Case Study: How to Navigate a Company Merger Without Losing Your Top People


Spec Furniture, a stalwart in contract furniture manufacturing, has navigated the complexities of rapid growth, cultural integration, and the global pandemic. With roots dating back to 1991 and starting with just a four-person team, the company had established a strong presence in multiple sectors: corporate, healthcare and education.


The acquisition of Spec Furniture by Sauter Manufacturing in 2017 marked the beginning of a challenging cultural integration merger process. The company faced the dual challenges of honoring its family-business roots while adapting to the culture of a larger corporate entity.

This period of transition led to unease among longstanding employees. The situation was further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced rapid shifts to remote work, causing significant disruptions in communication and collaboration.


Spec Furniture recognized the need for a strategic intervention to bridge the cultural divide and provide support for its employees during these periods of change.

Spec Furniture’s Chief Operations Officer Reg Bernard said:

“One of the things that we were trying to achieve was we recognized that we needed to develop some level of common language. We had people in front of us that were experiencing lots of changes. They didn’t know how to deal with it. We didn’t know how to deal with it.”

The objective was clear: to create a cohesive, inclusive culture that embraced both the legacy of Spec and the new direction under Sauter Manufacturing. The company aimed to establish a common language and set of tools that would facilitate better communication, collaboration, and support for the diverse needs of their teams.

10 Things To Avoid When Implementing Psychological Safety

Implementing psychological safety in the workplace is crucial for fostering a culture of innovation and engagement. In this article, we unpack ten potential pitfalls to avoid, ensuring that your path is built on a solid foundation, strategically applied, and sustainable for the long term.

1. No Science-backed, Research-driven Foundation

Why It Matters: Initiatives aimed at implementing psychological safety within an organization must be anchored in a robust, science-backed foundation. This not only enhances their effectiveness but also equips leaders with the evidence needed to foster buy-in and commitment at all levels.

2. Focus on Awareness Generation, Not Application

Why It Matters: While raising awareness about psychological safety needs is important, it’s not sufficient on its own. To make a tangible impact, initiatives must include actionable steps that integrate the principles of psychological safety into the fabric of daily interactions and decision-making processes.

For example, managers and teams could be provided with comprehensive training that educates on recognizing potential triggers — both within themselves and in interactions with others. By focusing on the application when implementing psychological safety, we move from simply knowing to doing, which is where the real transformation happens.

3. No Shared Framework, Understanding, and Language

Why It Matters: A shared framework ensures that all employees, regardless of their role or seniority, have a mutual compass for navigating the nuances of psychological safety.

This common ground lays the foundation upon which trust, openness, and innovation can be built. Establish clear definitions and concepts that everyone in the organization can understand and apply.

4. Responsibility and Accountability is Not Shared

Why It Matters: Psychological safety is not the sole responsibility of leadership; it’s a collective effort. When accountability is democratized, psychological safety becomes the collective heartbeat of the organization, driving it towards greater innovation, resilience, and success.

To foster a truly safe and open culture, each member of the organization must be empowered and encouraged to take ownership, champion implementing psychological safety, and hold one another accountable.

5. Unverified Assessments, Diagnostics, and Tools

Why It Matters: For psychological safety measures to truly resonate and effect change within an organization, it’s essential to utilize assessments, diagnostics and tools that have been proven reliable and valid.

This ensures that interventions are informed by accurate data, providing a clear and truthful reflection of the organization’s psychological safety climate, and allowing for targeted, strategic actions that genuinely foster a culture of safety and wellbeing.

6. No Focus on How to Identify, Understand, and Articulate Psychological Safety Needs

Why It Matters: If individuals are unsure of how to identify and express their needs, or if the organization lacks the channels for such expression, the foundation of psychological safety is weakened.

Training that empowers employees to articulate their needs is not just beneficial but vital. It paves the way for a culture where psychological safety is actively sought and maintained, creating a workforce that is not only aware of its needs but also proficient in communicating them.

7. Lack of Psychological Safety Strategies to Manage Diverse Needs

Why It Matters: A monolithic approach to implementing psychological safety is likely to miss the nuances that make each individual and team unique. Instead, developing a suite of flexible, adaptive strategies that can be tailored to fit various groups and individuals is key to ensuring everyone feels truly safe.

This approach allows for the creation of an inclusive environment where all team members can thrive. By doing so, organizations not only uphold the principle of psychological safety but also harness the rich potential that comes from a truly diverse workforce.

8. Trigger Identification and Management Not Addressed

Why It Matters: Identifying and managing triggers that compromise psychological safety is as critical as establishing safety itself. Without recognizing these triggers, an organization leaves its employees vulnerable to repeated stressors that erode trust and openness.

