The Ideal Work Environment is Where You (& Your Employees) Fit

SHARING IS CARING

The Ideal Work Environment is one where you (and your employees) Fit.

There is no other career theory of success that is more well-documented than “Fit”.  If you have “fit”, it protects you against failure and guarantees you success.

“Knowing where one belongs can transform an ordinary person -hardworking and competent but otherwise mediocre- into an outstanding performer.”  [1]

If you have this one factor in your life, you will be successful.  In fact, it will help you grow fuller heads of hair, increase your IQ, and make ecstasy happen without drugs.  You will sing on key in the shower, and never have to argue with spellcheck again.

The Pivotal Study That Showed the Ideal Work Environment (& Changed Everything)

Harvard Business Review[2] conducted a study to determine what created professional success.

After studying 360,000 employed people (Wow!  Almost half a million!), for 19 years, across 14 industries, and several continents, the researchers factored success down to only one variable.  Are you curious about THE number one secret of life, professional, and business success?  Drum roll.

But wait.  First, let me tell you all of the factors examined.  The researchers looked at race, gender, education, experience, and Earning Environment Fit.  We already know that race and gender don’t matter, but we often think that education and experience do.  But none of those factors was the key.

Nothing could be entered into evidence as relevant for your success—financial and otherwise–except one thing:  a Fit with your niche.  The entire study was encapsulated in these words: “Success hinges on the Fit”[2].

If who and what you are Fits who and what the job requires, you will succeed.  If not, you won’t.  It’s that simple.  Being in the professional place that “Fits you” propels you toward spectacular success. (And yes, education and experience do matter—IF they are within Fit.)

The Ideal Work Environment:  One Where You Fit 

Though that study was done years ago, professional Fit was first proposed even earlier in the twentieth century by Frank Parsons [3] .  Parsons was an engineer trained at Cornell [3] doing community work, certainly an unlikely beginning for someone who was ultimately to be called the Father of Vocational Guidance.

Parsons knew that anyone could bring home the bread, the bacon, the dollar, yen or thex, if you had Fit.  Parsons became the director of the “The Breadwinner’s Institute” [3] where he initiated a program that ultimately became the first niche program at Harvard—all based on the premise of Fit [4].

Research tells us specifically that when you are in “fit,” you will have 22 different benefits and avoid 11 different pitfalls.  In the following chapters, I will examine these benefits and liabilities and show you the timeless principle of fit.

Professional Fit still prevails today as the most popular, useful, and most heavily researched niche theory of all time.  Fit is the ultimate synergy.  The Ultimate Profit Center.  The greatest point of leverage.  The Optimum confluence of your uniqueness and the uniqueness of the opportunity of your time

Researchers have continued to validate the importance of Niche Fit in study after study that is so numerous it would take another book just to cite them all.  They all validate a secret that you instinctively know:  You will do better in a niche where you Fit.

Protect Yourself Against Failure: 11 Consequences of Not Being in “Fit”

You never change things by fighting the existing reality.  To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ― Buckminster Fuller

Yes, professional Fit creates many beneFits; and lack of professional Fit creates many problems. Can you put square pegs in round holes?  Yes.  With a big enough hammer.  But it literally “smashes” people’s personality, abilities, and “spirit.”  Let’s look at the liabilities of smashing.

1. Without Niche Fit, You Are More Likely to Be Fired!

Within eighteen months of starting new jobs, four out of ten newly promoted managers and executives fail[5]. “Failing” means they were actually being terminated for performance, were performing significantly below expectations, or voluntarily resigning from the new position.  And the Number One reason for firing?  Seventy-five percent of those ousted cited failure to establish a cultural Fit as the reason[5].  Wait, there’s more.  Or less.

Without “Fit”, you are more likely to experience the following:

2. Dissatisfaction [6];

3. Niche Instability [6]

4. Poor Performance [6]

5. Burn-out  [7];

6. Anxiety [7];

7. Accidents  [7]; and

8. Stress [8].

9. Without Niche Fit, You Will Be Misemployed

Speaking to a group of managers (and hopefully encouraging them to recognize the importance of Fit in their workplace), I shared this statistic with them:  70% of Americans are misemployed [9].  One manager cupped his hands around his mouth and boomed from the back of the room, “Yeah, and they blame me for it!”  Everyone laughed (including me).

