In February, one of my favorite televisions shows, Parks and Recreation, concluded its magnificent seven-season run. While it had typical struggles in the early going, it soon hit its stride and gave us a cast of interesting characters whom we got to see evolve from their first interaction with the Pawnee, Indiana, Parks Department all the way into their eventual future lives.
The beginning of March Madness has helped to alleviate some of the void left by the departure of Parks (yes, I’m on a first-name basis with the show). In honor of both of these exceptional television viewing experiences, I decided to do a Parks-inspired March Madness bracket to determine which Parks character would be the most ideal employee for an organization, and conversely as a result, who would make an HR director pull his or hair out with worry about potential liability or lack of productiveness.
As Parks is littered with a plethora of colorful characters, it made sense to limit this bracket to eight select employees of the actual Parks Department. So unfortunately, that leaves out some very notable characters including, but not limited to: inept TV host Perd Hapley (“It’s a heartwarming story but it’s just not believable, which is why I give E.T. one and a half stars”); Leslie Knope’s best friend and nurse Ann Perkins; Chris Traeger (who “literally” served in part as the city manager); entrepreneur and sexual harassment suit waiting to happen Jean-Ralphio; Ron Swanson’s crazy ex-wives (Tammy I and Tammy II); Leslie’s geeky yet grounded husband Ben Wyatt; and Councilman Jeremy (“You just got Jamm-ed!”) Jamm.
On to the first round.
(1) Leslie Knope v. (4) Mark Brendanawicz
Knope is the 2015 version of Kentucky. The number 1 overall seed and prohibitive favorite due to her dedication as (for most of the show) deputy director of the Parks Department, attention to detail, exceptional focus, the discipline to document every situation, and ability to address and diffuse problems, including disagreements among her employees. Brendanawicz was only on the show for the first two seasons, was a city planner (but worked alongside the Parks department so his inclusion in this bracket is somewhat suspect I admit), consistently demonstrated disillusionment with his job, and eventually left. He’s an unknown commodity with unknown motives and no seeming dedication to his career. Knope in a blowout.
(2) Andy Dwyer v. (3) April Ludgate
An interesting matchup pairing eventual husband and wife. Andy is a lovable, goofy, accident-prone, and frankly dim-witted guy who started as a shoe shiner at City Hall and eventually began to do work for the Parks Department. However, it’s unclear in what capacity he does that work or even if he gets paid, which could be a potential wage and hour lawsuit because of the stringent requirements needed to qualify as a volunteer, even in the public sector. April is the sarcastic college student who started as an intern and eventually became Ron Swanson’s full-time assistant. April’s dry humor, outwardly mocking comments to those around her, and frequent disdain for her job, while endearing to those who know her well, could create morale issues with fellow employees. In addition, while April’s comments don’t delve into protected characteristics, there is no question an HR director would receive complaints from employees who would allege April is creating a hostile work environment. Dwyer is less of a risk and advances.
(1) Ron Swanson v. (4) Tom Haverford
The selection committee gave Swanson a Number 1 seed due to his longstanding history as the Parks’ Director and the endless quotes attributed to him such as: “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing”; “When people get a little too chummy with me, I like to call them by the wrong name to let them know I don’t really care about them”; “I’d wish you the best of luck, but I believe luck is a concept created by the weak to explain their failures”; “Since I am not a rabbit, no I do not” (in response to waiter asking whether he wants a salad); and “Skim milk is water that’s lying about being milk.” Although Swanson cares about his employees on a personal level, he outwardly discusses the uselessness of his job and cares little about the work his employees perform or whether they perform it, letting Knope essentially run the department. Haverford is no ideal employee, but liability prevention and structure begin at the top level of management so Haverford wins in an upset.
(2) Donna Meagle v. (3) Jerry/Gerry/Gary Gergich
Gergich is the most underappreciated employee of the Parks Department, and like Michigan State, therefore under-seeded in this bracket. Other than his clumsiness, he is a great employee–enthusiastic, prompt, and does his job as required. Meagle isn’t necessarily a bad employee, but she is often preoccupied with the goings-on in her personal life, and spends exorbitant amounts of money during her “treat yo’ self” days with Haverford. While Meagle can seemingly afford these expenditures, employees with a history of financial difficulties often are problematic in the workplace for obvious reasons. Gergich advances simply because he is the more reliable and dedicated employee.
Semifinal #1 – (1) Knope v. (2) Dwyer
Knope wins. Dwyer, while a good-natured employee, lacks the technical skills (unless he’s playing “Johnny Karate”) necessary to get the job consistently done, which poses more of a problem with respect to customer complaints and productivity. Dwyer’s not the kind of employee who will likely cause waves, but he’s doomed to receive those failure to perform the job in accordance with the requirements type of warnings and eventually be let go due to his performance. Knope, on the other hand, is in there for the long haul.
Semifinal #2 – (3) Gergich v. (4) Haverford
While Haverford showed some dedication and management skills in his later ventures, his forays into “Rent-a Swag,” “Tom’s Bistro,” and “Tommy’s Fresh” cologne, among many others, demonstrate he is an entrepreneurial spirit most interested in creating his own personal brand, rather than being part of a team. Gergich, on the other hand, is the ultimate team player and takes this matchup.
Finals – (1) Knope v. Gergich (4)
This matchup stays close in the early going, but Knope pulls away in the second half for a resounding win and the championship. Why? Because it all starts at the top. While Gergich is a good employee, Knope is a great manager. The Parks Department would be in disarray without her leadership. In fact, despite the many shortcomings of the individuals listed above, Knope was able, more often than not, to rally her employees to get the job done and to put aside their personal agendas for a common goal.
While the hiring process at every level is important for a company, management employees (whether it be at the local, area, or regional level) are the most integral. They can help a company ensure not only productivity, but consistency in following proper procedures, which can save a company a lot of money. In addition, these actions help to prevent liability, whether it be properly investigating internal complaints, ensuring wage and hour policies are being adhered to, or simply keeping employee morale positive. So do yourselves a favor. Go find your own Leslie Knope.