By proactively addressing triggers, organizations can create an environment where issues are resolved swiftly and empathetically, reinforcing a culture of safety and ensuring that all team members feel supported and understood. This proactive approach not only mitigates immediate risks but also contributes to the long-term resilience and emotional intelligence of the workforce.

9. No Ongoing Measurement, Reinforcement & Sustainability

Why It Matters: Continuous measurement is paramount to understanding the effectiveness of interventions and identifying areas needing improvement. This commitment to regular assessment ensures that psychological safety becomes ingrained in the company culture, rather than a fleeting trend.

Reinforcement through follow-up training, refreshers, and communications solidifies the learning, and improves the sustainability of psychological safety within the workplace, helping make the principles take root deeply within the organizational structure.

10. Lack of Proven Implementation System

Why It Matters: Without a structured implementation system, there’s a significant risk that efforts will dissipate before they even begin to impact the organizational culture.

A systematic approach means setting clear benchmarks and milestones. It involves mapping out a step-by-step plan, from initial awareness campaigns to the integration of psychological safety practices into everyday work life.

A structured implementation system ensures that psych safety becomes more than just an intention—it becomes a tangible, measurable part of the organizational journey towards a more supportive and high-functioning workplace.

The ABL Approach to Building Psychological Safety

The Academy of Brain-based Leadership (ABL) recognizes that building a workplace culture that fosters safety is a nuanced and multifaceted challenge that demands an equally sophisticated response. Informed by the tenets outlined above, our approach marries rigorous, science-based research with practical, actionable strategies, ensuring a robust and resilient implementation of psychological safety in the workplace.

We believe in the power of shared frameworks, underpinned by a common language that every member of an organization can access and utilize. Through validated assessments and continuous, open channels for feedback, we facilitate a deep understanding of psych safety needs, tailored to accommodate the rich diversity of teams. Our methods encompass proactive identification and management of triggers, fostering an environment where individuals feel supported to express concerns and share ideas without fear of retribution.

Ongoing measurement and reinforcement are cornerstones of our strategy, ensuring that the principles of psychological safety are not only adopted but also integrated and sustained over time. By providing a structured system for implementation, complete with clear benchmarks and milestones, ABL’s approach ensures that initiatives gain traction and yield long-lasting, transformative results.

Embracing these principles, ABL is committed to partnering with organizations on their journey toward a safer, more engaged, and more productive workplace, where psych safety is not just a goal but a reality for all.

Next Steps

Contact our team to discuss your organization’s needs today

Watch our on-demand webinar about Building a Culture of Psychological Safety

Learn about our neuroscience-backed S.A.F.E.T.Y.™ Model & Assessment

Get a Psychological S.A.F.E.T.Y.™ Accreditation as a Leader, Coach or Consultant


Individual Empowerment: The Key to Building Psychological Safety

In the realm of building psychologically safe teams, the focus often lies on group dynamics, with the leader bearing the responsibility. But is this approach fair, and more importantly, is this approach sustainable considering how our brain works, and how the psychological safety needs of team members can be so diverse and intangible?

Bill Gates summed it up nicely when he said:

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others”. 

The journey towards building psychologically safe teams is multifaceted, involving a deep understanding of individual needs and behaviors. The realization that psychological safety extends beyond mere group dynamics to encompass individual empowerment demands a paradigm shift in how we lead.

In our 15+ years of experience, the most effective approach is one that distributes the responsibility and accountability across the team by equipping individuals with the awareness, language, skills and tools to:

  • understand their personal psych safety drivers
  • communicate and nurture their needs
  • effectively manage their psych safety triggers
  • value and support other’s psych safety needs 

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) supports this with a directive that underscores the significance of worker representation in managing psych safety risks, emphasizing the importance of individual involvement in the process.

At ABL, through the S.A.F.E.TY.™ assessment and training, we cultivate self-awareness of personal psychological safety needs and triggers, providing insight into their potential impacts as well as strategies to facilitate safe, intentional practices and interactions within teams.

Recognizing the detrimental effects of toxic environments that lack psychological safety, the importance of effectively addressing triggers and stressors in the workplace can not be more strongly emphasized. This is often overlooked in traditional Psychological Safety training

Despite our best efforts, it is inevitable that we will both be triggered and will unintentionally trigger others. As such, a core responsibility of any psychological safety training is to help individuals unpack their psychological safety triggers and help them mitigate their stress and build resilience by providing them with practical, research-driven strategies to:

  • regulate the harmful stress response
  • manage their reactive behavior, and 
  • create new healthy behaviors and habits

In conclusion, a brain-based approach to creating and maintaining psych safety within a team is not only effective but necessary to optimize results. By prioritizing individual empowerment, we lay the groundwork for truly building and sustaining personal and collective psychological safety. 

In this manner, we are attacking the root of the problem and not merely the symptoms, paving the way for transformative change in workplace dynamics and beyond.


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