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When person-organization
(mis)fit and (dis)satisfaction lead
to turnover
The moderating role of perceived job mobility

P-O misfit and



Anthony R. Wheeler
Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois, USA

Vickie Coleman Gallagher and Robyn L. Brouer

Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA, and

Chris J. Sablynski
California State University, Sacramento, California, USA
Purpose The present study examined the relationships between P-O fit, job satisfaction, perceived
job mobility, and intent to turnover. It was hypothesized that job satisfaction mediated the P-O
fit-intent to turnover relationship and that perceived job mobility moderated the job satisfaction-intent
to turnover relationship such that the combined effect of high job dissatisfaction and high perceived
job mobility predicted intent to turnover.
Design/methodology/approach Data were obtained utilizing a field survey from a sample of 205
full-time employed adults working in two geographic regions in the USA. Participants completed an
HTML-based web survey that contained measures of the constructs of interest to this study.
Findings Mediated and moderated regression analyses revealed statistical support for the
hypothesized relationships, which were interpreted as evidence that P-O misfit and job dissatisfaction
do not necessarily lead to intent to turnover.
Research limitations/implications The potential for common method variability was present in
the study, the impact of which could either attenuate or inflate estimated statistical relationships.
Practical implications While P-O fit researchers typically associate misfit with decreased job
satisfaction and increased turnover, the present research suggests that intervening variables, such as
job mobility, influence employee intentions to turnover.
Originality/value The phenomenon of misfit is understudied in larger context of P-O fit; thus this
research represents one of the first studies in this area of research.
Keywords Job mobility, Job satisfaction, Employee turnover
Paper type Research paper

The empirical findings and the advice to organizations are clear. Increase
person-organization (P-O) fit to increase job satisfaction and to decrease intent to
turnover, with the converse of those relationships being true, as well (Kristof-Brown
et al., 2005; Verquer et al., 2003). Perhaps no other construct studied in organizational
research has led so many scholars to draw the same conclusion and offer the same
advice. Indeed, from applying to the organization (Saks and Ashforth, 2002) to entering
The authors would like to thank Kenneth J. Harris and Laurence G. Weinzimmer for their
assistance and comments during the development of this manuscript.

Journal of Managerial Psychology

Vol. 22 No. 2, 2007
pp. 203-219
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/02683940710726447



into the organization (Judge et al., 2000) to socializing employees within the
organization (Cable and Parsons, 2001) to exiting the organization (Chatman, 1991),
P-O fit has been used to explain the fundamental psychological process underlying the
daily experiences of job applicants, employees, and employers. While nearly two
decades of research consistently support the beneficial outcomes associated with
increased P-O fit (c.f. Kristof, 1996; Verquer et al., 2003), thus creating the maxim stated
above, it is assumed that poor P-O fit necessarily leads to decreased job satisfaction
and thus leads to turnover (Wheeler et al., 2005).
There is good reason to believe the poor P-O fit dissatisfaction turnover
sequencing. Two recent meta-analyses provide support for both the P-O fit job
satisfaction and P-O fit turnover relationships. Verquer et al. (2003) conducted a
meta-analysis of 21 P-O fit studies, most of which measured both job satisfaction and
intent to turnover. They reported modest mean correlations between P-O fit and job
satisfaction and P-O fit and intent to turnover (r 0:25 and 2 0.18, respectively).
Moreover, they also reported that P-O fit predicted minimal explained variability in job
satisfaction and intent to turnover (mean R 2 0:06 and 0.03, respectively).
Kristof-Brown et al. (2005) conducted an expanded meta-analysis of the outcomes of
P-O fit and found stronger relationships between P-O fit job satisfaction and P-O fit
intent to turnover (mean r 0:44 and 2 0.35, respectively). However, they too
reported minimal explained variability of job satisfaction and intent to turnover (mean
R 2 0:09 and 0.07, respectively). So, while P-O fit and job satisfaction share a strong
positive relationship, the negative relationship between P-O fit and intent to turnover is
much weaker.
Three issues stand out with regards to these meta-analyses. First, P-O fit
researchers do not concurrently examine the P-O fit job satisfaction and P-O fit
intent to turnover relationships. That is, P-O fit researchers tend to examine the
independent effects of P-O fit on each outcome. Second, given that meta-analytic
summaries of the job satisfaction intent to turnover report strong negative
correlations (mean r 20:34 in Hellman, 1997; mean r 20:25 in Tett and Meyer,
1993), coupled with the strong positive correlations between P-O fit and job
satisfaction, we find it surprising that the P-O fit intent to turnover relationship is
not stronger. Third, to this point in the study of P-O fit and its commonly associated
outcomes, scant research addresses what individuals will do in the event of P-O misfit.
These three issues, we feel, can be attributed to the lack of a clear theoretical
framework that explains how P-O fit and job satisfaction trigger turnover intentions.
Wheeler et al. (2005) delineated a multidimensional theory of fit, and they relied on
Lee and Mitchells (1994) unfolding model of voluntary turnover to explain how the
assessment of P-O fit could lead to job satisfaction and subsequent turnover intentions.
Lee and Mitchell (1994) theorized that job dissatisfaction could indeed result in
turnover but that it was more likely that other factors would act as precursors to the
job dissatisfaction. Wheeler et al. (2005) suggested that the combination of job
dissatisfaction and P-O misfit would lead to turnover in so far as the individual
perceived viable job alternatives. That is, P-O misfit might indeed lead to job
dissatisfaction but unless a poor-fitting, dissatisfied individual believes that other
work opportunities exist, that individual will not leave his or her current position.
Empirically, however, the topic of P-O misfit has yet to receive examination, which is
the exact purpose of the present research.

