The Power of Resilience: Thriving Through Organisational Change with Positive Emotions

Written by
Fabio Tartarini
Published on
June 20, 2024

Picture your organisation thriving, even in the face of constant change. Resilience is the key to unlocking this potential.

We asked our long-term collaborator, Fabio Tartarini, a psychologist and well-being expert, to share his insights. In this article, he explains what resilience is, why it's a key capacity for organisations and the key role of positive emotions. Fabio also provides practical ways individuals and organisations can develop skills that will up our game towards stronger and more integrated organisations.

Understanding resilience: more than just bouncing back

You've probably heard of resilience as the capacity to 'bounce back from adversity.' But resilience is more than just survival; it's the power to grow and thrive in the face of adversity.

In other words, it is our innate human yet magical ability to become an even stronger individual. From birth up to this moment, we have faced numerous adversities and overcome them with varying degrees of difficulty.

We have learned to handle most of these situations, feel less threatened by them, and sometimes even thrive on them. Consider the stage fright some people feel before their first public appearance. The first time feels daunting, and they might be close to giving up, but pushing through can be life-changing.

Overcoming the associated fears and anxieties can transform a person from being a shy individual into someone able to control their nerves, speak in an engaging way, make the public laugh, look professional, and, perhaps make a career out of it!

Resilience is an opportunity to face change and discover new possibilities about ourselves, our identity, and the future. 

How does resilience work for individuals?

Resilience encompasses the ability to navigate challenges, maintain a positive outlook, and emerge stronger from experiences of change. The person might draw from their pre-existing coping strategies or build new ones through the resources available through social connections and opportunities around them.

From before to after the challenging moment, what has changed is the overall view and understanding of the situation: fears are seen as opportunities, challenges as opportunities to grow, and social connections as invaluable resources. We can see ourselves as being more capable and stronger than we thought and, in some cases, find a new sense of meaning and purpose in life. 

This same magical power can be fruitful and applied in organisational contexts.

Resilience encompasses the ability to navigate challenges, maintain a positive outlook, and emerge stronger from experiences of change.

Why resilience is critical for organisational survival

While resilience in moments of organisational change can be complex, its core principles remain the same. Change can help teams become stronger, more resistant to stress, and capable of transforming future challenges into opportunities for growth. 

Organisational change in the workplace involves various factors and variables. These changes can range from major restructurings to smaller shifts in team dynamics or project priorities. Like personal crises, these moments often evoke feelings of uncertainty, stress, and fear. They require tapping into existing resources or developing new strengths and capacities.

Like an individual, a resilient organisation approaches these challenges with a sense of determination and optimism, seeing them as opportunities for growth rather than insurmountable obstacles. Some members can be promoters of this change, but successful processes of resilience, sustained over time, are achieved by teams, where the contribution of each member leads to an even stronger team. 

Resilience is not just a desirable trait in the realm of organisational change; it is also a critical factor for success. Research has shown that organisations with resilient teams are better equipped to navigate change effectively, leading to higher levels of employee engagement, productivity, and overall success (Hartwig et al., 2020; Radu, 2023; Yan et al., 2023).

Successful processes of resilience, sustained over time, are achieved by teams, where the contribution of each member leads to an even stronger team.

A magical perspective on change and resilience

When it comes to navigating change and building skills for resilience we have found a magical approach can play wonders. From inviting participants to shift perspective and embrace change to quickly creating trusted space for important conversations, to eliciting immediate positive emotions (we'll dig into the importance of this more as we go on).

Abracademy's Magical Approach:

  • Shift Perspectives and Embrace Change: We help participants see change as an opportunity rather than a threat. This shift in mindset is crucial for building resilience.
  • Create Trusted Spaces: Our programs foster environments where participants feel seen and heard, encouraging them to take ownership of their growth and development.
  • Ignite Curiosity and Deepen Self-Awareness: Beyond illusions, our approach uses magic to spark curiosity and enhance self-awareness, helping individuals and teams grow their emotional agility.

The Power of Magic:

Magic has the power to elicit an explosion of positive emotions. Thinking about the sense of mystery preceding a magic trick, the sense of wonder that it triggers, the astonishment and awe in the reveal of the final act, and the smiles and laughs it can generate. Magic is a powerhouse for positive emotions. 

These emotions have a dramatic effect on our brains: the surprise effect can trigger a surge in dopamine, the hormone associated with rewards, making us feel excited and engaged. We feel wonder as, fascinated by the trick, we struggle to understand what’s just happened in front of our eyes. Positive emotions are the true VIP of resilience, working its real magic. 

The role of positive emotions in fostering resilience

When discussing positive emotions, we refer to a wide range of experiences. For example: 

  • Joy and happiness;
  • Gratitude;
  • Hope;
  • Pride;
  • Love;
  • Compassion;
  • Peace and relaxation;
  • Inspiration. 

As you can see, these can be low-level emotions without any evident physical display. We can feel positive emotions in different contexts for reasons that align with our beliefs and values.

According to the Professor. Barbara Fredrickson, a leading expert in the field of positive psychology, positive emotions broaden our mindset and build psychological resilience over time.

In the workplace, positive emotions, such as optimism, gratitude, and joy, can act as powerful antidotes to stress and uncertainty, helping individuals navigate challenges with resilience and adaptability.

