Cognitive Dissonance in the Workplace

cognitive dissonance in the work place

Understanding the Impact of Cognitive Dissonance in the Workplace

Cognitive dissonance is a fascinating psychological phenomenon that can have a profound impact on our mental health.  Cognitive dissonance is the feeling of discomfort that arises when you hold two contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time. It can be a particularly harmful force in the workplace, where it can lead to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

Cognitive Dissonance Workplace

It’s no secret that the workplace can be a stressful place. With competing demands, tight deadlines, and ever-changing priorities, it’s easy for stress to build up.   In the workplace, cognitive dissonance can arise when you experience conflicting demands from your boss or conflicting values within your team.  For instance, you’re in the middle of a challenging work situation – maybe you’re stuck in a toxic team or have a boss who is always micromanaging – and it feels like you can’t win. You’re constantly stressed out, and your performance is suffering.  

In the workplace, cognitive dissonance can be caused by a number of factors. Often, it is the result of trying to hold contradictory beliefs about ourselves or our work.  If we believe that we are good at our job and yet experience failure, cognitive dissonance will create tension and stress. We may feel like we are not good at our job, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.

It can be challenging to experience anxiousness, worry, lack of motivation, lethargy, and other symptoms of anxiety and depression when it is not apparent to us what is prompting these internal responses.  When we take a step back to evaluate different aspects of our lives, we might overlook the impact that our work environment and culture has on our psychological and mental health.  In order to gauge how much we are being impacted by the stress of work, we must first look at our values that may be in conflict with one another as a prime source of information.

What are Your Workplace Values

When you take a moment to reflect on what it is that you value in a work environment or job description, what is it that comes to mind?  Do you believe that it is important that your job supports your ideas, be flexible, have outlets for sharing ideas or collaborating, be more directive and structured or open to different perspectives and ways of completing a task?  Do you want your job to be aligned with your personal values, such as promoting altruism, transparency, integrity, equality, fairness and acceptance of different perspectives.

Consider creating a list of what you value on a personal level and what you value in a work environment.  Then compare what you value to what you may experience in the reality of your workplace.  Do you find at times struggling with your coworkers lack of supportiveness in a project you are working on together or do you feel that you are looking past a coworker who is being discriminated against due to the culture of the workplace being accepting of this treatment. 

It can be particularly stressful when we attempt to hold these conflicting values internally, as it can become challenging to appease our different needs.  When considering what is in conflict, you might begin to understand why it may be so challenging to continue to work in an environment that promotes a certain attitude or way of doing things that is not in alignment with your own values. It is in this realization that you can begin to problem solve solutions and validate what you are needing for a more satisfying and fulfilling workplace environment.

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