The present research has four goals. First, we review the literature on the P-O fit[1]
job satisfaction intent to turnover relationship and apply Lee and Mitchells (1994)
unfolding model of voluntary turnover to explain the combined effects of P-O fit and
job satisfaction on intent to turnover. Second, drawing upon Wheeler et al.s (2005)
theory of multidimensional fit, we examine the moderating influence on perceived job
mobility on the P-O fit job satisfaction intent to turnover relationship. Third, we
empirically test our hypothesized relationships between these variables, which we
present in Figure 1. Finally, we discuss the implications of our model and our results.

P-O misfit and



Theoretical background, review of literature, and hypotheses development

Unfolding model of voluntary turnover
Lee and Mitchell (1994) proposed a novel job search theory called the unfolding model
of voluntary turnover (UMVT). Historically, turnover researchers viewed two
variables as key to understanding why employees voluntarily leave organizations: job
satisfaction and perceived job alternatives (Hulin et al., 1985). Mobley (1977) proposed
that job dissatisfaction led to a linear series of cognitive evaluations, starting with
initial thoughts of leaving the job followed by the comparison between the current job
and possible job alternatives, and ending with intentions to leave the organization. Lee
and Mitchell (1994) argued that while this linear decision-making process intuitively
appeals to many researchers, the equivocal empirical support for these types of models
suggests that voluntary turnover was more complex than previously thought.
However, the UMVT does not nullify the traditional models of turnover as much as it
incorporates and expands these models. Lee et al. (1996) summarize that factors other
than affect can initiate the turnover process, employees may or may not compare a
current job with alternatives, and a compatibility judgment . . . may be used (p. 6).
The UMVT is theoretically grounded in Beachs (1990) image theory. Image theory
describes the process of how individuals process information during decision-making.

Figure 1.
Hypothesized model of
relationships examined in



Beach argues that individuals seldom have the cognitive resources to systematically
evaluate all incoming information, so individuals instead simply and quickly compare
incoming information to more enduring heuristic-type decision-making alternatives.
Beach considered this comparative process a default or status quo decision-making
process. Lee and Mitchell (1994) reasoned that expected or unexpected dramatic events,
or shocks, to an individuals status quo decision-making process would lead to a series
of possible job search paths. Image theory asserts that these existing status quo
decision-making processes are context bound. That is, individuals possess mental
images that represent specific domains of their lives (e.g. work, family, friends, etc.)
that act as behavioral guides for specific environments (Mitchell and Beach, 1990). In
decision-making situations, where individuals will scan the environment for
information, these idiosyncratic images, which are akin to heuristics, are the default
behavioral guides to which all other alternative information is compared (Beach, 1990).
The key to understanding the UMVT centers on the fallout from experiencing a shock.
In essence, a shock can cause individuals to reassess existing idiosyncratic images,
which in some instances will cause image violation (Lee and Mitchell, 1994). That is, in
some cases, individuals can receive information that shocks the decision-making
process into abandoning existing images for newly created images. Lee and Mitchell
(1994) assert that job search is typically a function of shocks, which cause individuals
to scrap status quo reasoning (i.e. remaining with the current organization) in lieu of
alternative decision-making processes.
Lee and Mitchell (1994) identified four alternative decision-making paths by which
individuals can travel in the job search process. Path 1 begins with a shock, which
causes individuals to scan previous experiences for similarities to the present shock.
Should the present shock match a past decision-making event and should the outcome
of that previous experience be judged in retrospect as being the correct decision to
make, individuals will simply follow the same decision-making process that was
successful in the past event. Path 2 describes how a shock leads individuals to reassess
their commitment to the organization, and the shocks that trigger the turnover
decision-making process cause individuals to assess fit with the organization, even if
no other job alternatives are present. Should the shock lead to an assessment of misfit,
individuals likely increase intentions to turnover.
The shocks resulting in path 3 cause individuals to assess whether or not their
commitment could be associated with a different organization. The decision-making
process in path 3 requires explicit comparisons between an individuals current
organization and at least one possible alternative. In path 3, the shock-induced
assessment of misfit directly leads to increases in job dissatisfaction, which then
results in the scanning for possible job alternatives. If the individual believes that a job
alternative will not provide better fit than the current job, that individual will remain
with their current organization (e.g. stay to avoid image violation). On the other hand, if
the individual believes that better fit will be achieved by working for another
organization, that individual will likely decide to leave the current organization.
Finally, path 4 describes how individuals simply change over time and reassess
commitment to an organization. That is, no shock occurs to stimulate job search;
however, affective responses to daily organizational life (e.g. commitment and job
satisfaction) over time can cause individuals to turnover even without suitable job
alternatives. Path 4 most closely resembles the traditionally sequential models of

