Reframing Responses to Workplace Stress: Exploring Entry-Level Residence Life Professionals' Experiences of Workplace Resilience

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Virginia Tech

The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand entry-level, live-in residence life professionals' experiences of resilience in the workplace. Resilience is a multilevel, biopsychosocial construct that broadly refers one's ability to maintain or improve positive function in response to adversity (Cicchetti, 2010; Masten and Wright, 2010). Workplace resilience is specifically concerned with such adaptive processes and outcomes in response to job stress. Resilience research has been conducted primarily from a post-positivist, diagnostic perspective that has failed to give attention to the diverse experiences of resilience in different contexts. This study was conducted using a constructivist perspective to develop an understanding of workplace resilience in the unique context of live-in residence life work in institutions of higher education where job stress, burnout, and attrition occur at high rates. Ten participants were purposefully selected through expert referral for two 90-minute, in-depth interviews to discuss their history, experiences, and reflections regarding adversity and resilience in the workplace. Data were analyzed inductively to discover themes regarding resilience for residence life professionals. Findings illuminated participant experiences of workplace adversity and resilience, as well as participant beliefs about themselves and the nature and role of resilience in the workplace context. Discussion of findings resulted in four primary conclusions: (a) adversity and resilience coexist in balance with each other; (b) resilience can be learned, as well as lost; (c) resilience is personal and experienced uniquely by individuals; and (d) resilience is a systems issue that is promoted through partnership. Implications for future policy, practice, and research were discussed.

Resilience, Employee Retention, Burnout, Residence Life, Student Affairs