Paul Butler: Rebel with a cause

I don’t like mushy peas.  

When I was in elementary school in England, a lunch lady stood over me and refused to let me leave the table until I’d eaten my mushy peas. 

I defiantly put them in my mouth and pretended to swallow but I didn’t. When she turned her back, I spat them into my hand and threw them under the table. I felt like a rebel with a cause.

We’ve just celebrated the birth of the United States of America due to the nation’s rejection of British rule. When I read of some of the onerous duties placed on the subjects of what was known as “British America,” let alone the wackiness of the ruling monarch, I wholeheartedly believe the spirited Americans were rebels with a cause.

Sometimes, there are rebels on a team who may believe they have a cause, but it may not be the consensus of all. Take for example, the United States women’s soccer team. Megan Rapinoe refuses to stand for or sing the national anthem. If I was her coach, I would find this disrespectful to her country and her fellow players. Even though Megan enjoys freedom of speech, I wonder if her rebellion is good for the team, or does it simply and somewhat selfishly, draw more attention to her and her personal choices and causes?  

Is there a right time to be a rebel with a cause in the workplace and a wrong time? 

If an employee is stealing it is plainly wrong. I am aghast as I read the book I am working through right now about the rise and fall of Enron. I find it incomprehensible that so many people were silent about transactions that flagrantly flew in the face of accounting standards. Page after page after page is filled with names of people who clearly turned their eye because they were blinded by the green stuff.

I just had to endure 60 minutes of mandatory sexual harassment training. As I clicked through this eLearning module, I am reminded that sexual harassment is plainly wrong, and should be reported. To speak up about these issues is being a rebel with a cause. 

Working for a boss who is verbally abusive, demeaning and overly demanding is also a form of harassment. I believe to respectfully and calmly speak up against this style of poor management is to be a rebel with a cause. Not to speak up can actually make matters worse for you and your co-workers. 

See, even though Common Law stipulates: “Silence does not constitute acceptance,” I’ve observed when employees allow managers to be uncouth, crass and unreasonable, this behavior can become the norm if we remain silent. We don’t have to serve under such tyrannical rule. We should respectfully speak up for change.

I do think it’s out of order when someone at work becomes a rebel but without a cause. You see this when employees gossip about others. You see this when employees bad-mouth the customer or their leadership. You see this when employees demand much more, but want to do far less. You see this when employees seem more interested in who they can sue rather than who they can serve. These are rebels without a cause and they need to be corrected or ejected. Rebels without a cause can be bad apples within a fine orchard. 

There’s an old phrase that tells us to: “Choose our battles.” In the workplace, we should always fight the good fight for what is right — whether it be according to the laws of the land; accounting standards; company policies or simply what ethically seems wrong. These are battles worth fighting.

With a cause or without a cause; whether I was right or whether I was wrong — there’s nothing you could do to make me eat mushy peas. I was a rebel with a cause.

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaf-ca.com). The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]

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