The 7 Foundations of Organisational Resilience

Grevis Beard
May 3, 2017

Last week,  Worklogic hosted an information session on ‘Nurturing Resilience’. In the session consultant psychologist Megan Fulford explored ways to build and/or enhance organisational resilience, using psychological principles drawn from the latest research, and her clinical experience of factors associated with resilience.

Megan focused on seven foundations of organisational resilience:

1. Strengths

Using your strengths and feeling that you are “at your best” has tremendous benefits, including better performance, increased perseverance and a greater sense of meaning and engagement. Too often managers focus on what’s wrong with people, and either forget about or minimise what’s right. Whilst we all need feedback about where to improve, a focus on weaknesses often diverts valuable time away from the areas where we can most excel. The better tactic is to focus on the things that people are somewhat good at and passionate about.

2. Positive emotions

Positive emotions such as optimism and having a sense of humour have also been associated with increased resilience. For example, being grateful for the things around us keeps our attention on the positives in our lives and can be seen as a type of mindfulness. There are countless times every day that we could be acknowledging spouses, colleagues, and strangers in a powerful and authentic way.

3. Values

There is a strong connection between having firm values and being resilient. Organisations can foster resilience by ensuring good alignment between values and behaviour. Key steps to this are to have a clearly articulated set of values that inform all aspects of how the work gets done. Organisational behaviours also need to be reflective of the values espoused. For instance if a company says that they welcome feedback from staff, they need to ensure that there truly an open door policy, that feedback is dealt with in a constructive way and that all employees feel that they can contribute to the process without negative consequences. Employees who breach company values need to be dealt with in a timely manner to avoid promoting the message that the values are unimportant.

4. Social connectedness

Psychologists are placing more emphasis on social connectedness due to an increased understanding of the role social supports play in buffering us from life’s vicissitudes. Encouraging positive social connections within an organisation can increase employee resilience. Rituals that foster social connectedness can include celebration of significant events such as work anniversaries, group charity fund raising and fitness campaigns. These rituals serve as ways for employees from varied work groups to interact and get to know one another, thereby increasing overall connectedness in the organisation.

5. Organisational culture

Fostering resilience in organisations also requires that presenteeism is actively discouraged, that employees take appropriate breaks and that these behaviours become part of the group norm by ensuring that all levels of the organisation “walk the walk”. Organisational cultures that foster resilience also need to ensure that breaches of conduct (values, safety etc) are handled in an appropriate and timely manner. Failure to do so often results in loss of trust and cynicism, both of which have a significantly negative impact on resilience. Failure to address negative workplace behaviours also results in the ‘slippery slope’ of creating a group norm that rewards negative behaviours by ignoring them.

6. Stress management

Ensuring that HR policies are ‘user friendly’ is a key component of preventing the stress associated with illness, family concerns and other vicissitudes of life. Once again, there needs to be high concordance between policy and how these are enacted, as it is of little use to have a “family friendly’ policy around leave requirements if you frequently cancel such leave in times of high organisational need. From a business perspective, this requires clear communication and often some negotiation to ensure that there is a balance between organisational requirements and personal considerations. In line with the previous points on social connectedness, resilience amongst employees is significantly bolstered though willingness by managers to listen to and address concerns, informal and formal peer support programs and counselling support where required.

7. ‘Being more dog’

The idea of ‘Being more dog’ is drawn from the O2 commercial where an aloof and bored cat suddenly realises that perhaps they will derive more enjoyment from life by behaving more like a dog. This is a humorous message that espouses the principles of enjoyment, openness and adaptability, all core principles of resilience.


About Megan Fulford

Megan is an organisational psychologist with a wealth of experience in providing psychological services to the public health and executive corporate sectors.  Megan also has an interest in positive psychology, resilience and the use of strengths-based interventions in the workplace.

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