CWU News

CWU Researcher Shows Resilience Is Key to Success

CWU Professor James AveyStudies have found that people who readily adjust to workplace challenges and changes have better physical health and have been found to be less cynical, more productive employees.

“When someone gets laid off, the number one predictor of how fast he or she gets back to work is not their resume, it's their resilience,” said James Avey, Central Washington University management professor.

Avey was interviewed on the topic for a recent Wall Street Journal article, titled, “Why Resilience Is Good for Your Health and Career.

“It’s not every day that you get into the Wall Street Journal,” noted Avey, with a laugh. “She [WSJ assistant managing editor Laura Landro] wanted to know about resilience training for adults.”

Avey has conducted extensive research on workforce resilience, which is considered a person’s capacity to move forward in a positive way from negative or traumatic events or experiences.

“It’s not whether you’ll encounter it [adversity], you just will and there are varying degrees—it’s relative and a matter of perspective,” Avey stated. “For years, it was thought that you could not develop resilience—you were born with it or not.”

However, based on his study of child clinical psychology, Avey discovered that was not true and that everyone is “born with a certain amount of resilience potential and the ability to change it,” he determined. “How much it’s developed depends on how much work you put into it.”

That conclusion launched his study of resilience training. Originally designed for severely abused children, Avey wanted to find ways to translate it into practical daily strategies for working adults experiencing adversity.

“Through 10 years of work and thousands of study participants across all industries and many cultures we’ve been able to determine not only what types of affective and cognitive processes are beneficial but also how to develop them,” he pointed out.

His initial research, with the United States Army in 2005, helped lead to “comprehensive soldier fitness,” which is training used to help soldiers learn to prevent and overcome post-traumatic stress disorder.

About 18 months ago, Avey was approached by Potentia Labs, a San Diego, California, company that offers subscription-based, computer training, about developing specific business-related resilience training. Intrigued, he wrote the course for the company’s new e-learning platform.

“They allowed me to do testing and retesting, and validate the science to make sure that it works,” Avey said. “With Potentia now launching it, web-based resilience training is available anytime and anywhere for anyone. This is what science is supposed to do: find a good discovery and then make it available to anyone who wants it and that’s what we should be doing.”
It has been determined that such training is helpful for all employees but best serves those who are, initially, low in their aptitude for resilience.

“This type of training can be life changing for them,” Avey said. “For those high in resilience, it can also be helpful. I am currently doing a study of mortgage brokers in California. Initial results show resilience is strongly associated with psychological well being, sales, and their stress go down. We are in the middle of the training now and initial evidence suggests that, like other studies, well-being and sales will go up and stress will go down.”
Firefighters and law enforcement officers, in particular, are two occupations that Avey says can see great benefits from resilience training, as can college students after “they flunk a class or their girlfriend or boyfriend breaks up with them,” he noted. 

Media contact: Robert Lowery, director of Radio Services and Integrated Communications, 509-963-1487,

February 22, 2016