Person-Nation (Mis)Fit


It hurts and can be shocking when your (extended) community isn’t thinking the way you do. We surround ourselves with like-minded friends, including on social media, and so we develop what is called the ‘False Consensus Effect‘. It means that we wrongly assume that most people agree with what we think.

Additionally, once we realise the others think differently than we do it is tempting to try and convince them to see the situation from our perspective, preferably with evidence or good arguments. But we should not try to just impose views, no matter how evidence based, as the other would simply reject it due to confirmation bias, which is when we prefer, seek out, interpret and remember information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. In other words, your evidence based proof will fall onto deaf ears. The key here is to find out why the ears are deaf.


It is now very confusing what is “American” just like since June after the referendum it is unclear what is “British” as it seems the country is 50/50 in terms of their values.

BUT effective conflict management, albeit hard work, can be possible by looking at what is really the matter, not by condescending viewpoints. First, a government must try to separate the espoused values from what people really need and how this can be supplied. For example, is it a sense of security? Or a need for freedom from elitist governing? Michael Moore warned people that this vote wasn’t all about racism, it was about demoralised middle class voted realising that their $ may not be worth the same as the 1%, but their vote does count the same.¬†

Furthermore, if you are genuinely curious as a politician, try to find out what the nation needs in terms of skills and which government leadership team has the abilities to deliver an effective, happy workforce. For example, what does a region require in terms of industry innovation and how can this be supplied and what kind of training needs to be put in place? In management research this is called Person-Environment Fit, made up of a match between values, demands-abilities and needs-supplies, which has a strong correlation with wellbeing.

Much of such leadership also requires the skill (and guts) to find out the ‘hidden issue’ – people say it’s about immigration. Is it? Or is it about companies not adhering to fair (living) wages, by underpaying immigrants in the construction and hospitality industry? Or they don’t like how national culture is changing. Well, in Brighton the Migrant English Project offers free English lessons and a lunch to immigrants in a welcoming way. Perhaps the kind side of integration policies needs to be reviewed, in order to address the multicultural tensions (See Scheffer on the situation in The Netherlands).

The issue of Washington/Westminster/Euro bureaucrats – is it that? Or a sense of unequal regional investment and neglect – with Wallstreet and the City being bailed out but also a focus of an unsustainable system of economic growth in an era where consumerism is having a lasting impact on our environment (see also Luyendijk’s Swimming with Sharks).

The alternatives are there but this requires enormous innovative, creative and (culturally) intelligent leadership.¬†Before Republican supporters celebrate – an imposed approach could cause further civil unrest within a split nation. Similarly, the Leave campaign claim they ‘won’ and everyone now needs to get on board. But that ‘win’ wasn’t a majority and people won’t be able to just change their views. They may have to accept the result but they won’t (want to) understand it. At this stage, it’s raw. Eventually, all that people can probably muster is to see the issue from the other’s perspective (provided it isn’t blatant hate, racism and ignorance or arrogance and elitism) but they won’t embrace it as their own viewpoint. In conflict management research, the ‘compromise’ solution isn’t ideal. It’s up to the leadership to engage in integrative governance, which will be hard work.


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