But rather than placing blame, let’s explore the problem and then offer a solution.  Being misemployed doesn’t mean you are a failure; it simply means you are not performing in your optimum Fit—to use Dr. Greenberg’s words, you are “not doing work maximally suited to who you are.” [9]

This is particularly an issue with younger workers who face around 15% unemployment[10].  “While the media constantly mentions the underemployed, the main problem for young people is that they’re misemployed”.  “The real question is, ‘What kind of jobs do the other 85% have?’”[10].  Unfortunately, especially the young do not have niches that Fit.  Misemployment reduces your productivity and can lead to another serious problem—disengagement.

10. Without Niche Fit, You Will Be Disengaged with Your Work

Over seventy percent of U.S. employees are disengaged from their work according to a survey by the Gallup Organization[11].  Specifically, fifty-two percent of employees are not engaged and nineteen percent are aggressively disengaged[12].  Pretty scary!  Aggressively disengaged?  I think that means bad work, bad attitude, and spreading bad vibes throughout the entire workplace.

And the worst part about the survey was that it was the companies most educated and experienced workers who were more disengaged.

This disengagement leads to lower productivity, more absenteeism, and higher turnover.  The recommendation?  The way to avoid disengagement is to have “Managers focus on talent and assign their employees to jobs that play to their strengths…”[11].  Put workers where they Fit!

 

If you are one of those disengaged workers, do not allow your job dissatisfaction to go unresolved for long.  According to Dawis [13] job disengagement may lead to job loss, accidents, and even mental illness.  Depression, anxiety, worry, tension, and interpersonal problems can result from, or be made worse, by niche dissatisfaction.

As a case study, by creating Fit (and thereby engagement), Best Buy found a 1% increase in engagement resulting in 100,000 increase in gross store profit (and of course, more happiness for the employees).  [13]

11. Without Niche Fit, You Will Experience More Effort, Less Reward!

Being out of your Fit, you will generally find that it takes more effort to work in that field or profession[14].  Siegrist [15] studied high-effort, low-reward environments and found people in them can often experience adverse health effects.  “High effort” and “low reward” can often be defined quite subjectively, depending on your Fit with the task.  When you are out of “Fit,” you will find yourself in a place where the Effort-Reward balance is tipped in the wrong direction.

These eleven consequences to not fitting are only a sample.  If you are feeling discouraged, hope awaits.  There are many more than eleven benefits to fitting—at a minimum:  24!

 24 Benefits of Being in Your Fit (Your Ideal Work Environment)

“Follow the grain in your own wood.”  –Howard Thurman,  influential African-American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader.

Get More Satisfaction Now!

The positive findings of Fit are both exhilarating and amazing.  Research confirms that the amount of satisfaction we get from our jobs translates to the amount of satisfaction we feel with our lives in general [16]. In fact, work satisfaction was found to be the best predictor of how long you live– better than a doctor’s rating of physical functioning, use of tobacco, or genetic inheritance [13]. Should I keep going?  Let’s do.  The beneFits of Fit are massive.

People with a good Niche Fit can be characterized as exhibiting certain features.  They are:

1. More satisfied with their jobs [17-20], [21];

2. Make better niche choices [22];

3. Achieve more [17-20];

4. Socialize better with others on the job [23];

5. Integrate better with the culture at work [22];

6. Feel greater harmony in their work lives [23];

7. Adjust better personally [21, 22]

8. Adjust better professionally [21, 22]

9. Enjoy greater job stability [17-20];

10. Plan more [22];

11. Set more goals [22];

12. More committed to their work  [21]

13. Happier in life as a whole [23].

Fit makes you happier!  Do you hear the birds singing yet?  But wait.  There’s more.

The beneFits of Fit I just mentioned are proven through research, but there are some other beneFits as well that I have personally observed.

14. You feel understood. Everyone has a need to feel understood.  When you are “in your element” and surrounded by other people who think like you, talk like you, and act like you (Oh, mercy, help us!), it goes a long way to feeling understood.  Fit researchers call this “Supplementary Congruence” [24].

15. You excel with the least amount of effort. Though everything requires hard work, sacrifice, and long hours to obtain mastery, when you are in your “Fit,” mastery comes comparatively easy to you.  This is the reverse condition of the High Effort/Low Reward I mentioned previously.

16. You can achieve the exalted state of flow. This is where time passes and you are so absorbed in your work, you forget about the time.  Flow can often lead to peak experiences.  And “peak experiences,” according to Abraham Maslow, can do the same thing as psychotherapy.  Wow!

17. You appreciate and know you. Truly grasping your uniqueness is empowering.  You have never been replicated and never will be.  Understanding your uniqueness is the first step in finding your Fit.

