Wednesday, August 28, 2002


I'm a sucker for anything motivational. Give me a good book about how you can achieve anything you desire and I immediately begin to write down my goals and dreams. Listen to someone talk about how you have to love your job and I pat myself on the back for having always loved what I have done. That's why the current generation of workers frustrates me when they seem to be so anti-motivation. Bring up any kind of inspiring discussion about achievement, goal setting, positive attitude and you get a blank stare at best and a scoff behind your back at worst.

That is why I was interested to learn about the Fish philosophy. The Fish philosophy is one of the latest management fads inspired by the company culture at Pike Place Fish in Seattle, Washington. The Fish philosophy is deceptively simple: Play, Make their day (the customers), Be there (don't just show up) and Choose your attitude. I use the term deceptively simple because the success lies in the implementation. (More on this in a moment.)

A recent article in Inc Magazine follows journalist Rob Walker as he attends FishCamp, a training session for Fish enthusiasts. What I found so interesting about this article--aside from the fact that it gives a nice outline of what Fish is all about-- is that it shows the dichotomy between the enthusiastic HR Manager and the skeptical journalist. The skeptical journalist is what the HR Managers are likely to encounter when they seek to implement the Fish philosophy in their workplaces.

Going back to the implementation, the problem occurs when you try to force fit the Fish fad on your employees. You can't mandate employees to have fun, as you can read in this expose by a disgruntled ex-employee. Creating fun events is not what it's all about. Finding the fun in the daily work is what creates the environment where employees begin to excel at what they do and learn to love their jobs and their workplaces.

Can the fish philosophy help reduce turnover and improve employee retention? Since in most workplaces you can't be throwing around fish (or paperclips for that matter), how do you find the fun and make the customer's day? The initial step, before you even think of infusing your workplace with fun, is in identifying and eliminating the irritants. You can't expect employees to have fun if you have nonsensical/outdated processes in place or managers in need of some serious refresher leadership training. Once you have identified and minimized the irritants you can then naturally begin to move the company culture in the direction that meets and exceeds employees wants, needs and desires. Then you will be ready to add the fun that naturally comes from working in a positive and success enabling environment.

Beth C.


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