“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”  ~ Charles Darwin ~

Unless you are living in a cave somewhere, you have noticed that the rate of change in the workplace is increasing exponentially. Technological changes are evolving rapidly. Artificial intelligence and the capability of algorithms to pull together massive amounts of information quickly and accurately make most jobs that have any kind of routine or repetitive nature, will be susceptible to being taken over from humans. Segments of work in virtually all fields will see some disruption from automation. Already reeling to keep up with the rate of change in the workplace, employees and management realize that the degree of adjustment will only increase. To further add to the disruption, millennials, whose presence in the workplace is increasingly felt, have their own ideas of what work should look like.  Added to the change mix is the dynamic of markets, social media, globalization and diversity. While adaptability has always been an important part of thriving in the workplace, it is rising in importance as the pace of adaptation relentlessly speeds up. Whether we are at the entry level in an organization, or the CEO, all roles will require a high level of ability in order to cope effectively with the pace of change and thrive in the workplace of tomorrow.

Here are 5 ways that emotional intelligence encourages adaptability:

Keeps Us From Falling into Familiar, Comfortable Patterns

When confronted with change, our default is to fall back into out comfort zone. Our first instinct is to take the easy way out, to stay with what we know. Emotionally intelligent people will be more aware that this is happening and be able to overcome the urge to stay with the tried and true than to move into new unchartered territory.  Their awareness of their own behavior patterns and emotional drivers gives them a real advantage in dealing with altering variables. From Brené Brown’s “Daring Greatly”;   “Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”

Managing Their Emotions and Staying Calm Under Pressure

Change brings up emotions from both ends of the emotional spectrum, excitement and anxiety.  Being aware of the emotion and the ability to turn it into an ally to help move through a major disruption gives emotionally intelligent people a major edge.

Able to Work Through Diverse Opinions and Multiple Perspectives

Instead of insisting on their way, or looking for the one right way, emotionally intelligent people are aware that their perspective, knowledge and beliefs have limitations. That baseline of belief allows them to be more open and accepting of ideas that are new for them or even contrary to what they have believed in the past. This openness eases them to go along with new and untried initiatives and be willing to take risks that will become increasingly important to thrive and stay relevant in the new economy. Instead of increasing the friction in the workplace, they will be the lubricant that allows ingenuity and initiative to flow more freely and a birthplace for opportunity to grow and flourish.

Ability to Get to the Real Issues Quickly

In any change, there will be resistance that is buried below the surface and will sabotage the change process if not uncovered and dealt with. People may want to be seen as being open to change can often have underlying reasons to resist. Group pressure may force them to keep those underlying feelings hidden. Emotional Intelligent people innately know and experience intuitive understanding of the feelings of others and are able to predict and have insight to work with resistance that others will display. This awareness facilitates communicating in such a way that they are able to address the unspoken and hidden fears that others may have, even though they have not expressed those fears directly. Their awareness of verbal nuances and non-verbal cues allow them to be able to hone in on, and address what is going on underneath the surface in both individuals and groups. This increases the likelihood they will be a buy in to the new direction or changes that are being considered with harmony and trust.

Deal More Effectively with Surprises and Setbacks

With change there will inevitably be setbacks, surprises and failures. Without the ability to deal with these obstacles, the change process will be under attack and there will be pressure to return to the old way of doing things. Emotional intelligent people will be better prepared to deal with the disappointments and fears that will come up when things don’t go as planned, as they seldom do. Control of their impulses allows them to avoid reacting until they have thoroughly thought things through and decided on how to move forward. Their listening ability allows them to bring in, and actively listen to others to come up with a group consensus. Instead of looking to lay blame for setbacks, they will be focused on a solution.


  • Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, internationally published author and speaker.  To take the EI Quiz go to theotherkindofsmart.com.  His book THE OTHER KIND OF SMART, Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence for Greater Personal Effectiveness and Success has been published in 4 languages. Harvey writes for FAST COMPANY and has a monthly column with HRPROFESSIONALS MAGAZINE. You can follow him on Twitter @theeiguy.