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Resilience in teams: what it takes and ways to increase it

How does strong teamwork succeed? Sure, mutual trust between team members, respectful interaction, fairness, credibility and pride in what we have achieved together are a fundamental basis. Given the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world (see VUCA world) in which we live, more is needed. To implement projects successfully as a team, employees need psychological security - they need to be resilient.

What is resilience? 

Resilience is generally understood to mean psychological resistance. In the context of teamwork, resilience shows the capacity to recover from project failures resulting from declines in performance and failures. Sounds complicated, but it can be simplified with an example: A team is resilient when it can reach its goal and successfully implement the project despite the failure of a team member - for example, due to illness or conflict. Because it compensates for the member's absence by adapting the roles and functions of the remaining members. Non-resilient teams do not achieve this compensation. 

How resilience is increased 

But how do teams create or increase their resilience? Stoverink, Kirkman, Mistry and Rosen have developed a theoretical model on exactly this topic in their scientific article. In it they describe, of which components the Resilienz of teams is composed.

Theoretical Model of Work Team Resilience

The first component, "Team Potency", describes the confidence of the members of a good team performance. The second component, "Team mental model of teamwork", is about the team members' common and organized understanding of relevant knowledge about teamwork and team performance. The third component, "Team capacity to improvise", is about the team's ability to improvise in unexpected situations. And the fourth and final component for resilience in teams is "Team psychological safety".

Google's Aristotle study shows just how important this psychological safety in the workplace is. If employees do not feel psychological safety in the workplace, stress, pressure and challenge activate the evolutionary fight-or-flight function in the brain, which saves us in life-threatening situations, but in everyday working life switches off the logic in the brain and makes strategic decisions impossible.


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Boosting psychological safety in the workplace 

However, strategic decisions in the VUCA world have to be made at increasingly short notice, also in operational terms. For this reason, psychological security is considered in greater depth as part of resilience in the following. In order to strengthen psychological security - and thus resilience - the focus must be on reducing stress and enhancing employees' wellbeing. However, the responsibility for this lies neither exclusively with the employer nor with the employee. It is clear, however, that the psychological security of employers who have been awarded as Great Place to Work is 33% higher than that of employers who have not been awarded.

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It is important for greater wellbeing in the workplace that each individual takes responsibility for his or her own well-being: to speak out and introduce changes in crucial areas. Organizations must create an environment where direct superiors and colleagues can actively listen and where everyone can talk about their problems.

In our Europe-wide survey, we asked over 900 companies about their managers' opinions on stress issues and practices related to wellbeing.

It suggests that the two main triggers for work-related stress are constant pressure and long working hours. More than half of the European companies surveyed have introduced support measures, but only about a quarter of the companies measure stress. According to the prevailing approach, however, prevention is important, e.g. by ensuring the quality and quantity of resources and by keeping work demands at a reasonable level. The challenge for all companies is to be proactive rather than reactive.


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But it is not only about stress. Chronic stress needs to be tackled in the early stages, but the longer-term measures lie in strengthening wellbeing and resilience, enabling employees to succeed even under pressure. A culture of trust, transparency and authentic mutual communication helps to achieve this. And in this way, practices related to health and wellbeing are a good complement.

In our survey, the biggest differences between unawarded companies and the Best Workplaces™ lie in employee perceptions. In other words, the extent to which managers show an honest and personal interest in employees. And the extent to which employees are involved in decisions that affect them. This shows how important it is for employees to feel like a human being and not a small cog in a machine. The fact is that values and ethics are an important factor in workplace wellbeing; people need respect, justice and basic fairness.


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Since work affects people's well-being and well-being is essential to the long-term success of the company, protecting the health and well-being of employees must be a priority for all companies. Not only is it right from an ethical point of view, but it also improves the everyday employee experience as a differentiating factor of particularly attractive work locations and ensures sustainable employee productivity.


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