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Cognitive dissonance

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Published: 17 August 2020

Lecturer in Business and Management at the University of Sunderland in London Benjamin Agyemang

Lecturer in Business and Management at the University of Sunderland in London, Benjamin Agyemang, talks about the lockdown and how it’s changed our approach to our jobs. In this article, he explains the conflict between what we think of as the ‘proper way’ to work and remote working. 

“With the lockdown starting to relax, more and more people are going back to their offices. 

Over the last four months, working from home has been the new normal for a lot of us.

So when we return, we’ll have to re-learn some of the things we used to take for granted.

Some think the lockdown has shown we can work from home in long-term.

But changing what we think of as ‘normal’ might not be that easy.

There’s a conflict between how we used to work and how we’ve done our jobs since the lockdown.  

It wasn’t uncommon to think of working from home as less productive than being in the office.

Whether we thought it was better or not, COVID-19 has meant we’ve had to try out remote working.

 Psychologists and behavioural scientists call this conflict ‘cognitive dissonance’.

Cognitive dissonance explained

First explained by the social psychologist Leon Festinger, cognitive dissonance happens when you have two or more views that don’t match with each other. 

Put more simply, if you have to do something that goes against your beliefs you’re going through cognitive dissonance.

If you thought that flexible working isn’t productive, you’ll have cognitive dissonance when you have to work from home.

This applied to a lot of people across the country because of the lockdown.

Coming to terms with this conflict - sometimes called ‘cognitive balance’ - is going to be a challenge.

Some researchers think that we can get rid of cognitive dissonance in workplaces by encouraging new ideas and professional development.

I like to think of it as a great argument for why you should study business theories. It can help you put new ideas into practice.”

Benjamin Agyemang is a Lecturer on the BA (Hons) Business and Management and BA (Hons) Business and Management with Integrated Foundation Year programmes. 

His research looks at how organisations develop and the management of diversity and economic policies. You can find out more about Benjamin on his profile page.

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