President Trump likes conflict.
It’s fair to say that many Americans already knew this, or were not surprised to see him confess that during a news conference featuring the Swedish prime minister.
One of the main responses from his surrogates and supporters when called upon to defend Trump’s latest attack against his political opponents — and sometimes even those within his own party — is that the president likes to “punch back.”
But at Tuesday’s news conference, he explained why he values conflict even among his staff:
“I like conflict. I like having two people with different points of view. And I certainly have that. And then I make a decision. But I like watching it. I like seeing it. I think it’s the best way to go. I like different points of view.”
But Trump’s approach to problem-solving may actually not be the best way to go in the eyes of the American public. And it could wind up hurting him with voters. What Trump may be calling conflict, many Americans see as chaos.
Workplace conflict is not uncommon. And when handled appropriately, some experts view it as an opportunity to come up with helpful answers to real problems. But when allowed to fester or perhaps worse, when it’s encouraged, it can lead to more problems than solutions that can have real ramifications for the people an organization claims to serve.
Since entering the White House, there have been constant reports of factions among Trump’s staff competing with one another, leaking unfavorable stories to the media that paint co-workers in a bad light, and simply failing to work together to actually make America “great.”
With high staff turnover as one of the most obvious examples, some have pointed to internal conflicts as the most significant obstacle the Trump White House faces when trying to accomplish the president’s vision for the country.
Part of this is because of the relative ideological diversity of the Trump White House. In addition to having hard-line conservatives competing with establishment Republicans to carry out Trump's agenda, the president’s staff has even brought in some Democrats. But the fundamental depths of some of these conflicts may be presenting challenges that aren’t working in Trump’s — or the American public’s — favor, and voters have taken notice.
In a Washington Post poll reflecting on 2017, “chaotic” was the most common one-word summation of the year.
Other negative words that made the list in people’s one-word summations of the year include “crazy,” “challenging,” “tumultuous,” “horrendous,” “disappointing” and “disastrous.” And large majorities attributed this perspective to Trump’s job performance, the U.S. political system as a whole and the direction in which the country is going.
Trump often points to the strong economy as proof of how smoothly his administration is running, but when Americans were asked to name the nation’s No. 1 problem, the option receiving the highest votes — 22 percent — was “dissatisfaction with government/poor leadership.”
Although Trump saw a temporary bump earlier this year, the percentage of Americans approving of Trump’s job performance is back in the 30s. If this does not improve, Trump may have a more difficult time getting voters to back him in his next presidential run — or perhaps more importantly, during his party’s attempts to remain successful during this fall’s midterm elections.