For example, research in positive psychology shows how a frequent experience of positive emotions can broaden people’s cognition and behaviour, reduce physiological activation due to challenges, and facilitate both the recovery and improvement of personal skills. 

Additional research has found that employees who experienced higher levels of positive emotions at work reported greater resilience and well-being, even in the face of organisational change  (Albrecht et al., 2020; Avey et. al., 2008). By cultivating a culture of positivity and optimism, organisations can empower their employees to thrive amid change and uncertainty. Moreover, the presence of resilient and positive individuals in the workforce can trigger positive organisational change, with more positive emotions, a sense of meaning, and overall resilience. 

In short, the literature on positive emotions indicates that they can support resilience by: 

  • Restoring our physiological response to a more relaxed state; 
  • Helping us change our perspective and vision of the challenges ahead; 
  • Foster social connectedness and, in so doing, increase the social resources we can rely on in dire situations; 
  • Increasing our motivation and engagement as we tend to dedicate more time and effort to finding a solution to our challenges.

Beyond being nice to experience, positive emotions have a strong value in making us more capable of maintaining a good level of well-being through life. When we are able to experience more positive emotions in our personal or professional life, we are more resilient and capable of responding to what life throws at us. 

Practical ways to boost positive emotions at work

There are few strategies that can be implemented by individuals and organisations: 

  • Gratitude: spending some time every day to sit back and recognise the good that those around us do for us or the good that is in our lives contributes to boosting our mood and making us experience positive emotions; you can be thankful for having a roof over your head and a stable income, for that passer-by who smiled and said hi to you, or for the contribution your colleagues provide in easing your workload; 
  • Random acts of kindness: these can be small thoughtful gestures that, in their simplicity, make the life and workload of others a little more manageable. You can share the workload with a colleague, bring some sweets in for them, give them space to vent and talk if you see them stressed, or simply offer them a cup of coffee if you see them needing one; 
  • Take care of your well-being: having your lunch outside instead of at your desk; going for a stroll if you feel overwhelmed; listening to some music you love; taking a slow deep breath at regular intervals. These are all strategies that can help lower your stress and make you feel better about yourself, bringing in positive emotions associated with serenity and relaxation. 

These activities can easily boost your well-being through positive emotions. You can also think of actions or activities that help you relax your mind and body, making you feel happier and more in tune with yourself. 

Building personal and team resilience skills

Building resilience requires intentional effort and practice. Many strategies can be used to enhance the resilience skills of teams and individuals. 

  1. Practising gratitude: The practice of gratitude involves regularly reflecting on and expressing appreciation for positive aspects of one's work environment and achievements. Research has shown that cultivating gratitude can not only enhance positive emotions but also increase resilience and overall well-being. 
  2. Incorporating play and humour into the workplace: Activities, such as improv workshops, team-building games, and lighthearted competitions, can foster a sense of connection, creativity, and resilience among team members. Additionally, fostering strong relationships and social connections in the workplace can provide a valuable source of support and encouragement during times of change or uncertainty. By prioritising collaboration, communication, and teamwork, organisations can create a culture of resilience in which individuals feel valued, supported, and empowered to navigate challenges with confidence and optimism.
  3. Investing in Learning and Development: Providing opportunities for continuous learning can equip employees with new skills and knowledge to adapt to changing circumstances. In an ever-changing world, keeping up-to-date with the most recent developments is key to ensuring that workers are capable of facing the latest challenges. However, fostering resilience is an investment in terms of skills with a high return of investment: reducing the number of starts/stops as members can respond more efficiently to challenges, by seeing them as opportunities, drawing on relevant resources, and, in short, rendering change an inherent constituting characteristic of the organisation. 

Conclusion: the enduring power of resilience in change management

Resilience is a vital skill that empowers individuals and organisations to thrive in the face of change and uncertainty. By cultivating positive emotions, embracing the transformative power of magic, and implementing resilience-building strategies, organisations can create a culture of resilience in which individuals feel empowered to navigate challenges with confidence and optimism. 

While resilient people are a valuable resource, resilience can also be trained and developed through tailored activities. At Abracademy, we believe the world needs more magic–a true powerhouse of positive emotions. Knowing how to promote a more positive environment and relationships between employees is key to fostering a resilient organisation. A reality that is capable of using positive emotions transforms existing challenges into opportunities for growth. 

As you reflect on your own resilience journey, I encourage you to explore further the resources and programs offered by Abracademy. Together, we can unlock the magic of resilience and transform moments of change into opportunities for growth and innovation.

Ready to talk to us about resilience at your organisation: Get in touch.


  1. Avey, J., Wernsing, T., & Luthans, F. (2008). Can Positive Employees Help Positive Organizational Change? Impact of Psychological Capital and Emotions on Relevant Attitudes and Behaviors. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 44.
  2. Albrecht, S. L., Connaughton, S., Foster, K., Furlong, S., & Yeow, C. J. L. (2020). Change Engagement, Change Resources, and Change Demands: A Model for Positive Employee Orientations to Organizational Change. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 531944.
  3. 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.
  4. Radu, C. (2023). Fostering a Positive Workplace Culture: Impacts on Performance and Agility. In Human Resource Management—An Update. IntechOpen.
  5. Yan, Y., Zhang, J., Akhtar, M. N., & Liang, S. (2023). Positive leadership and employee engagement: The roles of state positive affect and individualism-collectivism. Current Psychology (New Brunswick, N.j.), 42(11), 9109–9118.

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