Home > Free Essays > Psychology > Cognition and Perception > Cognitive Dissonance in Leaders
Cite this

Cognitive Dissonance in Leaders Thesis


Introduction

Since its introduction by Festinger, the concept of cognitive dissonance has received widespread recognition in multiple fields that involve human behavior patterns. Eventually, the concept was applied to organizational studies, where it offered numerous benefits associated with improvements in employee motivation, engagement, and behavioral patterns. Leadership has become an especially promising area for inquiries on cognitive dissonance, both because leaders are highly vulnerable to attaining cognitive dissonance and due to its numerous possible effects on their professional performance (Verma & Anand, 2014).

Nevertheless, despite its obvious relevance to the area of cognitive dissonance in leaders, the issue remains under-researched. Many of the existing studies on the matter deviate significantly from the academic concepts and lack the precision of definitions, which renders the obtained findings unreliable or obsolete (Hinojosa, Gardner, Walker, Cogliser, & Gullifor, 2017). While a recent increase in interest in the topic can be observed among researchers, the available information is insufficient to arrive at a meaningful conclusion. To further complicate the matters, some scholars suggest the possibility of positive effects of cognitive dissonance, which can be considered relevant once their implications are confirmed by valid data (Adams, 2016). To sum up, an exploratory inquiry in the area of cognitive dissonance can produce valuable findings and is necessary to direct further researches and outline potential areas of interest.

Rationale

Modern organizational culture relies heavily on innovation. Properly implemented innovative approaches are known for their ability to facilitate and sustain competitive advantage, increase and maintain the necessary level of productivity, and improve efficiency on both organizational and individual levels. However, the process of innovation is strongly associated with resistance to change and an overall increase in individual stress among employees (Verma & Anand, 2014).

Leaders are not exempt from this effect as the organization changes can conflict with their personal and professional values. Since they are expected to inspire their team to engage in activities that do not necessarily coincide with their beliefs and values, the possibility of developing cognitive dissonance in the process is further increased. According to numerous sources, such a scenario can result in the disruption of organizational performance, decline in individual involvement, loss of motivation within the leader’s team, and increased employee turnover (Wicklund & Brehm, 2013).

Interestingly, some evidence exists that these effects can be minimized through conscious effort on the part of the impacted party. For instance, some experts point out that the effects pertinent to cognitive dissonance can be used to achieve improvement if timely detected and addressed (Adams, 2016). Unfortunately, neither of the suggested effects has been sufficiently studied to be incorporated into practice, and the majority of the existing literature on the matter is only marginally applicable to the area of leadership directly.

Therefore, it is necessary to conduct a study that would address the outlined issues directly to improve our understanding of the matter, including the most likely causes of cognitive dissonance, its exact effects on leaders and their teams, and the possible ways to mitigate its adverse effects, if any. Also, the research would allow us to establish the relevance of the existing findings from areas marginally related to the topic, which would allow using them for establishing direction and formulating questions for future studies in the field of leadership.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to establish a connection between inner conflict and cognitive dissonance in leaders, determine its effects on leaders’ teams, and outline approaches that could minimize the effects through conscious effort. A descriptive study was selected as a suitable research design since it allows for relative flexibility of the inquiry process. A qualitative survey was chosen as an instrument for data collection. The survey includes both open-ended and close-ended questions to make sure that the issues overlooked in the design process could be identified during the analysis stage. The study is to be performed via an online tool with basic analytical capabilities, which is expected to decrease the time necessary for analysis without compromising the reliability of the results, provide maximal convenience for the participants, and maintain anonymity and privacy of the data.

The findings of the proposed study are primarily exploratory. Therefore, its main goal is to improve the current understanding of the cognitive dissonance in leaders and its effects on organizational culture on a large scale. By extensions, this would allow future researchers to obtain a clearer direction for their studies and get a clearer picture of the relevance of certain aspects of cognitive dissonance in the workplace. Finally, it is possible that the data analysis would reveal the previously overlooked issues that require closer examination.

Literature Review

The success of leaders in the workplace depends to a certain degree in their emotional state. From the purely psychological perspective, the confidence, involvement, and determination of the individuals depend on their emotions, with negative ones predictably leading to decreased productivity. For the leaders, however, the effect is greater since one of their areas of responsibility requires them to set an example for their team.

Understandably, when leaders are experiencing positive emotions, the resulting improvements are much more visible. Also, the readiness to engage in problem-solving activities and challenging tasks increases in the teams with optimistic leaders and yields better results (Noruzy, Dalfard, Azhdari, Nazari-Shirkouhi, & Rezazadeh, 2013). Finally, the positive attitude transmitted by the leaders boosts trust within the team, minimizes blame culture, and promotes collaboration and openness within a team.

Cognitive dissonance is a known factor that influences the emotional state of individuals. Moreover, for leaders, it also harms the decision-making capacity, both as a result of the undermined confidence and because of the internal conflict of values that disrupt the clarity of decision. Similarly, cognitive dissonance influences the trust between the leader and its team members. On the conscious level, it introduces uncertainty by confusing the communication. On the subconscious level, it can create an impression of insincerity and aggravate or trigger interpersonal issues within the team. Simply put, cognitive dissonance has a profound negative effect on the team entrusted to an impacted leader.

