Adaptability should not mean obedience to toxic work cultures

We often talk about adaptability as one of the most prized individual qualities in the workplace. Yet, things go wrong when we confuse it with obedience to toxic work cultures. It’s time to tap into our ability for transformation.

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We often talk about adaptability as one of the most prized individual qualities in the workplace. People should be able to adapt to difficult circumstances, thrive under uncertain conditions, and be malleable with a diverse range of stakeholders.

In essence, individuals demonstrate adaptability when they change to fit new circumstances without showing real difficulty. Yet, underneath the positive language surrounding adaptability, there is a hidden reality that is less talked about.

Individuals are often encouraged to adapt to toxic work environments plagued by overwork, high stress, poor management, and aggressive communication. These are usually work contexts marked by a lack of psychological safety for employees to voice their concerns. Adaptability is simply required of individuals in order to comply with what is demanded of them, without questioning the dysfunctional work practices that shape their jobs.

This encourages a mindset that sees the individual as primarily responsible for overcoming difficulties and problems, without putting into question the collective effort to create better work environments.

Adaptability goes wrong when we confuse it with obedience to toxic work cultures.

Adapting should not be about keeping up with a job that is unfulfilling. This trumps the very reasons why adaptability and resilience are great qualities, after all. They should be here to help us navigate change, harness our resources to be creative, and be an impulse to improve how things are done.

Do we really want a world where adaptability is synonymous with not asking for more?

That’s when our human potential to transform becomes truly valuable. Transformation taps into our capacity to look at the world and say: that’s not working for me, I’d like it to be different. This doesn’t mean that we are weak or inadaptable. It means that we see things clearly and become change agents, rather than passive actors who adapt to circumstances.

Stepping into transformation mode can be challenging for individuals (what happens if I speak up?) and organisations alike (we have done things in the same way for years!). Ultimately, it challenges the status quo. Holding space to talk about issues can be a truly transformative step, whether that is about inappropriate behaviours or unbearable workloads.

There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to adapt to an insane world. It’s time to appreciate our ability for positive transformation.

I am a coach and trusted advisor to driven and gifted people who feel there’s an inkling of rebellion in them. I help them create more fulfilment and reduce stress in their work and careers, on their terms. Connect with me here: www.anisiabucur.com

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