Living in a Social World
Psy 324: Advanced Social Psychology
Spring, 2000

Job Justification: Just of Bunch of Hot Air

Selection & Analysis by
Megan Bitsoff, Amy Gangloff
Amber Ruth, & Andrea Serrott

dilbert.jpg (66642 bytes)

Dilbert, by Scott Adams

    Why am I here? Why am I doing this? What is the point? Everyday people ask themselves these questions in an attempt to justify their behaviors. Most of us in college justify our decision to spend four years immersed in papers and exams by rationalizing that it will help us get a better job when we are done. Although sheer love for what we do would be the best justification, many of us are not lucky enough to have that. In this Dilbert cartoon we see a distressed employee asking Catbert what the point of his job is. Seemingly, the employee is concerned with helping society, but perhaps the employee is more concerned with constructing a self-concept instead of making a contribution.

    Clearly, the employee feels insecure about the purpose of his job. He seeks affirmation from an authority figure as a way to boost his self-esteem and ultimately define his self-concept. A self concept is a person's answer to the question, "Who am I?" His motivation for asking this question is that he finds himself unsatisfied with the relevance of his job.

    The employee seeks reassurance from Catbert but does not receive this. By suggesting that the employee's documents are "unimportant," Catbert is only lowering the employee's self-esteem. Catbert's motivation for this response may be that he himself has an inferiority complex. By reducing the worth of the employee's job, the cat feels more important by means of downward comparison.

    As the employee returns to his computer, he arrives at the realization that his job does not have a purpose. The defeated expression on his face cannot hide his disappointment. Clearly, there is a discrepancy in the employee's attitude and his behavior. Tension arises as the employee is simultaneously aware of these two inconsistent pressures. This dilemma is resolved through a process called cognitive dissonance. According to the theory, we strive for consistency and thus experience dissonance if our attitudes do not match our behaviors. To reduce this dissonance now that he has learned his job is pointless, the employee can either quit his job or find another way to justify his job. We designed our own fourth frame in which the employee reduces anxiety by providing himself with a reason he works there. He smiles because he knows he is paid well, and therefore the money acts as the justification for his action. He can now maintain his job contently.


    Meyers, David G., (1999). Social Psychology (6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

    Tesser, Abraham. (1995). Advanced Social Psychology . New York: McGraw-Hill.

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Social Psychology / Miami University (Ohio USA). Last revised: Thursday, April 18, 2002 at 15:17:08 . This document has been accessed 1 times since 1 Jan 2000. Comments & Questions to R. Sherman