The following literature review explores the current sources to obtain recent information on cognitive dissonance and its characteristics. Next, it provides information on its effects on individuals, groups, and social environments. Finally, it outlines the most likely effects that cognitive dissonance may produce in the workplace.

Cognitive Dissonance

Introduction

Dreaming and high aspirations are an essential component of success in life. Currently, imagination and ambition are promoted in individuals from an early age to ensure that it serves as a source of inspiration and creativity throughout life. At the same time, however, the process of inevitably growing up reshapes the ideas about the desirable results, mainly by introducing previously overseen limitations.

Also, the social component of human activities introduces the determinants of what is considered “appropriate behavior.” As a result, a distinction is formed between dreams and realistic goals, and individuals adapt to the conditions by applying this frame of reference to new ideas and goals. According to Warren and Hale (2016), this is done as a safety measure. More specifically, humans prefer reaching a moderate result without taking risks of failing in the process of gambling and expecting a higher reward. Also, this protects from embarrassment resulting from peers’ reactions to perceiving something that is considered unlikely as a real and feasible opportunity (Lerner, Li, Valdesolo, & Kassam, 2015).

In other words, they practice conformity to ensure that they are accepted in the social environment, where the norm is an important factor. Despite the evident advantages of such an approach, numerous examples exist of people achieving outstanding results despite a widespread belief that their goals are unrealistic and belong to the realm of dreams. In this context, cognitive dissonance serves as a means of retaining inspiration without compromising social status. Thus, understanding cognitive dissonance can reveal not only its adverse qualities but also illustrate the means of coping with them.

Definition

According to the most common definition, cognitive dissonance is a feeling of discomfort that appears when individuals encounter information that contradicts their preconceived beliefs, notions, or values (Festinger, 1957). Importantly, both the initial and the new information needs to be convincing enough for the individual to perceive it as true rather than dismiss it outright. Each time this conflict occurs, the person starts feeling psychological discomfort that goes away once the dissonance is eliminated (Wicklund & Brehm, 2013).

According to Festinger (1957), this feeling of discomfort is a primary motivation that drives the individual’s determination to resolve the conflict. The most recognizable way of doing this is dismissing a dissonant condition. However, it is also achievable through weighting the dissonant cognition and assigning value to them or adding cognitions that strengthen the position of one of the conflicting beliefs to minimize the value of the competing one (Chang, Solomon, & Westerfield, 2016).

The discomfort resulting from cognitive dissonance is observed regardless of the possibility of undesirable consequences. In other words, people are reluctant to engage in unfamiliar or conflicting behavior even when no apparent harm can be expected in the end (Harmon-Jones, Brehm, Greenberg, Simon, & Nelson, 1996). Therefore, the presence of conflicting notions is a sufficient condition for the creation of cognitive dissonance, while the threat of a negative effect is optional.

Foundation of the concept

From the historical perspective, the concept of cognitive dissonance can be traced back to the implications made by Freud. One of the principal assumptions in Freud’s works is the pursuit of personal needs as one of the primary drivers of human behavior, operating primarily on the subconscious level (Weiner, 2013). The impact of unsuccessful fulfillment of needs accumulates in sub-consciousness and continues influencing the lives of the individual without being acknowledged. In many cases, these traumatic experiences obtain significant weight and may become dominant in the decision-making process.

It also implies that the positive resolution is less likely since the driving force is based on avoidance of the negative rather than the pursuit of the positive. In most cases, these unfulfilled needs are undetectable without a designated effort. However, once the individuals become aware of their unfulfilled needs, they can exercise better control and consciously seek improvement by targeting the areas where the said discomfort can be alleviated most effectively.

Internal conflict

Another important addition to the theory of cognitive dissonance is the concept of internal conflict introduced by Festinger (1957). According to Festinger (1957), cognitive dissonance is the unpleasant feeling that arises as a result of conflicting beliefs. Importantly, these beliefs are not directly acknowledged by the individual – instead, they create a dissonance without being critically examined and logically processed, which parallels them to the unfulfilled needs discussed above.

One of the best-recognized sources of internal conflict is the clash between the preconceived notions (often, but not necessarily, acquired early in life) and the newly encountered information that is equally substantiated and/or convincing.

However, it is as likely to occur as a result of socially unacceptable behavior or the violation of socially imposed norms or expectations. The effect of cognitive dissonance is cumulative and depends not only on the significance of any two conflicting notions but also on the number of the conflicts experienced over some time (Gamble & Gamble, 2013). As with the unfulfilled needs described by Freud, the awareness of the internal conflicts provides the person with an opportunity to redirect his or her actions and deliberately address the conflict to improve the emotional state.

From the information above, it becomes apparent that cognitive dissonance is a state rather than a discrete phenomenon and, despite residing in the domain of subconscious, can be successfully addressed through conscious effort. For an individual, in a position of a leader, such possibility becomes an important component of professional practice, in particular, because it has a significant impact on the decision-making process that determines the outcomes for other people.

