Boring job? Elevate the culture!

You spend about 75% of your adult waking time at work (or traveling to work, thinking about work, decompressing after work). That’s priceless time! How are you spending it? If you’re not in a positive organizational culture, chances are that you are not really present, energetic, engaged or playful – let alone making someone’s day. Maybe it’s time for some Fish!

I just re-read the Fish! book by Stephen Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen. The Fish! philosophy is about engaging people, being there for each other, making people’s day and learning to love what you do.
Any job can be boring, but any job can be done with energy and enthusiasm. There’s always a choice about the way we do our work, even if there’s no choice about the work itself.

In the book, manager Mary sees how the employees in her new department, a.k.a. the pit, complain on Monday morning. She also realizes that these are good people, just keeping a bad habit alive. Mary doesn’t want to spend her working days in a toxic environment so she decides to change it, inspired by the cheerfulness of the Pike Place Fish Market.
Though the story is fiction, the fish market is not. Nor are the transformations that other organizations achieved by copying how the fish mongers elevated their workplace culture.

The four principles of the fish philosophy are:
1) Choosing one’s attitude at work
2) Being playful at work
3) Making someone’s day
4) Being present

You can see that these principles align with the elements of a positive culture at work: positive awareness, collaboration, inspiring purpose, learning & autonomy.

The needs of the organization are the needs of the workers. Without workers, there’s no performance, flexibility, creativity, or customer satisfaction. This is about the vitality of organizations as much as it’s about the quality of life of people. Each of us is an artist. With every choice, we create our lives. With every choice, you co-create your workplace culture. How do you like to show up at work? What energy would you love?

Choose the attitude you bring to work

This can be easier said than done, especially if you’re disappointed, scared, tired, stressed-out by the pandemic, or if you invested a lot of energy in victimhood and noticing everything that is not okay.
But how much better would you feel if you let go of that grumpyness, apathy, resistance?
When you do what you do, who are you? Are you impatient and bored, or are you being world famous? Just doing your job or being world famous makes all the difference in how you do your job! Who do you want to be while you work?


Have fun, use humor, follow the positive energy and curiosity of play. Can you relax? Can you laugh or look a little wacky? If you can, it’s a sure signal that you feel safe enough. In toxic cultures, there’s no humor and no play.
In positive cultures, there’s inclusion. The others will help you keep up the good vibes – and they will be there for you and make your day.

Make their day

We create great memories when we make someone’s day. Include customers in the fun, in the experience of the transaction, whether it’s buying fish or insurance, checking on their account, or returning a product. These are valuable moments of our life. (I’m sorry to remind you, but everyday the clock is ticking. Use your time on earth as happy and well as you can).

Be there

Be there for others. Include them. The present moment is all you can be sure of. Focus on the needs of others. This is a great quality. What matters to them now and what do they need? Can you provide that?
This all starts with your attitude and your playfulness. Are you positive, feeling safe enough, playful? You can’t be there for others if you’re not taking care of yourself. You can’t pour from an empty pitcher. Are you there for yourself?
If so, you can contribute positivity to the exchange with others.
Also: Be there means there’s no bullying! Bullying happens when good people do nothing. If we’re there for each other, we step in and help. We stop bullying together.

Mary works with her department to help them see these principles and apply them. The principles work together and reinforce each other, just like you an your coworkers do.

If you can make a fish market a great place to work, you could make any department a great place to work. Even yours…
Beware: don’t fake. Make it real. If you can’t choose a great attitude today, so be it. Be authentic and the others will leave you in peace – after they have asked if you’d like some help with seeing the bright side again. Let’s create a place where we all want to work.

© Marcella Bremer, 2020. All rights reserved.

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