Topic: Leadership


Troublemaking in the Workplace With Guest Luvvie Ajayi Jones

season 4 episode 4

The Work Place Podcast with guest Luvvie Ajayi Jones

Welcome to The Work Place, where we talk about the cultures we work in, and how to make them better for everyone. I’m Andrew Scarcella.

This episode, we’re talking with Luvvie Ajayi Jones about the power and pitfalls of stirring the pot in a professional setting. She sheds light on how she assumed her current title as “professional troublemaker” and how stifling dissent in the workplace can be the death of innovation.

Join us after the interview for Tangible Takeaways, where we’ll talk about the ideas and actions we can take with us and implement our own workplace cultures.

Luvvie is a successful speaker, author and thought leader, working, as she puts it, at the intersection of humor, media, and justice. Her blog, has been making waves for nearly two decades now, and her Ted Talk, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable” has been viewed more than 7.5 million times. Her latest book is “Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual” wherein she addresses the ways in which fear of disruption often gets in the way of saying or doing the hard thing, even when we believe it’s the best course of action.

Luvvie was interviewed by me, and besides being a little starstruck, I entered our conversation with a real excitement for this troublemaker’s words of wisdom. Let’s get to it.

Tangible Takeaways:

Now it’s time for tangible takeaways, where we take big ideas and soak them overnight in oak aged balsamic vinegar, before mixing them into our almond flour dough with dried cherries and pistachios, kneading the dough only slightly before dividing in two pieces, shaping them into equal cylinders and pressing down slightly, before placing them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and baking at 325 for 30 minutes, letting them cool for another 30, and then slicing the soft loaves into beautiful, equal 1/2” crescents, placing them back onto parchment paper and generously drizzling them with turbinado sugar, and then baking them a second time to produce the crispy, crunchy, sweet and savory seasonal biscotti fit to dip in our company branded  mug fully loaded with break-room coffee.

The first is that if you want to be a professional troublemaker like Luvvie…well, you probably have to find another title cause I’m sure she has it trademarked…But if you still wanna be a troublemaker, don’t be surprised when your actions result in, well…trouble. Speaking truth to the powers that be will inevitably lead to various forms of resistance and backlash. But this type of conflict isn’t a bug, it’s a feature of the troublemaker operating system. So steel your nerves and lean into the disagreements. It is only in the midst of this melee that the best ideas can start to rise above the noise and show themselves to be the best path towards positive change.

The second is to loan your courage to those who may need it. Recognize that even if you have one of the loudest voices in the room (both literally and metaphorically), you may not have the best ideas on any given issue. Create space for those whose voices might not usually be heard, using 4 simple words: What do you think? Not only will you hear from someone whose voice might not usually win out over the noise, but you may also begin to evolve a culture where people WANT to hear from everyone, not just those with the bully pulpit.

The third is to celebrate the challengers. It may not be business as usual, but how else can we expect to grow a robust culture of ideas if we don’t nurture the voicing of dissent? Conversely, what do we expect to happen when we go in the opposite direction? Silencing those who challenge convention can have a chilling effect on the culture at large. But when we raise up those who thoughtfully confront the status quo, with questions, doubts, and honest skepticism, we encourage a dynamic workplace, comfortable with change and uncertainty. It may be uncomfortable for a time, but as Luvvie reminds us…it’s only temporary. Better a mild discomfort in a meeting now than that lingering, nagging feeling we’re left with when we shut down before we even begin to change.

This episode was produced by yours truly, and our new producer, Annika Rapp, with writing, music and sound design by Daniel Foster Smith.

If you liked this episode, or even if you didn’t, please rate, review, and, of course, subscribe to The Work Place on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have a burning question about workplace culture, or a story about why YOUR workplace culture is the best (or worst) send it to

The Work Place is sponsored by O.C. Tanner, the global leader in engaging workplace cultures. O.C. Tanner’s Culture Cloud provides a single, modular platform for influencing and improving employee experiences through recognition, career anniversaries, leadership, and more.

If you want your organization to become a place where people can’t wait to come to work in the morning, go to

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