Delighted to be made a Fellow of the British Academy of Management (BAM) at the 2018 annual conference in Bristol
Winner of the Pearson-sponsored 2013 ANZAM Management Educator of the Year
Introducing Henry Mintzberg as the 2012 MED Keynote speaker
Organisational Fit: Key Issues and New Directions is published
Winner of Academy of Management Learning & Education's 2012 Outstanding Reviewer award
Click image for the Principles of Leadership trailer; it'll open in a new tab
Celebrating with my co-organisers (Ken Brown, Amy Kenworthy, and George Hrivnak) after the Research in Management Learning and Education (RMLE) Unconference at Bond University. A wonderful day.
Paper accepted in JMO on teaching leadership from a social constructionist perspective
2012 Erskine Fellow, University of Canterbury, New Zealand: Autumn colours in Christchurch
Paper on business school accreditation has just been accepted by the British Journal of Management
Moving Images: Effective Teaching with Film and TV in Management is available in all good book stores




jigsawMy main body of research work has been in the field of organisational fit (aka person-organisation fit). This is a field of study in applied psychology and organisational behaviour that is concerned with the 'fit' between employees and their employer. Put another way, it is that form of fit that applicants are thinking about when they ask themselves, "will I fit in here?" or that terrible feeling that employees sometimes feel when they start feeling like a misfit. I am interested in understanding these phenomena in more depth and, in particular, keen to help people find jobs where they will 'fit in' and help people who have descended into the horrors of misfit.



My first fit study was my PhD work. I was intrigued by Ben Schneider's propositions that people are attracted to, selected by, and retained by organisations whose values they share. Studies had been done to establish the last phase of this cycle (e.g., Chatman, 1991), but there were no direct test of the attraction and selection phases. So that's what I studied in my PhD. I measured fit as work value congruence. The idea being that values are fundamental determinants of behaviour and when an individual's values align with those of the organisation, there will be fit. Looking back now, this is a remarkably narrow conceptualisation of fit, but it sufficed for a PhD. Interestingly, although I thought at the time I was doing a person-organisation fit study, it's clear to me now that this was a values congruence study with very little relevance to fit.

I focused on people looking for work after their undergraduate studies. I gathered the work values of people applying to the various units of a large utility company in the UK and compared these to the same values of a general population of undergraduate students seeking work at the same time. I also gathered the values of the organisation by (i) asking senior members of the organisation to describe the values of the organisation, (ii) asking department members to describe the values of their department, and (iii) asking department members to report their own values. I had quite a large sample size and was able to distinguish the various business units and departments apart based on their values. I was also able to that different disciplines (e.g., marketing, engineering, HR) had distinguishable value profiles. All interesting and these helped validate the instrument, which was useful given the largely null findings of the main hypotheses.

H1: Do people apply to join organisation whose values they share? No. Apparently they apply to organisations because they want a job! (see Billsberry, J. (2007). Attracting for values: An empirical study of ASA’s attraction proposition. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 22(2), 132-149.)

H2: Do people get selected by organisations whose values they share? Not really; there is only the smallest effect and only when prolonged face-to-face contact happens.

As it's a pain for most people to get hold of my doctoral thesis (University of Nottingham, 2003), I published the thesis as a book: Billsberry, J. (2010). Person-Organisation Fit: Value Congruence in Attraction and Selection Decisions. Köln, Germany: Lambert Academic Publishing. ISBN 978-3-8383-3729-6

Since completing my doctoral thesis, I have conducted a series of fit studies which are increasingly moving away from value congruence and person-organisation fit and more towards perceived fit.


Studies into the Nature of Perceived Fit

Most of my postdoctoral work in organisational fit has focused on perceived fit. My interest in fit is when it refers to a 'felt experience' of employees (and potential employees). I am less concerned with interactions of people and the environments they inhabit and more interested in people's feelings of fit and misfit. At the Open University, I set up and ran The Fit Project. Originally this was a research project dedicated to the study of person-organisation fit in high fit environments. During the early stages of data gathering, we realised that everyone seemed to conceptualise fit differently and these didn't relate well to extant definitions of the term. Accordingly we changed track and focused on people's experience of fit instead. We (primarily John Moss-Jones, Natalie Van Meurs, Dannie Talbot, and me) employed causal mapping to get insights into people's fit and misfit. Ultimately this lead to a complex breakdown of organisation fit and the development of a staff survey instrument based on these types of fit.

