the demands of the work do not correspond or exceed the capacities, resources or needs of the worker, or when the knowledge and skills of a worker or a group do not match the expectations of the organizational culture of which they are part [4] .

It is important to mention that there is another type of stress called burnout or chronic work stress, which is characterized by being more acute or more prolonged, causing cognitive deterioration, loss of illusion due to work or low personal fulfillment, emotional and physical exhaustion; which is sometimes accompanied by feelings of guilt [5] [6] .

In terms of health, it is defined by the specialized agency that coordinates global action against diseases such as: a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not only the absence of disease or illness [7] .

2.2. Resilience and Stressors in Work Contexts

According to the bibliographic review, in Chart 1, a compilation of international, national and local investigations is made that addresses resilience and its relationship with stress and health; where besides the authors the object of study, method, and instrument of evaluation and location of the study are exposed.

Resilience and stress. According to the research papers reviewed, it follows that resilience is positively related to work stress and the latter in turn is related to perceived health. Most contemporary studies focus on resilience by relating it to stress, perceived health, and psychosocial variables; Which have significance in the international field, with a quantitative approach and descriptive scope, such as: Molina, [8] ; Ríos, Carrillo and Sabuco, [9] ; Pérez-Fuentes, Molero, Mercader, Soler Flores, Barragán, Calzadilla, and Gázquez, [10] and Esnaola, Infante, Rodríguez and Goñi [11] . Magaña Medina [12] , states that in the last three decades, chronic burnout has attracted interest, giving rise to several studies focused on valuing medical professionals [13] , teaching [14] and organizations in general [15] .

To respond to the causes of this stress phenomenon, a variety of models have been employed. A series of studies emerge over time that emphasize the theme: in the decade of the 70’s, the psychoanalytic perspective arises, which evaluates the individual variables and the personality traits; In the decade of the 80’s, social models emerge, that analyze the cognitive variables and in the decade of the 90’s, arise the organizational models focused on determining the contextual stressors as the organizational structure, roles, social support or organizational climate [16] . Later, contemporary models emerge, such as Maslach’s model of intervention [13] , the interaction model with different variables from Gil-Monte [5] and the non-characteristic population studies of the depersonalization from Bernhard [17] and Gonzalez, Landero and Moral [18] .

It is important to mention that burnout syndrome has different denominations, such as “work burn-out syndrome” [6] , “occupational burnout” [19] or chronic labor stress [4] . In this regard, Juárez-García, Idrovo, Camacho-Ávila and Placencia-Reyes [20] point out that what is important in relation to the study of burnout is to focus the studies on expanding the occupations under study as well as the geographical areas and propose to employ qualitative and quantitative studies broadening the scope of the research, since most of the studies carried out to date are quantitative, observational, cross-sectional or transactional design. Thus, it is important to have clarity in the conceptualization of stress, as in Chart 2, a collection of concepts of stress is carried out over time.

Chart 1. Research on resilience and stressors of human resources at work.

Source: Own elaboration based on the bibliography consulted.

For the study of stress, some theories can be approached as: The Psychological Theory, which speaks of the relation between the environment and the individual; The Biological Theory, which deals with the threatening situations that generate stress; The Social Theory, which deals with the experiences that the individual knows when interacting with the environment and this generates stress and negative changes in his health and industrial theory, which evaluates how technological changes are stressors of the individual.

Instruments used to measure resilience. It is important to note that a significant number of instruments are available that make it possible to measure resilience in any area; for that reason in Chart 3, some of the most outstanding instruments to measure it are mentioned.

Instruments used to measure chronic work stress. According to Medina [12] , among the instruments most used to measure this phenomenon are.

The Maslach and Jackson scale questionnaire [13] , known as MBI Survey; Which consists of 25 items and is the most used in investigations of emotional exhaustion syndrome; Analyzes the phenomenon from three dimensions: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and low personal fulfillment.

Chart 2. Definitions of the concept of emotional wear syndrome.

Source: Magaña Medina, D. E. and Sánchez Escobedo, P. A. [21] and Ceballos Giles, Pérez Mayo and Hernández Aguilar [22] .

Chart 3. Instruments to measure resilience.

Source: Own elaboration based on Sandín and Chorot [23] and González y Landero [18] .

The Oldenburg Burnout Inventory (OLBI) questionnaire from Demerouti et al. [15] ; which can be used in any field of work, and was designed to adapt to the language of the MBI in the German language, although the study was carried out with a Greek sample.

The questionnaire for the evaluation of Burn-for-Work Syndrome (CESQT) by Gil-Monte, Rojas and Sandoval [24] ; Is made up of four dimensions of illusion for work (desire to achieve work goals, generating a source of personal pleasure), psychological wear and tear (emotional and physical exhaustion derived from daily work with people who present or cause problems), indolence (negative attitudes Of cynicism and indifference towards the clients of the organization) and guilt (feelings about negative attitudes and behaviors developed at work, and toward people with whom there are working relationships).

The Barraza Student Burnout Validation Questionnaire [14] ; Instrument that contemplates two sub dimensions related to the indicators of attitude and behavior of burnout in students.

2.3. Consequences of Work Stress in Personal and Organizational Health

Consequences of chronic work stress on health. Pedrero, Puerta, Lagares, Saéz and Garcia [25] , affirm that several studies have identified the existence of repercussions of chronic health work stress, mainly in:

1) Physical symptoms: chronic fatigue, headache, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, asthma, sexual dysfunctions, dysmenorrhea, myalgia and cardiovascular alterations.

