Finding the right fit at work can be difficult. Some people get stuck in jobs that don’t quite mesh with their personality.
According to a study from Penn State Erie, helping those individuals find ways to approach their jobs in more meaningful ways can make a big difference. If employers allow them to better adapt to the job and the company culture, they may be able to prevent employees from growing to hate their jobs.
Maybe they value autonomy but their employer is highly bureaucratic. Maybe they’re in an industry that they don’t care for, but can’t afford to quit their job. These people, known as misfits, might still be putting in their hours and getting their job done, but they might not be getting much out of it, personally.
Misfits may not look or act different from other employees. “These might be people who are under-the-radar misfits,” says Ryan Vogel, an assistant professor of management at Penn State Erie and one of the authors of the study. “These are people who may, to others, be doing just fine but who show up to work every day and just feel out of place.”
Having a job that is personally fulfilling is important, and will most likely continue to be so moving into the century. For Millennials, personal satisfaction is a high priority while job hunting; they want to feel like they’re doing something that matters, or at least that they enjoy or feel comfortable doing.
Younger people getting ready to enter the workforce are likely going to share the same concerns.
One step employers can take to help give their employees’ work meaning is called job crafting. This allows workers to modify their jobs to better suit their interests and skills. Even things like minor procedure changes could benefit these misfits’ job engagement. It could also allow employees to work with colleagues who are more supportive of them as human beings.
From an employer’s point of view, finding people who fit well into existing company culture might seem like a good idea, but it can lead to stagnation, so having some misfits around might be a good thing.
This requires some work on the part of the employer too. They have to be at least somewhat flexible in the ways that they assign work or allow employees to complete tasks.
For some employees, it might simply be a matter of finding tasks for them to do that make their work meaningful. For others, it might be engaging in more leisure activities.
“While not hypothesized, the pattern of results further suggests that leisure activity not only mitigates the negative effect of value incongruence on job engagement, but could also positively impact job engagement for some misfits,” say the researchers.