18. Furthermore, the more you know yourself, the easier is it to sell yourself. Let’s say you are selling XLP machine and it does all kinds of magical, wonderful things, but when the person you are trying to sell it to asks you, “What is magical about this?”  you can’t answer with specifics.  Confidence comes from knowing yourself well and then being able to sell your uniqueness.

19. You appreciate the uniqueness of others. Honoring others and their talents is a wonderful byproduct of Fit. Fit helps you realize where you are not suited.  You take notice of others and how their special talents, abilities, and personalities Fit where yours do not.  Instead of trying to make everyone over in your image, you look for the distinctiveness of others.  When you see others and their talents through the prism of Fit, you appreciate their differences and unique abilities to contribute.

20. You know how to team with others. This beneFit is closely aligned with the previous one.  When there is Complementary Fit, neither person is diminished by her lack of talent in the other’s gifted area or specialty.  One person doesn’t have all the needed ingredients for the long-term prosperity of an entity [25] so when complementary talents and gifts are positioned in the right Fit, it is a beneFit to everyone [26].

21. You can impersonalize “failures” in your work history. Internalizing these failures, people often allow negative job experiences to demoralize them, lowering their confidence, their self-esteem, and their motivation to find better employment options.  Once you can correctly diagnose past problems as a Fit issue, it can be very freeing.

22. You are rewarded for your strengths, rather than punished for them when you are in Fit. This creates a positive cycle.  In a positive cycle, you express yourself and are rewarded for this behavior.  The reward enhances the likelihood that you will express yourself more and receive more positive reinforcement.  The synergy between expressing yourself and receiving rewards develops confidence in one’s strengths.

23. Fit helps you focus your niche discovery. When you are searching for the right niche, you can spend a lot of energy in the wrong direction if you don’t identify your “Fit.”  This defocuses your efforts and doesn’t yield positive results.  Maybe the reason you are not in the niche of your dreams is because you are not seeking Fit.  Companies do “behavioral interviewing,” asking individuals to give an actual instance that shows when you demonstrated the trait you are certain you have and they need. Matching that question of your specific trait with the desired niche and then selling it as Fit can yield powerful results.

24. And finally, you make more income. Since excelling feels “natural,” your success brings with it well-deserved increased levels of financial well-being.

Fit Equals Success and Satisfaction

Some researchers boldly and simply stated: “If the uniqueness of the individual finds congruency [or Fit] with the uniqueness of your niche, …….success and satisfaction will follow” [3, p. 47].   According to another, “level of congruence=level of well-being” [7, p. 219]. “Niche” is defined by Webster as an “especially suitable position.”  The most suitable position is one of Fit.  The niche you are in right now may not necessarily be a bad one, but rather an “unsuitable” one– that simply doesn’t Fit.

In a good-Fit environment, your competency, achievement, and rewards are based on the display of your innate tendencies.  In essence, a good-Fit environment rewards you for being who and what you are.  Fit is the unique intersection of passion, proFit, and purpose.  It is the place where you feel most alive, most contributing, and most “on purpose.”

“Fit” Applied to Entrepreneurial Success

Successful entrepreneurship involves Fit on many levels.  Experts argue which Fit is most important, but they all agree that success involves Fit.

Founder-Market Fit:  Brad Feld [27] posits that the most important Fit—especially for first-time entrepreneurs—is what he calls “founder-market” Fit.  His cites many years of observations.  He has observed many would-be entrepreneurs with lots of passion bump around in their chosen space, ultimately arriving at the right Fit for them.  In doing so, they find success.  Founder-market Fit is about finding a business that Fits your interests, passion, skills, and experiences.

Product-Market Fit:  Conversely, others say that the secret to creating a successful business is to find a need and fill it—very precisely.  This Fit is called product/market Fit.  Marc Andressen wrote in his blog “…the life of any startup can be divided into two parts—before product/market Fit and after product/market Fit” [28].

Andreesen believes in this concept so strongly for start-ups, he goes on to say this: “When you are BPMF, focus obsessively on getting to product/market Fit. Do whatever is required to get to product/market Fit. Including changing out people, rewriting your product, moving into a different market, telling customers no when you don’t want to, telling customers yes when you don’t want to, raising that fourth round of highly dilutive venture capital — whatever is required” [28].

And a third entrepreneurial Fit is spoken of by no less than Peter Drucker.

Marketing Fit: Peter Drucker, the giant among giants in understanding business, said this:

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service Fits her and sells itself” [29]. Marketing is about communicating the Fit through a precise knowledge of communication and your customer.

An entrepreneur has much more latitude to tweak the Fit process than does an employee.  Founder Fit, product-market Fit, and marketing Fit is argued for which is preeminent.  But no one argues that Fit doesn’t matter when creating your Ideal Work Environment.  Neither should you.

