Every workplace has its own culture. Be it a hip start-up with chill-out tents and blackboard murals, or an accountancy firm where everyone wears suits and owns Audis, the culture in any given workplace is as distinctive as a fingerprint.
There's no such thing as a "one size fits all" work culture. Most of us will have worked in environments that don't fit our work personality; workplaces in which we feel stifled, or out of our depth, or just out of place.
Feeling out of place at work is a common occurrence, if findings from a new survey are anything to go by.
Human resource firm Robert Half interviewed 300 hiring managers across New Zealand; 78 per cent of them admitted to hiring an employee who wasn't the right fit for the role.
Megan Alexander is the general manager of Robert Half in New Zealand. She says that a lack of "cultural fit" is one of the main reasons for staff turnover and it's vital to have practices in the hiring process that identify an applicant's "cultural" compatibility.
Though she acknowledges the concept of "cultural fit" is somewhat intangible, she feels good hiring managers will have a sense who will align with their company's value, ethos and culture.
She has experienced cultural mismatch: "I remember walking into the reception of a company I was applying for a job at and thinking I was much too traditional for the culture of the place."
It's this type of gut instinct she encourages hiring managers to listen to when making decisions.
Though technical skills are often at the forefront when it comes to new hires (especially in an employment market with significant skills shortages), such skills shouldn't be the be all and end all in hiring decisions.
"Cultural fit needs to be at the forefront of the recruitment process," she says.
A person with the right "fit" and attitude will be able to learn the skills needed; if someone has all the right qualifications but not the cultural fit, this is almost impossible to change.
Alexander says hiring managers should focus on asking questions that provide insight into the candidates' working style.
It's a great idea to seek out references not just from immediate seniors, but co-workers and others in the firm they come from. It's also good to get a sense of what the candidate is interested in outside work; whether their passions seem to fit with the type of people who work in the job they are applying for.
If the hiring manager hasn't made the right decision and puts in place an employee who doesn't fit, it doesn't take long for the issues to emerge. The employee may shy away from socialising with colleagues, be resistant to collaborative work, or not get on well with others in their team.
Almost half (42 per cent) of the hiring managers who said they'd hired someone who didn't fit it said the new hire wasn't able to work collaboratively. Lack of team spirit was evident in 35 per cent of the hires who "didn't fit in", and 33 per cent didn't get on with their co-workers. An astonishing 39 per cent said the person who didn't fit ended up leaving the role, of their own volition, or at the insistence of the company.
People in a workplace where they feel they don't fit in often stay longer than they should because they are concerned about how a short stint will look on their CV.
But toughing it out has significant drawbacks.
"If someone has been in a job three or six months and they are just staying because they are worried about what future employers may think, they can end up becoming more disillusioned, unmotivated, and start performing poorly," says Alexander. "The results are far worse than making a decision to leave early on when you identify you're not the right fit for the job."
She recommends the honest approach when it comes to future employment opportunities.
"If someone explains to a hiring manager that they decided to leave a role because it wasn't the right fit for them, it's likely that this honesty will be appreciated," says Alexander.
"Being upfront and honest with a new employer is definitely the best policy."
She has a simple message for hiring managers who want to make the right decision — trust your instinct.
"Hunches shouldn't be ignored.
"If hiring managers think there's something about a candidate's response that raises a red flag, it is a good idea to pursue further investigation before making a decision."