Feb. 20, 2006
By Jayne Gest
"Congratulations for 'catchin' this fish!'" reads the tag on the 25 stuffed fish circulating around campus as part of Classified Senate's Fish program. The program was developed to honor and reward Ohio University classified employees for their outstanding everyday efforts.
Classified employees receive the fish when they show the qualities that are part of the Fish philosophy, which originated from a Seattle fish company. A motivational video series highlights the company where employees throw fish and joke with costumers using four principles: make their day, be present, be playful and choose your attitude.
At Ohio University, after receiving a fish, an employee has two weeks before they must pass it on to another deserving classified employee, indicating who they gave it to and their reasons why on the Classified Senate Fish Web site, www.ohiou.edu/csen/fish.htm.
The program on campus started at the end of October after classified senators, who represent all classified staff, learned about the program at a 2005 summer conference. The fish, bought from a local dollar store, were given to each of the 25 senators to name and pass on to one of the 630 classified employees on the Athens campus.
The brightly colored, plush fish sporting names like Squiggles, Puffer, Snarky, Izzle and Stella have traveled throughout campus and the program has had good results including producing a few tears. The senate plans to get a fish for each regional campus and start the program there as well, said Classified Senate Chair Wendy Kaaz, who named her fish Yoshi because that's what her daughter calls everything.
The program comes at a good time because some employees are anxious about the pending budget cuts and anything to alleviate that is helpful, Kaaz said.
Lois Coutant, who works at Alden library with the Alice cataloging system, said she was surprised when she found a fish on her desk, but that it was a lovely thought.
"Telling people how to do things is my job so I don't normally expect thanks," she said. Her fish came from a co-worker at circulation who wrote on the Web site that she appreciates Coutant's patience with all her questions about the system.
Melanie Volk, from student services in the College of Education, and Serena McCollum, from Institutional Research, were just as surprised when they both received their fish through campus mail. Neither one was entirely sure who it came from until they looked at the Web site.
Classified Senate has not made any big announcement about the program aside from a brief message to 'look for fish in your future' in their newsletter, preferring instead to let news of the fish travel by word-of-mouth.
Kaaz and other representatives from Classified Senate are hoping that people will get curious by either receiving a fish or seeing one on someone's desk, and then ask others about the Fish philosophy or ask to watch the video.
Becky Bushey-Miller, director at Ohio University's Professional Development, said she has received a steady stream of calls about the Fish video even before Classified Senate started their program.
The Professional Development office has the original Fish video, along with an additional six-part series. Bushey-Miller has facilitated many Fish video training sessions, including a lunch and learn program for any interested university employees. She said from a training perspective, Fish is unique because of its short length and upbeat, lively message.
"You can't help but smile when you watch it because people are throwing fish at each other," Bushey-Miller said.
Part of Fish's message is that a sense of fun can be an everyday part of the workplace. Yawns are contagious, but so is laughter.
Ohio University Professional Development will present Lunch and Learn sessions concerning the Fish program on Feb. 22 and March 1. To find out more about these sessions, visit the UPD Web site at www.ohiou.edu/upd or call Becky Bushey-Miller at (740) 597-2147.
Jayne Gest is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.