Cultural Misfit – Are You the One?

You may be able to do the job well. But if you are perceived to be a person who can’t get along with others at work, you just might be dismissed on account of being a cultural misfit.

Who is a misfit?

Whatever the interpretation may be, it is one of the crucial reasons why out of two similarly qualified or talented people, one might be selected and the other rejected at an interview.

Organisations have realised that merely hiring a person who can do the task may not be a bright idea because of a variety of reasons. One of the obvious reasons is when a person is joining an organisation, he/she is also joining its employees to further the cause of achieving the organisation’s goals, and it is hence imperative that the person is able to blend in with his/her peers and their way of functioning, to ensure smoother operations.

There is a conscious evaluation whether a candidate can fit into the organisation or not, especially in an environment such and where the structure is very flat and there is efficient internal as well as external communication, which is very important.

So we agree that the wavelength must be in sync. Also, a good cultural fit with a company can bring better opportunities for promotion, increased responsibility, and more income. Not fitting into a corporate culture can stall or derail a promising career. And a cultural misfit hurts the organisation as it shows up in employee performance and retention issues that affect productivity. ‘Hire attitude; teach skills’ is the simple rule company’s have started to follow. Skills can be taught, but an attitude (the kind we seek) is something that is inherent. That is why focusing only on whether a person can do a job well is not quite enough.


Culture attributes vary and are usually described with adjectives such as: tough, aggressive, lean, competitive, bureaucratic, rule bound, fun, playful, demanding, egalitarian, laidback, introverted, quixotic, unfocused, impulsive or risk-averse. Like people, corporate cultures are not the same, which enables all of us to find the best personal and organisational fit by ensuring that people are in tune with the organisation’s culture. Additionally, when a person is clued in with the overall organisational culture, he is very unlikely to quit; hence this could serve as a brilliant retention tool. When you keep hiring cultural fits, you build an organisation where all the people are aligned with goals, mission, vision and values. It is the kind of organisation where coming to work every morning is a pleasure, something the employees look forward to, and hence stay for longer.


How do things get done? What is the decision making style? How do they act on decisions? These answers can show cultural variations across different companies. The culture that is followed by an organisation directs the overall functioning of the firm, which is why companies in the same type of industry have similar cultures due to the product/service, market and regulatory demands. Managers look for people who can be a part of it, without attempting to alter it or feeling lost. A fairly easy, open, hierarchy free organisation where how well you do your job is respected more than what your level is. That kind of culture demands people who are a lot more secure about themselves.

Does the company accord preferential treatment to those at higher levels? Does it recognise and reward people? Is everyone included or do some groups and levels absorb a greater share of attention? These are important indicators of cultural progress (or stagnation) in an organisation.


The culture that is observed in any organisation is the basic fabric of that organisation and hiring an employee means weaving him/her into its way of life/work. A sheer mismatch of a candidate’s personality with that of the organisations’ could not only result in rejection but also make the hired feel lost and isolated, further pushing the importance for hiring cultural fits.

Every organisation has a set of unsaid rules. For example, the employment guide of a prominent Fortune 500 high-tech company touts flexible work hours and telecommuting as benefits to employees. What is not stated is that this is a driven culture with 12+ hour days and no time for vacations.


Your mode of dressing

Your way of speaking

Your attitude and behaviour

Your ability to work within the structure and get along with others

Your involvement in your organisation’s activities

Your willingness to go the extra mile