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  • Tamar Balkin

What Is The Impact Of Poor Job Fit On Employee Wellbeing?

"Please, would you one time

Let me be myself

So I can shine with my own light

And let me be myself?"

Let Me Be Myself by 3 Doors Down (click here for the music)

“I just don’t know what’s happened to my CTO, he has been in the role for a long time, and he seems to have lost his mojo. We have a good relationship, he is capable, aligned with the firms’ values, really passionate about what we are trying to achieve, but something isn’t quite right”

Coaching client.

The Minnesota Theory Of Work Adjustment, (MTWA), was one of the first models I studied in the early days of my master’s degree, as it is a way of conceptualising the fit between an individual and a job or organisation. According to the model, job fit and job satisfaction rely on the alignment between what the individual requires from the workplace and what the job and organisation provides.

What can cause poor person job fit?

There are a multitude of factors that impact on the fit between the person and job. Regular readers would know that job design and recruitment are the foundational elements of achieving person job fit.

Job design check list:

  • Is there a clear description of the role?

  • Is it an accurate reflection of what actually occurs?

  • Does it describe the skills and competencies required to fulfil the expectations to the right level of competence?

  • Does it include key relationships?

  • Is the scope of responsibility accurately communicated ?

  • Have you identified of the psychological demands of the role?

  • Did you acknowledge the culture of the organisation ?

  • If you know the role will be fluid and require high levels of initiative and flexibility is that documented?

Recruitment process check list:

  • Did you source candidates widely?

  • Was each step in the selection process aligned to the accurate job description?

  • Did you have a comprehensive, objective assessment process, including references checking?

  • Was there the appropriate balance between assessing technical skills and organisational/ industry knowledge and broader competencies?

  • Were the interviewers trained and objective?

  • Did you test assumptions throughout the process?

“Sometimes that “next step” in your career, has been the wrong step.”

Gottschalk, M.

Regular readers would know that once you have an employee who is a good fit, many things may change at an individual, organisational and contextual level. Due to life circumstances or even the passage of time, employees may experience a shift in their needs, priorities and values thus impacting the job fit. In addition, major career changes, including re-skilling are not uncommon and would generally have an impact on person job fit. When there is a merger; acquisition; business growth or decline; or a change in strategic direction many roles will change. Taking the time to carefully reassess the: Scope; Complexity, Purpose and Psychological demands of all roles will help to ensure that the incumbents are a correct fit. Finally, don’t underestimate the impact of external factors like: changing Government regulations; Royal commissions; disrupters in the market; increased competition and other market forces on person job fit.

What are the signs of poor fit?

There are two main types of poor fit, those who do not fit the organisation and those who do not fit their current role. In both cases they will demonstrate some of the following:

  • Tell you they feel under-utilised.

  • Express frustration or seem bored.

  • General decline in office morale

  • Poor quality of work

  • Tasks or projects in complete or inadequate preparation

  • Wrong prioritisation

  • Physical signs of stress

  • Shirk responsibility

  • Absenteeism

  • Presenteeism

  • Critical of management

  • Highly cynical

  • Unrealistic demands

  • No discretionary effort

  • No innovation

  • Disconnected

  • Depression or anxiety

  • Burnout (click here for my blog on burnout)

So what about my client?

As the session drew to a close my client reflected, “I wonder about the CTO’s career aspirations. Whilst the business has grown in the time he has worked for us, perhaps he needs experience in other industries, larger firms, working with different people? I’m going to make time to chat with him about his values and goals and see where it heads. If he needs to ‘sow his wild oats elsewhere’ I want it to be on good terms. He really is a great fellow.”

Final thoughts

Many leaders are reluctant to lose good people, may feel responsible for organisational changes, and be sensitive to personal circumstances of others. Thus with the best intentions, leaders may avoid conversations when they notice that they are actually trying to fit a “round peg in a square hole”. Given the hours people spend at work and the psychological benefits of being in the right role, if you have your suspicions, take the time to sensitively check in with your employees and find out what is really going on. Regular readers would know that sympathetic conversations require empathy (click here for my blog on empathy) and the ability to listen with curiosity (click here for Celeste Headlee's ted talk. As I was writing this blog I kept humming the tune, “It's hip to be square” by Huey Lewis and The News, so for fun I have added it to the blog play list. (click here for the song) As always please be in touch if you or anyone in your network would benefit from coaching or if you want to just catch up.


References: Ewin Hannan, Covid-19: Threat of exodus by burnt-out health workers. (2021). The Australian. [online] 10 Sep. Available at: Gottschalk, M. (2014). The Poor Fit: 6 Signs That Your Job is Absolutely the Wrong One. [online] Marla Gottschalk. Available at: Huang, W., Yuan, C. and Li, M. (2019). Person–Job Fit and Innovation Behavior: Roles of Job Involvement and Career Commitment. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. Work demands and work-related stress: Tip Sheet 5 (2018). Work demands and work-related stress: Tip Sheet 5. [online] SafeWork NSW. Available at: Alore (2015). 15 Signs When A Leader Knows An Employee Is A Bad Fit. [online] Medium. Available at:

CSUSB ScholarWorks CSUSB ScholarWorks. (n.d.). [online] Available at:

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