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Productive conflicts in the office livestream
The notion of unionising workers may be a scary prospect at best – in today’s corporate scenario. Even offer letters come with explicit instructions forbidding workers or staff members from forming groups or unions aimed at protecting their own interests.
But labour organiser Jess Kutch seems to be cut from a different cloth. She is the co-founder of an organisation called Coworker.org that uses technology to help people join with co-workers and organise for improvements in the workplace. However, whenever Kutch tries to explain to people what she does for a living, it often ends up in uncomfortable silences.
The reason – it’s because worker unions always seem to inspire the idea of conflict with management. As Kutch says, “If you have power in your workplace, maybe as a CEO or a senior leader, 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. We can all benefit from understanding what conflict can offer in our workplaces.”
According to Kutch, business leaders need to be accepting 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.” She believes that people engage in productive conflict only when they care about their jobs and their co-workers. “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,” she tells us.
Interestingly, Kutch refers to a certain company, where there are over 50 campaigns by staff on issues ranging from dress code changes to safety concerns. But that same company has the lowest voluntary turnover rate of any major chain in its sector. And it boots of higher productivity rates as well.
Kutch closes by saying that business leaders should not clam up the moment a conflict involving labour arises. She believes it is trying to tell you something about an underlying problem that needs your attention. “We all need to be challenging and changing the parts of our work lives that are broken,” she sums up.