As far as buzz words go, cultural fit would rank fairly high. Unlike many other buzz words though, theres a reason for its popularity. Cultural fit actually matters. If you’ve ever worked for a company with a culture that didn’t mesh with your own, you’re already well aware of that. And if you’ve worked for any length of time, you probably already have. If you’re a manager and you’ve hired someone that didn’t fit the company culture, it has probably caused you no end of headaches.
Companies are like people. They have personalities. Like any relationship, it matters how a person’s personality interacts with the group’s personality. When the two are at odds, nobody is going to be happy with the clashes that arise as a result of it. That’s why everyone should ideally be looking for a good cultural fit whenever they look for a job or when they look for someone to fill a job.
Unfortunately, people don’t always have the luxury of waiting for the best place to work. Sometimes they just need to work and will take any job. In that situation, they’re trying to get a job, not looking for the perfect fit. The same is true of companies. Sometimes a position needs to be filled and the perfect candidate isn’t appearing. So, they find someone with enough skills, decide they’re good enough and both sides try to force it. That almost never works. You’re either a fit or you’re not.
Sometimes, employees get very angry because of the lack of cultural fit. They start to look at it as a deficiency of the company. Before we get much farther, we’re not talking about discrimination, mistreatment, ethical considerations, etc. Cultural fit could be affected by work approach, aggressiveness, openness, work-life balance, etc. The key is that every person is the hero of their own story. So, when they don’t fit in, it’s the company’s fault, not theirs. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. It’s a little bit of both during the interview process. It’s both sides’ duty to figure out if the fit is there. Often, it’s more the fault of the employee though. They usually have a better idea of the company’s culture than the company has about the employee’s personality. Once a person has the job, it’s usually more their fault because it’s much easier for an employee to quit, in most cases, than it is for a company to fire an employee.
While a lot of people wouldn’t agree, the best thing that can be done in the case of a lack of cultural fit is for the two parties to go their separate ways. How that happens depends on who is ending the relationship. The key is that, in the long run, trying to force the situation is bad for everyone involved. In some cases, having someone who is a poor fit can hurt every other member of the team. If the situation persists for long enough, other members of the team may leave as a result of the situation. Plus, it sours the employee towards work in general and let’s face it, most people will have to work for the majority of their lives. They can’t afford to take a bad attitude from job to job. That’s just going to make them a bad cultural fit almost anywhere they go.
So, if you’re looking for an employee, hire for the cultural fit over the skill level. At least if the person seems intelligent, passionate and eager to learn. If the person doesn’t fit the team, it won’t matter what their skill level is. Over time they will become more of a drain than a power source. If someone on your team fits that profile, it’s time for them to go before the whole situation deteriorates beyond repair. One person can’t be allowed to ruin the whole team dynamic.