Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

The Flip Side of Holland Type Congruence: Incongruence and Job Satisfaction

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

The Flip Side of Holland Type Congruence: Incongruence and Job Satisfaction

Article excerpt

This study examined the relationship between Holland type (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional; Holland, 1959, 1997) congruence and incongruence (i.e., lack of fit between an occupation's 3-letter Holland code and a person's lowest 3 Holland interest types) and tested whether incongruence predicts unique variance in satisfaction beyond congruence. Results from an employee sample suggest that incongruence and congruence are distinct constructs (in that they correlated r = -.32) and that beyond congruence, incongruence did not predict variance in overall or intrinsic job satisfaction. Counselors are urged to assess both congruence and incongruence, but to focus on helping clients to identify best-fitting occupations when possible, rather than to merely avoid incongruent occupations.

The influence of Holland's (1959, 1997) theory of vocational types (i.e., Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional [RIASEC]) in career development is unparalleled; it remains the most heavily researched and widely applied career theory in history (Swanson Sc Gore, 2000). Often, counselors apply the theory to address clients1 career choice concerns by having them complete an interest inventory, establishing a Holland code (typically three letters in length) from their highest scores, and helping identify' occupations with codes that offer high levels of congruence with the client's code. These steps assume the support of Holland's congruence hypothesis, which holds that the degree of fit between a person's interests and the work environment's interest type predicts work-related outcomes such as job satisfaction. However, research on the congruence hypothesis has yielded mixed results (Assouline & Meir, 1987; Tranberg, Slane, & Ekeberg, 1993; Tsabari, Tziner, & Meir, 2005); correlations between congruence and job satisfaction are often small and rarely exceed .30 (Spokane, Meir, & Catalano, 2000), the magnitude conventionally considered to be of moderate strength for most applications in the social sciences (Cohen, 1988).

Researchers examining the congruence-satisfaction correlation typically have followed the same basic procedure undertaken by counselors: three-letter Holland codes are obtained for participants and for their reported occupations, congruence is calculated for each participant, and the correlation between congruence scores and criterion variable scores are examined. Some researchers (e.g., Gore & Brown, 2006) have suggested that methodological factors, such as the computational index used to calculate congruence or possible range restriction on both congruence and criterion variables, may suppress the congruence-outcome correlation. Another, currendy uninvestigated, possibility is that incongruence predicts incremental variance in outcomes beyond congruence. Incongruence, hypothesized to negatively predict outcomes, refers to the relative lack of fit between an occupation's code and a person's lowest interest types.

This incongruence method of conceptualizing fit is, plausibly, at least as salient a predictor of outcomes as is congruence. Individuals who work in environments with moderate levels of congruence may adjust their expectations of the interest-satisfying qualities of the job and still report high levels of satisfaction, as long as they are indifferent but not averse to their required tasks. For example, a woman with rank-ordered Holland types of AISRCE, resulting in a three-letter code of AIS (i.e., Artistic, Investigative, Social), may work in an occupation with a code of SEI (i.e., Social, Enterprising, Investigative). Her degree of congruence is not optimal because her strongest area of interest, Artistic, is presumably not satisfied by the occupation. It is possible that because her Social and Investigative interests are potentially satisfied by the occupation, she may conclude that this is a sufficient level of fit, provided she can pursue her Artistic interests in her leisure time and provided she is indifferent but not averse to Enterprising tasks. …

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