In my last post, I began to explore the complexities of conflict as a multi-faceted notion that refutes and extends beyond the one dimensional idea of conflict as some sort of negative phenomenon. Instead, looking previously at the work of Mullins (2005) and Buchanan and Huczynski (2010) we began unpacking conflict, touching briefly on the theoretical explorations of the aforementioned writers’, who start to characterise conflict as a force that can impact both negatively and positively under varying contexts and situations.
Moving on from this, Fox (1966/1973) offers four ‘Frames of Reference’ with which to deal with and perceive conflict:
- Unitarist – Conflict is bad and should not exist within the workplace, instead organisations should be harmonious.
- Pluralist – Conflict as an inevitable force, where two or more groups that form an organisation will have opposing ideas, but can have positive side effects.
- Interactionists – Conflict as a positive and necessary force.
- Radical – Conflict as an inevitable outcome of a capitalist economic model.
To fully understand the implications and sensibility of this theory it becomes important at this stage to introduce a case study, thus allowing us to further explore the above ideas in more detail through the deconstruction and analysis of real-life events.
On May 11th 2010 the general election for government took place and resulted in a hung-parliament. As a result, the LibCon coalition government was born, in order to create a party that held enough cabinet seats to facilitate a majority ruling, ultimately with 16 seats going to the Conservatives and 5 to the Liberal Democrats.
As Buchanan and Huczynski (2010) point out, most organisations are formed as collections of groups with different interests, where those interests will clash or sometimes coincide. This would generally be a redundant way to look at government as most governments are made up of one party where ideology and agenda is a unanimous school of thought, however this explanation fits well in characterising the coalition government as two groups who strongly advocate opposing political ideas.
While the Conservative party is considered a centre right-wing group who promote conservatism, British unionism and mild Euro-scepticism, the Liberal Democrats on the other hand champion key concepts of reform, civil liberties and environmentalism. Therefore, our current government provides us with perfect opportunity to look at managing conflict in order to maximise potential within an organisation.
Going back to Fox (1966/1973) and the four ‘frames of reference’, it is easy to categorise the coalition as a pluralist organisation, where conflict (though inevitable), should in theory be able to cultivate positive results if managed properly. Buchanan and Huczynski (2010) suggest that two opposing groups need to ‘compromise and collaborate in order to achieve mutual survival strategy’, and that this should result in functional conflict which achieves results and end goals as opposed to counter-productive dysfunctional conflict, which is often indicative of mismanagement.
Hutch and Cunliffe (2006) explore this further in their ‘contingency model of conflict’ (sometimes known as the bell shaped curve) where they suggest that conflict is counterproductive in cases where there is either too little (and hence a lack of motivation), or too much (and the stress levels are harmful). A middle-ground between the two, they suggest, is the perfect combination for creating a conflicting environment where things like productivity, creativity and functionality are maximised.
Therefore, at face value the coalition government should be the ideal type of government, where ideological opposition should create innovative and revolutionary politics and policies. However, it only takes a half-hearted Google search, or brief skim of a half-decent newspaper to know this hasn’t been the case. From parliamentary in-bitching, to relation breakdowns, something with this coalition has gone seriously wrong. With inconsistency over policy and very awkward, very public fall-outs, this LibCon government is now notoriously known for being an absolute joke. Why? Well, quite simply because they didn’t manage the conflict!
Rather disappointingly after countless promises, the Cameron-Clegg political wedding that sounded like such a good idea at the time has been about as popular as a bad case of influenza. With key figures like Vince Cable MP refusing to acknowledge any kind of Tory partnership, and back-benchers berating both leaders, this joint venture has gone to pot, and what’s left? A stagnating government who appear as outdated as they are out of touch, with losses in the opinion polls and an ever growing embittered public.
In my opinion, this is a real shame! What a golden opportunity wasted. With the triple-dip recession looming, unemployment spiking through the roof and national debt rising faster than the speed of light, not even an Olympics or Golden Jubilee have been able to paper over these cracks! Who’s to blame? Well, if you ask me, it’s Cameron and Clegg – for being the biggest girl’s blouses on the block! Shrinking violet Clegg has all but faded into the background, after being seduced as Cameron’s official bitch on the side and Cameron has his head buried so far in the sand he’s pretty much protruding out of the ground somewhere in China. What should have been an opportunity to turn this country around and stuff the Great back into Britain, has through total mismanagement and constant wishy-washy politics failed us all, resulting in a government racked with instability and incompetence in equal measure.
What are your thoughts? I really want to know. Are you in favour of my views, or do you think the government hasn’t been a complete loss? Comment below, join in the debate on Twitter and tell me what you think!!