Resilience for teams

Learn why resilience is a workplace issue and how to address it. You will see evidence for building team resilience and actionable resources to start.

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What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to adapt or “bounce back” from challenges. The goal of resilience is to reduce the negative impact of stress on one’s well-being and improve how one functions at work and beyond.    

Personal resilience is the result of many factors including genetics, family history, personal experience, learned behaviour, and state of health. A person's level of resilience plays a role in their ability to withstand both everyday workplace stressors and serious incidents without becoming psychologically harmed.

Difficult situations and challenges are bound to happen in the workplace. These difficulties can cause conflict, low morale, loss of productivity or health problems. Workplace resilience is when employees and teams manage workplace stress and challenges well. 

Resilience, or the ability to withstand and recover from adversity, used to be seen as primarily a personal attribute. Evidence now shows that building resilience in work teams can also help protect psychological safety in the workplace.

What might impact your team's resilience?

Assessing what might impact your team’s resilience can help identify areas of strength as well as areas for improvement.

Explore the questions below on your own or with your team:

  • Are there changes happening that affect the team, such as changes in management, technology or work processes? What is the potential impact?
  • Do each of the team members feel supported to do their best work each day? If not, why not?
  • Psychologically safe orientation strategies includes support and orientation for those whose position, role or job within the organization has changed substantially. What is the level of civility and respect among team members? What might be contributing to this – positively or negatively?
    • Putting civility and respect on the agenda includes workshop materials to engage your team in a discussion around this topic.
    • Team agreement process is used in collaboration with team members to develop their own agreement about how they will interact at work. It is intended to support a high-functioning, inclusive and psychologically safe team.
  • When things get difficult can team members count on each other? If so how and if not, why not?
  • Do team members share information to support the success of other members? If so how and if not, why not?
    • Leveraging team wisdom workshop materials help your team learn to share information effectively.
    • Psychologically safe team assessment helps to assess how employees experience being a member of your team. It measures how team members feel about how they interact with each other and their sense of inclusion.

Do your team members feel they have a good work-life balance? What contributes to this – positively or negatively?

  • Setting healthy boundaries – If you have team members who struggle with setting healthy boundaries for themselves, you can share this resource with them or with the entire team. 
  • Employee workload stress provides strategies and tools leaders can use to help their employees manage workload stress and prevent it from interfering with their work-life balance. 
  • Workload reflection and discussion tool | PDF can help a leader ensure their employee’s workload isn’t having a negative impact on their well-being and success at work. 
  • Putting balance on the agenda workshop materials help your team develop strategies for better work-life balance.

Psychological harm in the workplace

Serious traumatic incidents in the workplace pose a significant risk for psychological harm. Such events frequently involve a threat to life or safety, most often related to first responders and high-risk work. But any situation in any job that leaves a person feeling overwhelmed or unsafe can affect their ability to work and cope. This can include perceptions of conflict, bullying, harassment, betrayal or humiliation in the workplace.

The objective facts do not determine whether an event will affect someone negatively. Rather, the negative impact is determined by a person's subjective emotional experience of the event combined with their own level of resilience. Promoting employee resilience shares many resources you can use to help employees build their resilience to protect themselves against the worst effects from stress and trauma.

The more unprepared or helpless someone feels in a situation, the more likely they may be at risk for harm. When you prepare employees for challenging situations and help them develop relevant problem-solving skills, the risk of harm can be reduced.

The need for team resilience

Many common workplace situations pose potential risks to psychological safety such as:

  • Workplace bullying, harassment, or violence
  • Ethical or moral dilemmas
  • Negative, aggressive, or angry clients or patients
  • Threatening or intimidating management approaches
  • Humiliation or ridicule
  • Discrimination, false accusations, or perceived injustice
  • Isolation, Redeployment, relocation or termination

While striving to prevent these risks in the workplace through policy and procedures is critical, they may still happen. This can have significant, long-term impacts on affected employees. Building team resilience can help reduce the risk or intensity of psychological harm to employees, as well as the risk of damage to the organization’s reputation and bottom line.

Ready to take action?

Increase team resilience

To increase team resilience, work together to build trust, develop coping strategies, increase support and improve self-awareness and communication. 

  • Psychologically safe team assessment helps to assess how employees experience being a member of your team. It measures how team members feel about how they interact with each other and their sense of inclusion. You can generate a free report that will help you target your efforts towards issues identified by your members.
  • Team building activities provide dozens of options aimed at improving emotional intelligence and resilience. Just 30 minutes a week can make a difference over time.
  • Building stronger teams is a free downloadable book. It provides practical strategies and team activities for leaders who are ready to improve their team’s resilience and protect psychological safety.
  • Resilience can help improve an individual’s ability to bounce back after a potential health, personal, or work crisis. It includes sections for leaders, employees and the self-employed.

Workshop materials

Building resilience workshop

This workshop can be tailored to include employees, leaders, those who are self-employed or post-secondary students, or any combination of these groups. Participants engage in a journey of self-discovery while creating a plan to improve their resilience and developing healthy coping strategies for whatever life throws at them.

Evidence for building team resilience

  • We know resilience protects against burnout: Moral distress was a significant predictor of all 3 aspects of burnout, and the association between burnout and resilience was strong. Greater resilience protected workers from emotional exhaustion and contributed to personal accomplishment (Rushton, Hylton, C., Batcheller, J., Schroeder, K. and Donohue, P., 2015).
  • Building resilience is a preventive rather than reactionary strategy: A focus on the development of preventive strategies against psychological ill health and providing treatment as well as rehabilitation can help nurses manage psychological distress in the workplace (Olatunde, E.B., and Odusanya, O., 2015).
  • Preparing employees for potentially stressful work situations builds their resilience to withstand them: Organizations need to acknowledge how perceptions of workplace hazards may reduce employees’ psychological health (McCaughey, D., Turner, N., Kim J., DelliFraine, J., and McGhan, G.E., 2015).

Share this webpage with anyone who manages, leads or supports a team of individuals to help them support the resilience, productivity, and well-being of their team.


  1. Hartmann, S., Weiss, M., Newman, A., & Hoegl, M. (2019). Resilience in the workplace: A multilevel review and synthesis. Applied Psychology, 69(3), 913-959. doi:10.1111/apps.12191
  2. Hartwig, A., Clarke, S., Johnson, S., & Willis, S. (2020). Workplace team resilience: A systematic review and conceptual development. Organizational Psychology Review, 10(3-4), 169-  200. doi: 
  3. Kumar Pradhan, R., Prasad Panigrahy, N., & Kesari Jena, L. (2020). Self-efficacy and workplace well-being: Understanding the role of resilience in manufacturing organizations. Business Perspectives and Research, 9(1), 62-76. doi:10.1177/2278533720923484
  4. Rook, C., Smith, L., Johnstone, J., Rossato, C., López Sánchez, G. F., Díaz Suárez, A., & Roberts, J. (2018). Reconceptualising workplace resilience - A cross-disciplinary perspective. Anales De Psicología, 34(2), 332. doi:10.6018/analesps.34.2.299371
  5. van Breda, A. D. (2011). Resilient workplaces: An initial conceptualization. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, 92(1), 33-40. doi:10.1606/1044-3894.4059
Contributors include.articlesMary Ann BayntonSarah JennerSusan JakobsonTrinelle BrownWorkplace Strategies team 2007-2021

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