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10 Tips to Improve Adaptability in the Workplace

Developing Adaptability in the Workplace!!!

“We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” – Dolly Parton 

This well-written quote emphasizes the significance of adapting to our circumstances. While the blowing winds may be out of our control, we can realign our sails to brave the winds and cruise our way through. Similarly, adapting and accommodating to changes in our lives helps us navigate our way forward. 

What Are Adaptability Skills? 

Adaptability skills refer to the ability to change and adjust to our ever-changing environment. This is a highly valued skill in the workplace considering adaptability increases our chances of surviving an adverse work situation.  

What is adaptability in the workplace? 

Demonstrating flexibility, willingness to step out of our comfort zone, being mindful of possible changes, suggesting new changes, taking initiative to lead and being proactive to sustain and excel in the field are some essential qualities that help determine an employee’s adaptability skills in the workplace. 

Types of adaptability 

Cognitive adaptability

Refers to our brain’s capacity to shift between different thoughts or information and being able to accommodate to new events. Example – The ability to multi-task or alternate between different tasks. 

Social adaptability

An individual’s level of social competence that indicates their ability to form, adapt and maintain social relationships. Being an active listener is a key skill to improve social adaptability 

Behavioural adaptability

A conscious choice to make behavioural or action-oriented changes to enhance our chance of sustenance in the current environment. Example – Learning a new skill/technology to stay relevant in today’s market. 

Why are adaptability skills important? 

At work, we often encounter various unprecedented events like a team change, a new manager, ad hoc tasks, difficult relationships with colleagues, deadlines, and meetings while also toiling between our family and social life – oh well the list seems endless! Despite these never-ending struggles, to sustain and grow as an employee, it is essential to increase our flexibility and adaptability in the workplace 

10 Tips to improve adaptability in the workplace 


Any transition or change can be difficult to accept, and it is natural to feel a range of emotions such as shock, anger, frustration, fear, disappointment etc. Acknowledge and allow yourself to feel the emotions. Swallowed feelings do not disappear, rather they stay unresolved.  Hence, intense feelings need to be expressed and not denied. 

The next time something bothers you, instead of pulling yourself away, try to slow down and begin to tell yourself, “I am disappointed,” “I am feeling anxious”. Doing this helps us connect with our emotions. Additionally using the feelings wheel serves as a guide to get in touch with feelings that we may be unaware of. 

Watch out for change 

An impactful story titled “Who Moved my Cheese” revolves around our attitude towards change and the need to ensure adaptability in the workplace.  

The essence of the story is that what served us in the past may not continue to bring the results we desire. So being more mindful of possible changes in our workplace can keep us prepared beforehand. This may include changes in the management, new work role, need to incorporate newer technology, understanding market needs etc. 

Feel free to discuss with your colleagues and managers to understand more about the changes, this can be an avenue to brainstorm new ideas and strategies. 

Be Curious 

Curiosity indicates a growth mindset. Asking questions shows that we are interested in knowing and learning more about the topic. Additionally, the information we gain helps us assess and evaluate our options, thus bringing clarity to the process. 

Here are some questions you could ask and reflect on: 

  • “What does this change mean to the company?” 
  • “Why is it required for me to adapt to this?” 
  • “How will this benefit my way upward as an employee?” 

Stay relevant 

With advancements in technology and ever-speeding innovations, it has become essential for us to consistently learn to be at par with our peers. Upskilling or learning new skills often helps expand our ability to sustain the dynamic work environment and grow in our career trajectory. Upskilling could include improving either or both soft skills such as communication skills, time management skills, leadership skills etc., or hard skills comprising technical skills relevant to our field of work. 

In addition to upgrading our skillset, having an ingrained lifelong learner mindset, also paves way to enhance our self-esteem as an employee. This often motivates us to take in new information., thus increasing our adaptability in the workplace. 

Reframe your opportunities 

Dealing with a change or adversity often leaves us with a sense of doubt, fear and worry. We may fall into a vicious cycle of negative self-talk. Our anxious negative thoughts about the future are what cause our emotions. Our thoughts and feelings together lead to our behaviours.  

