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I am a labor organizer,
and in 2013, I cofounded an organization called coworker.org
that uses technology to help people join with coworkers
and organize for improvements in the workplace.
Now, there are two kinds of reactions to what I do.
Actually, no, there are three.
The first is complete confusion about what organizing is.
When my doctor asked what I do and I told him,
he thought I meant organizing, like, Marie Kondo-style.
He was like, "Oh, that's so great, I could use some of that around here.
I would love to clean up our patient files."
And I had to explain to him that no, no, it's not that kind of organizing,
it's more like if you showed up to work tomorrow
and all the nurses in the office had gotten together
to ask for an across-the-board raise.
"Oh," he replied, and he got really quiet.
Yeah, and that's the second kind of reaction:
the uncomfortable kind.
People usually withdraw from the conversation
and find someone else to talk to.
Finally, there's the third reaction,
the excited one,
the, "Oh my God, yes! We need this!"
And someone always proceeds to tell me a story.
It's always a story about a job or a coworker or a friend
who's enduring something awful at work.
What I've noticed is that there is never a neutral response to what I do.
You're either repelled by it,
or you're struck with a lightning bolt of excitement.
So why does my work stir up such strong reactions?
My hunch is that it's about conflict.
If you have power in your workplace,
maybe as a CEO or a senior leader of some kind,
you're going to feel uncomfortable with that power being challenged.
But if you lack power, or you know someone who lacks it and needs it,
you might grab me by the shoulders and shake me, you're so pumped.
But really, we can all benefit from understanding
what conflict can offer in our workplaces.
The power imbalance in our workplace is real,
and it's constantly changing.
Power moves between us, depending on our roles and status.
Now, sometimes this can feel like office politics, right?
Which is never fun.
But when we contest for power thoughtfully
and together with our coworkers,
it can be incredibly productive.
And it's that kind of productive conflict
that I want to talk to you all about today,
the kind that can make some of us uncomfortable.
Business leaders should embrace
when their workers conflict with policies and decisions,
both for what it teaches us
and for what it says about our commitment to each other.
So what do I mean by "productive conflict"?
Well, let me tell you a story.
In 2016, a store employee for an outdoor retailer --
I'll call her "Alex" --
Alex approached her boss and asked for a raise.
Now, she was told her pay was fairly standard for her position
and that her boss didn't even have the authority to give such a raise.
And that was supposed to be the end of the conversation.
Unhappy with that answer,
Alex went home, and she decided to create a campaign on coworker.org,
asking the corporate office to give raises to store employees.
Within days, employees from around the country
began joining Alex's effort and sharing their own stories
about what they were earning --
11, 12 dollars an hour --
and how that wage was impacting their lives.
Some even shared that they had quit recently
to work for competitors who paid more.
But here's the thing: they also shared that they didn't want to quit,
they liked their job, they believed in the company's mission,
but for them, the pay issue was a growing problem in their work lives.
Well, after weeks of this groundswell of employee activism,
the company decided to raise wages
by five to 15 percent in cities across the country.
And that's what I mean by productive conflict:
pushing up against the things that aren't working for us
when there exists no other path forward.
The other thing I learned in doing this work
is that people engage in productive conflict
when they care about their jobs and their coworkers.
Now, that surprised me at first.
I expected the worst jobs, the worst workplaces,
to have the most employee activism on our site,
but the opposite is often true.
When we come together, we can accomplish great things.
At one company,
there are more than 50 campaigns by employees there
on issues ranging from dress code changes to legitimate safety concerns.
And get this:
that same company has the lowest voluntary turnover rate
of any major chain in its sector.
And it also has one of the higher productivity rates as well.
Business leaders: you shouldn't fear conflict,
and you shouldn't try to tamp down on it
the minute it bubbles up in your workforce.
While it can introduce uncertainties that can be difficult to manage,
those uncertainties are trying to tell you something
about an underlying problem that needs your attention.
And I think this is especially important right now,
you know, as technology transforms nearly everyone's job
and as the structures that contain our work
are changing at a pace not seen since the Industrial Revolution.
We all need to be shaping and participating in the future of work.
We all need to be challenging and changing the parts of our work lives
that are broken.
So I hope the next time a coworker invites you
maybe to join a sign-on letter to your boss,
or a group of employees asks for a meeting
to discuss their concerns about the new health care plan,
I hope you'll consider it an opportunity
to build a better workplace,
a stronger business
and an economy that works for all of us.
Thank you.
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【TED】Jess Kutch: What productive conflict can offer a workplace (What productive conflict can offer a workplace | Jess Kutch)

760 Folder Collection
林宜悉 published on November 23, 2019
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