Leaders and Cognitive Dissonance
Over the years of training and coaching Leaders, I’ve found that Cognitive Dissonance is one of the biggest challenges leaders struggle with. So, what is it?
Cognitive Dissonance is when you strongly hold a belief because you WANT to believe it and when evidence comes into play that contradicts that belief, you fight hard against that evidence, no matter how obvious it is.
For example, you have an employee that you believe is a good person, though sometimes that employee appears to manipulate or abuse you or other members of the team. Because you WANT to believe, you reject the contrary evidence because it goes against the belief that you WANT to maintain. The contrast of that evidence and what you WANT to believe, makes it so that your brain simply can’t reconcile the two. That’s Cognitive Dissonance.
We’re not talking about a single case of manipulation or abuse. We’re talking about an ongoing pattern. Now, granted, there are sometimes extenuating circumstances, and everyone deserves a break now and again. However, when that “good person” repeats the same manipulative or abusive behavior, the leader must recognize it and confront it as a performance issue.
It’s important to have a strong level of belief in your employees; however, if you ignore the facts in favor of your beliefs, the behavior will likely continue and likely will get worse. So don’t ignore bad behavior because you WANT to believe something else. Challenge your thinking and confront it as a performance issue.
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