A Cross-Cultural Examination of Person-Organization Fit: Is P-O Fit Congruent with or Contingent on Societal Values?

Author:Trevino, Len J.
Position:RESEARCH ARTICLE - Report
 
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1 Introduction

The compatibility between the individual values of the employee and the cultural values of the organization, often referred to as person-organization (P-O) fit (Dawis 1992; Edwards et al. 1998), has maintained a focal position in the organizational behavior literature for decades (Brown 1966; Cable and Judge 1996; Downey et al. 1975; Drazen and Van de Ven 1985; Edwards 2008; Gardner et al. 2009; Hoffman et al. 2011; Kristof-Brown and Guay 2011). Organizational culture has been studied in a cross-cultural context, including societal culture and job attitudes (Kanungo and Wright 1983), societal culture and management practices (Newman and Nollen 1996), organizational culture and organizational effectiveness (Deshpande and Farley 2004; Fey and Denison 2003), as well as the moderating effect between job characteristics and job satisfaction (Huang and Van de Vliert 2003). However, very few studies have undertaken a cross-cultural examination of P-O fit relationships (Lee and Ramaswami 2013; Oh et al. 2014).

Of those studies that have examined P-O fit cross-culturally, most have been limited due to the small number of organizations and countries studied (e.g., Astakhova 2016; Astakhova et al. 2014; Jung and Takeuchi 2014; Parkes et al. 2001) and because they compared groups of countries (Lee and Antonakis 2014) or societally diverse geographic regions (Oh et al. 2014) but not individual countries. This literature void is unfortunate, because in order to have an accurate understanding of P-O fit in today's global business environment, one must understand not only cross-cultural variations in P-O fit relationships but also how societal values influence P-O fit dynamics (Lee and Ramaswami 2013). Thus, in order to develop a culturally embedded understanding of P-O fit relationships, we take a multi-level approach, where individual values are nested in organizations (P-O fit) and this relationship is embedded in societal values (Erez. and Gati 2004).

Regarding the role and consequences of societal values, for several decades scholars have reported significant differences among countries for a wide array of cultural dimensions (Hofstede 1980; House et al. 2004; Schwartz 2006; Smith et al. 1996). Although most cross-cultural research has emphasized the core cultural values that differentiate one country from another and the way that these values interact with organizational behavior, the relationship between societal values and organizational behavior may be more complicated than previously thought (Tung and Stahl 2018). With respect to P-O fit dynamics, the nested theory of culture (Erez and Gati 2004) suggests that the strength of P-O values fit relationships will be a function of values congruence across societal, organizational, and individual levels. That is, the reinforcing dynamic of cross-level consistency in cultural values results in stronger P-O values fit relationships. Specifically, individualistic societies would have more individualistic persons who would prefer to work for organizations with individualistic culture orientations; whereas collectivistic societies would have more collectivistic persons who would prefer to work for organizations with collectivistic culture orientations.

More recently, an emerging scholarly camp suggests that P-O fit phenomena may be contingent on societal culture (cf., Lee and Ramaswami 2013), specifically on whether the country is an individualistic or a collectivistic society (e.g., Oh et al. 2014). In support of this reasoning, based on their qualitative study of how Chinese individuals interpret person-environment (P-E) fit, Chuang et al. (2015) contend that P-E fit theories are "culture bound" to individualistic cultural assumptions about persons being independent entities who pursue congruence with personal values and needs in organizational relationships.

In this paper, we contribute to this congruence--contingency debate by theorizing and empirically examining the influence that societal values have on P-O fit at the individual level of analysis. Specifically, our objective is to answer two research questions: (1) Is P-O fit theory generalizable across societal contexts? and (2) Is the nature of P-O fit relationships congruent with or contingent on societal values? Although the first question is important for advancing the P-O fit literature crossculturally, the second research question may be even more critical, as it has been argued that individualism and collectivism values constructs must be examined at the individual level due to intra-societal variation (e.g., Au 1999; Caprar et al. 2015; Oyserman et al. 2002; Triandis and Suh 2002). Given the limitations associated with previous geographic regional approaches (e.g., Oh et al. 2014), the field lacks an empirical test of the theorized relationships between individualism and collectivism societal values and individual-level P-O values fit.