For instance, some of the internal conflicts may initiate and sustain affirmative behavior, where an ongoing streak of poor decisions or inappropriate actions can add up and eventually obtain a self-fulfilling quality. On the superficial level, the impacted individuals will get consecutive confirmations of their incompetence, lack of proficiency, or “bad luck,” which will eventually take effect of a vicious circle. However, once they acknowledge the existence of unfulfilled needs and internal conflicts, they can address the said conflicts and amend the situation both for themselves, and, in the case of leaders, for their teams. Importantly, the interpretation of the causes of the conflict and the involved factors requires a profound understanding of the matter as the majority of variables differ based on the personal characteristics and individual experiences (Willingham, 2014).

Dissonance reduction

Once the dissonance is acknowledged and sufficiently understood, it can be minimized. According to Festinger (1957), this can be achieved in two general approaches: through the elimination of the behaviors that contradict the established beliefs or through the review and adjustment of beliefs in an attempt to bring them in concordance with the required behavior. The easiest example is a situation where an individual believes in a certain kind of virtue (e.g., the trust among peers) and finds out that this virtue conflicts with the requirements of their workplace environment (e.g., the necessity to report the violation of safety conditions by a co-worker).

In this situation, the person may perceive the report as “snitching,” which is a breach of trust. Thus, two outcomes are possible. The person may review their criteria for trust, contrast them with the rationale behind the practice of reporting the violations, find the latter more reasonable and convincing, find their previously held notions regarding trust as obsolete or incompatible with reality, and embrace the newly introduced behavior of reporting.

This would be an example of adjusting the beliefs to the demanded behavior. Alternatively, the person may find the requirement incompatible with their moral code and, as a result, choose to withhold the information, effectively disobeying the directive but preserving personal integrity. In this scenario, the actions are changed to eliminate the discomfort resulting from the actions that conflict with the values and beliefs held by the subject. Until the resolution is reached, the individual continues to experience discomfort that motivates them to arrive at a meaningful conclusion.

In addition to a conclusive resolution, the dissonance can be minimized through one of the several approaches, including justification and denial. For instance, the people who have a subconscious desire for power may feel frustrated upon discovering their inability to exercise authority over others or reach the social status that provides them with the opportunity to do so. As a result, they can start perceiving power as “corrupting” and not worthy of being pursued. They then start seeking (often subconsciously) information that confirms their belief (Ravven, 2013). At the same time, the evidence to the contrary is either ignored or actively challenged. By doing this, they can avoid the conflict between their unfulfilled needs and reality through denial of the benefits derived from their desired position.

According to Adams (2016), the existence of inner conflicts increases our capacity to resolve problems by prompting us to examine the issue critically. Thus, the suppression or denial of inner conflict is inefficient and usually requires resources that could have been otherwise spent on developing a constructive solution for the problem. Therefore, the discomfort associated with inner conflict should not be dismissed – instead, it must be carefully examined to produce a feasible solution (Adams, 2016).

Research

One of the most recognized case studies of cognitive dissonance is the book “When Prophecy Fails” by Festinger, Riecken, and Schachter (2013). In the book, the author describes the UFO cult led by a leader who prophesized the end of the world and claimed that the membership in the cult could provide the possibility of salvation. The case was especially interesting because the validity of the prophecy could be confirmed through simple observation since it was predicted to occur on December 21, 1954.

After the identified date passed with no observable effects, the group was suggested an explanation by their leader that the spiritual purity of the group was strong enough to prevent the disaster (Festinger et al., 2013). The explanation was immediately and uncritically accepted by the group. From the psychological perspective, the described situation is consistent with the scenario of justification, where the information that challenges the pre-held notion (the absence of the apocalypse) not only failed to undermine the faith but was used to strengthen the beliefs of the members. In other words, the cognitive dissonance was minimized through justification.

Further studies revealed that the effect becomes more prominent when the notion is disclosed publicly before being challenged (Steg, Keizer, Buunk, & Rothengatter, 2017). In other words, the individuals tend to stand by their beliefs and find justification for them more readily when their peers are familiar with their stance. This effect is strong enough to override the conscious effort of suppressing it. That is, the individual tends to seek for ways of decreasing dissonance even after being pointed to the fact of them doing so.

In the context of the organization, it is possible to imagine the situations in which the described effect could result in either positive or negative outcomes, depending on the concordance of values and beliefs held by the leaders and actions required by the organizations.

Organizational Implications

The growing intensity of the contemporary business environment puts forward numerous demands on organizations. Flexibility and adaptability become more important as the dynamics of organizational development become a crucial factor in the light of high competition (Nandakumar, Jharkharia, & Nair, 2014). Another aspect that is uniformly pursued regardless of the industry segment is innovation – the ability to find improvements for existing operations as well as introduce new ones with more value (Anderson, Potočnik, & Zhou, 2014). Naturally, these expectations are equally applicable to the leaders involved with the organizations.

