Testing a Multidimensional Theory of Person-Environment Fit

By Edwards, Julian A.; Billsberry, Jon | Journal of Managerial Issues, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Testing a Multidimensional Theory of Person-Environment Fit


Edwards, Julian A., Billsberry, Jon, Journal of Managerial Issues


This paper explores the multidimensionality of employees' fit. In particular, the aim of the present paper is to test the long-term temporal stage of the multidimensional model of Person-Environment (PE) fit advanced by Jansen and Kristof-Brown (2006) empirically.

The notion of multidimensional fit has emerged as a reaction to the difficulty that researchers have had pinning down the concept of fit. Whereas most people understand what being a "misfit" is like, e.g., not getting on with people, feeling like an outsider, a desire to leave the organization (Schneider, 1987) or looking for bolt holes in which to shelter from the storm (Van Vianen and Stoelhorst, 2007), they do not naturally have an understanding of what being a "fit" is (Billsberry et al., 2005). Researchers have had similar difficulties conceptualizing fit despite efforts to provide a definition of the term (Cable and Edwards, 2004; Harrison, 2007; Kristof, 1996; Ostroff and Schulte, 2007). This has resulted in considerable variation in the way that researchers conceptualize fit in their studies (Harrison, 2007). Consequently, "fit" is regularly termed an "elusive" concept and one that defies definition (Edwards and Shipp, 2007; Harrison, 2007; Jansen and Kristof-Brown, 2006; Judge and Ferris, 1992; Kristof, 1996; Rynes and Gerhart, 1990).

Deconstructed, Undeconstructed, and Reconstructed Fit

Management scholars have been interested in the interaction of workers and the environments they inhabit for over 100 years (Parsons, 1909; Schneider, 1987). This domain, which is called person-environment (PE) or organizational fit, has witnessed a large number of empirical studies and experiments, but researchers have struggled to define the "elusive criterion of fit" (Jansen and Kristof-Brown, 2006; Judge and Ferris, 1992). The problem is that both people and the environments they inhabit are multidimensional. These dimensions include "internal" factors such as personality, values, attitudes, skills, emotions, and goals, and "external" factors such as job requirements, expected behavior, organizational culture, pay structures, and collegiality. Researchers have been faced with the seemingly impossible problem of capturing all of the internal and external dimensions and mapping how they fit together to influence behavior. In short, there are many forms of fit (Edwards and Shipp, 2007), researchers do not know if all forms of fit have been identified (Billsberry et al., 2005), and it is not known how they all fit together (Jansen and Kristof-Brown, 2006).

As the task of identifying, capturing, and combining all of the various factors influencing fit is so massive, most studies have theorized a link between singular aspects of the person and the environment. Chatman (1991), for example, focused on values and showed that the congruence of individual and organizational values predicts job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and tenure. Turban and Keon (1993) found that people with a high need to achieve were more attracted to organizations that offered a merit-based reward structure (i.e., those that rewarded performance over seniority) than people with a low need to achieve. They also showed that people with low self-esteem were more attracted to decentralized organizational structures (and larger firms) than people with high self-esteem, thereby suggesting that people are attracted to organizations that mirror their personality. In addition to values and personality, other personal factors that have been explored include goals, interests, and attitudes.

But it is on the environmental side of the fit equation where most attention has been directed. For example, Caldwell and O'Reilly (1990) focused on Person-Job (PJ) fit and demonstrated that a fit can be identified between employees and the type of work and also with the skills they use. Other researchers considered the fit between people and their vocations (PV fit; Holland, 1985; Moos, 1987), their colleagues (variously called Person-Person, Person-People (PP), and Person-Individual fit; Graves and Powell, 1995), their work groups (PG; Adkins et al.

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