References:

  1. Drucker, P.F., Managing oneself. Harvard Business Review, 1999. 77(2): p. 64-75.
  2. Greenberg, H. and J. Greenberg, Job matching for better sales performance. Harvard Business Review, 1980. 58(5): p. 128-133.
  3. Zunker, V.G., Career counseling Applied concepts of life planning. 6 ed. Vol. 1. 2002, Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole. 668.
  4. Schmidt, J.J., Counseling in schools: essential services and comprehensive programs. 4th ed. 2003, Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
  5. Lublin, J.S., Why 40% of Executives in New Positions Fail, in The Wall Street Journal. 2003.
  6. Holland, J.L., Exploring Careers With a Typology: What We Have Learned and Some New Directions. American Psychologist, 1996. 51(4): p. 397-406.
  7. Meir, E.I., Integrative elaboration of the congruence theory. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 1989. 35: p. 219-230.
  8. Cluskey, G.R., Jr., Accounting position misfit, occupational job stressors, stress, and job strains on management accountants. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities & Social Sciences, 1995. 56(3-A): p. 1009.
  9. Greenberg, H., How Many of Your Employees Are Misemployed? And how can you prevent it in the future?, in Training Magazine. 2011.
  10. Vuk, V., Misemployed vs. Underemployed, in Casey Daily Dispatch, D. Galland, Editor. 2010.
  11. Learning and Growing on the Job?, in The Wall Street Journal. 2007.
  12. Blacksmith, N. and J. Harter, Majority of American Workers Not Engaged in Their Jobs: Highly educated and middle-aged employees among the least likely to be engaged, in Gallup Wellbeing. 2011, Gallup: Washington, D.C.
  13. Davenport, T.H., J. Harris, and J. Shapiro, Competing on Talent Analytics. Harvard Business Review, 2010.
  14. Dawis, R.V., Job satisfaction, in Encyclopedia of career change and work issues, L.K. Jones, Editor. 1992, The Oryx Press: Phoenix. p. 142-143.
  15. Spokane, A.R., E.J. Luchetta, and M.H. Richwine, Holland’s Theory of Personalities in Work Environments, in Career Choice and Development, D.B. Associates, Editor. 2002, Jossey-Bass: San Francisco. p. 373-426.
  16. Siegrist, J., Adverse health effects of high-effort/low-reward conditions. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 1996. 1(1): p. pp. 27-41.
  17. Judge, T.A. and S. Watanabe, Another look at the job satisfaction-life satisfaction relationship. Journal of Applied Psychology, 1993. 78: p. 939-948.
  18. Dawis, R.V. and L.H. Lofquist, A psychological theory of work adjustment: An individual differences model and its application. 1984, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  19. Spokane, A.R., Conceptual and methodological issues in person-environment fit research. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 1987. 31: p. 217-221.
  20. Holland, J.L., Making vocational choices: A theory of careers. 1985, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
  21. Holland, J.L., Making vocational choices: A theory of vocational personalities and work environments, in Making vocational choices: A theory of careers. 1997, Psychological Assessment Resources.(1985a),: Odessa, FL.
  22. Schneider, B., When individual differences aren’t, in Individual differences and behavior in organizations, K.R. Murphy, Editor. 1996, Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.
  23. Walsh, W.B. and J.L. Holland, A theory of personality types and work environments, in Person-environment psychology: Models and perspectives, W.B. Walsh, K.H. Craik, and H. Price, Editors. 1992, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Hillsdale, NJ. p. 35-70.
  24. Person-Environment Psychology: New Directives and Perspectives. 2nd ed, ed. B.W. Walsh, K.H. Craik, and R.H. Price. 2000, Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  25. Muchinsky, P.M. and C.J. Monahan, What is person-environment congruence? Supplementary vs. complementary models of fit. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 1987. 31: p. 268-277.
  26. Hense, P.A., Dissimilar talents yield solid results, in Grand Rapids Business Journal. 1996: Grand Rapids. p. 14.
  27. Kristof, A.L., Person-organization fit: An integrative review of its conceptualizations, measurement, and implications. Personnel Psychology, 1996. 49: p. 1-49.
  28. Feld, B., Founder Market Fit, in Feld Thoughts. 2012.
  29. The Pmarca Guide to Startups, part 4: The only thing that matters. 2007.
  30. Peter Drucker Quotes. The Happy Manager [cited 2013 1/7]; Available from: http://www.the-happy-manager.com/tips/peter-drucker-quotes/

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