Interest in loyalty and conflict resulted in a book about conflicts of loyalty2022-02-24
The conflicts fall into three categories – easy, difficult and impossible. A collaboration between working life science and sociology has led to a book for students.
Jonas Axelsson, Senior Lecturer in working life science at Karlstad Business School, and Markus Arvidson, Senior Lecturer in sociology at Karlstad University, have a long-term interest in matters of loyalty. They have known each other for more than ten years and had many discussions on the topic. In terms of subject matter, questions of loyalty are closely linked to questions of conflicts, so when they embarked on their first book project together, the subject landed on conflicts of loyalty. A large topic that also lacked a textbook in Swedish that could provide a framework.
- I think the book also fills an international gap, says Jonas Axelsson. An important driving force in writing the book was that we wanted to create something that would be useful to our students. Much of the content has evolved from dialogue and discussions with students. That spurred us on.
Conflict of loyalty is a general concept that identifies a phenomenon that is extremely common in both private and working life – conflicting demands and expectations can be found everywhere. If you consider those challenges as conflicts of loyalty, you can gain a deeper understanding. Jonas Axelsson gives an example:
- Let’s say that there is person who is good at several things and involved in a number of different activities. It is basically a luxury problem to be, for example, good at several sports, but you need to choose. This in turn can be difficult, but you still have several privileged alternatives to choose from. In such circumstances, the conflict does not become a matter of conscience. What we are trying to convey in the book, among other things, is that there are certain conflicts of loyalty that can be a bit exciting in a positive way.
A common conflict of loyalty is one that arises between work and family life. One solution to this may be to create strategies that define different places and times. When the weekend comes, it may be that your loyalty to your employer decreases and your loyalty to your family takes over.
- If you follow this approach, you will realise your strategy and be able to handle conflicts, says Jonas Axelsson.
The authors divide conflicts of loyalty into three categories – easy, difficult and impossible. The easy ones are luxury problems, the difficult ones have elements of a conflicting conscience, and the most difficult ones are those that include children’s conflicts of loyalty in custody disputes. The book covers the whole spectrum.
- The conflicts that include elements of a conflicting conscience are, for example, common in healthcare professions. They can be very difficult to handle and examples of this are often linked to questions of working conditions and how the workplace is organised. If there are too many of these elements in your working life, this will undoubtedly weigh on you as an employee. When it comes to children’s loyalty in a custody dispute, we see them as impossible to resolve. There is no way of getting it right no matter what you do. I hope our book can open doors when it comes to discussing these issues and be a tool to look at things in new ways.
Are there differences in conflicts of loyalty regarding working life and private life?
- Both can be difficult, but a conflict of loyalty in working life means that legal aspects come into play. Many people perceive private conflicts of loyalty as extremely difficult, but the legal duty of loyalty towards the employer is powerful. The right to criticise and act as a whistleblower can be a sensitive matter, and the hierarchical structure of the workplace also plays a major role. We are exposed in a way that we would not be in our family life. It is about vertical loyalties – that is, we are expected to be loyal to our superiors. There is a clear tension, and hopefully your private life is more about horizontal loyalty. The really dark loyalties, we refer to as involuntarily vertical loyalties, and that is where we find fear of superiors. This in turn can lead to a culture of silence.
We live in a time where it is important to have a project, an idea, about what you want out of life. To capture this, Jonas Axelsson and Markus Arvidson have introduced the concept of self-loyalty.
- For many people, it is important to be able to have your own space and develop as an individual even though you have a family to consider. Loyalty to yourself has become more common in recent years. I do not think that it is speculative to say so.