In follow-up work Julian Edwards and I expanded our range and conducted preparatory studies that could have lead us towards the development of a personnel selection tool. Sadly though, my departure from the Open University terminated this project early, although I hope to resuscitate it one day soon. Julian and I published an interesting paper in the Journal of Managerial Issues in which our empirical data suggested that organisational employees who have been working in an organisation for a little time do not have an overarching sense of fit. Instead, their various forms of fit (job fit, people fit, manager fit etc.) influence their psychological states (e.g., job satisfaction and organisational commitment) directly.


Fit Conference

In 2007 I launched the Global e-Conference on Fit. This was an online conference focused on organisational fit. The online nature of the conference proved very popular and we had more than 200 'attendees' over the two days. Submitters supplied relatively short papers which were released on the website gradually during the conference. Attendees could download and read the short papers and then engage in debate in forums on the paper. This worked exceptionally well and proved an excellent model for online conferences. I repeated the conference in the following three years, each year trying something new. In 2008 we added a Second Life island where we hosted our coffee breaks, opening and closing speeches (with fireworks), and evening discos. In 2010 submissions were considered for inclusion in a book dedicated to the conference. This edited by Amy Kristof-Brown and me and was published in 2013.

With my job moves, emigration, marriage, and house purchase, the conference has enjoyed a hiatus. But I ran a fifth conference in 2016, which was well attended. In fact, one of the reasons I have developed this new website is to control the platform upon which the conference runs so that all the history isn't lost. You can find the conference website through this link:


Looking Ahead

In 2016 I decided to get back into fit research to coincide with my sabbatical. I focused on misfit and this fortunately coincided with a 'misfit turn' in organisational fit research. The first hit was a paper published in the premier empirical journal in business and management, Academy of Management Journal. This project lead from Dannie Talbot's PhD and was supplemnted by further studies in the States by Liz Follmer, Stacey Astrove and Amy Kristof-Brown. In addition to this, I have formed a strong working relationship with KU Leuven's Wouter Vleugels and Rein De Cooman and we have multiple papers under review and in preparation. Most of these studies are quantitative empirical studies exploring the nature of fit and misfit.  On top of this, I am currently engaged in a really exciting study into the nature of misfit using netnography with Brenda Hollyoak and Dannie Talbot from Coventry University. And finally, I still want to develop an organisational fit personnel selection tool that is properly grounded in the theory.





I have a project on the back-burner that looks at the way that recruitment and selection (and leadership) is portrayed in the cinema. My interest in this subject was by the realisation that about a quarter of films include scenes (or references) to recruitment and selection. In Australia, 70% of the population go to the cinema at least once every year and the average person goes 7 times. With these statistics, it seems likely that the way that recruitment and selection is in film will create an unconscious set of expectations about the way in which organisational entry should be conducted. They may contribute to our hopes and fears and thereby shape our behaviour when we come to apply for jobs or interview the people that do.

The initial phase of this study is to view and analyse the way organisational entry is depicted in a large range of films. To this end, I have created a database including all of the following:

  • Winners of the Best Picture at the Oscars
  • Winners of the Palme D'Or at Cannes
  • Channel 4's 100 Greatest Films of all-time (looking back from 1999)
  • Halliwell's Four Star Films
  • Halliwell's Three Star Films (since 1999)
  • IMDb's Top 250 Films

By limiting my analysis to these films, I hope to remove personal bias in the selection of films and also focus on the good, the great, the most popular, and the most enduring films that people watch again and again. I have made good progress through this database and have about 25% to go.





