Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • 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.

  • (Laughter)

  • 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.

  • (Laughter)

  • "Oh," he replied, and he got really quiet.

  • (Laughter)

  • 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.

  • (Applause)

I am a labor organizer,

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B1 US TED conflict productive workplace coworker alex

【TED】Jess Kutch: What productive conflict can offer a workplace (What productive conflict can offer a workplace | Jess Kutch)

  • 471 14
    林宜悉 posted on 2019/11/22
Video vocabulary