Interestingly, both flexibility and innovation necessitate changes in established behaviors and operations. Therefore, it can be safely assumed that they open up the possibility of inner conflict and, by extension, lead to cognitive bias (Verma & Anand, 2014). Besides, leaders deal with organizational members, each of whom has their own set of values. Thus, in addition to the dissonance created by the organization-wide changes, leaders are exposed to small-scale inner conflicts daily. Finally, it should be acknowledged that dealing with workplace conflicts is often listed among the responsibilities of the leaders, and it is reasonable to expect that such activity further increases the likelihood of inner conflict.

From the organization-wide perspective, cognitive dissonance among leaders presents several possible threats. Most prominently, in the situation where the leaders perceive the direction taken by the company as undesirable, or the new objective looks unrealistic, they might develop an inner conflict. In this situation, a leader might still come up with a viable plan of action but will fail to deliver the desired result.

One of the possible reasons is the fact that on the subconscious level, he or she would seek consonance between the professional values and the demands placed by the company. On the superficial level, the activities of such a leader would be hardly distinguishable from those of a consonant one unless the results are taken into consideration (Wicklund & Brehm, 2013). Most likely, the reluctance to embrace new behavior will be unnoticed by the leader as well unless he or she is familiar with the issue.

From a team-wide perspective, cognitive dissonance can undermine the emotional climate within the team. The easiest example is the situation where the leader is required to choose between options that each has its potential disadvantages for the team. However, once the personal values and beliefs come into play, it becomes possible that the decision would be made in favor of a more appealing alternative rather than the least controversial or the most beneficial one (Weiner, 2013). In this situation, the leader will avoid the unease of making a dissonant decision at the expense of the discomfort and, possibly, the integrity of the team. As with the previous example, such a decision would be subconscious, which excludes the possibility of a reasonable choice. Thus, in both cases, inner conflicts in leaders pose certain risks to the workplace environment and organizational productivity unless addressed properly.

Related Research

Despite the evident importance of the concept of cognitive dissonance in leaders, the topic has not been researched directly. However, numerous studies exist that explore related areas and are thus indirectly connected to the current study. For instance, the effects of the cognitive dissonance on various aspects of the workplace environment are well-represented in the scholarly literature. A review of managerial research conducted by Hinojosa et al. (2017) revealed that the authors of management studies often recognize cognitive dissonance as one of the variables but rarely integrate it consistently into the research design.

As a result, the findings of the researchers usually lack accuracy and often use a distorted or incomplete understanding of the concept. As a result, such studies are only tangentially applicable to the cognitive dissonance theory and its effects. Simply put, the majority of the studies have deviated from the core concept significantly enough to evaluate their contribution and, in some cases, render it useless (Hinojosa et al., 2017).

Of the few researchers that approached the theoretical background of cognitive dissonance responsibly, most have only a marginal connection to the area of leadership. For instance, a study by Dechawatanapaisal and Siengthai (2006) explored the effect of cognitive dissonance in the workplace. Specifically, the researchers studied its effects on learning work behavior. The research team concluded that the psychological discomfort resulting from cognitive dissonance significantly undermines the ability of employees to receive and comprehend new information during the period of transformation in the organization (Dechawatanapaisal & Siengthai, 2006).

Interestingly, effective HR practices were shown to mitigate the effect, both by decreasing discomfort and minimizing the unpleasant emotional states and by enabling employees’ learning behavior. Admittedly, the study is only marginally related to the topic of the current research since the subjects are employees rather than leaders, and, therefore, the obtained results do not describe the transmission of the effects onto the involved teams. Instead, it directly addresses the issue of cognitive dissonance in workers. However, the findings obtained by the researchers correlate with the general implications observed throughout the academic literature.

First, the study confirms the suggestion that inner conflict produces enough negative emotions to hinder organizational performance. Admittedly, the study focuses on learning behavior, so the possibility remains that other workplace activities experience the effect on a different scale. However, it is also reasonable to expect that despite the difference in magnitude, the overall effect of discomfort and psychological agitation remains negative throughout the field. Second, the mitigation achieved through effective HR practices is consistent with the suggestion that the inner conflict can be successfully resolved and its adverse effects mitigated by conscious effort. Thus, despite being of secondary significance to the research at hand, the study by Dechawatanapaisal and Siengthai (2006) confirms the implications made by the research team.

A study by Lopez and Picardi (2017) explored the effect of perceived equity in the workplace on the cognitive dissonance in employees. According to the authors, individuals tend to adjust their workplace behavior following the sense of fairness. Thus, the cognitive dissonance between the requirements of the organization and the perceived inequity leads to discomfort and, by extension, the decline in productivity (Lopez & Picardi, 2017).