turnover, with job dissatisfaction leading to search of job alternatives and subsequent
intention to turnover. In the present research, we assert that the UMVT, specifically
paths 3 and 4, directly relate to assessments of P-O misfit and explain how and why
P-O misfit will lead some to leave the organization while others will remain.
P-O fit job satisfaction intent to turnover relationship
Typically, P-O fit researchers theoretically ground their research in terms of
Schneiders (1987) attraction-selection-attrition (ASA) framework. The ASA
framework describes how individuals and organizations are differentially attracted
to each other. Should individuals and organizations share mutual attraction, they will
select each other (in the form of a job offer and an offer acceptance). So long as the
organization and the employee remain mutually attracted, the employee will remain
with the organization. If either the organization or the employee at some point feels that
the employee no longer fits with organization, the employee will leave the organization
through involuntary or voluntary means. While much of the attraction literature
related to P-O fit supports the ASA framework (Van Vianen, 2000; Wheeler et al., 2005),
the ASA framework ultimately predicts that misfit will necessarily lead to turnover
(Schneider, 1987; Schneider et al., 1995).
In terms of the relationship between P-O fit and job satisfaction, P-O fit researchers
theorize that the degree to which an individuals and organizations values overlap,
termed value-goal congruence (Chatman, 1991), the more satisfied the employee will be
in his or her job (Kristof, 1996). In turn, this satisfaction with the job, in continuation
with the ASA framework, results in employee retention (Chatman, 1991). On the
reverse side, lack of value-goal congruence reduces employee job satisfaction, most
likely through violation of employee expectations, which in turn causes employee
turnover (Kristof-Brown et al., 2005; Verquer et al., 2003). While this seemingly linear
relationship would appear to support the traditional models of turnover (e.g. Mobley,
1977), P-O fit researchers test the P-O fit job satisfaction and P-O fit intent to
turnover relationships independently instead of concurrently. That is, to support
sequential turnover decision-making, P-O fit researchers need to simultaneously
examine the combined effects of P-O fit and job satisfaction on intentions to turnover.
We believe that the lack of theoretical grounding has prevented empirical tests of these
We assert that the UMVT more comprehensively and parsimoniously predicts the
P-O fit job satisfaction intent to turnover relationship. In the two empirical tests of
the UMVT, Lee et al. (1996) and Lee et al. (1999) reported that of the four paths
theorized by the UMVT paths 3 and 4 were the most frequently observed. Specifically,
Lee et al. (1996) reported that 32 percent of nurses in their sample used path 3 (shock,
assessment of misfit, job dissatisfaction, comparison to alternative) when making the
decision to leave their current job, while 41 percent of nurses in their sample followed
path 4 (no shock, job dissatisfaction, intent to leave) when making the decision to leave
their current job. That is, almost 75 percent of their sample left due to value-goal misfit
or general job dissatisfaction. Lee et al. (1999) reported similar findings, with 64 percent
of their sample of public accountants following path 3 in the turnover decision-making
process and 30 percent following path 4 in the turnover decision-making process.
Moreover, Lee et al. (1999) found that the shocks associated with Path 3
decision-making resulted from changes made in the organization, which led to

