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Steve was ecstatic following a strategic merger between U.S.-based Ryan Project Systems and German Gierig Strategin AG. Ryan, endeavoring to expand their market share, agreed to merge with international Strategin to maximize the market share of both organizations. Shortly after the merger, three Ryan employees began discussing their belief that a disproportionate downsizing on the Ryan side of the merger was occurring. Valuable human capital resources were being terminated, many by suspicious terms, at least according to Steve (Dainton & Zelley, 2019, pp. 49–52; Donahue, 2023, p. 1).

As we continue to apply theories of intrapersonal communication, we can approach our selected study from the lens of an attribution theorist as an “amateur detective” (Goodwin, 2023). From this lens, we can apply the work of Heider (1950s) and Jones and Davis (1965) to analyze how attribution theorists could explain the varying degrees of attribution theory applied by Lisa and Konrad, two colleagues with whom Steve interacted during the Ryan merger. Lisa was Steve’s supervisor. Lisa and Steve worked together on expanding the Ryan-Strategin footprint, even in the wake of what appeared to be Ryan-targeted human capital reductions (Dainton & Zelley, 2019, p. 50).

Our lecturer challenged us to demonstrate the application of Attribution Theory, alongside Cognitive Dissonance Theory, to each of the parties: Lisa, Steve, and Konrad within the framework of their interactions. Assuming the latitude from last week’s tabular analysis of applied theory, we can assume a matrix-based association of certain high/low traits (akin to personality psychology) to evaluate the dispositional or situational underpinning of each, revealing the category of attribution applied by each party.

To arrive at our conclusion, we must apply the Five Factors of Intentionality Behind Dispositional Factors, as curated by Jones and Davis (1965). Table 1.2 below highlights the individual differences associated with each view of the investigated parties to determine their locus of control and reveal the degree of controllability each had for the outcome they uniquely found themselves in.

To accomplish this, we must establish a few basic facts. First, Steve and Lesa were Ryan employees who underwent a merger with Strategin (Dainton & Zelley, 2019, p. 49). Immediately following the merger, Steve and Lesa began to assess their environment and observe a disproportionate number of Ryan employees being terminated from employment (Dainton & Zelley, 2019, pp. 49–50).

They observed this behavior over time following the Ryan merger and attributed it to the notion that Ryan employees were targeted for human capital reductions. Within this narrow scope, we must apply the foundry logic of consensus, consistency, and distinctness to determine controllability and then assess the proper attribution category (Goodwin, 2023).




Together, they are high in consensus. They each agree that Ryan employees seem to be targeted for dismissal.


Together, they appear high in consistency. The idea is supported by their intrapersonal view that Ryan employees have been targeted. Accordingly, they find consistency in their view that more and more Ryan employees seem to be dismissed from the merged entities over time and without reasonable cause.


Lisa and Steve are high in distinctiveness as the Ryan dismissals arrive following the merger. There was no indica of belief that they would have observed Ryan side dismissals, otherwise.

Locus of Control

It rests with Konrad, their supervisor on the Strategin side of the merger, and he has direct power to influence and control their behavior.

Table 1.2 (Goodwin, 2023)

Instant analysis might suggest that Konrad was not mentioned much in our investigation, yet another set of five factors was likely applied by Lisa and Steve when evaluating their position concerning the consolidated companies and Konrad, their immediate supervisor. Likely, Lisa and Steve considered Konrad’s actions to determine the intentionality behind dispositional factors. Jones and Davis (1965) curated the following theoretical logic; Table 1.4 illustrates our findings.




Lisa and Steve see Konrad as an employee of Strategin who acts contrary to the promise top management made to calm the fears of employees concerning dismissals following the merger. Lisa and Steve see his actions as deliberate.

Social Desirability

Together, Lisa and Steve decide that they are not safe in their employment following the merger and arrive at the belief that Konrad was an agent for Strategin working to further the Strategin side of the merger. Even if, to differing degrees.

Prior Expectations

Steve seems to have the most invested in prior interactions and their expectations. He aptly remembers other encounters he has had just five years prior. He used Lisa’s political connections to mediate his expectations. Accordingly, Steve appears low in prior expectations.

Hedonistic relevance

Each Lesa and Steve see Konrad as the inflictor of harm, the individual whose behavior directly affects us.


Lisa and Steve are Ryan employees, and Konrad is a Strategin supervisor; this belief further supports the allegiance of Konrad to his company’s side of the ledger.

Table 1.4 (Goodwin, 2023)

When taken together, Lisa and Steve likely view Konrad with high consensus, consistency, and distinctiveness and view Konrad’s actions as dispositional.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

CDT works similarly to attribution theory in that they are cognitive ways we create schemas to organize new information. It is highly relevant to note that CDT is principled upon post-decision review; in other words, the theory works as a post-decision, persuasive theory (Goodwin, 2023). While an entire thesis could be written concerning CDT’s application logic within the context of the Ryan merger, the essential components are Lisa and Steve have applied that dissonance. The dissonance ratio, perceived importance, and our internal rationalizations measure the magnitude of dissonance. Aptly, Lisa and Steve saw themselves as valuable, enterprise-building employees of Ryan. A renewed confidence in this position supported their belief following their trip to Spain (Goodwin, 2023).

However, Konrad’s behavior did not match Lisa and Steve’s beliefs. Lisa and Steve believed they were valuable employees to the merged organization; Steve believed he was immune from termination because of Lisa’s “political” connections. Accordingly, Lisa and Steve operated cognitively in a post-interaction, persuasive form that served to convince themselves following every decision that the behaviors observed within the organization did not apply to them, thereby creating a buffer between them and the subject behavior: the termination of Ryan employees. Through selective interpretation, Lisa and Steve applied their own logic to decipher ambiguous information from their environment to make sense of it in the form that presented them with the least cognitive disturbance, no matter how connected to reality.


Our lecturer commands us to evaluate four separate theories and present the most likely theory to apply to the Ryan merger and Lisa and Steve’s position with Konrad. While the framing of this instruction is ripe for debate, Lisa and Steve arguably applied Cognitive Dissonance Theory to make sense of the environment they found themselves in. Together, one built upon the fears of another and utilized information from their environment and experience to shape an ideal outcome that had the least discomfort to each of them individually.

Steve specifically ignored clues from his past that would have given context to his present situation. He likely did so to avoid or distance himself from the discomfort he was experiencing. Steve hid behind Lisa’s political connectedness to further his comfort in his position. Together, Lisa and Steve found new confidence from their trip to Spain, which seemed to contradict their standing theory, yet three days after returning, Lisa was released from employment.

While this event should have conceptualized their assumptions as a potential reality (that Lisa and Steve were correct in their assessment that Ryan’s employees were targeted) Steve persisted and tried to work with Konrad against all logic: his entire team had been dismantled. Accordingly, it seems Steve distanced himself from the realities of his situation, even following Lisa’s termination. He continued the cycle of selective interpretation, principally that his previous determinations, based on cues from his environment, were not valid.

The thought of finding new employment likely crossed Steve’s mind, and potentially, he used the discomfort from this possibility as another means to distance himself cognitively from a reality he believed was separate from behavior. For these reasons, analyzing the entire interaction from the cognitive dissonance perspective seems most apt.

Works Cited

Dainton, M., & Zelley, E. (2019). Applying Communication Theory for Professional Life Fourth Edition. Sage.


Goodwin, M. (2023). L04 Attribution Theory: [24SP] CAS 303, Sec 001: Comm Thry.

Goodwin, M. (2023). L04 Cognitive Dissonance Theory : [24SP] CAS 303, Sec 001: Comm Thry.


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