This project looks at the current state of management education and wonders how it would look differently if it were modelled on the way we teach doctors. What would we teach? How would we teach it? What would be the implications for faculty? In looking at these issues, I hope to inform the debate about whether management is a profession or an art, and also to see whether there are more effective ways of developing managers. In the first outcome of the project, Sharon Williams (Warwick University Medical School) put together a symposium for BAM that sketched out the main issues (please click here for the flyer). Four excellent speakers, Matthew Cooke (Warwick University Medical School), Ben Hardy (Cambridge University), Fiona Patterson (City University) and Ann Esain (Cardiff University) all spoke to a packed room. Following the symposium, Sharon and I received offers to develop the ideas further and it looks as if we will be putting a book together.

On the 30th June 2009, we had the pleasure of devoting a BAM Organisational Psychology SIG seminar on the project. It was hosted at Warwick University Medical School and again attracted a room full of interested people. In addition to Matthew and Ann who spoke at BAM, the other speakers were Lynne Caley (Warwick University Medical School), Lucy Ambrose (Warwick University Medical School) and Sophia Christie, Chief Executive of Birmingham East and North PCT. One of the more memorable lines from the session came from Ben, "the kidney doesn't do something different because you talk to it".

The project's next outing was at the Academy of Management in Chicago when Ben, Ros and Ann spoke. As with our previous outings, we attracted a very large audience and ignited much debate. 

We are now moving forward with a proposal for a special issue of a management education journal. Hopefully we should have a Call for Papers available soon. Please email Sharon or me to find out more about this project.

The members of the project include:

  • Richard Adams, Cranfield University & AIM
  • Lucy Ambrose, Keele University
  • Véronique Ambrosini, Monash University
  • Jon Billsberry, Deakin University
  • Sophia Christie, Birmingham East and North PCT
  • Claire Collins, Henley Business School, Reading University
  • Matthew Cooke, Warwick University
  • Ann Esain, Cardiff University
  • Ben Hardy, The Open University
  • Lynne Caley, Warwick University
  • Dawn Marie Naylor, Warwick University
  • Fiona Patterson, City University
  • Ros Searle, Coventry University
  • Robin Wensley, Warwick University 
  • Sharon Williams, Cardiff University




The Fit Project began in 1998 as a joint research project between myself and Philip Marsh, the Director of Human Resources at The Open University. We were interested in understanding employment dynamics in The Open University, especially its extraordinarily low staff turnover rates and the strength of its culture. The Open University has always been known internally and externally for its social mission of helping people who missed out on education first time around and its attraction of employees who shared these values. Its prominent position on British television throughout the 1970s and 1980s reinforced these impressions. As a result, we thought the ideas surrounding person-organisation fit would help us understand the culture better and, in turn, be an interesting way of understanding the construct of person-organisation fit better as well. In particular, there were theoretical arguments suggesting that 'high fit' environments would be deleterious to organisations due to factors such as 'cloning', reduced creativity, and ossification. We wanted to explore these matters to see 'high fit' did indeed lead to these things.

We were able to gain seedcorn funding of £40,000, shared equally from The Open University Business School and the Human Resources Division, to recruit a part-time Research Fellow. Dr. John Moss-Jones was hired and he conducted 66 in-depth interviews employing cognitive mapping techniques with members of staff at The Open University to explore what 'fit to the university' meant to them.


Phase One

In the first stage of the project, the project’s first Research Fellow, Dr. John Moss-Jones (right), conducted 66 in-depth interviews using the techniques of storytelling and cognitive mapping to form an understanding of employees’ sense of fit. His method involved asking people to describe the factors influencing their fit to the university and encouraging them to enrich their explanations. The participants included a borad cross-section of the university ranging from the Vice-Chancellor and Pro Vice-Chancellors through academic and administrative staff down to more humble people. People were chosen randomly, with a few particular people added to the mix to give coverage. John's qualitative data revealed a complex web of factors influencing people’s perceptions of fit that has been portrayed as a taxonomy in our papers. In addition, the analysis of the data suggested that positive levels of fit were largely tacitly-held whereas people who rated themselves as a misfit were very conscious of their sense of fit and the misfit had negative effects on their behaviour. Despite these positive outcomes that we were able to build upon, perhaps our most important finding was that the notion of 'high levels of fit' is something of a misnomer. Whilst it is a possible to use statistical methods to allocate a fit score to people, when talking to people about their fit, the idea of a high level (or a low level) of fit seems meaningless. Fit is more complex, more multidimensional, and it has elements of fit and misfit. This is why we abandoned the idea of exploring the impact of 'high levels of fit' on an organisation and instead chose to capture the richness of the construct.


