Paul Butler | Service resistant 

Paul Butler: Going the Extra Mile

As we continue to grow as a city, one of the greatest concerns about Santa Clarita is the increasing number of transients I see on our streets. Just this past week, I used the city’s app to report three such individuals — one camped outside a doctor’s office; another asleep on a bench outside a fitness center; and a third on a very busy, hence dangerous corner of a major thoroughfare. 

I was impressed with the rapid response from the city’s Community Preservation Department. I was surprised, however, when they used a phrase consisting of two words I’d never heard placed side by side before — “service” and “resistant.”  

They explained that if an individual is “service resistant,” the city is powerless to remove the transient from the street. If someone is “service resistant,” they’re able, under current code, to continue to sleep on taxpayer benches, drag their (stolen) shopping carts around our beautiful paseos, and, in the case of the person on Magic Mountain Parkway and The Old Road, cause a potentially lethal road hazard.  

Everyone around them suffers due to their personal choice to be, “service resistant.”  

My personal view is the problem will continue to grow as long as they’re shielded under this code, and as long as well-meaning people provide them with tents, food, propane heaters, and all manner of necessities and creature comforts. 

This all stirred me to think about how it never works like this in the real world of employment.  

Case in point: our company, Newleaf Training and Development, just completed six sessions of one-on-one coaching with a mid-level manager within a client organization. The subject person who received the coaching is considered rude, belligerent, demeaning, and, overall, a bombastic and arrogant leader. He gets results, though. He hits his numbers. He is very talented. The trouble is, no one likes working for, or with him. 

Part of our recommended process is to debrief the completed set of coaching assignments with the client sponsor — in this case, the human resources director.  Towards the end of our debrief, she asked: “This all sounds great — do you expect him to change his behavior?”  

What the specialist in human resources was essentially asking was, whether the coachee would be responsive to the advice and guidance offered to change his behavior or whether he would be, like the transients wandering around our city, “service resistant.” 

Our coach went on to explain the different ways he’d attempted to encourage change, but what it all boiled down to is, we each have free will, and that we can “lead a horse to water” but we can’t “make them drink” it. You know the old adage, right?   

I was shocked and at the same time pleased with the response from our client’s HR director when she bluntly said: “Well, he better be — because this is his last straw. If he doesn’t make significant changes after all we’ve invested in him, he will be terminated.” She went on to say, “Regardless of his ability to get business results — he is a liability to the rest of our business community of colleagues, clients and vendors. He needs to shape up, or we will ship him out of our business.” 

What impressed me most about her comments was that the whole was far more important than the individual. She, with the support of senior leadership, wasn’t willing to let the organizational culture suffer any longer just because the coachee was “service resistant.” They were just not willing for this one person to continue to peddle his trash around their corporate streets.  

Just as organizations have policies, procedures, and extend training and development services to employees to ensure they’re not causing issues in the workplace, we also have many services available to transients to get them off our city streets.  

Just as being “service resistant” should not be an allowable excuse to leave bad managers in place at work, it neither should be an acceptable excuse to allow encroaching encampments in our beautiful city. 

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita 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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