Interestingly, from the cognitive dissonance theory standpoint, such a decline in motivation signals the existence of potential motivation. The researchers found a relationship between the reported dissonance and the decline in productivity, with organizational culture being cited as the most common reason behind the perceived inequity (Lopez & Picardi, 2017). These results are also consistent with previous findings highlighted in the literature review. Still, they are only of marginal importance for the current study since they describe the effect of cognitive dissonance on employers. While it is reasonable to expect that inner conflicts in leaders will eventually lead to similar outcomes in their teams, this implication needs to be confirmed separately, and its effects weighed against other probable scenarios. Therefore, the study is to be used to substantiate the significance of the current research and to illustrate the possible sources of cognitive dissonance.

Summary

Since its introduction by Festinger, the concept of cognitive dissonance has become an important part of organizational culture. According to the current understanding, it has a profound effect on the behavior of both leaders and employees within the organization. The current academic consensus holds that the effects of the cognitive dissonance on productivity are generally negative, although its impact can be reduced through acknowledgment and conscious effort.

This fact leads some experts to believe that when addressed properly, the inner conflict can yield positive results in the form of additional motivation and assistance in a critical approach to problems. However, despite the wide recognition of the importance of the concept, the issue of cognitive dissonance in the workplace remains under-researched. Also, certain areas, such as cognitive dissonance in leaders, remain overlooked despite their apparent importance for the organization.

Methodology

Research Questions and Hypotheses

Considering the information gathered in the literature review section, several gaps in current knowledge can be identified that demand a closer examination. Specifically, it is necessary to understand how inner conflict felt by leaders is related to the cognitive dissonance experienced by them, and whether it has an impact on their interaction with workplace teams entrusted to them. The most probable anticipated cause of the adverse impact is the stress and anxiety felt by a leader and the direct and/or indirect projection of stress on team members. The study also aims at outlining the most feasible approaches to addressing the adverse effects of cognitive dissonance through conscious efforts ranging from increased awareness and understanding of the causes of stress to specific reflective practices intended to minimize the possible negative outcome.

Three research questions were formulated to address the identified areas.

  • Q1. Is there a relationship between inner conflict and the emergence of the cognitive dissonance experienced by leaders in the professional setting?
  • Q2. Is the experience of cognitive dissonance in leaders reflected in their relationships with teams as a result of projecting their stress?
  • Q3. Can the adverse effects of cognitive dissonance in leaders be mitigated through conscious efforts?

In correspondence with the research questions above and considering the information obtained from the literature review, three research hypotheses were formulated:

  • H1. There is a perceived positive relationship between the feeling of inner conflict and the experience of cognitive dissonance, as reported by the leaders.
  • H2. The experience of cognitive dissonance can be traced to the relationships between leaders and their teams through the projection of stress onto team members.
  • H3. The adverse effects of cognitive dissonance can be mitigated through conscious efforts (e.g., awareness of the reason behind the discomfort, reflective practices, and willingness to actively address the underlying cause of the issue).

Research Design

The research design chosen for the study was descriptive research conducted in the form of a survey. Such design has several benefits critical for the formulated research question and provides advantages concerning the existing knowledge on the matter. First, it is consistent with the formulation of the research topic based on previous experience. As was detailed in the literature review, the issue of cognitive dissonance as a result of the inner conflict is broadly represented in contemporary literature.

It lacks depth in the form of concrete definitions or substantial findings. While such amount of information does not allow predicting the results with a degree of certainty, it is sufficient for formulating a qualitative research question. Also, the existing studies usually lack the necessary context that would improve our understanding of the issue. The reviewed sources commonly explore a specific area of organizational activity without considering a multitude of possibly relevant factors. Qualitative studies usually have an advantage of broadening the understanding of the concept and possibly revealing previously overlooked details.

Specifically, the current research is expected to outline numerous aspects of inner conflict in leaders. Since no concrete data exists, that would allow weighting the significance of the factors commonly believed to cause cognitive dissonance. It would be reasonable first to obtain an overall picture based on the perspectives of the leaders in the field. Next, the social constructivist perspective common for qualitative research is consistent with the highly personalized nature of cognitive dissonance. As was described above, cognitive dissonance strongly depends on the sets of values and beliefs possessed by each individual.

While some of these can probably be generalized based on social norms and workplace ethics, others will certainly be unique for each individual. Therefore, the social constructivist paradigm, which considers multiple perspectives to conclude, can be used to process the obtained information. Another advantage of the qualitative research design is the possibility to work with the small sample size. First, this complies with the time and resource restrictions characteristic for the project. Second, the lack of a well-established theoretical basis (aside from the extensive information on the theory of cognitive dissonance in general) necessitates the use of open-ended questions that can yield more information but require more time to analyze. In this context, the smaller sample size would mean affordable time spent on the analysis without sacrificing the quality or reliability of data.

The data will be collected by administering an online survey. Since the survey contains both close-ended and open-ended questions, the obtained responses would be analyzed differently. For the close-ended questions, the data will be processed using the functionality of the used software, which would also generate a visual representation of the analysis. The responses to the open-ended question will be reviewed individually to define common themes and areas highlighted by the responses. Once the themes are determined, the responses will be categorized to identify the most common variants. It is expected that certain areas would match those pertinent to the close-ended questions. However, it is reasonable to expect new insights derived from the responses highlighting the overlooked variables.

