Why Adapting to Change Is a Workplace Superpower

I’ll be the first to admit that adaptability in the workplace hasn’t always been my strong suit.

Especially early on in my career, I would often meet unexpected changes in my work environment with resistance (or maybe “tantrums” is a better word). 

Whether it was changes in management, new or shifting responsibilities, or even a physical relocation of the office, I would push back, make my complaints known, maybe even walk away from the job completely. 

Eventually, I learned that change is inevitable, in both life and work. And though I’m still accepting this truth, I understand now that resisting change often only makes it worse. 

Adapting to change gracefully is not easy, but the better you are at it, the more opportunities you’ll unlock in your career. 

Let’s look at what adaptability means, and use some adaptability examples to illustrate why this skill truly is a superpower. 

(And if you’re interested in adaptability outside of work, check out this article on how to be easygoing.)

 

What does adaptability in the workplace mean?

Before I show you the various ways adaptability can serve you in your career, let’s get clear on what this concept means—and what it doesn’t mean. 

Adaptability, in both life and work, means you are able to weather changes in your environment without experiencing debilitating amounts of stress, anxiety, frustration, or confusion. 

Those who are truly adaptable may even thrive in moments of change, and find ways to use change to achieve their goals. 

But adaptability doesn’t come easy to most people, because change is naturally uncertain, and uncertainty breeds anxiety and stress. 

Even those who are supremely adaptable to change will feel these emotions when something unexpected happens. The difference is that they won’t let these emotions overtake them and prevent them from forging ahead in the face of change. 

It already sounds like a superpower, no?

But it’s important to note that being adaptable does not mean saying yes to everything, or allowing your boss or co-workers to cross your boundaries and take advantage of you. 

Adaptable people don’t simply roll over and accept whatever comes their way. Rather, they look at change objectively, doing their best to remove their emotions from the equation as much as possible. 

Once they do that, they make a decision on what to do, and that decision will fall into one of three rough categories: 

Category 1: This change isn’t a big deal, and I can work with it without saying anything. 

Category 2: I’m open to this change, but I will need to advocate for a few alterations in order for it to work with me. 

Category 3: I cannot accept this change, and will explain to my manager/coworkers why. 

In my experience, people who are adaptable spend the most time in Category 2, because adaptability means making your own internal changes to adapt to the changes around you. 

This will all make sense with some adaptability examples, which I’ll get to below. But for more guidance on the true nature of adaptability, check out these resources: 

 

Adaptability in the job interview process

Adapting to change is a valuable skill in any job, but it also comes in handy when you’re on the job hunt. 

In fact, being a good interviewee requires you to adapt to change. Though you may practice you’re answers to common interview questions, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll be asked something you didn’t prepare for. 

And even if you come prepared with your own questions to ask in an interview, being adaptable will allow you to ask more nuanced questions as you learn more about the role. 

Example:

You’re interviewing for a position that requires team coordination and quick decision-making, and you’ve entered the group interview portion. 

During the interview, the employer decides to simulate a team crisis scenario. You’re suddenly asked to lead a group of other candidates in a problem-solving exercise. This is not what you expected, but instead of panicking, you tap into your powers of adaptation. 

You take a moment to assess the skills of your temporary team members, delegate tasks according to their strengths, and encourage open communication to ensure everyone’s ideas are heard. Your ability to adapt and lead under unexpected circumstances impresses the interviewers. They note not only your leadership skills but also your capacity to remain calm and effective under pressure.

Showing that adapting to change is no problem during the interview process leads to positive feedback from the interviewers, who are looking for someone who can manage unexpected events. The job is yours, and your powers of adaptability continue to serve you on the road to your first promotion.

 

Adaptability leads to promotions

Getting a promotion at your job inherently means you’ll be facing change. You’ll get more and different responsibilities, perhaps work with a different team, and maybe even be tasked with training others. 

If you want to prove to your managers that you’re the right person to promote, then showing your ability to adapt to change in the workplace is essential. 

Example: 

You work at a marketing agency, and your boss announces that over the next few weeks, everyone in the company will be transitioning over to a new Client Management System (CMS). 

This is met with a lot of groans and complaints—everyone in the office knows it will be a pain to move all the data and learn the new system. 

You’re frustrated by it too, but after doing some research, you see that the new system actually has some pretty great features. Rather than procrastinating like your colleagues, you start moving over your clients and learning the new system. 

As a result, you’re the first person to fully adopt the system, and you’re using those new features to your advantage. Your boss notices your accepting, adaptable nature, and sees how your other colleagues are dragging their feet and complaining. 

