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What Is Person-Environment Fit: Figuring Out What Your Ideal Workplace Is

Tue Jan 24 2023

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What makes the difference between a job you enjoy and a job you dread? There are lots of factors that can contribute to making a job less ideal, but one major factor to consider is something called the Person-Environment fit. Not taking a workplace’s environment into account can have major consequences on a person’s satisfaction at work and general well-being! The key question is: how does someone know what their ideal workplace is?

In this article, first we’ll discuss what the concept of person-environment fit is all about, and then we’ll give practical strategies for anyone trying to figure out where they’d feel best working.

Breaking Down the Theory of Person-Environment Fit:

The concept of person-environment fit has been around for a long time. The first theory is often credited to Parsons (1909), who proposed a model on how to choose your work based on the match between your personal characteristics and environmental characteristics. Since then, it’s been researched extensively by scholars in the fields of vocational psychology and organizational psychology with tons of distinct conceptualizations, as psychology research usually has.

Person-Environment is typically broken down into how well someone fits in four different areas1:

  1. Person-Vocation Fit
  2. Person-Job Fit
  3. Person-Organization Fit
  4. Person-Group Fit

To keep things simple, we’re going to focus only on Person-Organization Fit and Person-Group Fit, in other words, how well a person fits with the company itself and its coworkers.

What Exactly Is Meant By “Fit”?

There are two kinds of ways that fit has been conceptualized by researchers2:

  • Supplementary Fit- this is when there is an actual match in terms of similarity. For example, if your company values integrity and sustainability as much as you do.

  • Complementary Fit - this is when a person’s characteristics fill in a gap in the workplace, or their work fulfils a need of the person. For example, a job’s salary that is sufficient for a person’s financial needs, or a person’s leadership and interpersonal skills fill the company’s need for a team-lead.

What Characteristics Are Used to Determine Fit?

When thinking about supplementary fit, one might compare characteristics between a person and their organization or the team to see if they’re similar. On the other hand, when thinking about complementary fit, one would compare the resources and demands of the two parties being compared. In other words, is there a match between the resources one party has and the demands of the other?

These are the kinds of characteristics, resources, and demands that might be compared to determine Person-Environment Fit2:

Organization characteristics include:

  • Culture
  • Climate
  • Values
  • Goals
  • Norms

Group characteristics include:

  • Values
  • Goals
  • Personality

Person characteristics include:

  • Values
  • Goals
  • Personality
  • Attitude

Resources and demands can include:

  • Financial, physical, and psychological resources
  • Task-related, interpersonal, and growth opportunities
  • Time, effort, commitment, knowledge, skills, and abilities demands

What Does Person-Organization Fit and Person-Group Fit Look Like In Reality?

Sometimes it’s easier to wrap your head around concepts with realistic examples. Here are a couple fictional examples of Person-Environment Fit.

Here’s an example of what Person-Organization Fit can look like:

Sarah was hired as a Junior UX designer at a marketing firm. The company really values teamwork and will openly recognize and celebrate team accomplishments in monthly department meetings. When Sarah’s team is recognized for their latest impressive app design, she feels proud of herself and her coworkers. If they had only recognized her individual efforts, she would’ve felt uncomfortable getting credit since it was such a team effort.

In this example, we see supplementary fit. Both Sarah and the organization share a value for teamwork and collective recognition of success.

Here’s an example of what Person-Group Fit can look like:

Moe is part of a team of developers for a delivery-app company. Amongst his team-members, they openly communicate every day in their group chat, and it’s the norm to ask each other for help when they get stuck. He’s actually learned a lot just from seeing how others solved past problems, and really appreciates the open and friendly atmosphere of his team.

In this example, we see both supplementary fit and complementary fit. Moe and his team seem to share a value of having open communication. Each member of the team brings different resources to the team in terms of their abilities and knowledge. They complement each other in that when someone is struggling with something, another team-member who is more skilled in it can step in and help out.

Why Is Person-Environment Fit Important?

Generally speaking, better Person-Environment fit leads to positive outcomes for both individuals and their workplaces. A lot of recent research has found support for positive career outcomes from Person-Environment fit, like better work performance and improved psychological well-being.2

How to Figure Out What Your Ideal Workplace Might Be:

It’s impossible to be a perfect match in any job, to figure out everything about a workplace that could clash with you before accepting it, or even to know for sure what you prefer. Despite this, it’s still really important to take the time to consider what your ideal workplace could be and do a little research about the jobs you’re applying to. Here are some practical tips on how to do that:

Take some time for self-reflection: Remember, there are no right or wrong answers, and if you’re unsure about your answers that’s okay! It might help to think about past work or schoolwork experiences. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you value in your work?
  • What are you most interested in?
  • What knowledge, skills and abilities do you have to offer?
  • What knowledge, skills and abilities do you want to learn?
  • What aspects of a company would you prefer?
  • What kind of people would you prefer to work with?

Once you have some ideas about the kind of place or people you’d like to work with, it’s time to look for it in the real world! It might not be possible to find a workplace that fits you exactly, so try to prioritize the most important qualities of a job and start from there.

Do your research about companies: While searching for jobs listings, take some time to look into the company that posted it. Another approach could be to make a list of ideal companies you’d like to work at, even if they don’t have any current openings.

  • Check out company websites to see what they say about their workplace.
  • Check if there's anything about the company on
  • Try looking up what people have to say about the company on 3rd party forums.

Ask current employees: What better way to learn about a workplace than to ask someone who’s currently working there? Asking current employees is not only a good way to learn about a workplace, but also a great networking strategy.

  • See if you have any connections with employees there - maybe you both went to the same university, worked at the same company before, or share a common interest.
  • Try your hand at cold messaging!

Ask about it in the interview: If you end up applying for a job and get to the interview round, this is a perfect opportunity to get more information about the workplace. You can learn more about the company directly through your questions, as well as indirectly based on how their selection process and communication goes.

Launching Your Career in Tech:

Career planning can be hard to do all on your own. If you’re aspiring to start your career in tech but don’t really know where to start, a bootcamp might be just the thing! As a student or alumni of one of Code Lab Academy’s bootcamps, you have access to personalized career services. We can help you reflect on what your work values, skills, and interests are, as well as help you research jobs, network, and prepare for interviews.

Book a call with us to see which bootcamp would be best for you and how it can help you break into tech! We also host free workshops every month, ranging from popular topics in tech to practical career advice. Sign up for one today!

1 Guan, Y., Deng, H., Fan, L., & Zhou, X. (2021). Theorizing person-environment fit in a changing career world: Interdisciplinary Integration and Future Directions. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 126, 103557.
2 Kristof, A. L. (1996). Person-organization fit: An integrative review of its conceptualizations, measurement, and implications. Personnel Psychology, 49(1), 1-49.

By Bernarda DeOliveira

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