Growing and adapting during continuous change: Building employee resilience in the public sector

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Title

Towards Resilient Organizations and Societies: A Cross-Sectoral and Multi-Disciplinary Perspective




School of Business and Law / Centre for Work and Wellbeing




Franken E., Plimmer G., Malinen S., Bryson J. (2022) Growing and Adapting During Continuous Change: Building Employee Resilience in the Public Sector. Pinheiro R., Frigotto M.L., Young M. (eds) Towards Resilient Organizations and Societies. Public Sector Organizations. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.


This chapter focuses on employee resilience in the public sector, and how managers can develop it. We adopt a contemporary view of employee resilience as a set of employee behaviours that can be developed, particularly through effective leadership. Employee resilience is an individual-level behavioural capacity, centred on using networks successfully, learning from experiences and adapting to change; behaviours that are essential for navigating the complex public management environment. We build on the view that resilience enables individuals to engage in exploration, learn from mistakes and grow from challenges. It can be fostered daily, enabling individuals to build capacity to handle challenges and crises before they emerge, and responding effectively when they do occur. This chapter discusses why and how resilient behaviours matter in public contexts, particularly in highly ambiguous knowledge intensive organizations (KIOs). It also discusses the crucial role that managers play in enabling resilience in employees, and focuses on the characteristics of resilience-enabling leadership. These characteristics include leadership behaviours such as viewing resilience as developable, supporting employees’ personal goals, providing challenging tasks and opportunities for safe failures and managing the whole team. In short, our contribution extends empirical understandings of resilience in public sector workplaces, with specific regard to employee resilience, its nature and development and its outcomes.



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