In order to assess the cross-cultural generalizability of P-O fit theory, we undertake a six-country (China, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, US) study in which we examine individual values, organizational values, and societal values, with an eye toward understanding how individual values are related to organizational values and how P-O fit is nested in societal values.

Our research is organized into five sections. First, we review the relevant P-O fit literature. Second, based on this theoretical grounding, we propose hypothesized relationships. Third, we explicate the methodology used to test these hypotheses. Fourth, we present our results. Finally, we discuss the theoretical and practical implications of our findings.

2 An Overview of the Person-Organization Fit Literature

The 'P' component of the P-O fit equation has been assessed based on the theory of basic human values, which defines values as desirable, trans-situational goals that vary in importance and that act as guiding principles in individuals' lives (Rokeach 1973). In the form of conscious goals, values represent individual responses to three universal requirements with which all individuals and societies must cope, namely the needs of individuals as biological organisms, the requisites of coordinated social interactions, and the requirements for the functioning and survival of groups and organizations (Ros et al. 1999). It has been proposed that values are concepts or beliefs that pertain to desirable end states or behaviors, that transcend specific situations, that guide the selection or evaluation of behavior or events, and that are ordered by relative importance (Meglino and Ravlin 1998; Schwartz and Bilsky 1990).

The 'O' element of the P-O fit equation is organizational culture, and it has been an important facet of organizational behavior research for nearly four decades (see O'Reilly et al. 1991; Pettigrew 1979; Ravasi and Schultz 2006; Schneider and Barbera 2014; Smircich 1983). Organizational culture refers to a set of values, norms, and beliefs shared by members of an organization that provides them with meaning and rules of behavior (Schein 1996). Deal and Kennedy (1982) proposed that organizational culture is a set of values, beliefs, assumptions, and symbols that define the way a firm conducts its business. These definitions indicate that organizational culture has pervasive effects on how an organization interacts with its employees and with its stakeholders. An organization's culture ultimately impacts its ability to engender employee satisfaction and commitment (Edwards and Cable 2009; Kirkman and Shapiro 2001) and to achieve a competitive advantage (Barney 1986).

The concept of fit is related to theories of the individual, group, and organizational levels of analysis (Venkatraman 1989). Nadler and Tushman (1980, p. 40) defined fit as "the degree to which the needs, demands, goals, objectives and/or structure of one component are consistent with the needs, demands, goals, objectives and/or structure of another component." Accordingly, P-O fit theory argues that people tend to find organizations satisfying when organizational cultures are consistent with their own individual values, leading to their behavior being selectively reinforced (Edwards 2008). Conversely, the greater the discrepancy between the values of the person and those of the organization with which the person is affiliated, the more dissatisfying and uncomfortable the interactions become within the personorganization setting (Holland 1997; van Vianen 2018). Although some P-O fit literature operationalized this symbiotic relationship as personality-climate congruence (Christiansen et al. 1997; Ryan and Schmit 1996), values congruence has become widely accepted as the defining operationalization of P-O fit (Chatman 1989; Kristof 1996).

3 Hypotheses Development

3.1 The Role of Collectivistic and Individualistic Personal Values in P-O Fit

The perception that an employee has of an organization's culture has been found to be related to P-O fit and retention (Judge and Cable 1997; O'Reilly et al. 1991; Verquer et al. 2003). In support of this reasoning, Schneider's (1987) attraction-selection-attrition (ASA) model suggests that prospective employees are attracted to and remain in work environments that are consistent with their personal values (e.g., Cable and Judge 1996; Schneider et al. 1995, 2000; Yu 2014).

Unfortunately, most of the P-O fit literature has used measures of the fit between an individual's profile on a large number of values and an organization's specific values profile (e.g., Edwards and Cable 2009; O'Reilly et al. 1991), or unspecified organizational values in general (Astakhova et al. 2014; Cable and DeRue 2002). Because these approaches ignore the fact that some value dimensions may be more important for overall fit than others (Harris and Mossholder 1996), Edwards (1993) recommended that specific values dimensions should be used to examine P-O fit, rather than general profiles...

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