Job Fit: When The Right Person Is In The Wrong Job - Insperity (2023)

Job fit is critical to every employee’s success – and ultimately, your business’s success as well.

Having the right people in the right roles can propel your organization to new heights. When the fit is there, it’s nothing short of magical. Your business seems to run like a well-oiled machine.

But what about when the fit isn’t right? How does this even happen, if you’re diligent in your screening and interviewing of job candidates?

There are usually a couple of possible scenarios.

Maybe you hired someone who seemed like the best fit for the role, and you were both excited for them to start. As the new employee settles in and time goes by, however, you begin to realize they’re not performing as well as you had anticipated.

Or, it could be that a once solid performer just doesn’t seem as motivated and productive as before.

Does this mean you should fire the person? Not necessarily.

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Right person, wrong job

Before passing out the pink slip, it’s important to first consider whether the employee would be better suited to another role within your company. After all, those qualities that made them a stand-out candidate are likely still there.

For the longer-term employee, it’s wise to first try to understand what has changed that may be causing them to perform below expectations. Have their responsibilities increased or shifted? Is there something going on personally?

Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to transition that person into another position within the company – rather than lose valuable talent.

Here’s how to tell if you’ve got the right person in the wrong job.

Signs of poor job fit

The signs will vary from company to company, and even between departments. But, generally, there are some common signs to look for when analyzing whether an employee may still be a good fit for your company, just not their current role.

These signs are:

  1. They’ve told you they feel underutilized.
  2. They express frustration or seem bored.
  3. They’re a good cultural fit for your company.
  4. They’re trying to make things work.
  5. You’re seeing some improvement but not enough to fulfill the demands of the job.
  6. They have technical (or other specialized) skills your company needs (e.g., IT, engineering, etc.).
  7. They demonstrate values equal to your business’s, which can be used elsewhere (e.g., excellent customer service, strong work ethic, dedication, friendliness, willingness to teach or help others, etc.).

Remember, these signals indicate that the employee in question ticks many of the boxes you’d check for any employee worth investing in. They don’t apply to someone who’s clearly not a good cultural fit or consistently misses basic performance metrics.

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Common reasons for poor job fit

Before approaching the employee, it pays to spend some time thinking about why the person and the job may not fit. Common scenarios include:

  • Their current position isn’t one they’re able to excel in. Maybe the necessary skills are growing and changing so fast you need to split one job into two.
  • Their role isn’t structured properly for anyone to succeed, especially if it’s a new position that was created in the company.
  • The job requires a little more experience in a particular area than you initially thought was necessary.
  • Your company recently merged with or acquired another company, and roles have changed for existing employees. It’s natural there should be some repositioning to follow that initial reorganization.

Regardless of what you think the problem might be, a talk with the employee is a must to fully understand what’s going on.

When to discuss poor job fit

Once you’ve identified that the employee is a good egg, but perhaps is not placed in the right carton, it’s time to have a conversation.

This exchange should center on the employee’s needs, rather than make them feel defensive.

Remember the conversation is a two-way dialogue. You want to spend substantial time discussing their strengths, as well as the opportunities for improvement in their performance.

At this stage, you want to preserve the relationship, not make them feel like their job is on the line. At the same time, the employee must own their reaction to the circumstances. This is a joint endeavor to achieve personal and professional gains.

If you’ve been checking in with the employee and having regular talks about their performance, this discussion should not come as a complete surprise. After all, most employees already have a pretty good idea if they’re fitting in and performing well.

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Questions to ask

You want to center this conversation on what your employee expects from their role in the company and how the company can position them to do their best work.

Sample questions include:

  • Do you feel like you’re able to do your best work in this role?
  • Is the company getting your best work? How could you put your skills to better use?
  • What do you expect from this role in the company? How do you want to learn and develop?

The goal of your questions should be to develop a better understanding of what might inspire or motivate the employee, so you can create a better match. While it may not be possible to offer every employee their dream role, the worst thing a manager can do is let someone who is performing poorly stay in a job. It’s not compassionate, and many times the employee already knows they’re struggling.

Remember, this isn’t likely to be a “one and done” conversation. To be effective, it should probably be a series of discussions directed at finding the right solution for both the worker and the business.

Explore solutions for a better job fit

The transition from one role to another doesn’t have to be difficult, and it shouldn’t feel like an inconvenience. You want to make it clear to the employee that you value them, want them to stay with the company, and want to help them develop and work to their full capacity. You never want to make them feel like any potential new role is punishment or a consolation prize.

Consider partnering with other leaders and managers in the company to share the employee’s skills across multiple departments. This may be a way to provide them with greater challenges and stretch opportunities.

It’s also a good idea to check beforehand with other departments, so that you’re aware of any openings that may offer a solid opportunity for the employee.

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And don’t rule out the possibility of leaving the employee in their current role. You may determine after talking to them that they’re capable of (and interested in) doing the job well, once they get additional coaching and support.