While these thoughts and emotions are very valid, when we look at the thoughts closely and evaluate them, we may realize that this thought may not be all that true. Every time you have a negative thought, identify the thought and reframe it with a healthier perspective.  

Example – “This is a new technology, I would never be able to learn this” can be reframed to “This is new and does seem difficult, but I will gradually learn it”  

Be kind to yourself 

Adapting to change and learning new concepts may not be easy: we are bound to encounter frustrations, losses will occur, we will make mistakes, bump up against our limitations and fall short of our ideals. This is the human condition, and this is a reality shared by all of us.  

During times like this, it could help us to be kind and compassionate towards ourselves rather than mercilessly judging our inadequacies. After all, who said we are supposed to perfect all the time? 

Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself as you would with a friend when you are having a difficult time or notice something you do not like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a stiff-upper-lip mentality, you stop to tell yourself, “This is really difficult right now, how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?”  Taking this break to reflect on our needs could draw a path to better emotional well-being, while also making it a tad bit easier to adapt to the workplace 

Try this activity to help cultivate self – compassion and be kinder to yourself! 

Understand Boundaries 

There is a very fine line between setting healthy boundaries, so we do not feel overstretched or burnt-out vs being overly rigid with those boundaries and being inflexible towards change. Many of us struggle to ascertain what this needs to look like.  

At a workplace, an efficient employee is one who can be like a rubber band as opposed to a metal wire. This does not mean we let go of our boundaries, rather we learn to be mindful of understanding what is negotiable/non-negotiable for us. This allows us more room for professional growth while we also do not feel compromised as an individual. 

Learn to relax 

Learning to calm ourselves down by managing stress often allows us to adapt to the workplace better. 

Research tells us that practiced breath allows us to unwind and restore emotional balance.  Thus, leaving us with a calm mind to enhance flexibility and adaptability in the workplace 

Here is a quick breathing technique for you, called the “4-4-4-4 box breathing” exercise. You may find it helpful to repeat and practice this exercise about 5-8 times regularly each day. It also helps self-soothing during times when we feel anxiety build up in us. The instructions are as follows: close your eyes and inhale for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 4, exhale 4 a count of 4, followed by holding your breath again for a count of 4. Repeat this for 6-8 times. 

Practicing self – care and taking enough breaks is also an integral part to being more adaptable. 

Reach out for support 

Being a successful employee during a change, shift or adversity does not mean you are playing a single-handed game. Embracing newness and ensuring adaptability in the workplace means you are all interdependent as a team. This includes flexibility and respect towards new ideas and differences of opinion while also reaching out for help when you need it. 

The people around us who care and listen often act as a safety blanket in times when we think there is no way out. Perhaps sharing or discussing with our colleagues can often give us a new perspective on how they might be dealing with a situation differently. Sharing with friends/family has its own benefits as this can serve as a breather outside of work. 

Reaching out also means you are setting an example for all your teammates and colleagues to also reach out for help when in need. This serves as a reminder for us to acknowledge that we are never alone at our workplace. 

Seek professional help 

Seeking professional support through counselling not just helps us deal with challenges, but also acts as a preventive measure in the face of adversity.  

Counselling is a collaborative process between a client and a counsellor, where the client can bring any concern, be it about work, career, self-development, relationships, etc. The counsellor then explores these concerns in depth to get to the root cause of the pressing issue. Through these discussions, the counsellor-client duo come up with strategies that help the client navigate their life.  One can learn effective communication, problem solving, decision-making and leadership skills that would help to increase adaptability in the workplace. 

At 1to1help, we have a team of well-trained psychologists/counsellors. We also ensure to maintain confidentiality in the counselling sessions. Be rest assured, you are in safe hands! 

Here is a quick guide to help you understand the various EAP services at 1 to 1 help that includes counselling sessions, self-help resources and self –assessments. 

As we know, change is inevitable. However, taking small steps to embrace these changes not only makes the process less taxing but also increases our opportunities to survive and succeed as an employee. Your adaptability skills may not go on to your resume but would take you far beyond! 

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