P-O misfit and





value-goal image violation. They also found the strongest relationship between path 3
and job satisfaction, meaning that organization shocks leading to value-goal image
violation strongly predicted job satisfaction.
Interpreting the two major meta-analyses on P-O fit in light of the UMVT, the
strength of the P-O fit job satisfaction relationship becomes clear. The assessment
of fit with the organization does strongly predict job satisfaction (Kristof-Brown et al.,
2005; Lee et al., 1999; Verquer et al., 2003) because the shocks leading to the assessment
of fit are organizationally bound. Moreover, the weaker meta-analytic relationships
between P-O fit and intent to turnover (Kristof-Brown et al., 2005; Verquer et al., 2003)
are due to the intermediary role of job satisfaction. That is, organization-induced
shocks which lead to the assessment of fit proximally influence job satisfaction; and it
is the combined effect of P-O fit on job satisfaction that will ultimately predict
employee intent to turnover. Thus, we make the following three hypotheses.
H1. P-O fit and job satisfaction are positively related, such that participants
reporting high levels of P-O fit will also report high levels of job satisfaction.
H2. Job satisfaction and intent to turnover are negatively related, such that
participants reporting high levels of job satisfaction will also report low levels
of intent to turnover.
H3. Job satisfaction mediates the relationship between P-O fit and intent to
turnover, such that high levels of P-O fit will decrease participant intent to
turnover in so far as levels of participant job satisfaction are also high.
Job satisfaction job mobility intent to turnover relationship
P-O fit research assumes a linear relationship between P-O fit and intent to turnover
(Wheeler et al., 2005); however, empirical studies show a weak relationship between the
two constructs (Kristof-Brown et al., 2005; Verquer et al., 2003). Indeed, the weak
relationship suggests that more employees remain in organization despite the lack of
P-O fit and the resulting job dissatisfaction associated with P-O misfit. The question
becomes, then, why do poor-fitting and dissatisfied employees remain with the
Consistent with both traditional sequential models of turnover (e.g. Mobley, 1977)
and the UMVT, Wheeler et al. (2005) proposed a model of multidimensional fit that
included possible explanations of how employees will behave in the event of misfit.
Wheeler et al.s model proposes that turnover is one of many options available for
employees experiencing P-O misfit. Specifically, Wheeler et al. (2005) include perceived
job mobility, which is defined as an individuals perception of available alternative job
opportunities, as a key moderating variable between causes of misfit and the decision
to turnover. That is, Wheeler et al. incorporates the assessment of fit related
organizational shocks found in path 3 of the UMVT and the key component of job
satisfaction in paths 3 and 4 of the UMVT; moreover, Wheeler et al. include the
traditional turnover variable of job mobility as moderating the relationship between
job dissatisfaction and intent to turnover. Should an employee experience job
dissatisfaction, either through an organizationally induced shock that causes
assessment of P-O fit or through gradual affective decreases, the likelihood of an
employee leaving the organization depends on that employees perceptions of available
job alternatives.

In path 3 of the UMVT, P-O misfit leads to job dissatisfaction, which causes
individuals to scan the environment for possible job alternatives. If no suitable job
alternatives exist, the individual will remain with the organization. Thus, we expect
perceived job mobility to moderate the relationship between job satisfaction and intent
to turnover. Moreover, we expect this interaction to explain how high levels of job
dissatisfaction coupled with low perceptions of job mobility lead to reduced intent to
turnover compared with high levels of both job dissatisfaction and job mobility. Not
only is this consistent with path 3 of the UMVT, the most frequently engaged turnover
decision-making path, but is also consistent with Path 4 of the UMVT. Non-shock
induced job dissatisfaction, as Lee and Mitchell (1994) reasoned, is most similar to the
traditional models of turnover in that job dissatisfaction triggers turnover. The added
component of job mobility will either ease or limit a dissatisfied employees intentions
to turnover. Thus we make the following hypothesis.
H4. Participant perceived job mobility moderates the relationship between job
satisfaction and intent to turnover, such that participants who perceive high
levels of job mobility but report low levels of job satisfaction will also report
higher levels of intent to turnover compared to participants who perceive low
job mobility and low job satisfaction.
Sample and data collection
A total of 205 fulltime employed participants completed a HTML-based web survey
(e.g. Websurveyor); however we excluded data collected from seven of the participants
due to incomplete responses (n 5) or responses from participants that were deemed
as outliers on several measured variables (n 2). The criterion used to determine
outliers was based on guidelines developed by Weinzimmer et al. (1994), where
participant scores on measures greater than three standard deviations from the mean
are considered in violation of the statistical assumption of normal distribution of
scores. The final sample of participants (n 198) had a mean age of 39.12 (13.04 years
SD), was 52.5 percent female, averaged 7.76 years of organizational tenure (8.35 years
SD), and 50.7 percent held at least a four-year undergraduate degree. In terms of racial
composition, the sample was predominantly white (72.7 percent), with some
representation from participation from individuals of Asian (10.6 percent), African
American (6.5 percent), and Hispanic (6.6 percent) decent. Some study participants did
not report racial demographics (3.5 percent).
We collected data over a two-week period by utilizing students enrolled in three
human resources management classes at two universities, one a small private
university located in the Midwest region of the US and the other a large public
university located in the western region of the US. Utilizing a snowball sampling
technique increasingly relied upon by field survey researchers (cf. Ferris et al., 2005;
Kolodinsky et al., 2004) students in each class recruited study participants by
distributing a survey web-link to fulltime employed adults in exchange for extra credit
toward their final grade. To verify that the study participants completed the survey
instrument instead of the students, we required study participants to include an email
address at where they could be contacted. We randomly sampled 20 percent of all
participants and emailed them to ask questions about the survey (e.g. position and
organization tenure, total compensation, etc.). If participant responses to these

