Is fitting into an organization’s culture important?

Is fitting into an organization’s culture important?

I decided to write about this topic after Mr Nolan’s talk about Unilever’s culture. During Mr Nolan’s talk, he mentioned that Unilever is a company that focuses a lot on giving back to the society and the company looks for people who are interested in giving back to the society as well. Thus, one can infer that individual-organization fit is a criteria he uses when deciding whether or not to hire a certain individual. The importance of individual-organizational fit can be illustrated in the fact that many companies, not just Unilever, do look for people who they believe can fit well into their organization culture and hold the same values as their company.

One of the reasons why individual-organization fit is important can be explained by the attraction, selection and attrition (ASA) model. This model posits that (1) Individuals are attracted to organizations whose members are similar to themselves in terms of personality, values, interests, and other attributes; (2) Organizations are more likely to select those who possess knowledge, skills, and abilities similar to the ones their existing members possess; and (3) Those who do not fit in well are more likely to leave over time.

This model implies the importance of organizational fit to companies as those who do not fit in will leave. Thus, if companies do not hire people who fit into the company, turnover rates will likely be high as people are more likely to leave a company where they do not fit in. Gelfand et al. (2007) found that congruence between an individual’s values and the organization’s values predicted turnover. Individual-organization fit is also correlated to organization commitment (Kristof-Brown, Zimmerma & Johnson, 2005). Individuals who do not fit into an organization may feel less loyalty and attachment to a company and may be more likely to leave.

I was also curious as to whether the importance of organization fit may differ across cultures. While person-environment fit remains important across all culture, fit might be less important in developing countries such as Kenya where unemployment rates are high and strong norms suppress individual preferences (see Gelfand et al., 2007). In collectivistic cultures, fitting in with others in the organization may be more important as compared to individualistic cultures, thus individual-organization fit may be more important to collectivistic individuals.

Across different cultures, the idea of what constitute individual-organization fit may differ as well. Chaung, Hsu, Wang and Judge (2013) highlighted that Chinese employees’ idea of individual-organization fit differs from their Western counterparts – Chinese employees care about their competence at work, harmonious connections at work, cultivation and balance between work and family. Thus, HR policies should be culture-sensitive. For example, Chaung et al. (2013) suggests that since competence at work is a criterion that is used for Chinese employees to deem whether or not they fit into a workplace, they suggest that organizations should recognize employees who excel at their jobs and provide employees with feedback regarding their work.

Since we know how important organization fit is to companies, should it matter to us job seekers? I argue that yes, I think it is important. A meta-analysis by Kristof-Brown et al. (2005) found that individual-organization fit is correlated with job satisfaction and other outcomes such as organization satisfaction and negatively correlated with intention to quit and strain. However, I also recognize the fact that it may be difficult to ascertain what an organization’s culture truly is until one starts working at the company. Thus, one possible way of finding out about a company’s culture is talking to people who have worked at the company before or are currently working in the company to ascertain if the company is a company you wish to work for.


Chuang, A., Hsu, S., Wang, A. C., & Judge, T. (2013). DOES WEST” FIT” WITH EAST? IN SEARCH OF A CHINESE MODEL OF PERSON-ENVIRONMENT FIT. Academy of Management Journal, amj-2012.

Gelfand, M. J., Erez, M., & Aycan, Z. (2007). Cross-cultural organizational behavior. Annu. Rev. Psychol., 58, 479-514.


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