Cognitive Dissonance & Rationalization: 

In the world of business, most people like to think of themselves as being ethical. That said, many also espouse the belief that “business is business” and make unethical choices when they feel it is the best option for themselves or for their company. How is this possible when our actions contradict our intentions?

This gap between our opinion of ourselves and our actions leads to cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance refers to situations where our beliefs and behaviors contradict one another. This results in feelings of discomfort that cause us to alter our attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors to restore balance. In such uncomfortable moments, the mind quickly works to resolve feelings of cognitive dissonance, but rather than change our behavior, we too often end up changing our beliefs.

There are multiple methods of accomplishing this known as rationalization techniques. These 12 rationalization techniques are discussed in chapter 15 of The Business Ethics Field Guide. Although the term rationalization techniques may be unfamiliar, the techniques themselves are sure to be recognized as just about everybody has employed them at some point in their lives, sometimes even subconsciously.

Over the next few months we will post 12 blog posts dissecting each of the rationalization techniques. In the meantime, read more about them in The Business Ethics Field Guide.