Given the goal of the research team to explore the area that is insufficiently covered in the existing literature, it is reasonable to typify the study as exploratory. Such type focuses on the discovery of ideas and identification of specific objectives for further studies rather than the generation of the statistically significant data. First, such a research type does not require the availability of robust findings by previous researchers. Second, it provides an opportunity to provide a sense of direction for future studies, which is useful, considering the feasibility of the topic. Finally, while such type of study does not provide statistically measurable results, it can deepen the understanding of the problem by offering richer information from the participants.

Operational Definitions

The formulated hypotheses contain several independent and dependent variables that need to be defined to eliminate ambiguity and streamline the process of analysis.

Independent variables

The two main independent variables involved in the study are inner conflict and cognitive dissonance in leaders. The inner conflict can be defined as the conflict of values experienced at a personal level (Adams, 2016). Cognitive dissonance is a feeling of discomfort that appears when individuals encounter information that contradicts their preconceived beliefs, notions, or values (Festinger, 1957). For the third research question, the efforts intended to mitigate the effects of cognitive dissonance are considered an independent variable.

These efforts are defined individually by the respondents and can include any activity that is expected to help the leaders cope with inner conflict effects. Since the study explores the perceived effects of cognitive dissonance as reported by the participants, all variables will be measured based on the assessment of the respondents via a five-point Likert scale and true-false questions. Importantly, the exploratory nature of the study opens up the possibility of identification of the activities overlooked by the researchers (through open-ended questions), in which case the measurement will not be possible.

Dependent variables

The dependent variables relevant for the study include the adverse effects experienced by workplace teams and the mitigation effects of the conscious efforts. The former is an effect that can be conclusively linked to the stress projected by the leader and affecting team performance. The latter is the perceived improvement following the practice that results in the elimination of discomfort and is not achievable otherwise. As with independent variables, these will be measured based on the reports by the respondents and evaluated on the five-point Likert scale.

Participants

The analysis will be based on the primary data obtained directly from the participants. To ensure the relevance of the information, the participants were chosen from the individuals working in management positions. The educational setting was chosen for sampling, with ten schools determined as a source of the sample.

Specific criteria were devised to ensure the suitability of the sample for the study. First, the participants had to be involved in working with teams of employees. As such, the top manager segment was excluded to ensure that the participants were closely interacting with employees daily. Such criterion ensured that their responses covered not only the organizational aspect of the cognitive dissonance but also the team management side. By extension, the results obtained in this way would be applicable to the effects experienced by the team members involved with the leaders who undergo inner conflict.

Next, the participants were required to have at least two years of experience in their current position. Such a condition would increase the likelihood of their exposure to the inner conflict and thus actualize their knowledge on the topic. To further exclude misinterpretation, the participants were briefly interviewed on the matter of their familiarity with the concepts and theories used to construct the survey, and the identified misinterpretations and inconsistencies in knowledge were addressed. In other words, additional measures were incorporated into the sampling procedure to make sure that the participants have sufficient understanding of the issue, and their responses thus have sufficient relevance for the study.

Finally, the sample was retrieved from the organizations that have undergone at least a minor transformation in the period that coincided with the participants’ experience in the managerial position. This condition would increase the likelihood of them dealing with cognitive dissonance. The change in an organization is a massive source of inner conflict both in managers and in employees, so it would be reasonable to expect that such setting would serve as a cause of cognitive dissonance both directly (by introducing the requirements that may conflict with the personal values) and indirectly (by initiating the conflicts in team members).

The recruitment of the sample will be performed by contacting the administration of the chosen schools and explaining the purpose of the study as well as the criteria of the sample. Once the recommendations of the administration are obtained, the managers eligible for participation will be contacted via email and briefed on the purpose and conditions of the study. At this point, personal referrals will be used to increase the sample size and include those overlooked by the administration.

Those who agreed to participate will be contacted on the phone for further clarification on the safety and privacy issues of the study, and their formal consent will be obtained. Once the definitive list of participants is constructed, the surveys will be administered via email, with ten days allocated for completion, after which the number of responses will be verified using the functionality of the online tool to estimate the response rate. The tool gathers data anonymously, so only the percentage of the responses will be derived.

The study requires participation voluntarily, so no compensation will be available for the participants. The candidates will be explicitly notified of this during the initial contact via email. The information will be confirmed in the telephone conversation.

The online tool used for the study incorporates several measures intended to protect the participants’ privacy. While the resource registers the IP address of the participants, this information is used internally to ensure the integrity of data. It is not available to the researchers, participants, or a third party. All of the data is encrypted and transferred through secure channels. The results are properly anonymized. The account is protected with a strong password to exclude the possibility of a leak. The sensitive data gathered during sampling is encrypted and stored using open-source software. This document is handled separately and not used in the analysis of the data to exclude accidental disclosure. The participants are informed about the protective measures as well as the probability of data loss due to the malfunction of the equipment or a deliberate attack.

