How to Help Your Misfit Employees Shine

Feeling out of place at the office can hurt productivity. A new study suggests a way for managers to solve the problem

Written by PROFIT Staff


Photo: Kagan McLeod

Every office has them: the colleagues who don’t quite fit in. But that doesn’t have to be a problem. A study published in the Academy of Management Journal finds you can help “misfits” by giving them more control over their duties, such as how or when they work.

Companies are increasingly obsessed with “culture fit,” seeking employees that jibe with the corporate culture or simply get along with their coworkers. But that ill-defined criterion can exclude capable candidates who simply don’t buy into a highly-social working environment. And it can lower the productivity of existing misfit workers. “For the individual, if you don’t fit in, it can be a bad work situation,” said Ryan Vogel, assistant professor of management at Pennsylvania State University—Erie, in a release. “You don’t feel like you belong, your work has less meaning, and you may have trouble maintaining performance in that workplace.”

He recommends “job crafting,” allowing employees to adapt their duties and responsibilities to their own interests and skills. Misfits who were given the freedom to make such changes were “significantly less likely to suffer low engagement and performance,” according to the release.

They still may not come to office karaoke, but they’ll be happier and more productive.


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