Person-environment fit (PE fit) is a conceptual derivative of person-environment interaction models in interactional psychology. Although often referred to as PE fit theory, there is no one defining theory of fit. From early conceptual writings on people being best suited for particular environments, the research on PE fit in work environments has grown to include a wide variety of conceptualizations of what it means to fit, and to what aspects of the environment does one fit “with.” Fit is generally defined by some form of congruence or match between the person and the environment. This match revolves around two basic themes: the meeting of individual needs by the supplies provided in the environment, and the demands of the environment being met by the abilities of the individual. Within the domain of PE fit, more-specific types of fit, including person-organization (PO) fit, person-job (PJ) fit, person-group (PG) fit, and person-person (PP) fit, have evolved. Although person-environment interaction models are articulated as dynamic interactions, with the person and environment mutually influencing each other over time, studies of PE fit most often capture a snapshot of fit at one point in time. The tendency toward PE fit is a naturally occurring phenomenon, leading individuals to seek environments in which they fit, and leading organizations to attract, hire, and retain people who fit. When fit declines into misfit, individuals are highly motivated to restore the balance. PE fit is generally supported as having positive consequences for individuals, including more-positive work-related attitudes, reduced stress and strain, higher performance, and lower likelihood of turnover. Its consequences at higher levels of analysis, such as workgroups or organizations, are less well understood.
A number of useful overviews have been published that cover the topic of PE fit. Edwards 2008 provides the most comprehensive review of PE fit theories, critiquing and comparing their progression through the years. Two handbook chapters, Ostroff 2012 and Kristof-Brown and Guay 2011, provide overviews of the empirical research most closely associated with PE fit; both are comprehensive reviews that explain the complexities of the various approaches to PE fit. Two edited books have been published on PE fit. The first, Ostroff and Judge 2007, contains several chapters that provide in-depth overviews of existing research and research methods in PE fit. The second, Kristof-Brown and Billsberry 2013, contains chapters from scholars in North America, Asia, and Europe that emphasize new directions for the study of PE fit. The proliferation of PE fit studies, however, has not been without reproach. Harrison 2007, a critical chapter, reprimands scholars of fit for becoming imprecise in their conceptualizations and for including too wide a range of ideas within the purview of PE fit research. The author recommends adopting a more narrow definition of precise match between commensurate P and E dimensions, which dictates particular methods for measurement and analysis, to advance PE fit research.
Edwards, Jeffrey R. “Person-Environment Fit in Organizations: An Assessment of Theoretical Progress.” Academy of Management Annals 2.1 (2008): 167–230.
A comprehensive review of related theories from 1900 to 2010, including discrepancy theories of job satisfaction and theories of strain and adjustment, as well as PE fit theories. Edwards evaluates each relative to criteria for strong theories and concludes that PE fit has not made significant theoretical progress over time.
Harrison, David A. “Pitching Fits in Applied Psychological Research: Making Fit Methods Fit Theory.” In Perspectives on Organizational Fit. Edited by Cheri Ostroff and Timothy A. Judge, 389–416. Organizational Frontiers. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2007.
Critical review of PE fit theory and methods. Concludes that fit has been defined too broadly, and recommends a tighter definition of PE that is the compatibility of joint values of one or more attributes of a focal entity and a commensurate set of values of the environment.
Kristof-Brown, Amy L., and Jon Billsberry, eds. Organizational Fit: Key Issues and New Directions. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.
A collection of chapters by scholars from around the world, offering a wider range of epistemological views than is typically presented. Chapters emphasize cognitive processes and motivation for fit, as well as new areas for research, such as time, focus of comparisons, and cultural context of fit.
Kristof-Brown, Amy L., and Russell P. Guay. “Person-Environment Fit.” In APA Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Vol. 3, Maintaining, Expanding, and Contracting the Organization. Edited by Sheldon Zedeck, 3–50. Handbooks in Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2011.
A comprehensive review of the various definitions, conceptualizations, and measurement approaches to PE fit research. Particular emphasis is placed on summarizing meta-analytic findings regarding the relationship of person-organization (PO), person-job (PJ), person-group (PG), and person-person (PP) fit with individual-level outcomes such as job attitudes, stress and strain, turnover, and various types of performance.
Ostroff, Cheri. “Person-Environment Fit in Organizational Settings.” In The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Psychology. Vol. 1. Edited by Steve W. J. Kozlowski, 373–408. Oxford Library of Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
A review of the theoretical foundations, conceptualizations, measurement, and levels of analysis involved in PE fit research. Particular emphasis is given to the psychological principles underlying fit—fulfillment, similarity, and compilation. Areas of debate and ambiguity in the literature are highlighted, including commensurate measurement, fit perceptions, and misfit.
Ostroff, Cheri, and Timothy A. Judge, eds. Perspectives on Organizational Fit. Organizational Frontiers. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2007.
A compilation of chapters from some of the most widely published authors in the PE fit area. They review and critique existing work on PE fit, while connecting it to other areas such as human resource systems, organizational demography, selection, and socialization.
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