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Toxic Resilience: A Top-Down Issue in the Workplace

In today's fast-paced and competitive work environment, resilience has become a highly valued trait among employees. However, there is a dark side to resilience that can have detrimental effects on employees' mental health and well-being. This phenomenon is known as toxic resilience.

Today we will explore the concept of toxic resilience, its impact on employees, and the role of management and HR departments in addressing this issue.

What is Toxic Resilience?

Toxic resilience refers to the expectation that employees should be able to handle excessive stress, pressure, and adversity without breaking down or showing signs of weakness. This expectation often stems from management's desire to increase productivity and maintain a competitive edge in the market. As a result, employees are encouraged to push themselves beyond their limits, ignore their mental health, and adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms.

The Impact of Toxic Resilience on Employees

The impact of toxic resilience on employees can be severe and long-lasting. Some of the common effects include:

  • Burnout: Employees who are expected to be resilient at all times may experience burnout, which can lead to decreased productivity, absenteeism, and turnover.

  • Mental Health Issues: The constant pressure to perform can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

  • Decreased Morale: When employees feel that their well-being is not being prioritized, they may become disengaged, demotivated, and lose interest in their work.

  • Poor Work-Life Balance: Toxic resilience can lead to an unhealthy work-life balance, causing employees to neglect their personal lives, relationships, and self-care.

The Role of Management in Addressing Toxic Resilience

Management plays a crucial role in addressing toxic resilience in the workplace. Here are some ways they can do it:

  • Lead by Example: Managers who practice toxic resilience themselves can set a harmful example for their employees. Instead, they should prioritize their own mental health and well-being, and demonstrate healthy coping mechanisms.

  • Recognize and Support Employees: Managers should be able to recognize the signs of burnout and mental health issues in their employees and provide support and resources to help them.

  • Encourage Open Communication: Management should foster an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health and well-being without fear of judgment or repercussions.

  • Promote Healthy Coping Mechanisms: Management can encourage healthy coping mechanisms such as mindfulness, meditation, and exercise, and provide resources for employees to access these services.

The Role of HR Departments in Addressing Toxic Resilience

HR departments also have a vital role in addressing toxic resilience in the workplace. Here are some ways they can do it:

  • Provide Training: HR departments can provide training for managers and employees on mental health, well-being, and healthy coping mechanisms.

  • Develop Mental Health Policies: HR departments can develop and implement mental health policies that promote a healthy work environment, provide resources for employees, and address issues related to toxic resilience.

  • Encourage Self-Care: HR departments can encourage self-care by providing resources such as employee assistance programs (EAPs), mental health days, and flexible work arrangements.

  • Monitor and Address Burnout: HR departments can monitor employee burnout and address it by providing resources and support, and working with management to make changes to the work environment.


Toxic resilience is a pervasive issue in today's fast-paced and competitive work culture. It can have severe consequences for employees' mental and physical health, job satisfaction, and overall well-being. To address this issue, it's essential for organizations to recognize the signs of toxic resilience and take proactive steps to promote a healthy work environment. This includes fostering open communication, encouraging self-care, and providing resources to support employees' mental health. Additionally, management must lead by example and prioritize their own mental health and well-being. By taking these steps, organizations can create a workplace culture that values and supports employee well-being, rather than perpetuating a culture of toxic resilience. Ultimately, it's up to all of us to break the cycle of toxic resilience and create a healthier, more sustainable work environment for everyone.


Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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