P-O misfit and





questions matched their responses given on the survey, we considered the data reliable.
Based upon this verification process, we found no evidence of fabricated responses.
As mentioned, all participants completed our survey instrument on-line. P-O fit
researchers have utilized on-line surveys for data collection and have reported no
systematic response biases inherent in collection strategy (c.f. Dineen et al., 2002). For
ease of completion of the web-based survey, all attitudinal and behavioral items (unless
otherwise noted) were anchored on a five-point scale ranging from 1 totally
disagree to 5 totally agree. Midpoints (values of 3) were anchored with the word
neutral. The items in each scale were summed and then averaged to arrive at an
overall value for the scale. Higher scores represent higher levels of each of the
P-O fit. Participants reported their subjective perceptions of P-O fit[2] utilizing a
total of three items given by Lauver and Kristof-Brown (2001), which they adapted
from Cable and Judge (1996). Subjective measures of P-O fit have been found to be the
best measures of P-O fit with regards to their predictive validity of fit-related outcomes
(Verquer et al., 2003). Items included My values match or fit the values of the
organization, I am able to maintain my values at this company, and My values
prevent me from fitting in at this company because they are different from the
companys values (reverse scored).
Job satisfaction. We measured job satisfaction using three items developed by
Cammann et al. (1979). A sample item is All in all, I am satisfied with my job.
Perceived job mobility. We measured perceived job mobility via two items developed
by McAllister (1995). A sample item is If I were to quit my job, I could find another job
that is just as good.
Intent to turnover. We measured participant intent to turnover via Seashore et al.s
(1982) three-item scale. A sample item is I will probably look for a new job in the next
Table I presents means, standard deviations, correlations, and internal reliability
(Cronbachs alpha) estimates for variables collect in the present study. To test H1-H3,
we conducted hierarchical mediated regression as outlined by Baron and Kenny (1986),

Table I.
Means, standard
deviations, correlations,
and internal reliability
estimates for variable
included in study







0.54 *
2 0.02
2 0.25 *
2 0.22 *

( )

2 0.19 *
2 0.29 *

0.55 *
20.46 *

2 0.09
2 0.66 *

0.26 *


Org. tenure
P-O fit
Job mobility
Int. to turnover

Notes: n 198; *Significant p-value at 0.01; Internal reliability (Cronbachs alpha) appear in
parentheses along diagonal; Gender coded 1 female, 0 male

and we present the results from this analysis in Table II. In step 1 of the analysis, P-O
fit was regressed onto job satisfaction. Consistent with H1, we found a statistically
significant relationship between P-O fit and job satisfaction such that as levels of P-O
fit increased so did levels of satisfaction. In step 2 of the analysis, P-O fit was regressed
onto participant intent to turnover, which also yielded a statistically significant
negative relationship between P-O fit and intent to turnover. That is, as participant
levels of P-O fit increased, participant intent to turnover decreased. To complete the
mediated regression, in step 3 we then regressed job satisfaction onto intent to
turnover. In order to find full-mediated regression, the beta weight for the P-O fit
intent to turnover relationship should become non-significant as the beta weight for the
job satisfaction intent to turnover relationship becomes statistically significant. As
seen in Table II, we observed this pattern; thus H2 and H3 were supported. As
participant job satisfaction increased, participant intent to turnover decreased.
Moreover, interpreting the mediated regression results, P-O fit decreases participant
intent to turnover in so far as levels of participant job satisfaction remain sufficiently
high. That is, the relationship between P-O fit and intent to turnover is not direct. P-O
fit must first increase levels of job satisfaction in order to then decrease intent to
To test H4, the moderating influence of perceived job mobility on the job
satisfaction intent to turnover relationship, we conducted a hierarchical moderated
regression as outlined by Baron and Kenny (1986). We present the results of this
analysis in Table III. Due to significant correlations between participant age and
organizational tenure with intent to turnover, which are implied in Schneiders (1987)
ASA framework and empirically supported in Schneider et al. (1995), we included these
two demographic variables as control variables in this regression. Therefore, in step 1
of this analysis, we regressed participant age and organizational tenure onto
participant intent to turnover. Holding this relationship constant, we then regressed the
main effects of participant job satisfaction and perceived job mobility onto intent to
turnover in steps 2 and 3 of the analysis, respectively. Finally, in order to test the
interaction between job satisfaction and perceived job mobility, we entered the
interaction term at step 4 of the analysis. As seen in Table III, we found statistical
support for the model at each step of the analysis, including statistically significant
changes in the R 2 values. To interpret the direction of the interaction, we graphed the
interaction utilizing Aiken and Wests (1991) guidelines for interpreting interactions
(e.g. graphing one standard deviation above and below the median score of each

