Do You Fit?


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Photo by Jonathan Cohen. Available at flikr.com.

It’s important that you “fit” in your organization. How do you know whether you fit? Do you get along with the people? Do you support the general direction of the company? Can you fully engage in the decision-making processes? Are you able to use your talents? These and other questions can help you discern how well you fit in your organization. A strong fit leads to fulfillment and success. Lack of fit leads to stress and burnout.

I’ve worked with hundreds of people at all levels of the organization over the past 20+ years. In that work, two general types of issues come up: business issues and people issues. Business issues include organizational strategy, decision making, the competitive environment, and foundational topics such as values, mission, and vision. Compared to people issues, these are easy to deal with. When people issues are the focus of conversation, we’re struggling with personnel performance, relationships, discipline, or any number of other things about beliefs, attitudes, and behavior. The fundamental question in people issues is how well that person fits in the organization. It is my firm belief that if our organizations were filled with well-fit people (and thus people issues minimized), our ability to deal with business issues would be greatly enhanced.

How, then, do you determine fit?

I’m sure you’ve all seen the children’s sorting toy that challenges the child with matching various shaped blocks to like-shaped holes in a panel. The square block goes in the square hole. The round peg goes in the round hole. The star goes into the star hole … and so on. If only determining fit in an organization were so easy. It’s not that easy, but a few basic concepts can break the issue down and make it understandable to most people.

Determination of fit starts with having a certain level self-awareness. You can’t know whether you belong somewhere if you do not first know who you are. There are many dimensions of self-awareness—too many to list here. However, the following four dimensions is a solid start to that discovery process.

Environment—Structured or Unstructured

Do you prefer structured or unstructured work environments? How much organization do you need in your work setting? Do you need high consistency, predictability, and certainty? Or, do you thrive in variety, spontaneity, and some level of chaos? It is more likely that you fit someone in between. None of these dimensions are an absolute either/or. They are a continuum.

Timing—Reactive or Proactive

Are you more productive when you are responding to problems that are presented to you? Or do you work better when you focus on anticipating issues and planning for them? Some people work well in environments where the focus is on existing issues. Others prefer to focus on getting ahead of the game and preventing issues. Which are you more like?

Mindset—Adoptive or Innovative

Some people are more comfortable using what is tried and tested. They prefer to let other people and organizations be the guinea pigs and to adopt what is already known to work well. Others want to be the first to come up with ideas or at least be the first to try something new.

Relationships—Professional or Familial

Finally, some people prefer work settings in which the relationships are more formal and perhaps even an “arms length” from one another. In these settings, trust is founded in professionalism. Others, though, like to work in a setting that is rather informal and the feeling is of one big family. Here, trust is founded in relationships.

   

Discerning where you fall on these dimensions is the first step in understanding your fit in an organization. Discerning where the organization falls on these dimensions is the second step. The greater the similarity between those two profiles, the more likely there is to be a fit. The greater the fit, the more likely it is that you are experiencing fulfillment and success in your work. If there is a significant lack of fit, you are more likely to be frustrated and heading toward burnout. If that’s you, it might be time to look for other work. Look for an organization where your fit will be better.

Of course, there are other factors influencing fit. The four dimensions above do not explain everything. I invite you to post your comments to suggest other important dimensions. There might even be some “trump cards” such as personal values you will not compromise or an organization’s mission that you cannot support.

What is your experience with fit? How do you know whether you fit in an organization? What are various clues that you do not fit?

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