Have you ever tried to change a bad habit? It might be the habit of snacking on junk food or smoking cigarettes. If you take a close look at people who are trying to rid themselves of such behaviours, you will notice a phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance.
What is Cognitive Dissonance?
Cognitive dissonance arises when humans are presented with evidence that works against a core belief that causes psychological stress and discomfort. It theorizes that people attempt to achieve some sort of internal consistency. We will rationalize, ignore and deny any change that doesn't fit with the core belief because of our need for internal consistency and balance,
Here are some statements that might sound familiar:
"Everybody slips up on their diet once in a while, it's not a big deal."
"Smoking isn't really that bad for the body."
These statements are you rationalizing your choices to ease the experience of cognitive dissonance.
The theory of cognitive dissonance is applicable to the workplace, as it can be both a disadvantage and advantage in situations of change. A person might be reluctant to learn the new software introduced through the change initiative, but they also want to be competent and skilled at their job.
Cognitive dissonance can be disadvantageous if this person uses it as a form of resistance to change - they might resolve the dissonance by telling themselves that the new software is not that important to learn and that they can get by with the skills they have now. However, cognitive dissonance is not always bad.
On the flip side, the individual could also choose to change their behaviour to align with their beliefs - the person will approach the HR department to ask for help in gaining the skills required for using the software so they can remain competent at their job.
In other words, cognitive dissonance may be seen as a step in the process of embracing change!