Behavioural Adaptability at Work: A Free Introduction to the 7 Work Traits

  • By Jordan B
  • April 2023

The behavioural adaptability trait measures the degree of versatility a person can demonstrate when adapting their behaviours to new people and new environments.

Behavioural adaptability is the trait which tells us why some people’s attitudes, behaviours, and personal styles seem to shift depending on where they are or who they’re with, while others’ personalities are more consistent.

More specifically, behavioural adaptability quantifies a person’s versatility when interacting with different people and different personalities, their resilience with respect to changing environments, and their tolerance for a variable workload. Behavioural adaptability also quantifies the degree of stimulation someone prefers.

People who are high in behavioural adaptability (High BA) enjoy adapting their behaviour and personalities to the environment that they are in and the people they are interacting with.

They are also comfortable with inconsistent workloads from day-to-day and week-to-week, so long as they are properly compensated for their extra efforts.

High BA people tend to have more flexibility when it comes to stepping outside the natural behaviours predicted by their other traits.

People high in behavioural adaptability often thrive as travelling salespeople, people managers, and consultants.

Conversely, people who are low in behavioural adaptability (Low BA) tend to be much more static in their behaviours and personal styles across contexts. They prefer to stick to specific tasks and objectives and tend to have high levels of individual productivity.

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Low BA people prefer the sense of security that comes with a steady paycheque as opposed to more variable income with a higher cap.

People low in behavioural adaptability tend to be interested in more technical, task-oriented roles.

When considering the degree of behavioural adaptability required for a particular role, it is necessary to consider the behaviours that are desired in the role, as well as the risks and challenges associated with different levels of behavioural adaptability.

High Behavioural Adaptability can be Deceptive

While High BA people adapt well when interacting with different types of people, some can view this tendency as dishonest. It can be challenging to tell whether someone high in BA is being their true self, or if they are acting a certain way to encourage behaviour in others.

In roles where clients need to be communicated with directly and honestly, lower behavioural adaptability may be more desirable.

When interviewing someone high in BA, remember that they are likely to adapt their behaviour, personal style, and mannerisms to the interviewer. This tendency is unlikely to be manipulative in intent and is more likely to be how they naturally behave.

It is important to remember that those high in BA will tend to be more personable and likeable, which can (but probably shouldn’t, unless such behaviour is directly related to the role) influence their status in the competition.

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High Behavioural Adaptability can be Capricious

Because those high in BA crave variety and stimulation, they are at greater risk of seeking other, more exciting opportunities.

If your organization is unable to give those higher in BA the variety and excitement they desire, or if upward mobility is not possible in your organization, employees high in BA may seek greener pastures.

Low Behavioural Adaptability can be Easily Overwhelmed

While those who are low in BA tend to be very productive in their area of expertise, they are less resilient at dealing with change or interruptions than those higher in BA.

People lower in BA need to take time to adjust their priorities. Even if a role is highly task oriented, if priorities are constantly changing someone low in BA will be considerably less productive.

When deciding the appropriate level of behavioural adaptability necessary for a particular role, it is important to reflect on which behaviours are essential for the role, and which behaviours may be detrimental to that role. We hope this blog has provided some helpful insights you can incorporate into your personnel decisions.

Interested in learning more? Check out the other guides in our free introduction to the 7 work traits.

  • Assertiveness: Directiveness, independence, willingness to take risks, and accountability.
  • Sociability: The need to communicate and influence others.
  • Patience: The need for established processes and predictability and one’s sense of urgency.
  • Detail Orientation: The need for structure, order, and accuracy.
  • Behvaioural Adaptability: Flexibility and versatility in behaviour across environments.
  • Emotional Control: The need to express one’s emotions.
  • Creativity: The need for innovation and ingenuity.

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