Dependent variable !
P-O fit
Job satisfaction
Adj. R-squared

Model 1

Model 2
Int to Turn

Model 3
Int to Turn

0.55 * *

20.44 * *

2 0.12
2 0.60 * *

48.7 * *

79.1 * *

86.6 * *

Notes: Standardized beta coefficients are provided; n 198; *p , 0.05, * *p , 0.01

P-O misfit and



Table II.
Mediated regression
results for H1-H3

Control variables
Organization tenure


Model 1

DV intent to turnover
Model 2
Model 3

0.24 * *

20.15 * *

20.14 *

2 0.15 *
2 0.05


20.62 * *

2 0.37 *

0.17 * *

0.57 *

Independent variable
Job satisfaction
Moderating variable
Job mobility
Interaction term
Satisfaction job mobility

Table III.
Moderated regression
results for H4

Adj. R-squared
Change R-squared

Model 4

20.44 *
0.09 * *
9.5 * *

0.39 * *
145.4 * *

0.03 *
9.71 *

0.01 *
2.96 *

Notes: Standardized beta coefficients are provided; n 198; *p , 0.05; * *p , 0.01

predictor on the dependent variable). As Figure 2 depicts, participants perceiving high

job mobility that also report low levels of satisfaction are more likely to report
increased intent to turnover, especially compared to participants perceiving low job
mobility in low job satisfaction situations. Moreover, upon examining the beta weights
for each main effect in the presence of the significant interaction, these main effects
remained statistically significant. These findings provide strong support H4.
Combining the results from H1-H4, we offer the following interpretation. While
increases in P-O fit does foster increases in participant job satisfaction, which would
typically lead to decreased intent to turnover, this relationship is contingent upon
perceived job mobility. Should a participant report low levels of P-O fit and experience
subsequent reductions in job satisfaction, that participant is more likely to leave the
organization only if that participant believes that he or she has viable alternate
employment options. This is consistent with Lee and Mitchells (1994) unfolding model
of turnover. Moreover, these findings are consistent with Wheeler et al.s (2005)
assertions that misfit in terms of P-O fit does not necessarily lead to employee turnover.
The present study examined the relationship between P-O fit, job satisfaction,
perceived job mobility, and intent to turnover. Specifically, the present study explored
these variables in the context of misfit. That is, this is one of the first empirical studies
to examine what occurs to individuals when they do not fit with an organization. We
found that decreases in P-O fit, which led to decreases in job satisfaction, were more
likely to result in increases in intent to turnover if the individual also perceived
alternative job opportunities. Stated differently, an individual who feels misfit with an

P-O misfit and



Figure 2.
Interaction between
satisfaction and perceived
job mobility on intent to

organization will only leave the organization if he or she believes that alterative job
opportunities exist. The present study provides empirical support for Lee and
Mitchells (1994) UMVT and Wheeler et al.s (2005) comprehensive conceptual research
on the outcomes of fit and misfit.
The present research makes other notable contributions to the literature. From a
theoretical perspective, the use of the UMVT research to account for two decades worth
of studies relating P-O fit to both job satisfaction and intent to turnover is notable. Two
major meta-analyses of P-O fit yielded interesting results related to the predictive
validity of P-O fit on job satisfaction and intent to turnover, namely that P-O fit better
predicts job satisfaction than it does intent to turnover (Kristof-Brown et al., 2005;
Verquer et al., 2003). We attributed these findings to two causes. First, P-O fit
researchers do not have a suitable theoretical framework to study the combined effects
of P-O fit and job satisfaction on intent to turnover. Second, because of these theoretical
shortcomings, P-O fit researchers test P-O fit job satisfaction and P-O fit intent to
turnover relationships as independent effects. The UMVT provides that theoretical
grounding; moreover, our results confirmed that P-O fit acts to reduce intent to
turnover is so far as P-O fit increases job satisfaction.
The second large contribution that the present research makes to the literature is the
finding that perceived job mobility moderates the relationship between job satisfaction
and intent to turnover. In conjunction with our results regarding how P-O fit indirectly



