Amy Poehler started a tradition on “Parks & Rec” that every workplace should try

Amy Poehler would like to propose a toast.
Amy Poehler would like to propose a toast.
Image: Invision/AP/Jordan Strauss
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On the beloved NBC workplace sitcom Parks & Recreation, actress Amy Poehler played Leslie Knope, an unstoppable blonde whirlwind of hard work and positive vibes who went out of her way to make the people around her feel appreciated, whether that meant gifting her colleagues with personalized, 5,000-word essays about their individual awesomeness or plotting the world’s most perfect birthday celebration for her boss.

Poehler appears to be equally dedicated to boosting the spirits of her real-life coworkers. A new profile of Poehler in The Hollywood Reporter describes a ritual she instated on set at Parks & Rec: A round-robin of collegial toasts.

[A]ny time the show was on location, which was often, the cast and crew would have a team dinner after wrapping. And Poehler would stand up and toast one person and that person would have to toast someone and it continued until everyone in the room had been toasted. “She’d pick out a second AD or a makeup person or a camera operator,” recalls [Parks & Rec co-creator and showrunner Mike] Schur. “It was just the most wonderful way to end a work experience.” He still does it on The Good Place, his current NBC sitcom.

There are several reasons why you, too, might want to consider adopting some version of Poehler’s tradition. First, positive reinforcement and praise are absolutely vital in the workplace. On a basic level, people feel good when they get recognized for their contributions, and that’s naturally going to boost employee morale and motivation. What’s more, constructive praise that hones in on the specifics of what people do well at their jobs also helps them understand what they’re doing right—which in turn encourages them to do more of it, making organizations more efficient as a whole.

Poehler’s toasting ritual likely had added impact because, as Schur notes, she usually started by praising someone who wasn’t typically in the spotlight, like a camera operator or makeup artist, and kept it going until everyone on the cast and crew had received a compliment. That kind of inclusivity sends an important message, particularly in settings where there are clearly “stars”—whether that’s literally people who play major characters on a popular TV show or simply a few standout performers at a given organization.

Research suggests it’s important to recognize star players, but going about it the wrong way can lead to widespread resentment and allegations of preferential treatment. A round-robin toast after wrapping up a big project is one way for leaders to demonstrate they understand that every person involved contributed something of value and deserves recognition for it.