Phase Two

John's work was an interesting exploration of the topic and the emergence of his taxonomy coincided with advances suggesting that fit is a useful framework with which to understand the psychological temperature of an organisation. Accordingly, in the second stage of the project we decided to create a questionnaire from our taxonomy that we could use to capture people’s sense of fit across a broad spectrum of fits and that we could use as a survey instrument. The idea was to build a questionnaire that would have both academic rigour and could be proven to be practical in organisational situations. To do this work, we hired the project's second Research Fellow. This time the appointment was a full-time one and Dr. Nathalie van Meurs joined us to do the work. This was an insanely busy time for the project with multiple studies going off in all directions. Nevertheless, we made a lot of progress and we were successful in developing a fit tool that became the core element upon which the university's annual staff survey. We ran this three times giving us tremendous longitudinal data with 3000 employees completing the survey every year.


Phase Three

Whereas in phase two we had looked at the fit and misfit of current employees, in phase three we wanted to look at predicting the future fit of new employees. This, we argued, would lead, from the organisation's perspective, to more satisfied, more committed employees who were likely to stay longer and from the employees' perspective as finding a place to work that matched their values, needs, and desires. It would seem to be a win-win. However, from a research perspective, assessing future fit is hugely problematic compared to the assessment of current fit. With current fit, you can ask someone, "How well do you fit?" but asking potential employees, "How well do you think you'll fit?" is fraught with problems. They do not know the organisaiton they are joining, everything they experience during recruitment and selection is 'managed', and their own need for work clouds their judgements. To get around this problem, indirect measures of fit are required. These take a measurement from the individual and compare it to something about the organisation. Based on our earlier work, we believed we had worked out how to do this and we recruited the project's third research fellow, Dr. Julian Edwards, to take the lead on the project. Sadly, although we were making excellent progress, momentum was lost when I left The Open University. But it is a project I hope to revive soon.


Other Research

In addition to these three main phases of our work, we were also home to a constellation of other fit studies, and some non-fit work as well. These include studies of misfit, fit and organisational performance, fit and expatriates, fit and homeworking, fit and trust, fit and creativity, fit and absence, fit and work/life balance, fit and knowledge transfer, fit and ethics, the nesting of organisational fit in regional and national cultures, people's experience of recruitment and selection, and somewhat bizarrely, the nature of bias in penalty shoot-outs in international football tournaments. A number of these studies were linked to people conducting PhD studies. For example, Dannie Talbot looked at the comparative nature of people's perceptions of fit and misfit, Patrick Nelson is looking at the connection between fit and organisational performance, and Brenda Hollyoak is looking at the nature of misfit.


Internal Consultancy

Although we were focused on organisational fit, and in particular on its practical application to strategic human resource management, arguably our most innovative contribution was to the HR function of the university. From the start of the project, we based the researchers in the HR department rather than in an academic faculty. All of our research fellows had PhDs and our research assistants and project officers had masters degrees in organisational or occupational psychology. The team varied from three to ten people at different stages of the project, but most of the time there were half a dozen of us with a rich conbination of research skills. Just through our presence, we found ourselves being drawn into HR issues and asked to help out with the design and execution of various studies, surveys, and evaluations.

In addition to running the staff survey, which was a core part of the project, we ran a survey of Associate Lecturers, conducted several new building occupation studies, analysed the nature of effective leadership in the university, evaluated many external and internal training offerings, and worked with the organisational development team to analyse tricky operational problems. Our presence had an interesting effect on the HR department. Where it had always been a reactive operation, just like in most organisations, our ability to analyse the internal environment helped give the department a proactive edge discovering issues before they became problems. This helped give the HR department 'a seat at the top table' and put the 'strategic' in strategic human resource management.