As a result, when it comes time for promotions, your boss knows you’re the right candidate and picks you over the others (who are still struggling to get onto the right system). 

 

Adaptability builds deeper connections

A big part of advancing your career is making the right connections. Whether you’re looking for a mentor, or simply connecting with others in your industry, the people who you surround yourself with can have a major impact on the trajectory of your career. 

Whenever you meet a new person, adaptability comes into play. You unconsciously change your body language, the tone of your voice, and your expressions to adapt to the new social dynamic. 

This can be stressful, but if you can keep an open mind and accept changes, you are far more likely to meet people who will help you go far. 

Example:

You’re at a large industry conference, a place buzzing with potential contacts and insights. 

During a lunch break, you find yourself seated next to someone who works in a completely different sector of your industry. Initially, the conversation feels a bit stilted—your experiences and expertise seem worlds apart.

However, instead of sticking to small talk or seeking out more familiar faces, you decide to adapt to the situation. You ask thoughtful questions about their projects, showing genuine interest and curiosity. As the conversation deepens, you begin to find common ground, discussing challenges that are universal in your fields.

This open-minded approach not only broadens your perspective but also impresses your new acquaintance. They introduce you to other professionals at the conference, expanding your network. These connections later prove invaluable, providing you with new opportunities for collaboration and insights into other areas of the industry that you hadn’t considered before.

Your adaptability in this scenario didn’t just help you make a single connection; it opened a door to a network of relationships that enhanced your career in ways you couldn’t have anticipated.

 

Adaptability helps you sidestep office politics

I’ve worked in office environments where politics run rampant, and take it from me: It’s so easy to get swept up in gossip and alliances, especially when your job is boring or stressful.

But office politics are not good for your career. Getting caught up in the drama slows you down, makes you a target for negativity, and frequently makes your working hours more unpleasant. 

Adaptable individuals deal with office politics the same way they deal with change: by focusing on facts and work-related outcomes rather than personal disagreements or power plays. This approach not only preserves professional relationships but also keeps you focused on what matters: Doing your job, getting paid, and going home. 

By the way, here are some more resources relating to office politics:

 

Example: 

You work in a department where there’s a subtle but constant battle for the manager’s approval, often leading to a split among team members. Some are trying to undermine each other in hopes of standing out and gaining favor.

Instead of choosing sides or getting involved in the disputes, you adapt by focusing on collaboration and transparency. During meetings, you make it a point to acknowledge everyone’s contributions, ensuring that credit is shared equally. You ask for opinions from all sides and facilitate open discussions that steer the team away from personal biases and towards collective goals.

This behavior does not go unnoticed. Your manager and other leaders see you as a stabilizing force within the team, someone who promotes a positive and inclusive work environment, even in the face of turmoil and uncertainty. Rather than becoming entangled in politics, your adaptability positions you as a leader, respected not just for your skills but for your ability to keep the team cohesive and focused amid potential discord.

As a result, when the next opportunity for a leadership role arises, you are at the forefront of candidates, not only for your professional talents but also for your ability to rise above office politics and drive team unity. This not only advances your career but also improves your daily work environment, keeping it free from the stress and distraction of unnecessary drama.

 

Adaptability enhances efficiency and improves work-life balance

Adapting to change in the workplace isn’t just about handling big shifts; it’s also about embracing small, daily improvements that can significantly enhance efficiency. 

When you’re adaptable, you’re more willing to adopt new technologies, processes, or strategies that streamline tasks and reduce unnecessary labor. This not only increases productivity but also frees up your time, allowing for a better work-life balance.

There’s an adaptability example below, but don’t miss these other resources on improving time management: 

 

Example:

Your colleague, Alex, has been using the same manual spreadsheet system for years to manage the inventory system. Despite the availability of new software that automates a lot of the process, Alex is resistant to change. He insists that his method, although time-consuming, is more reliable.

Adaptable you, on the other hand, embraces the new software. After a short learning curve, you find that what used to take you hours now gets done in minutes. 

As weeks pass, you notice that while you’re able to leave the office on time, Alex often stays late, manually updating his spreadsheets. His resistance to change has not only increased his workload but also impacted his personal time.

In this adaptability example, Alex’s situation serves as a cautionary tale about the costs of resisting change.

Adaptability in the workplace is more than just a useful skill; it’s a fundamental approach that opens doors to growth, efficiency, and a happier working life. 

By embracing change, whether in adopting new technologies or avoiding office politics, you’ll improve your ability to adapt to change, and see all of the benefits that come with this superpower.