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Over Adaptations in DISC: What You Need to Know - Part Two

Over adaptations aren't unusual when it comes to behavior but understanding them through the lens of DISC can take some work.

Over adapting your behavior style

Adapting your behavior is a common response to a working environment that might not align with your Natural DISC graph. We’ve explained all about adaptations and what they mean; now it’s time to look at what happens when you over-adapt your behavior.

What Does it Mean When Someone Over-Adapts?

Over-adapting happens when an individual’s Adapted DISC score shifts significantly from their Natural score. It’s officially considered an over-adaptation if there is a 15-point difference or higher, especially at 20 to 30 points, but a shift of even 10 points can be significant. It all depends on the individual in question and their experience and reasoning.

“In cases over ten points, I get curious during a debrief,” said Cassandra Nelson, TTI SI’s Facilitator & Curriculum Designer. “That’s when I ask clients: are you adapting to succeed or survive?”

This difference is key for an individual's well-being, engagement, and capacity in their roles.

Adapting to succeed requires an alignment with internal motivation. “Usually, if someone’s Drivers are fulfilled in their job, they are more willing to adapt and can do so with less stress,” Cassandra told us.

“If a Reserved communicator adapts their Influence score to publicly speak, this is outside of their Natural behavioral style. However, if this public speaking opportunity helps advance their career. If they have a Commanding driver, they will be more fulfilled and find the adaptation more rewarding. This is an example of Adapting to succeed.”

Adapting to survive looks very different. To find the difference, ask these questions:

  • Is this adaptation causing you any stress?

  • Are you tired at the end of the day? How tired?

  • Are you adapting for a short period of time, or for long periods?

Adapting to survive means that someone is seriously straining their natural behavioral style to achieve results in their work role. If someone is consistently working outside of their comfort zone with no perceived benefits, they’re going to burn out.

What Are Some Of The Results Of Long-Term Over-Adaptation?

General Irritability

Adapting to survive is difficult and will take its toll on your mood and energy. If your work is not well aligned with your natural behavior, you might dread going to work and completing tasks— fully engaging with your job responsibilities might be very difficult.

Conflict With Others

The aforementioned irritability can cause conflict to skyrocket between yourself and your teammates. If the people around you are engaged in their work and excited about job tasks, they might question your involvement in their projects. You also might lash out more as you become more and more frustrated with your work.


Your overall lack of engagement and energy at work only gets worse with survival adaptations. If your job role is not engaging your motivators or supporting your behavioral style, you might burn out, which can cause long-term health issues.

How Do You Solve Long-Term Over-Adaptation?

Review Job Responsibilities

As we said, not everyone experiences negative effects from adapting their behavior. This is largely dictated by how your drivers are fulfilled in the role.

Can your job responsibilities be shifted in a way that works with your preferred style? If not, can you at least find a way to fulfill your internal motivations?

Ask Your Team To Learn Disc And The 12 Driving Forces

One of the biggest benefits of using assessments in an organization is the fact that they create a shared language on a team. The combination of DISC and The 12 Driving Forces reveals the “how behind the why” and gives individuals and their teams a thorough understanding of themselves and others.

A team debrief is a great way to get more clarity about the people around you while they get the same clarity about you and how you operate. Certain TTI SI assessments include visual depictions of an entire team’s scores, which very clearly show adaptations and over-adaptations.

When others can clearly see how far you are having to adjust to get work done, they are more likely to appreciate your efforts and help you close that gap.

Find A New Position

This might sound harsh, but there’s a point where you have to call it and say enough is enough. If your job is consistently asking too much of you and causing you to experience the burnout described above, you need to protect your peace. After trying to expand the understanding of your team, reframing and changing job responsibilities, and clearly communicating your needs, if you don’t see improvement, it can be a sign to move on.

About the Author

Jaime Faulkner believes authenticity and storytelling are the keys to successful marketing. As a graduate from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, she loves finding and connecting narratives. When she's not at work, she's psychoanalyzing contestants on The Bachelor, painting, listening to podcasts, or playing tabletop RPGs.

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