Global e-Conference on Fit

 One of the strange features of the Fit Project was that we were the only people in the UK actively reserching into the concept of organisational fit. A few other people used fit as an element in their research, but we were the only ones to make it the centrepiece. Although we were well funded and could get to international conferences, and we had many international visitors (such as Amy Kristof-Brown, Tony Wheeler, and Rein De Cooman) to the project, we were still quite isolated. I was also concerned that I had a singular take on organisational fit (I remain focused on perceived fit, which is certainly not mainstream fit research) and that this might be taking those working under me, especially my doctoral students, up a blind alley. As a result, I thought it was crucial to give my colleagues exposure to other voices and different perspectives. So was born the Global e-Conference on Fit.

The inspiration came from Nathalie, who ran a small online conference looking at cross-cultural issues. She invited speakers who contributed short papers, which were then discussed in online forums on the conference day. This worked exceptionally well, and I decided to develop the idea for an online conference on organisational fit. Setting up the conference platform was relatively straightforward, especially with the help of The Open University's computer experts, but the real effort went into attracting eminent keynote speakers and publicity. Over the four outings (so far), the keynote speakers have been Helena Cooper-Thomas (University of Auckland), Jeff Edwards (University of North Carolina), Tim Judge (University of Florida), Amy Kristof-Brown (University of Iowa), Ben Schneider (Valtera & University of Maryland), Cheri Ostroff (University of Maryland), Annelies Van Vianen (University of Amsterdam), John Kammeyer-Mueller (University of Florida), Anthony Wheeler (University of Rhode Island), and me.

The conferences would last two or three days and every year we have had more than 200 delegates. Papers were scheduled across the days so that there was a natural flow. We had full papers and a doctoral zone and almost every paper attracted a lot of considered discussion. Amongst the nice aspects of the conference are the fact that most participants were very well-informed on the subject, and that there was time to read, digest, and consider one's response. These discussions were captured providing a record, which was particularly useful for doctoral students.

Each year we tried to do something different. In the second year, we introduced a virtual world environment for the social elements of the conference; Fit Island, a desert island in Second Life. The social elements included virtual coffee breaks, meeting areas, a fireworks closing ceremony, and end of day discos (seriously). In a later conference, submissions were competitively considered for a book, which Amy Kristof-Brown and I edited, and which was published at the end of 2012. The fifth conference was held in late 2016 and hopefully more will follow:  


Published Outputs

Journal Articles

Follmer, E. H., Talbot, D. L., Kristof-Brown, A. L., Astrove, S. L., & Billsberry, J. (in press). Resolution, relief, and resignation: A qualitative study of responses to misfit at work. Academy of Management Journal.

Edwards, J.A. and Billsberry, J. (2010) Testing a multidimensional theory of person-environment fit. Journal of Managerial Issues, 22 (4), 476-493.

Billsberry, J. and Birnik, A. (2010) Management as a contextual practice: The need to balance science, skills and practical wisdom. Organization Management Journal, 7 (2), 171-178.

Ambrosini, V., Billsberry, J. and Collier, N. (2009) Teaching soft issues in strategic management with films: Arguments and suggestions. International Journal of Management Education, 8 (1), 63-72.

van Ameijde, J.D.J., Nelson, P.C., Billsberry, J. and van Meurs, N. (2009) Improving leadership in higher education institutions: A distributed perspective. Higher Education, 58 (6), 763-779.

Billsberry, J. (2009) The social construction of leadership education. Journal of Leadership Education, 8 (2), 1-9.

Billsberry, J. (2009) The embedded academic: A management academic discovers management. Transformative Dialogues: Teaching and Learning Journal, 2 (3), 1-9.

Billsberry, J. and Edwards, G. (2008) Toxic celluloid: Representations of bad leadership on film and implications for leadership development. Organisations and People, 15 (3), 104-110.

