Round Peg/Square Hole – the skills and job mismatch

I’ve deliberately switched this saying around as have you not sometimes come across people who don’t quite seem to fit their role and are rattling around knocking against the sides of their expected employment?

It could be that their role is not challenging them enough, or is too challenging.  It could be that their personal skills do not suit the role that has been allocated to them.  They may need more guidance, training or even given their head to develop their role.

Square pegs struggling with round holes just don’t fit and it can be easier for them to make a change in job or career. Your round peg employee has, on paper, all the skills needed for their job but somehow it just isn’t working. People in these situations are often discontented or have gripes that are ultimately destabilising for the rest of the team and company. They threaten to become that “difficult employee” everyone gossips about or, worse, triggers complaints.

As an outsider often brought in to help with company change and transition I meet quite a few of these round peg people.  It is such a shame as the skills they do have or the contribution they could make are missed.  These employees are aware that their abilities are potentially not being maximised. They may find parts of their job extremely tedious because it is way below their actual talent. Some parts of their work may be way outside their comfort zone, the gap between their ability and the requirements so great that it leaves them frustrated and anxious. In these cases, they will become challenging to work with as they try to avoid the areas that bore them while dodging the areas they struggle with.

Avoiding round peg dilemmas

In the fast changing 21st century jobs often must evolve to keep up and this can trigger a mismatch between skill level and job requirements. An employee who originally was a fit, becomes disillusioned at these changes; their job no longer matches their ability to perform it.

Here are some steps to help you avoid this situation

Step 1:

Creating detailed person specifications and job descriptions for each role in a company ensures a proper match when recruiting.

Step 2:

Reviewing these roles as change occurs will identify training needs for current employees

Step 3:

Implementing regular training to upskill employees will help fill the gap between current and needed skills.

Step 4:

Performance appraisal that is constructive, not punitive will identify a discontented employee before their disillusionment has an impact on the team and the company.

Perhaps checking at an annual review with specific, non-blaming questions might bring situations like this to light and enable relative minor changes that would retain a valuable member of staff.

Step 5:

Consider job rotation as a method to keep employees engaged, interested and their skills updated.

When an employee just doesn’t fit with the company ethos

Sometimes the round peg syndrome is because of a shift in company ethos. Change happens and change management is a crucial part of a company’s development. Some employees resent their jobs changing and resist. They do not see the gap between their skills and the job requirements as a positive challenge; they see it as a threat. As a business goes through transition it throws up many challenges and often brings to light those round peg employees.

To successfully effect change you need your employees to be on board so you cannot ignore their discontent. If you are an employee experiencing this and feeling as if your world is tilting, then take a good hard look at how you see your role. It may be time to get out of that square hole completely, whether shifting jobs within your current organisation or changing jobs totally.

Being a round peg in a square hole can be unsettling, but it does not have to be ongoing.  It may be that only a few tweaks to the role are needed to enable a comfortable fit. I have a helpful free guide on dealing with change – The Change Reaction that looks at how we deal with the necessary changes life and work throw at us. If you are an organisation going through changes and are discovering a lot of round pegs, then contact me to discuss how I can help.

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