Last updated June 5, 2024

There are 5 barriers to adaptability that impact many people’s ability to change and adapt to a changing work or home environment and in this post, I will explain each of these barriers.

Barriers to workplace adaptability

What are the 5 Barriers to Adaptability

1. Being or feeling forced to change

If you do not agree with a certain change, then you may feel that you have been forced to accept it. Therefore, you may be unlikely to welcome it.

For example, imagine the following scenario:

Sarah works in the marketing department and has been informed that the company is rebranding, requiring her to shift all her current projects to align with the new brand guidelines.

She feels this decision was made without her input and feels forced to accept the changes.

What could Sarah do to help her adapt to this change?

Sarah could request a meeting with her manager to express her feelings and seek more understanding about the reasons behind the rebranding.

By gaining insight into the strategic benefits of the rebrand and being more involved in the implementation process, Sarah might feel a greater sense of ownership and become more accepting of the change.

5 barriers to adaptability in the workplace

2. Fear and Being Scared of Change

There are numerous reasons why you might be scared of change.

For instance, you may be afraid of its consequences such as your job being threatened or that you may no longer be able to do your job properly. Or you may be afraid of failure.

For example, imagine the following scenario:

John is an experienced gas engineer who has been asked to start installing a new type of appliance that uses a type of technology that he is not familiar with.

He fears that he won’t be able to familiarize himself with the new technology quickly enough and worries about the impact on his job performance.

What could John do to help him adapt to this change?

John could take advantage of training resources provided by the company or enroll in online courses to improve his skills in using the new technology.

By dedicating time to learning and practicing installing the new appliance, John can build his confidence, reduce his fear of failure, and demonstrate his capability to adapt to new technologies.

3. Overcoming Hurdles

The change might mean that you might have to overcome some hurdles, such as learning new skills or dealing with some particular difficulties.

If this is the case, it might make you unlikely to accept the change.

For example, imagine the following scenario:

Maria works in customer service and the company has introduced a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that requires her to learn new software skills. She finds the new system complicated and is struggling to adapt.

What could Maria do to help her adapt to this change?

Maria could request additional training sessions or seek help from colleagues who are proficient with the new CRM system.

By breaking down the learning process into smaller, manageable steps and practising incrementally, Maria can gradually become comfortable with the new system and overcome the hurdles.

4. Inability or Lack of Understanding

You might not have the skills needed to adapt to the change, or you might lack the necessary information or understanding.

For example, imagine the following scenario:

David is a project manager who has been asked to incorporate data analytics into his project reports.

He feels unable to comply because he doesn’t have enough knowledge about data analysis.

What could David do to help him adapt to this change?

David could identify specific areas where he needs improvement and seek out relevant training programs or workshops.

By setting aside time to learn data analytics tools and techniques, David can acquire the necessary skills to incorporate data-driven insights into his reports, thus increasing his ability to adapt to the new requirements.

5. Apathy and lack of Interest

Sometimes you might not have the motivation needed to embrace the change.

For example, imagine the following scenario:

Karen is a sales associate who has been informed about new sales strategies that require more proactive engagement with clients. She feels indifferent towards these changes and lacks motivation to alter her current approach.

What could Karen do to help her adapt to this change?

Karen could reflect on the potential personal and professional benefits of adopting the new strategies, such as increased sales commissions and personal growth.

By setting specific personal goals and visualizing the positive outcomes, Karen can find motivation to engage with the new strategies and embrace the change with a more enthusiastic attitude.

Adaptability Workplace Scenario Example and Suggested Solution

Let’s look at an example scenario to see how to overcome transformation within your organization when dealing with changing circumstances.

Shift in Company Goals

Imagine the scenario below:

Your company has shifted its strategic goals to focus on a new market segment, which means your current projects and priorities will change significantly.
This shift aims to explore new business opportunities and increase market share.
However, it requires you to pivot from your current expertise and adapt to new customer needs and industry trends, which may feel daunting initially.

If you were the person in this scenario, what questions could you ask yourself to develop self-awareness, change perspective/attitude and to strategize and act?

What might you do as a result?

1) Self-awareness questions:

How do I feel about the shift in company goals?

Do I feel in line with the new direction?

Is there anything about this change that makes me uncomfortable?

2) Change of perspective/attitude questions:

What new opportunities does this shift offer for my career growth?

How can this change help me develop new skills and gain useful experience?

How can I contribute to the new goals effectively?

3) Strategizing questions:

What actions can I take to support the new company direction?

What new skills or knowledge do I need to acquire to adapt?

How can I proactively seek out information or training related to the new market focus?

4) Actions I might take as a result:

  • Participate in strategic planning sessions or workshops.
  • Seek mentorship or guidance from leaders involved in the new market focus.

Further Resources on Adaptability in the Workplace

In addition to this post on the 5 barriers to adaptability in the workplace and examples, these resources might be useful:

Adaptability training course materials

>> Adaptability training course materials

Dr Valeria Lo Iacono