Cognitive dissonance and why you never quit job you hate.

Have you met a person, who constantly kept complaining about his job and wanted to change it, yet never changed his job and after some time tells you that he stayed back because he was learning a lot in his job (when in fact job remains same with no learning)?


Met a recruitment manager who hates the organisation he works for, but tells candidates during interview that organisation is best place to work?


Heard classical HR joke about managers, who during induction, selling organisation to new recruits which they themselves don’t want to work for?

Leon Festinger explains this with his theory of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is stress or discomfort a person feel if he holds two contradictory beliefs or ideas at same time. He can also feel stress if some new information conflicts with his existing beliefs or if he is asked to do something contradictory to what he believes in.

A person will always try to reduce dissonance by altering one of his beliefs/ideas and avoid situations and information which will increase it.

cognitive_dissonance (aug18)[1]

So a manager who dislike organisation and yet forced to sell organisation during interview/induction, reduces his dissonance by actually believing (atleast for time being) that organisation is worth joining, similarly a person convinces himself that he may actually be learning at lot in his boring job.


In 1954 a housewife from Chicago called Dorothy Martin made claim that she had received message from a planet called Clarion that on December 21, 1954, there will be great flood that will destroy earth. But those who believed in Dorothy ( Seekers) will be saved and will be transported to Clarion by a flying saucer which will pick them on midnight of Dec 21st.

Many people join this UFO cult, some even left their jobs, sold their property for their trip to Clarion. Among them were Leon Festinger and two of his associates who wanted to observe the whole drama. Using his dissonance theory Leon predicted that on 21st of December, when no flying saucer will land and there will be no flood, majority of seekers will still stay loyal to Dorothy.

As he predicted, while some people lost faith in Dorothy, majority stayed with Dorothy. To prove that their belief was right, they came with new theory- God had postponed great flood and wanted cult members to convert more members so that next time more people could be saved. So instead of giving up their insane belief, they decided to stay with Dorothy and went about converting more people!



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