Instruments and Materials

A survey was developed to establish the existence of a relationship between the inner conflict and cognitive dissonance, identify possible effects of the cognitive dissonance on leaders’ teams, and explore the potential ways of mitigating the effect. The survey consisted of twenty-nine open-ended and close-ended questions and aimed solely at the leaders within the organization. Since the survey was intended for online administration, the questions were intended to be as short as possible without sacrificing the clarity and precision (15 words per question on average). The survey was administered to the participants remotely via email and text messaging.

The number of responses was verified to exclude the possibility of inconsistencies. The combination of open-ended and close-ended questions was chosen following the exploratory nature of the study since it offered a broader overview of the possible use techniques without significantly increasing the time necessary to process the data. The online form of the survey served two purposes. First, it allowed for a more convenient administration and provided the participants with the possibility to choose a suitable schedule. While it also increased the time required for data collection, such drawback was acceptable considering the small sample size.

Second, the data processing capabilities of the online tool minimized the time and resources required for data analysis. While the functionality of the platform is relatively limited, the accuracy of the analysis was acceptable for the exploratory qualitative study.

After the questions had been ready, they were reviewed by a group of peers for clarity of statements and the presence of errors. Several questions were re-written to eliminate possible misreading and multiple interpretations. The questions were also submitted for review by a manager with the relevant experience to verify their applicability for the chosen topic. Once the text was finalized, it was entered into an online tool, after which the survey was administered to three peers to check whether it worked as intended. Once the functionality was confirmed, the collected data was erased to ensure the integrity of the results.

Procedure

The data will be collected remotely by sending a link to the survey via email or the messaging system of the participant’s choice. Ten days will be allocated for participants to leave their responses. The timeframe will be specified before the data collection and included in the reminder accompanying the link. After ten days, the survey results will be locked so that no further responses could be added. The number of returns will be matched to the initial participants to establish a response rate. The data on responses to closed-ended questions is expected to be available instantly via the tool’s analytical tools. The responses to open-ended questions will be handled separately by grouping them into meaningful categories and assigning representative codes. The coded responses will then be quantified and included in the final results.

References

Adams, L. (2016). Web.

Anderson, N., Potočnik, K., & Zhou, J. (2014). Innovation and creativity in organizations: A state-of-the-science review, prospective commentary, and guiding framework. Journal of Management, 40(5), 1297-1333.

Chang, T. Y., Solomon, D. H., & Westerfield, M. M. (2016). Looking for someone to blame: Delegation, cognitive dissonance, and the disposition effect. The Journal of Finance, 71(1), 267-302.

Dechawatanapaisal, D., & Siengthai, S. (2006). The impact of cognitive dissonance on learning work behavior. Journal of Workplace Learning, 18(1), 42-54.

Festinger, L. (1957) A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Festinger, L., Riecken, H., & Schachter, S. (2013). When prophecy fails: A social and psychological study of a modern group that predicted the destruction of the world. New York, NY: Start Publishing LLC.

Gamble, T. K., & Gamble, M. W. (2013). Interpersonal communication: Building connections together. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Harmon-Jones, E., Brehm, J. W., Greenberg, J., Simon, L., & Nelson, D. E. (1996). Evidence that the production of aversive consequences is not necessary to create cognitive dissonance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(1), 5-16.

Hinojosa, A. S., Gardner, W. L., Walker, H. J., Cogliser, C., & Gullifor, D. (2017). A review of cognitive dissonance theory in management research: Opportunities for further development. Journal of Management, 43(1), 170-199.

Lerner, J. S., Li, Y., Valdesolo, P., & Kassam, K. S. (2015). Emotion and decision making. Annual Review of Psychology, 66, 799-823.

Lopez, A., & Picardi, C. A. (2017). . Web.

Nandakumar, M. K., Jharkharia, S., & Nair, A. S. (Eds.). (2014). Organisational flexibility and competitiveness. New Delhi, India: Springer.

Noruzy, A., Dalfard, V. M., Azhdari, B., Nazari-Shirkouhi, S., & Rezazadeh, A. (2013). Relations between transformational leadership, organizational learning, knowledge management, organizational innovation, and organizational performance: An empirical investigation of manufacturing firms. The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology, 5(64), 1073-1085.

Ravven, H. (2013). The self beyond itself: An alternative history of ethics, the new brain sciences, and the myth of free will. New York, NY: New Press.

Steg, L., Keizer, K., Buunk, A. P., & Rothengatter, T. (Eds.). (2017). Applied social psychology (2nd ed.). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Verma, S., & Anand, S. (2014). The flip side of flexibility in organizations. Organisational Flexibility and Competitiveness, 135-152.

Warren, J. M., & Hale, R. W. (2016). The influence of efficacy beliefs on teacher performance and student success: Implications for student support services. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 34(3), 187-208.

Weiner, B. (2013). Human motivation. Los Angeles, CA: Psychology Press.

Wicklund, R. A., & Brehm, J. W. (2013). Perspectives on cognitive dissonance. Hillsdale, NJ: Psychology Press.

Willingham, R. (2014). The people principle: A revolutionary redefinition of leadership. New York, NY: Macmillan.

