“You choose a thankless job, you can’t be upset when nobody thanks you,” Ron Swanson tells Leslie Knope on the season 6 premiere episode of Parks and Recreation.
Knope is a councilwoman in the fictional city of Pawnee, Indiana. A vocal segment of the city’s population is fickle, bringing petty, unimportant problems to Knope, who then fixes them with the passion of someone who enjoys her job. When Swanson says the quote above, Knope is discussing how she is disappointed with the town. Seemingly, no one appreciates what she says. In fact, there is a group trying to recall her from office.
Pointing out that some people do appreciate her, Swanson mentions April Ludgate, who works for Knope in the Parks department. Ludgate nominated Knope for an award, but Knope says that April does that all the time, anyway, as a joke.
“April respects you and so do many others. Don’t start chasing applause and acclaim. That way lies madness,” says Swanson.
A Thankless Job
Knope, beaten down by the stresses of her job, feels that no one appreciates her. Of course, that isn’t true. Some people do, but the stresses can overshadow it sometimes. Still, being a councilwoman is a thankless job in the sense that if you want to be thanked, there are other things you could do and be thanked a lot more.
Similarly, community manager is a thankless job. It’s a role of facilitation, of fixing problems only a few people know about, of telling people they can’t do things and of allowing others to take credit and receive the spotlight. Speaking from experience, I know my work touches all of our members, but it’s not important that I be thanked. I have a job to do and I don’t do it to be thanked. In fact, it makes the times where people do express appreciation all that much more rewarding and meaningful.
The Way to Madness
For community managers, one of the ways to push yourself to madness is to chase applause and acclaim. Doing the job well does not connect with those things, which are fleeting. To the contrary, applause and acclaim can fly in the face of good judgement and appropriate action. The key to sanity is the pursuit of what is right and what is consistent. Not simply a continuous bending of will to those who do not align with the core principles, beliefs and purposes of the community.
A community that bends to the will of everyone is a community that stands for nothing. That’s madness.
Below, watch a clip of the conversation on Parks and Recreation.