Billsberry, J. (2008) Management education as an emotional science. Organization Management Journal, 5 (3), 149-151.

Billsberry, J. and Gilbert, L.H. (2008) Using Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to teach different recruitment and selection paradigms. Journal of Management Education, 32 (2), 228-247.

Coldwell, D.A.L., Billsberry, J., van Meurs, N. and Marsh, P.J.G. (2008) The effects of person-organization ethical fit on employee attraction and retention: Towards a testable explanatory model. Journal of Business Ethics, 78 (4), 611-622.

Edwards, J. A., Webster, S., Van Laar, D. & Easton, S. (2008). Psychometric analysis of the UK Health and Safety Executive’s Management Standards work-related stress Indicator Tool. Work & Stress, 22 (2), 96-107.

Billsberry, J. (2007) Attracting for values: An empirical study of ASA’s attraction proposition. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 22 (2), 132-149.

Edwards, J. A., Guppy, A. & Cockerton, T. (2007). A longitudinal study exploring the relationships between occupational stressors, non-work stressors, and work performance. Work & Stress, 21 (2), 99-116.

Edwards, J. A., Cockerton, T. & Guppy, A. (2007). A Longitudinal Study Examining the Influence of Work & Non-Work Stressors Upon Well-Being: A Multi-Group Analysis. International Journal of Stress Management, 14 (3), 294-311.

Van Laar, D. L., Edwards, J. A. & Easton, S. (2007). The Work-Related Quality of Life scale for healthcare workers. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 60 (3), 325-333.

Billsberry, J. (2006) Towards a future where we select for fit. People and Organisations at Work, 13 (Autumn), 10-11.

Billsberry, J. and Marsh, P.J.G. (2006) Organisational research: The missing link in HR departments. Capacity, 5 (July), 2-3.

Billsberry, J., Ambrosini, V., Moss-Jones, J. and Marsh, P.J.G. (2005) Some suggestions for mapping organizational members’ sense of fit. Journal of Business and Psychology, 19, 4, 555-570.


Kristof-Brown, A.L. and Billsberry, J. (2013; Eds.) Organizational Fit: Key Issues and New Directions. Chichester: Wiley.

Billsberry, J. (2009; Ed.) Discovering Leadership. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Billsberry, J. (2007) Experiencing Recruitment and Selection. Chichester: Wiley.

Book chapters

Billsberry, J., Talbot, D.L. and Ambrosini, V. (2013) Mapping fit: Maximizing idiographic and nomothetic benefits. In Kristof-Brown, A.L. and Billsberry, J. (Eds.) Organizational Fit: Key Issues and New Directions. Chichester: Wiley.

Searle, R.H. and Billsberry, J. (2011) The construction and destruction of trust during recruitment and selection. In Searle, R.H. and Skinner, D. (Eds.) Trust and HRM. Chichester: Edward Elgar.

Billsberry, J. (2009) Leadership: A contested construct. In Billsberry, J. (Ed.) Discovering Leadership, pp. 24-34. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Billsberry, J. (2009) A leadership curriculum. In Billsberry, J. (Ed.) Discovering Leadership, pp. 1-11. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Billsberry, J. and Nelson, P.C. (2008) The impact of individualism on the outcome of penalty shoot-outs in international football tournaments. In Reilly, T. and Korkusuz, F.  (Eds.) Science and Football VI, pp. 169-173. Oxford: Routledge.

van Ameijde, J.D.J., Nelson, P.C., Billsberry, J. and van Meurs, N. (2008) Distributed leadership in project teams. In Turnbull-James, K. and Collins, J. (Eds.) Leadership Perspectives: Knowledge into Action, pp. 223-237. London: Palgrave.

van Meurs, N. and Spencer-Oatey, H. (2006) Multidisciplinary perspectives on intercultural conflict: The ‘Bermuda Triangle’ of conflict, culture and communication. In H. Kotthoff and H. Spencer-Oatey (Eds.), Handbook of Applied Linguistics, Volume 7: Intercultural Communication. Mouton: de Gruyter Publishers.