Appendix A

Survey Questions

  1. I enjoy my work
    1. Strongly Agree
    2. Agree
    3. Neither Agree Nor Disagree
    4. Disagree
    5. Strongly Disagree
  2. Summarize one or two major personal strengths that contribute to the effectiveness of your department.
  3. Summarize one or two major personal issues that hinder the effectiveness of your department.
  4. When decisions are made, diverse points of view are considered.
    1. Always
    2. Mostly
    3. Sometimes
    4. Rarely
    5. Never
  5. I believe I have established good relationships with each member of my team.
    1. Always
    2. Mostly
    3. Sometimes
    4. Rarely
    5. Never
  6. What do you need to effectively live your values in your company?
  7. I can characterize my workplace as dynamic and changing environment.
    1. Strongly Agree
    2. Agree
    3. Neither Agree Nor Disagree
    4. Disagree
    5. Strongly Disagree
  8. What is ethical leadership from your point of view?
  9. Can you give me an example of a time where your ethics were challenged?
  10. What did you do?
  11. Some of the changes occurring at work do not align with my beliefs and values.
    1. Always
    2. Mostly
    3. Sometimes
    4. Rarely
    5. Never
  12. I have difficulties in accomplishing goals that do not align with my values.
    1. Always
    2. Mostly
    3. Sometimes
    4. Rarely
    5. Never
  13. I feel discomfort when communicating the conflicting goals to my team members.
    1. Always
    2. Mostly
    3. Sometimes
    4. Rarely
    5. Never
  14. Provide an example of a recent conflicting experience.
  15. The accomplishment of a conflicting task yields greater emotional satisfaction.
    1. Always
    2. Mostly
    3. Sometimes
    4. Rarely
    5. Never
  16. My values are irrelevant as long as the change has evident benefits for the organization.
    1. Strongly Agree
    2. Agree
    3. Neither Agree Nor Disagree
    4. Disagree
    5. Strongly Disagree
  17. I have observed negative impact on my team while working on an ethically challenging task.
    1. Always
    2. Mostly
    3. Sometimes
    4. Rarely
    5. Never
  18. I have received reports from my team members of difficulties with the projects that were ethically challenging for me.
    1. Always
    2. Mostly
    3. Sometimes
    4. Rarely
    5. Never
  19. Summarize the most common observed effects.
  20. Summarize the most common complaints voiced by the team.
  21. The adverse impact was the result of my reaction rather than my team’s.
    1. Strongly Agree
    2. Agree
    3. Neither Agree Nor Disagree
    4. Disagree
    5. Strongly Disagree
  22. I was able to reduce the discomfort by recognizing the authority of the source of change.
    1. Always
    2. Mostly
    3. Sometimes
    4. Rarely
    5. Never
  23. I was able to motivate my team by appealing to my authority as a leader.
    1. Always
    2. Mostly
    3. Sometimes
    4. Rarely
    5. Never
  24. I was able to reduce discomfort by recognizing the conflict as an inevitable part of the job.
    1. Always
    2. Mostly
    3. Sometimes
    4. Rarely
    5. Never
  25. I could motivate my team by describing the conflict as an unpleasant necessity.
    1. Always
    2. Mostly
    3. Sometimes
    4. Rarely
    5. Never
  26. I could minimize the discomfort of the inner conflict by reminding myself that achieving the goal will be worth the effort.
    1. Always
    2. Mostly
    3. Sometimes
    4. Rarely
    5. Never
  27. I was able to persuade my team that they will be rewarded emotionally once the goal of the ethically challenging project is met.
    1. Always
    2. Mostly
    3. Sometimes
    4. Rarely
    5. Never
  28. I found it easier to pursue the goal once I was able to identify the cause of discomfort.
    1. Always
    2. Mostly
    3. Sometimes
    4. Rarely
    5. Never
  29. My team performed better once I pointed out the true cause of discomfort to them.
    1. Always
    2. Mostly
    3. Sometimes
    4. Rarely
    5. Never
  30. Summarize the technique that was helpful in resolving inner conflict and does not fit the descriptions above.
This thesis on Cognitive Dissonance in Leaders was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

Need a custom Thesis sample written from scratch by
professional specifically for you?

Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar

301 certified writers online

GET WRITING HELP
Cite This paper

Select a referencing style:

Reference

IvyPanda. (2020, July 31). Cognitive Dissonance in Leaders. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/cognitive-dissonance-in-leaders/

Work Cited

"Cognitive Dissonance in Leaders." IvyPanda, 31 July 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/cognitive-dissonance-in-leaders/.

1. IvyPanda. "Cognitive Dissonance in Leaders." July 31, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cognitive-dissonance-in-leaders/.


Bibliography


IvyPanda. "Cognitive Dissonance in Leaders." July 31, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cognitive-dissonance-in-leaders/.

References

IvyPanda. 2020. "Cognitive Dissonance in Leaders." July 31, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cognitive-dissonance-in-leaders/.

References

IvyPanda. (2020) 'Cognitive Dissonance in Leaders'. 31 July.

Related papers