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Organizational Cultures
Maybe we should be more like a fridge at work
Dan Pontefract
January 4, 2021

I’m a 42 year-old man and every day I wake up and get out of bed – with my infinitely better best mate – I walk into a sporting arena where I am forced to play zone defence.

Not in the football or basketball sense, but in the family sense. The goats – that’s what we call our children – outnumber us three to two. Even when we attempt man-to-man defence, our opponent’s offence easily overpowers us. We’re quickly defeated, often wounded.

Parental ego shattered.

Oprah couch fodder.

You know what often saves us though?

The fridge.

Our refrigerator is an unknowing and invisible ally. The front of the fridge contains photos, artwork, homework sheets, spelling tests – all magnetically affixed to the metal doors – bringing colour, results and goals to the forefront and for all to see. It portrays the culture of our family.

Beside those artifacts are two important bits: a weekly calendar and a monthly calendar. The weekly one contains the most important aspects and actions of every day while the monthly one provides a snapshot of events and reminders. This part of the fridge provides order.

Inside the fridge is what keeps us going. There is a water tap, milk, eggs, fruits, vegetables … even sweet delights from time to time. (not to mention occasional beers) The food and drink are what fuels the family to reach new heights. The contents of the fridge fuels the hunger to do better; to do more for others.

What if we were more like a fridge at work?

Not in the literal sense but as a metaphor aligned to my example above.

What if we shared photos, ideas, comments, stories and results with one another – be it in person or though collaborative tools – would our organizational culture and employee engagement levels improve?

What if we were more organized, were more punctual for meetings, shared calendars, were respectful of each other’s time and planned ahead more often? What if we were more proactive when it came to projects and deadlines? Would our organizational culture and employee engagement levels improve?

And what if we took care of one another through better workplace habits, fueling each other’s desire for participation, inclusion and consideration? What if the nutrients of our organization came in the form of civility and humour? What if our teams worked better together – in the same unit – worrying less about who was a vegetable or fruit, but how each played the part of an important nutrient that helps nurture the end result?

I was asked to attend a team meeting once where I was the guest. I entered the room early and was the first to arrive. When I sat down in what looked to be a comfortable chair the first team member entered the room. “You can’t sit there,” she said with a look of horror careening across her face. “That’s where the boss sits.” The ‘boss’ sauntered in ten minutes late – sat in ‘his chair’ that I had vacated – and proceeded to interrupt his colleague who had already started the meeting. Throughout the session I could smell an engagement rat. There was no organizational culture. There clearly was no direction. There was rudeness. There was hierarchy for the sake of hierarchy. And there certainly weren’t any nutrients fueling a high performing team.

It’s a situation, I’m afraid, that is played over and over again in organizations and teams across the planet.

Maybe it’s time we be more like a fridge.

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