predicted intent to turnover through job satisfaction, our research showed that the
previously held maxim that P-O fit leads to turnover was only true for those employees
who perceive alternative job opportunities. Thus, the present research bolsters not only
Lee and Mitchells (1994) UMVT but it also provides initial support for Wheeler et al.s
(2005) model of misfit. That is, we provide evidence that many employees will choose
to stay with an organization in spite of poor P-O fit or job satisfaction because they do
not perceive better options.
We find this point both interesting and important. Job search researchers
increasingly view job search as a function job availability and applicant marketability
(Trevor, 2001). In the event of high job demand environments (e.g. low unemployment
and high job availability), less marketable employees are likely to search for new jobs
as a means of improving status or salary; whereas, in low job demand environments,
these less marketable employees are likely to remain with their current jobs (Trevor,
2001). However, highly marketable employees will begin job search regardless of
prevailing job availability conditions because their high marketability inoculates them
from prevailing economic conditions. In terms of our study, it could be argued that
highly marketable employees are most susceptible to the P-O misfit job
dissatisfaction intent to turnover path because it is these highly skilled employees
who will always perceive greater job mobility.
Our findings potentially leave organizations without practical advice relating to the
topic of P-O fit. Although almost two decades of research consistently report the
beneficial outcomes of P-O fit, meta-analytic findings provide evidence that P-O fit
minimally accounts for predicted levels of either job satisfaction or intent to turnover.
Moreover, in the present research, we found that poor fitting and dissatisfied
participants would choose to remain in the organization if they had no other
opportunities. What, then, does this mean about the construct of P-O fit if it does not
account for explained variability of important outcomes and that it does not explain
how poor fitting employees will behave in the face of misfit? We believe that P-O fit
should be viewed in the context of a larger psychological construct called job
embeddedness (JE) (Mitchell et al., 2001).
JE describes how employees become enmeshed not just with organizations but also
with the communities in which employees live; furthermore, JE focuses why people
stay in organizations as opposed to why people leave (Mitchell et al., 2001). Mitchell
et al. (2001) theorized that JE had two components, organizational JE and community
JE; and each dimension consists of three factors: fit, links, and sacrifice. Organizational
JE fit describes the congruence between an individuals personal values, career goals,
and plans for the future . . . with the larger corporate culture and the demands for his or
her immediate job (Mitchell et al., 2001, p. 1104), with community JE fit describing the
individuals congruence with the community. Links are characterized as formal or
informal connections between a person and institutions or other people (Mitchell et al.,
2001, p. 1104), which includes links with the community. Sacrifice describes the
perceived cost of material or psychological benefits that may be forfeited by leaving
the job . . . or the community (Mitchell et al., 2001, p. 1105). While P-O fit, in terms of
value congruence, is included in the construct of JE, the role that P-O fit plays in
retention represents just one aspect of something as complex as employee retention.
Early empirical tests of JE are positive (Mitchell et al., 2001; Lee et al., 2004).
Importantly, Lee et al. (2004) found that organizational JE, the combined effect of fit,

