Misfits in organisations

I would like to investigate what makes somebody feel like a misfit in the environment in which they work and/or with certain people, of groups of people or situations so that I can progress on my PhD thesis ‘what are the characteristics of organisational misfit’. What better than talk with people who have the experience of such situations.

We know how good it feels to fit in with our work environment, with the way that systems are run, with the values of the organisation, and most importantly to fit in well with the people we work with as colleagues or managers. Good fit brings with it many positive outcomes for the organisation, such as increased productivity, commitment and flexibility, with people ‘going the extra mile’ for the benefit of everyone. For us as employees, we enjoy a level of job satisfaction, happiness and mental well-being, as we experience a matching of what we hold as important going on around us and reflected back by the people we interact with. The need to fit in and to feel that we belong is in our basic human nature and we will go to great lengths to maintain that state.

We understand quite a lot about organisational fit, how it is achieved and the outcomes that can be achieved but we don’t know what happens when people feel that they don’t fit in.  Is this ‘misfit’ the opposite of fit, what are the feelings experienced and what are the outcomes? We just don’t know

Will you help? To discuss what you think misfit is, either as a personal experience or because you see it in others?

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One Response to Misfits in organisations

  1. spjewell says:

    There has been only one time in my life when I have felt like a misfit and it wasn’t good. I left the firm.
    There was a particular event with a particular person that triggered this feeling for me to the extent that other people noticed that there was something going on. Let me first give you an overview of the time frame, my work history and what was going on in the company at that time.
    In 1990 the company had split itself into two parts. The textile business – fibre manufacturing and clothing (useful to point out that this was the start of the times in which manufacture and clothing was moving to South East Asia and China) and chemicals. The chemical business was where the main profits came from
    By the time of the mid 1990s, I had already worked for 20 years in what was a successful textile company, based in the Midlands. I was a naturally hard working guy (it is in my psyche). I had spent many years flying around the world on company business with long times away from my family. As a result of this distance, my first marriage failed. At that time in the organisation, because of the global recession the company was rationalizing and cost cutting and moving from textiles into paint. There were two business areas, 1. was the textile division where I worked and 2, the paint division (chemicals). The image of the textile business was that it was a department made up of hairy arsed Northerners such as myself (although I am from the south I have a Phd in chemistry form Hull), and 2, the new technology driven paint division populated by a posh guys from independent schools all motivated by sales – this department was more about marketing paint products than anything else.
    Now, moving on to the details of my past in the organisation there was a training department covering 2 aspects. The first one that I was in charge of was training for the ‘hard’ operations function and number 2 was delivering on training of the softer skills, covering things such as communication, teamwork and management skills. This was headed by an American guy sent over from the parent company in the USA.
    I am a friendly guy and offered the American guy, new to the UK and in this firm’s culture a helping hand. This help was never reciprocated. We did however get on okay. The guy in charge of all of the training was ineffectual and was replaced with a new guy, someone I already knew and got on well with. The new guy 1 however, didn’t get on well with the American and made life somewhat difficult him. I noticed this and felt bad about it but I didn’t know what I could do for him at that time.
    During the mid-1990s because the UK was in recession, there were many people coming and going within the firm as it restructured the management layers and different departments. The new guy number 1 was moved on to somewhere else in the organisation. New guy number 2 came in and it became clear right from the beginning that he had not got on with the previous guy, new guy number 1 and expressed this dislike by taking it out on me. The American guy was clearly favoured by the new boss number 2. The new guy number 2 expressed his dislike of me by physically avoiding me, keeping me out of meetings, and keeping me out of everything. I was side-lined. The new guy was nasty and sarcastic. He only said negative things about me and to me. I just was not prepared for, or had previously encountered such a horrible personality. I received no help or support from the now favoured American guy.
    I felt ostracised and almost became ill over the way I was treated. My coping mechanisms included going for a walk, going for a drive, escaping mentally and physically whenever I could. My new behaviours were noticed by others around me.
    I stood this new guy’s mistreatment for sixth months, at which point I was offered a good financial package to leave. I took it

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