The workplace culture dilemma will not die. It is common wisdom that organizations that build a distinctive, positive work culture and hire employees who fit it do better. The problem is, however, that getting the match right is tough. Company cultures change over time, too. And so do people. The go-getter who once thrived in a high-pressure sales office may find his values shift after having children, for example.
This means there will always be some misfits at the office – people whose values do not jibe with the organization’s. Maybe you are one of them.
While most research shows you would likely be unhappy and less productive in a workplace where there is a culture mismatch, some surprisingly positive news shows otherwise. Turns out, you can be a cultural outsider but still enjoy your job.
Research on misfits published by Pennsylvania State University in the U.S. last year showed that employees who engaged in job crafting and leisure activities are able to protect themselves from the negative effects of culture clash. Moreover, many even felt satisfied and productive in their jobs. And their bosses agreed.
For the study, researchers surveyed 193 professionals across a range of industries and functions who had been at their companies for at least five years. They asked them questions about their culture values and about how they structure their work activities as well as their time outside working hours. They then sent questionnaires to the employees’ supervisors to gather data on the workers’ job performance and organizational citizenship.
Interestingly, they discovered when employees are able to adopt new approaches to their work tasks or change procedures to suit them (“job crafting”) and regularly engage in activities outside work, they demonstrate greater levels of job engagement and satisfaction and are perceived as being better citizens of their companies, meaning they routinely take on extra duties to help the company run smoothly.
Short Guide to Job Crafting
If you find yourself chafing against the values your organization holds dear, focus on redesigning your job to make it better fit your strengths and interests.
A job is essentially a collection of tasks and interpersonal relationships, so start by examining both of these carefully. What duties do you like the most? Which co-workers with whom you regularly engage most closely share your values? Getting clear on this will allow you to start tailoring your position to your needs, by, for instance, taking on extra tasks, shedding or delegating others. Research shows that even small changes – spending an extra 15 minutes a day mentoring younger employees, for example – can yield big happiness returns. It also shows nearly everyone, even in highly-structured companies, has some ability to shift priorities around to their benefit.
Ultimately, job crafting is about control. When you are able to bring your daily work more closely into alignment with your values, you are a better employee.
Hobbies for Balance
Work will not meet your every need, and in the case of misfits, it might not even meet most of them. Enter hobbies. And more research findings! A study done a few years ago on 400 workers revealed that when employees engage in creative activities outside work, it boosts their on-the-job productivity. People pursuing hobbies (broadly defined) were found to be better at bouncing back from workplace stress. They were also more helpful to colleagues and excelled at finding creative solutions at work, too.
This is because leisure activities increase the amount of time you spend doing things that bring enjoyment. They enable anyone to fulfill interests and act out their values in ways they might not be able to at work.
Even Zuck agrees, saying that Facebook looks at the hobbies of prospective employees as evidence of passion and leadership.
Kate Rodriguez is a freelance marketing copywriter based in Munich. She has over 20 years of professional experience in public and private organizations. A former international trade analyst for the U.S. government, she also worked as a university career coach, specializing in international career search. Most recently, she was employed at Experteer as a customer service agent and online marketing manager.