Paul Butler | Graffiti at Work

Paul Butler: Going the Extra Mile

We recently moved into a brand-new home up in FivePoint Valencia. We thoroughly enjoy the development and the surrounding neighborhood. The architecture appeals to us with its contemporary features, and it incorporates the latest technology to minimize our domicile’s impact on the environment.  

Yet, sadly, there’s already graffiti. What is it about the human condition that desires to mar the beauty of the beautiful? What pleasure would someone derive from adding unintelligible scribbles to a pristine electrical unit? 

One of our hesitations about moving here was the fact that we now live in an unincorporated area. This means our primary services are not provided by the city we love (Santa Clarita) but rather by a county we loathe (Los Angeles). 

Our location dictated that I had to navigate the labyrinthine L.A. County website to report the graffiti. As I was clicking and typing, I could hear myself muttering and grumbling that this was all futile, and there was no way someone from L.A. County services would come up to Valencia and clean up the mess. No way. 

Yes, way. Within 60 seconds, I received an email acknowledging my ticket. The templated email stated that corrective action would be taken within 72 hours, and I’d be informed when the work was completed, with photographic evidence. 

In less than the stated three days, I indeed received an email confirming that the work was completed, along with a snapshot in the sunshine showing the mess had been eradicated. The communication thanked me for my proactive steps to help maintain my environment and wished me a wonderful rest of the day.  

This got me thinking about the workplace. Why do some people metaphorically graffiti the workplace? Their unintelligible scribbles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Gossip is one form of it. Negativity is another. Laziness is just plain ugly. Left unreported, workplace graffiti doesn’t go away by itself. It requires engaged employees and strong leadership to clean up the mess and stand up to speak up. 

Our business has now served just over 300 client organizations across 28 states and around the globe. All of these entities know they are utilizing human resources to yield exemplary results for shareholders and other stakeholders. The key difference I’ve observed between the best and the worst of these can be summed up in one word — leadership. 

I truly believe that most reasonable residents want to live in a clean, graffiti-free neighborhood without transients on their doorstep. Engaged residents will report such disarray and will be vested in their community when their civil services step in and clean up the mess. 

Likewise, I truly believe that most reasonable employees want to work in an environment that is positively collegial and focused on achieving optimal output to provide service solutions for their internal and external customers. Engaged employees will not stand for gossip, negativity and laziness when they can see that their leaders care as much as they do. 

Over the last 20 years, we’ve witnessed how the city we love has continued to grow and blossom because of good civic leadership, which in turn begets engaged residents. Likewise, we’ve witnessed how some organizations have continued to grow and blossom because of good leadership, which in turn begets engaged employees. 

What I find even more interesting is that good employees will leave bad organizations, just as good residents will leave bad neighborhoods. Already, in just a few weeks of living up on the hill, we’ve heard story after story of families fleeing the dilapidation of other parts of L.A. County because they’ve heard of the beauty of Santa Clarita. This is exactly what we see within the workplaces of the world. Good people will flee bad organizations. 

Pulling this story into the driveway, I envision a comical scene where a couple of civil servants from L.A. County receive my email ticket, which assigned them a job order, albeit on the very northern outskirts of their territory. I can imagine them racing up the freeway, excited that a resident is engaged enough to help fight the good fight against graffiti.  

Let’s all continue to be residents and employees who care enough to submit a ticket and make the call to maintain good neighborhoods and great workplaces. 

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita Valley resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]. 

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