If that’s the case, set them up for success. Help them acquire the additional skills they need – whether it’s through formal classes, frequent coaching, job shadowing, a mentor, or a combination of resources.

Benefits to keeping good talent

It’s not always possible to salvage the situation when you’ve got a good employee in the wrong job. But sometimes it makes more sense to transition someone into a role that’s better suited to their skills and abilities rather than let them go.

And when you do, the rewards can be well worth the time and effort it takes to transition them. Some of those rewards include:

  • Retaining valuable talent, which isn’t always easy to find
  • Reducing turnover, recruitment costs and onboarding time
  • Deepening employee knowledge of the company through lateral moves
  • Building employee loyalty by taking the time to find a mutually beneficial solution
  • Providing employees with growth opportunities and career mobility within the company

Perhaps best of all, by being open to keeping a talented individual who is simply in an ill-fitting role, you facilitate the natural progression of talented people within your business.

Want more insight to help you empower your employees to do their best work and propel your business to greater success? Download our free e-book, How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.


What happens when employees are placed in the wrong job? ›

The cost. When employees are in the wrong position, they are more likely to leave the organisation and you need to spend your time re-filling the role. This may mean you have to go through the hiring process a second or even third time and spend time re-training new employees.

Can an employer force you to do someone else's job? ›

So, the short answer is, yes, your employer may assign you tasks not specifically outlined in your job description. Unless you work under a collective bargaining agreement or contract, your employer can legally change your duties.

How do you tell an employee they are not the right fit? ›

What to say when firing someone who is not a good fit: “This isn't working out, so I'm letting you go. I understand you have questions and are likely surprised, but we're ending this employment relationship because it isn't a good fit. The decision that we have made, while tough, is final.

What is placing the right person in the right job called as? ›

Answer (b) Staffing. Explanation: Staffing is an activity of enrolling the employees by assessing their knowledge and abilities, prior to extending them explicit employment opportunities or jobs accordingly.

What to do when your job isn't right for you? ›

What to do when your new job isn't what you expected
  • Stay professional. ...
  • Give the position a chance. ...
  • Speak to your manager. ...
  • Look for a new job. ...
  • Look for a new job. ...
  • Reach back out to other employers. ...
  • Let your network know. ...
  • Leave your current position.
Nov 23, 2020

What to do if you accepted the wrong job? ›

Took the Wrong Job? Here's What to Do
  1. Be open with your manager. Your boss may not realize how unhappy you are in your new job unless you come out and say so. ...
  2. Explore other options within the company. ...
  3. Resign the right way.
Jul 25, 2019

Can I be fired for refusing to do something not in my job description? ›

Yes, you can be fired for declining to do something that is not in your job description. It's a myth that they need a good reason to fire you. Employers can easily get around that. If they want to fire you, they can.

How do I refuse to do someone else's job at work? ›

  1. 9 Ways to Turn Down Extra Work Politely. ...
  2. “You know, I could do this if…” ...
  3. “I don't know enough about what this would entail.” ...
  4. “I actually know someone else that might be a better fit for this.” ...
  5. “Sorry, but my schedule's already full.” ...
  6. “Is there another way to solve this problem?”
Jun 15, 2022

What is considered a hostile work environment? ›

A hostile work environment exists when the harassment is so severe and pervasive that it alters your ability to do your job. The behavior must be more than just offensive; it must be objectively abusive. The harasser can be anyone in the workplace, including a supervisor, coworker, or even a customer or client.

Can an employee be sued for a mistake at work? ›

Yes, an employer can bring a civil claim against an employee – or add it as a counterclaim if the employee is suing the company. It requires suing the employee for negligence and or breach of contract, and to succeed, you'll need to demonstrate that there was negligence.

Can you sue an employer for misrepresentation of a job? ›

If employers make false or deceptive statements, they may be liable for negligent misrepresentation. Let's say you strongly believe you were tricked into taking this unacceptable job. Once the employer doesn't comply with your request to honour its pledges, you can take them to court.

What happens when payroll makes a mistake? ›

Provide your proof of payment (paystub) to show evidence of the error. Your HR team should rectify the problem immediately. If you were shorted money, your employer should issue you a check for the money owed to you as soon as possible.

What are the possible repercussions for an employee providing falsified and deceptive? ›

Criminal penalties

According to Chapter 73 of title 18 of the United States Code under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, anyone who knowingly falsifies documents to “impede, obstruct or influence” an investigation shall be fined or face a prison sentence of up to 20 years.


1. Insperity Business Resiliency Series, Session 11: Making workplace flexibility work
2. How to Sell Yourself in a Job Interview
(Insperity Jobs)
3. Wrestling with Wage Growth: Remaining Competitive and Compliant
4. Using Self-Assessment Tools to Help Choose the Right Career
(Insperity Jobs)
5. Our 'Leadership Motive': Adjust it and watch your teams thrive [webinar]
(Vistage Worldwide, Inc.)
6. Winning the Talent War – Recruiting and Retaining the Very Best
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