Rebellion Has a Place in Corporate Life

Spilled Coffee

I once worked for a company that had an official policy against a coffee maker of any sort. It went so far as to outlaw water coolers (a policy that was rightly “ignored” by the on-site manager, but the ban on the coffee machine was strictly enforced).

The logic behind this was that employees would be less productive if they had any opportunity to mingle and waste time.

About 75% of the employees there smoked; about that same percentage worked 50+ hours per week.

After about 3 months observing this trend, I pitched a twice-a-day 15-minute exercise program to boost morale, increase productivity, and decrease stress. The idea was laughed at. I was laughed at.

That was the last time I suggested something without actually making it happen it first.

My first act of rebellion was first to bring a large carafe of coffee to work. Then my own coffee pot. Personal coffee makers were not against the rule, and since my desk was in a central location, lots of people stopped by for a quick cup of coffee. I’d say Hi and send ’em on their way. If there was any decrease in productivity, we never saw it.

My second act of rebellion was to reject my chair in favor of an exercise ball (which was promptly “borrowed” by my coworkers). The trend began to spread.

My third act of rebellion was two-fold. First, I joined my co-workers on their smoke breaks to see just how much time it took them to get their fix and return to their desks. Each smoke break, they were taking roughly 5-10 minutes to every hour to smoke, recover, and get back to work.

I started taking short walks around the building whenever my boss or co-workers took a cigarette break. Whenever someone would go for a smoke break, I’d pull another coworker into a walking meeting around the building to figure out a project or whatever tasks needed to be done that day.

Rebellion has a place in corporate life. But, it also has a heavy price if you’re found out as the rebel. I was never discovered (or at least not chastised) and after I’d had my fun, I left that company of my own accord.

Rebels who get caught become martyrs. Even so, sometimes rebels become heroes.