Why ‘Fit’ Matters (Part 2)

By Aoife O’Brien, Empowerment Coaching

The first part of this two part article can be found here.

Misfit & turnover

While fit strongly predicts job satisfaction, it has a moderate to weak relationship with intent to turnover. This link is weaker still when actual turnover is considered; there is usually a weak link between attitudes and behaviour. So, the question remains: if people are dissatisfied at work, why do they stay?

Employees are said to consider various options, weighing up their alternatives under the light of previous decisions, before ultimately making a decision to stay or leave. The decision to quit a job is based on many factors, not just fit; other factors, such as income, sense of belonging, community, mobility, availability of other work in the area need to be considered. However, we can’t deny that fit and turnover are linked.

Resignation tends to be the first option thought of in a situation of misfit. For those who do end up leaving, it is usually after trying a variety of other options in order to resolve or relieve the misfit. Those other options include voicing their feelings and adapting to their environment, leaving the role but staying in the organisation, and doing nothing. Another coping mechanism stated was to include using nonwork activities to alleviate the pain of misfit. A typical reaction to misfit was to change surface-level behaviour and thus the perception of misfit by peers, in an effort to conform. However, extended inauthentic behaviour can result in stress and reduced performance.

The perception of available job opportunities is one factor in the decision to leave an organisation. If there are relatively few opportunities available, people are less likely to quit, and more likely to stay in a situation of poor fit. Conversely, the higher the availability of jobs, the more important fit becomes.

Fit becomes even more important when considering high-performers, even in times of job scarcity, as they will always perceive greater job mobility. These highly marketable employees are more susceptible to feelings of misfit, and also more likely to look elsewhere to find that sense of belonging. This is equally true for someone who is highly mobile, with no commitments in any one place, and therefore the freedom to move.

Job embeddedness (JE) is another possible reason for employees to stay with their organisation, despite a misfit. It implies that employees not only consider their role or organisation, but look at how they fit in with the wider organisation (and community) overall, what connections they have forged with the company and community, and what would they be sacrificing if they left (personal relationships included).

What would you do if you can’t find someone who ‘fits’? And what is the cost to the organisation of hiring someone who doesn’t fit? It can lead to having dissatisfied employees who show symptoms of withdrawal and poor performance; at the end of the day, you need to hire people who fit with your organisation. A good fit will save you time and money by employing workers who are happy and productive.

What can we do about misfit?

It’s clear that any one measure of fit can’t be considered in isolation, as all aspects of working life have an impact on an individual’s perception of fit. Fit and perception of fit can also change over time. Fit tends to be strongest when an employee has just been hired. For various reasons this can change, through a series of misalignments or a big change.

One area for consideration is to get it right at the hiring stage, in order to avoid a situation of misfit to begin with. Following on from this, during the induction stage, reinforce the company behaviours and values and pair the new employee with a mentor who will explain and demonstrate these values.

It is worth noting that subcultures can exist within an organisation and even within an office. The behaviours of one team may be different than another team, and therefore the experienced values of the team are different. This is an important consideration during the hiring stage and also for internal moves.

Fit also becomes important during times of organisation change. In today’s fast-paced environment, companies are ever evolving. Consider the consequences of organisational change on fit. Structural changes, acquisitions, mergers, and changes in the competitive landscape all have an impact on the behaviours and therefore culture of an organisation. It’s important to guide employees through this process, and it’s better to have a situation of over-communication rather than under-communication.

Hiring stage

  • Define the “values” based on how the people in the company actually behave (not from the corporate values). Think of things like knowledge sharing, sociability, pace of work, how decisions are made, communication channels, collaboration, progression criteria
  • Decide what can be learned on the job versus the requisite skills an applicant needs to have
  • Ensure the job description includes how an applicant’s needs will be satisfied in the role, opportunity for learning and growth, exposure to senior leaders etc.
  • At the interview stage, ask about their needs, determine what people’s behaviour is like by asking questions about their behaviour in the workplace. Most questions focus on competencies and the candidates’ ability to do the job
  • Hire for the organisation, not for the role. That is to say, ensure the applicant will fit in with the company culture ahead of looking at whether they have the skills to fulfil the role
  • What might you do in the case that you can’t find anyone who ‘fits’? Is it worth the cost of hiring someone who doesn’t fit in?

Induction stage

  • Remind new hires of the values and the behaviour that is expected in the workplace
  • Ensure goals are aligned with company goals
  • Provide a mentor within the team and also external to the team, who will reemphasise the corporate values and how things get done
  • Welcome new ideas and diverse ways of working

Organisational Change

  • Communication is key
  • Appoint some ‘champions’ to manage the messaging within the teams
  • Ask current employees for their input to ensure their voices are heard and ensure buy-in
  • Where there is a change in values or culture, be clear about the new expectations; you can expect some fallout from those whose values are no longer aligned
  • Most people don’t like change, so guide them through the process with milestones and celebrations of successes along the way


  • Use autonomy as a way of increasing perceived fit (as well as motivation) – flexible working hours, job-crafting, responsibility for how the job gets done
  • Ask employees what their needs are, as needs can vary from person to person, and also change over time. Consider things like flexibility, recognition, autonomy, progression
  • Focus on retaining highly skilled employees through open communication, feedback, understanding their needs and values
  • Use mentoring as a way to demonstrate to employees how things are done
  • In cases of misfit, encourage both employees and managers to understand the differences between different types of fit
    • If it’s an issue of P-J fit, is there an alternative role within the company?
    • If someone who doesn’t fit in with the organisation resigns, it is probably for the best
    • Those trying to conform when they don’t fit in may have a detrimental impact on overall performance
  • Continually communicate expectations around behaviour, values and goals using various formats: town hall meetings; team meetings; email; one-to-one catch ups
  • Reward employees who demonstrate the behaviour that is expected and be transparent about progression criteria
  • Ensure that individual and team goals align with overall company goals (goal congruence)
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Before becoming a coach, I spent 15 years in the corporate world, working in market research in the FMCG industry. My roles included managing large accounts, analysing data, presenting to non-technical audiences, managing and mentoring teams. I have lived and worked in Dublin, London, Perth and Sydney. I am currently studying for a MSc in Work and Organisational Behaviour. I am passionate about helping people to realise their full potential and working with organisations to ensure they hire the right people, and that those people feel motivated and have opportunities to learn and grow. In my spare time I love to travel – I have been to all 7 continents, and have travelled solo through most of the world, with camera in hand. I enjoy meeting new people and trying new things. I keep fit by doing yoga, Pilates, running and swimming.