5 Types of Employees on Parks and Recreation: Which One Are You?

5 Types of Employees on Parks and Recreation: Which One Are You?

September 24, 2015

Parks and Recreation – for those unfortunate people who have never watched the show – is a comedy series about the employees of a parks department in Pawnee, Indiana. The show documents the employees’ antics as they try to make the town a better place. Recently, Parks and Recreation has sadly completed it’s run on TV. But the impact of the Pawnee crew lives forever.

TV shows, like this one, that portray the workplace have been very popular for a while now. Why? Because just about all of us can relate; we laugh at the over-dramatized depiction of workplace relationships and take joy in the fact that some of the ridiculous things that happen to us on a day-to-day basis, happens to the best of us. When it comes to TV shows about the workplace, I think we each find a little bit of ourselves in the characters.

So what can Parks and Recreation can teach us? It addresses things like leadership balance, gender roles, and company values. But, little did you know (or expect), almost every character on the show is an over-the-top representation of the different types of employees in every organization.

What better way to categorize these fictional employees than by using BlessingWhite’s X Model of Employee Engagement! BlessingWhite’s engagement model focuses on an individual’s contribution to the company’s success and personal satisfaction in the role.

So let’s take a look at how Leslie and the gang embody this engagement model.

A: The Leslie Knopes: The Highly Engaged

“But I am Leslie Knope. I am more than a City Councilor. I am an unstoppable force of energy. And I will use those days to work as hard as I can..”

Highly engaged employees have aligned their personal interests with those of the organization. These employees contribute fully to the organization’s success and find great satisfaction in their work. Leslie Knope lives and breathes the parks department. The people she works with are her family and although exaggerated, everything she does relates to the greater good of her department. I actually do not know a better example of a more engaged employee than this yellow-haired female who loves waffles and news.

B: The Ben Wyatts & Chris Traegers: The Almost Engaged

“I move around a lot, so the friends I make in these cities, they’re like Facebook friends, you know?”

This group is made of high-performers who are almost satisfied with their jobs. They are very vital to an organization, but can be easily lured away by the promise of full engagement elsewhere. Ben has lived in several states throughout his career, while accumulating even more jobs. He finally found his biggest payoff as “Municipal Bond” in Pawnee by finding people who most appreciate him in a position in which he has been the most valued.

“If I keep my body moving, and my mind occupied at all times, I will avoid falling into a bottomless pit of despair.”

Chris is in the same category as Ben, but his payoff is different. He decided to take the job as City Manager of Pawnee and constantly struggles with his self-worth. He is literally the best example of a leader by focusing on his job and positively motivating people around him. But, things other than his work must continuously stimulate him in order for him to feel fulfilled.

C: The Tom Haverford’s & Donna Meagles: The Honeymooners & Hamsters

“Sometimes you gotta work a little, so you can ball a lot.”

 These employees are content in their role, but contribute little to the organization’s success. Tom is the perfect example of this category by always doing just enough to get the job done. Tom is always looking for his next big business venture, all which fail. He keeps the wheel spinning as an admin in the department, but his mind is always somewhere else.

“If you don’t like what I post, don’t follow me.”

Donna is the same as Tom in that she knows how to do her job just enough to do it well, but her priorities are in having a good time and dating. She is a great friend and coworker, but offers no real growth for the organization. She did teach us one thing: treat yourself.

D: The Ron Swansons: The Crash & Burners

“The less I know about other people’s affairs, the happier I am. I’m not interested in caring about people. I once worked with a guy for three years and never learned his name. Best friend I ever had. We still never talk sometimes.”

 I feel like we all know a Ron Swanson. These employees are possibly tired of the decisions the organization makes and how they contribute to the overall success of the business – contributing a lot, but are very unsatisfied. Ron is the recreation director, but allows Leslie to do all the real work because he simply does not care. While his quirks are entertaining, he is constantly trying to be involved as little as possible with his work and environment, almost becoming completely disengaged.

E: The April Ludgates: The Disengaged

“I’m going to tell you a secret about everyone else’s job: No one knows what they’re doing. Deep down, everyone is just faking it until they figure it out.”

As much as I am an April fan, she really is the epitome of disengaged. Her attitude and perspective seem to progress as the seasons go on, but she is the most disconnected from the organization’s priorities. Disengaged employees are not getting what they need from work. Often skeptical and negative, like April, “the Disengaged are likely to collect a paycheck while complaining or looking for their next job.” April is always trying not to try, except for when she can be involved in projects she is passionate about, like animal rescue (which does not relate to her position in the parks department). Until she can find something to engage her, April’s smarts and talents, like all of The Disengaged workforce, are wasted on negative energy.

So now that you know the different types of engaged employees embodied in relatable characters, which one are you? You don’t have to be the best, but the effort your organization puts in you will reflect the effort you put in your work. Just remember, you, too, are a beautiful tropical fish.