links, and sacrifice, predicted employee performance; however, they found that
community JE predicted employee retention better than organizational JE. This
suggests that while P-O fit plays an important role in performance, organizations
concerned with retention should focus resources on programs such as employee
assistance programs (EAPs), which are formal programs that assist employees with
personal problems that may be affecting their work-related behaviors (Spell and
Blum, 2005, p. 1125). Furthermore, Wayne et al. (1997) found that perceived
organizational social support, such as EAPs, did in fact reduce employee turnover
intentions. While organizational scholars sometimes prefer to recommend job-based
solutions to organizational problems like turnover and job satisfaction, we are now
beginning to better understand that these job-based solutions affect performance. To
decrease employee turnover, organizations should maybe focus on off the job solutions
for on the job problems. This might explain why P-O misfit might not always lead to
turnover, as turnover might have little to do with the organization itself.
Future directions
The present research has numerous research implications. First, as stated above, future
research needs to investigate the relationship between employee marketability and
perceived job mobility in the context of P-O fit, job satisfaction, and intent to turnover.
Wilk and Sackett (1996) found that highly skilled employees do in fact perceive more
job opportunities, so it is important to understand how P-O fit influences these highly
skilled employees, especially since it is these highly skilled employees that
organizations cannot afford to lose.
Second, Wheeler et al. (2005) proposed numerous outcomes related to employee
misfit, and they proposed that misfit is not just limited to P-O fit. More and more fit
researchers are examining the combined effects of multiple conceptualizations of fit
(Kristof-Brown et al., 2005). Wheeler et al.s (2005) model posited that multiple
dimensions of fit allow employees to buffer misfit in any one conceptualization of
misfit. They also proposed that should misfit occur across dimensions of fit, in the
event that job alternatives are undesirable, misfitting employees will potentially
engage in several behaviors in order to survive in an organization in which they do not
fit and are dissatisfied. Among these alternatives, Wheeler et al. proposed that some
employees might engage in periods of inactivity, where they disengage from the job
and the workplace. Poor fitting employees might also become more vocal in an attempt
to change the organization in a way that might lead to greater fit. The area of misfit is
wide open to researchers, and we offer just these few future research opportunities.
Limitations of research
The present research has limitations that should be noted. From an empirical
perspective, we collected cross-sectional data. This limits our ability to interpret our
results. While we do acknowledge this limitation, we also note that we derived our
sample from a large pool of participants instead of from a single pool of participants
(e.g. a single organization). That is, if we had sampled employees from a single
organization, the culture of that organization and historical confounds inherent in that
organization would have limited our ability to interpret our results. As our sample was
drawn from participants working for a wide array of organization, historical confounds
associated with cross-sectional data (Cook and Campbell, 1979) was limited.

P-O misfit and





A second data collection limitation should be noted. As we utilized a single method

for collecting our data (e.g. a survey), some might argue that common method bias
might inflate correlations between variables (see Kristof-Brown et al., 2005, for a
summary related to P-O fit research). While we acknowledge the possibility of common
method bias, we point to recent research on this topic that examines this frequently
cited limitation to survey research (Spector, 2006). Spector noted that common method
bias can either attenuate or inflate correlations among variables, so that to assume
common method bias only inflates correlations ignores the potential attenuating, and
thus conservative, effects of common method bias. Second, should common method
bias account for significant correlations among variables measured via a single
method, the bias would reveal itself in the form of significant correlations among all
variables measured by that method. Quickly glancing at Table I of the present study,
we note that some of the variables collected via survey in our study do not correlate at
all. Moreover, as we controlled for the effects of two demographic variables in our
moderated regression analysis without significantly altering our results, this further
suggests that common method bias alone could not have accounted for our significant
results. Thus, we feel confident that common method bias likely does not account for
our significant findings.
The last limitation we note is that we were unable to gather actual turnover
information or actual participant marketability data. That is, collecting these variables
would entail gathering data from numerous organizations across the country, and we
did not find this feasible for our study. Thus, we relied upon proxies of these
constructs, namely intent to turnover and perceived job mobility. Fortunately, these
variables are commonly utilized in organizational studies, and we hope to collect this
more objective data in future studies.
We have attempted to explore the relationships between P-O fit and two heavily
studied outcomes of P-O fit, job satisfaction and intent to turnover. Our research
suggests that these relationships are more complex than previously thought. We
asserted and found support for our hypothesis that P-O fit indirectly predicted intent to
turnover by more directly predicting employee job satisfaction. Moreover, we asserted
that these relationships are influenced by perceived job mobility. In doing so, we have
attempted to explain why P-O misfit and job dissatisfaction do not always predict
employee intent to turnover. While more research needs to be conducted, our research
provides an intriguing starting point for researchers interested in the concept of misfit.
1. Kristof (1996) outlines two conceptualizations of P-O fit. Supplementary fit describes when
an individual offers characteristics to the work environment that are currently found in that
environment, and complementary fit describes when an individual adds new characteristics
to the organization that are not currently present. Kristof (1996) further describes several
operationalizations of P-O fit, including value-goal congruence between individuals and
organizations. The value-goal congruence operationalization of P-O fit is considered a
supplementary fit conceptualization. We ascribe to this supplementary conceptualization of
P-O fit.

2. Verquer et al. (2003) found that P-O fit researchers measure the supplementary fit
conceptualization of P-O fit utilizing three distinct methods: subjective measures, profile
comparison measures, and objective measures. Their findings indicate that subjective
measures of P-O fit yield the strongest effect sizes; thus we sought to capitalize on this
finding by using a subjective measure in our study.

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Corresponding author
Anthony R. Wheeler can be contacted at:

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