Why don’t I fit in?

Fitting in

As my career has progressed, I have become more and more interested in the concept of
“fitting in” in the workplace. I’ve always been good at making friends wherever I go, I tend to enjoy being busy and can achieve anything I put my mind to. However, I’ve found myself in situations where I felt I just didn’t belong: be it a clash with my boss; poor leadership; or just not utilising all of my skills. Job satisfaction is important because happy workers are productive workers. Satisfaction in the workplace has positive outcomes for both employer and employee –  it has been shown to improve teamwork, trust and morale, reduce turnover, stress and absenteeism. For a recent assignment in the Organisational Psychology module of my masters, I decided to look at the concept of “fit” and what impact it has on job satisfaction and turnover.

Workplace Engagement

A recent Gallup poll shows that only 15% of the global workforce is actually engaged. Why is it that so many people do not enjoy their jobs? Fit is a crucial driver of job satisfaction. There are various ways to look at fit, considerations need to be made for how the individual interacts with their overall environment, their supervisor, their work mates, their company as a whole, and the job itself.

The importance of Values

Looking at fit as a key driver of job satisfaction, the main point I found was that “values congruence” (or whether or not your values match with those of the company) is the number one driver of satisfaction in the workplace. When company values and personal values are not aligned, this leads to ‘misfit’ and this in turn results in dissatisfaction. Talking about values, it’s not the values on the company website, or the values you need to demonstrate during your performance review, but rather the actual behaviours within the company; the corporate culture. In addition to this, organisations can also have subcultures, with different offices in global corporations having different cultures, subcultures may even exist at a team level within the same office. Never has it been more important to ‘recruit for the company, not for the job’.

Meeting employees’ needs

The popular belief is that companies should try to ensure that applicants (or employees) have abilities to meet the demands of the job, as this will result in satisfied workers. However, as a form of misfit, this can sometimes prove motivational as it presents an opportunity for growth by learning new skills. At the recruitment stage, you need to decide what can be learned versus what can’t (culture, for example, is likely something that needs to be inherent). In reality, the second most important factor driving job satisfaction is the company’s ability to meet the needs of the employee. Employees’ needs can take the form of physical or psychological needs, and include things like basic pay, benefits, flexibility, autonomy, recognition, opportunity for learning and development, and progression.

Dissatisfaction does not necessarily lead to turnover

There is a common perception that job dissatisfaction leads to turnover, but the studies show that there link between the two is weak at best. Resignation is certainly the first thing most workers consider in the case of misfit. However, they look to other resolutions as well, for example, speaking up about their needs, training and development, looking for alternative internal opportunities, or simply doing nothing. Sometimes quitting isn’t even an option – perhaps there are no more jobs in that field or at that level or in that area, so the worker is left with little choice but to “get on with it”. Feeling dissatisfied in a job can lead to frustration, withdrawal and lack of motivation. It begs the question: what is the cost to a company of a dissatisfied worker who stays?

Steps to increase job satisfaction in your workplace:

Companies should:

  • Consider what can be learned on the job, versus what cannot – what basic skills are required for the role, and once established…
  • Focus on hiring for the company culture, not for the specific role – will this person ‘fit’ with the company?
  • Increase existing employees’ sense of fit (as well as motivation) by increasing their sense of autonomy; that is, give them the opportunity to shape their own work, and responsibility for how to get their work gets done
  • Ask employees what their needs are. Needs vary from person to person. Consider things like flexibility, autonomy, recognition (public and private), progression
  • Seek to retain highly skilled employees especially, as these are particularly susceptible to leaving when they sense a misfit

Individuals should:

  • Understand more about the feeling of ‘misfit’. Is it driven by the culture? The boss? The team? Or the job itself?
  • Consider whether needs are being met, and if not, how could they be met? What are your needs, and how can you articulate them to your boss?
  • Think about potential learning and development opportunities, especially if you feel you don’t have the skills necessary for the job (which you can get training on) or are suffering from ‘imposter syndrome’ (which a coach can help with).
  • Explore alternative opportunities if the driver of misfit is company culture, as this is unlikely to change. Highly skilled workers will especially find it beneficial to leave, even in times of high unemployment.

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