2) Behavioral alterations: smoking, eating disorders, reckless driving, gambling and substance abuse such as drugs, alcohol and drugs.

3) Emotional disturbances: self-esteem, depression, difficulty concentrating, demotivation, frustration, emotional distancing, anxiety and irritability.

It should be noted that organizations also have repercussions for this syndrome, such as: high costs due to absenteeism, loss of intellectual capital, complexity in decision making (due to alterations of emotions), lack of quality in the work done, loss of credibility, disrepute in the environment (behavioral alterations) and even abandonment of employees [16] . To analyze these phenomena, it is possible to approach it from the theory of well-being from the study of perceived health. In Mexico, there are several instruments that can be used, such as the SF-36 Health Survey [26] and the WHOQOL-BREF Quality of Life Scale [27] , as detailed in Chart 4.

3. Final Comments

The study of resilience is definitely an issue of interest to all organizations, given the turbulent conditions and constant dynamism experienced in the work environment.

It is essential to pay attention to human resources from the recruitment and selection process, since it is convenient for the organization to identify in advance the behavior of the people that it wishes to recruit, in such a way that they can predict the behavior of members to future adverse situations and how they will deal with them.

Studying the phenomenon in the human resources that currently work in the

Chart 4. Instruments for measuring health in Mexico.

Source: Own elaboration based on data from Zúñiga et al. [26] and the World Health Organization [27] .

organizations, will allow them to remain in the working world, since it is possible to identify the competences to be developed and feedback in relation to the resilience. If attention is not paid to the development and permanence of this resilient ability, human resources may tend to present some stress crises even at low levels, but when that work stress becomes chronic and protracted the employee can be burned and there will be a Serious problem for the organization, because once it reaches this point it is more complex than human resources can recover quickly and its performance is affected and thus the organization itself.

On the other hand, if organizations want to raise their levels of productivity, the human resource is the primary source to reach that goal, so it is necessary to pay attention to their physical and emotional health.

Although work accidents are indeed inevitable, but if we add human resources emotionally stressed and tired, the situation is aggravated, bringing considerable consequences for both the employee and the organization. In the case of the worker can be reflected in a minor accident to more serious levels such as: disabilities, injuries, absenteeism, rotation and even death. In the case of the organization, low levels of productivity, loss of intellectual level and high costs of dismissals, absenteeism, turnover, injuries and compensation for employee deaths resulting from such work risk could be generated.

Although the study of resilience is a relatively new issue in the organizational context, it has been sufficiently addressed; however, today it is sought to expand the horizons of possible research where resilience is studied from an organizational perspective and not as it is commonly studied in terms of psychological health.

The International Labor Organization [4] in 2010 reported 313 million non-fatal work-related accidents, which resulted in four days of absence from work; For the year 2014, noted that the records increased to 2.3 million annual deaths from occupational accidents and diseases, of which 350 thousand were for work accidents and 2 million for occupational diseases; Records that are alarming for organizations.

According to the World Bank, in 2010 there were 6.924 billion people in the world, and by 2014 there were 7261 billion people in the world; When crossing the population figures with the previous figures of occupational accidents, it turns out that by the year 2010 4.5% of the world population suffered some type of accidents at work. This is why companies must pay attention to this phenomenon called resilience, in such a way that it can prevent and reduce the level of accidents of work accidents from the resilient development of their equipment and that can also raise their levels of Productivity and at the same time preserve the intellectuality of their human resources ensuring their permanence in organizations.

4. Recommendations

The documentary review discussed above suggests the need to make some new research proposals, which can significantly enrich the contributions and findings obtained so far in relation to resilience.

The studies that have been carried out so far in Mexico have focused on education, vulnerable groups (women, adolescents and children), people living in extreme poverty and young students; However, it is necessary to expand the studies of the issue of resilience in labor contexts focused as: studies on the influence of resilience in the organizational culture and how this in turn influences the individual resilience of employees; The resilience and its relationship with the quality of life in employees from different perspectives (in the public and private sector) according to specific organizations problematic (rotation, productivity, performance, health, etc.); Resilience as a new form of coping with alcohol and drugs, smoking, unhealthy diet, poor sleep quality, diabetes, economic stress, burnout, violence, physical activity, financial well-being, HIV And nutrition [4] ; Resilience and its influence on health in diverse work contexts; resilience as a key element in coping with stress in adverse situations at work, community and family; Implementation and longitudinal measurement of an Organizational Culture focused on the resilience of employees to raise their quality of life at work and the achievement of organizational objectives; Propose resilient intervention models to raise the quality of life of people and the productivity of companies; Resilience as an organizational strategy to raise employee productivity in the short, medium and long term (with longitudinal measurements).

Based on the analysis of the research review, it is also suggested to study resilience through practical applications in working environments, as well as to reinforce the SOLVE methodology proposed by the International Labor Organization [4] and even propose new variables Research focused on raising the quality of life in these working environments.

The above proposals show new perspectives in the field of research, open to quantitative methods where the scope of research is longitudinal to have reinforced bases of work and as well as find new findings that enrich the existing studies so far.


We thank the Program for Strengthening Educational Quality. Reprogramming 2017 (P/PFCE 2017) for the support granted for the publication of this article and that has to do with improving the academic productivity of students and PTC of the FCAeI PE.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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