29 June 2010

Understanding Bill Blair, Dalton McGuinty, and David Miller

I love it when current events validate my research, and theories of organization and leadership. I have often been left with a sense of wonderment at people whom I would expect to be basically ethical when they act in sometimes egregiously unethical manners. How could Dalton McGuinty claim that draconian, anti-Charter regulations are in keeping with the values and standards of Ontarians? Why does David Miller deny that we need an independent investigation into the countless allegations of police excesses during the G20 weekend - an investigation that would vindicate his Top Cop if indeed, as the powers-that-be claim, there was no wrongdoing? And why oh why does Police Chief Bill Blair step deeper and deeper into the muck, and then proceed to stick his mucky foot deeper into his mouth? (Yeah, I know, big yuck factor there, but this whole mess is pretty yucky. Here's a clue: pink-washing isn't an all-purpose cleanser.)

Would you be surprised if I said that Valence Theory offers an explanation? I didn't think so...

It's all right here, under the section "Coordination":
When a person’s Identity-valence relationship to the organization is predominantly fungible, there is, by definition, a tradable value associated with the status, class, and privilege that the Identity connection conveys. It becomes difficult for that individual to separate a personal view from that of the organizational role since it is nearly impossible for someone so constructed to publicly separate his or her self from that f‑Identity-valence connection. Thus, it is not uncommon for an individual to feel compelled to assume either an untenable, illogical, seemingly irrational, or unethical position with respect to a particular issue because s/he presumes – often incorrectly – that is the appropriate position for the Identity-role to assume. Because the person cannot separate him/herself from that f‑Identity-valence connection, s/he (to paraphrase Marshall McLuhan) loves her/his label – Identity – as her/his self. Amidst the dehumanizing influences that characterize BAH organizations, a strong, extrinsically created, f‑Identity-valence connection helps to disconnect the individual from acting on personal judgements, feelings, and core values...

...Put another way, a BAH manager will ask him/herself the f‑Identity question: “What decision would a manager in my position take; how (that is, through what defensible process) would s/he come to that decision?” In contrast, a UCaPP manager would ask an Identity-ba question: “What decision accurately represents the collective values of this organization to create the intended effects – the tactility – to which this organization aspires?”
Considered in a slightly different way, understanding the action of f‑Identity can help explain seemingly arbitrary, onerous, or self-righteous decisions that occasionally occur in BAH organizations.
So the solution to this sort of behaviour is really very simple. If you hold high office or a position of responsibility, all you have to do is - as my grandmother used to say - settle down and act like a mensch!

Update (30 June 2010): Jon Stewart has noticed exactly the same phenomenon with Candidate Barack Obama becoming President Barack Obama. (Linked clip from June 15 available only in Canada; Americans must visit Comedy Central's site for the clip).
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