Cultural Cognitive Dissonance


“Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs, values, or attitudes.”  Verywellmind

Typically, we associate this behavioral issue with individual humans.  Yet, aren’t organization comprised of human beings?  Well at least until the AI robots take over.

There can be many issues causing individual and collective angst and some are described below.  However, it is not daily decisions management makes that we do not agree with that are the most destructive.  The real challenges groups face are the ones that challenge organizational culture–such as major change or organizational transformation efforts.

Yet, what if cultural cognitive dissonance is not caused by major one time events?  What if it is the result of the systemic nature of the organization.  For example, employees are routinely treated poorly and not valued.

From a personal perspective, twice in my career I blow the sales quota away by multi-millions.  My reward; thanks and we can’t pay that much in commission.  And the final coup de grâce, “we want more of this type business so we are going to hire someone to do it.”  Guess, what!  Both companies did and these huge deals were never sold again.  Oh and BTW, both went out of business not long after.

There are consequences when organizations exhibit cultural cognitive dissonance.  Not just to the individual, but that message was clearly sent and no one ever again stepped out of their boxes.  Game, Set, Match!

Moreover, for large global firms, there may be cultural clashes among the different global divisions/companies.  This can be managed but may often be at odds with each other.

From Verywellmind, the following three major causes of cognitive dissonance apply to organizations as well as individuals.

Causes of Cognitive Dissonance

  • Forced Compliance–Required to behave in a certain way that may be contrary to beliefs or desired behavior
  • New Information–Obtaining new information or data that calls into question previous positions
  • Decisions–The quandary of needing to select one of two or more similar alternatives

According to the well regarded Cleveland Clinic, “Cognitive dissonance can feel a lot like anxiety and stress — and they often come paired together. When you’re stressed or anxious, you could affect your overall mental, emotional and physical health.”

This observer suggests that these symptoms will apply to organizations as well.  This could contribute or lower performance and even the demise of a once viable organization.  This condition is something to be taken seriously.

Does your organization realize there may some internal cognitive dissonances in your culture?

For More Information

Please note, RRI does not endorse or advocate the links to any third-party materials herein.  They are provided for education and entertainment only.

See our Economic Value Proposition Matrix® (EVPM) for additional information and a free version to build your own EVPM.

The author’s credentials in this field are available on his LinkedIn page.  Moreover, Dr. Shemwell is a coauthor of the just published book, “Smart Manufacturing: Integrating Transformational Technologies for Competitiveness and Sustainability.”  His focus is on Operational Technologies.

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” (Martin Luther King speech at Cornell College, 1962).  For more information on Cross Cultural Engagement, check out our Cross Cultural Serious Game.  You can contact this author as well.

For more details regarding climate change models, check out Bjorn Lomborg ands his latest book, False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet.

Regarding the economics of Climate Change, check out our blog, Crippling Green.

For those start-up firms addressing energy (including renewables) challenges, the author can put you in touch with Global Energy Mentors which provide no-cost mentoring services from energy experts.  If interested, check it out and give me a shout.

Scroll to Top