Adaptability vs. Flexibility: Definitions and Differences

Adaptability refers to a change in behavior or acclimation to a new type of situation and can involve comprehensive changes. Flexibility usually refers to a person giving more or less in the same situation without changing the components or altering their overall approach or behavior.

To adapt to or suit the new environment, one must make modifications or changes to themselves. It denotes being receptive to new concepts, inventions, or modifications for a work environment culture. Someone with this ability can work independently, in groups, or to complete tasks that are not intended for a single person.

Workplace flexibility is the capacity to assess situations and modify actions to fit new roles and responsibilities or a job offer. Being adaptable is essential for both employers and employees as it creates a workforce and technology that are adopted in response to innovations and changes in the market. (In this article, What is Workplace Flexibility? (Advantages for Employer and Employees), we highlighted the Advantages and the Disadvantages.)

These individuals can quickly adapt to the circumstance they face. They are aware of what to do and are aware of the best practices to follow in order to align with the new corporate culture. They are reliable when assigned with new tasks or projects. Resistance to change is pointless and almost always results in excessive stress. Such workers are ready to implement tasks beyond their roles.

Adaptability & Flexibility – SkillsUSA

Examples of adaptability

You can review the following examples of adaptability to get a better idea of what it means:

Example 1

When teaching different classes and age groups, an elementary school teacher may demonstrate adaptability by altering their tone and strategy. To aid younger students in understanding, teachers in first-grade classrooms might speak more slowly or use a different format when giving instructions. They might use more difficult language and give students the chance to finish tasks on their own in a sixth-grade classroom.

Example 2

By spending a semester abroad, a student can demonstrate their adaptability. They complete their regular coursework and pick up new skills while adjusting to the culture and daily routines in a foreign country. Depending on where they go, they may also pick up a new language that they can study and speak in addition to English.

Example 3

A member of a marketing team might demonstrate their ability to adapt by switching from office work to working from home. They adapt their behavior for a new situation by changing their routine, skipping their commute, and adjusting to new communication techniques. Going from working at home to working in an office the other way around can also demonstrate adaptability

What is adaptability?

Candidates frequently use the word “adaptability” in their application materials to demonstrate their readiness to change. This may entail adapting tactics to suit novel circumstances or changing the daily tasks you have to complete. In order to best suit those around you, it can also entail adapting your behavior based on the circumstance.

Examples of flexibility

You can review the following instances of flexibility to get a clearer idea of what the term means:

Example 1

A grocery store cashier receives a call informing them that one of their staff members has a family emergency. While a member of their team works shifts at the beginning of the week, the cashier works shifts at the end of the week. The team member requests a shift change so they can have more time to take care of their family. The cashier exhibits flexibility when they consent to switch shifts with a teammate.

Example 2

A marketing specialist who recently started a new job must manage the work left over from the previous employee. In a conversation with their team lead, the marketing specialist explains that although they prefer not to work on the weekends, they can be flexible in the beginning to finish up the work. The team leader and the expert agree that after the expert manages the backlog of work, the team leader won’t expect them to work on weekends.

Example 3

The vendor for manufacturing materials negotiates with a local client. Unexpected events have caused the vendor to want to increase the price of the materials, but the client wants to decrease them. Flexibility on the part of the vendor and the client will enable them to negotiate a price that works for both parties. The client doesn’t have to look for a new supplier for their manufacturing materials or possibly compromise on quality, and the vendor avoids losing a client.

What is flexibility?

You can refer to your capacity to compromise as being flexible. Changing or negotiating your level of contribution to a task is included in this. According to the circumstance, flexibility frequently refers to giving more or accepting less of something. It’s a phrase you can use to indicate that you’re open to discussing details with others and adapting your efforts in accordance with the agreement.

Adaptability vs. flexibility

Here are some differences between adaptability and flexibility:

Meaning of the word

A change in behavior or acclimation to a new type of situation is referred to as adaptability, and it may entail significant changes. When someone is flexible, they are typically willing to give more or less in the same circumstance without altering the specifics or their overall strategy or behavior. A person can demonstrate their adaptability and flexibility by relocating to a new city to launch their career and by deciding to change the date on which they do so.

Use in the workplace

Both flexibility and adaptability are crucial in the workplace, but they can be helpful in various circumstances. It’s best for team members to demonstrate flexibility when switching to new roles. It’s beneficial when the team displays flexibility when a deadline changes or an item’s price changes. A staff member may use flexibility and adaptability in certain circumstances to succeed. For instance, if a deadline changes and gets closer, the employee can be adaptable by deciding to meet the new deadline and flexible by altering their behavior to cope with stress.

Effect on resumes

The impact of these two terms on your resume is another way in which they are different. Although you may use the terms flexibility and adaptability interchangeably, it can be helpful to review and modify your language because they mean slightly different things. You can describe yourself as flexible if you want to show that you’re open to a changing or shifting schedule. Instead, use adaptability to demonstrate your ability to quickly change your approach and behavior in response to novel circumstances.

Tips for improving your adaptability and flexibility

You can use the following advice to increase your adaptability and flexibility:


How do you show adaptability and flexibility?

Say “yes” more often than “no” as a first instinct when responding to change and new ways of working. Adapt to change and new ways of working quickly and easily. Make suggestions for increasing the effectiveness of changes.

What is the difference between versatility and adaptability?

Being adaptable enables you to function in a variety of settings, including those for work and living. It’s a skill. Versatile is adjusting (competent) to many activities or functions. You have many aptitudes.

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