I’ve just passed two years’ service here at Canter Levin & Berg and, during that time, if my colleagues were asked to describe my obvious passions in two words, those words would be probably be ‘penguins’ and ‘Snoopy’. That wouldn’t be surprising considering that my office contains a Snoopy resting on his doghouse, penguin figurines and numerous colleagues regularly receive Snoopy pictures within internal emails…
From time-to-time, I use hypothetical examples to demonstrate employment law principles and solutions and, within blogs, I tend to slip in the odd character from the Peanuts universe. Fun fact? The creator of Peanuts had the title fostered upon him by newspaper editors and hated it to such an extent that when asked about Peanuts he always referred to it as ‘that comic with Charlie Brown and his dog’.
One of the interesting things about employment law is the fact that things that can annoy or entertain outside the workplace can be viewed very differently within the workplace and it can be interesting to view the differences. So, let’s explore some characters and famous strips from a quirky (and slightly exaggerated) employment law perspective!
Charlie Brown – Charlie Brown is a surprisingly complex character. On the one hand, he is near constantly pessimistic with life (“Goodbyes always make my throat hurt… I need more hellos”) but, at the same time, he is surprisingly optimistic and always full of hope that things may just improve if he keeps persevering (“In the book of life, the answers aren’t in the back”).
In fact, the repeated comic strip scenario in which Lucy Van Pelt persuades Charlie Brown over-and-over that, this time, she won’t pull the American football away as he goes to kick it were such a staple that, for the last such strip before retirement, Charles Schulz, on being asked about it simply remarked “you can’t create humour out of happiness”.
Charlie Brown would be an interesting employee as, whilst in charge of the baseball team, they lost every game and, for the one game he missed through injury, they won! Obviously, there may be poor performance concerns when his team’s performance suddenly improves when he isn’t managing them but, before taking action, any employer would need to consider that Charlie Brown, albeit mocked by some, appears to be universally popular and well liked as manager and as a person.
Lucy Van Pelt – Lucy Van Pelt is a very thorny, blunt female character who takes particular delight at shouting at Charlie Brown. Whilst not quite in the territory of bullying him, she is mean and tricks Charlie Brown on a regular basis. Overall, however, she is entertainingly honest but with quotes along the lines of “I just think I have a knack for seeing other peoples faults”, her relationship with other characters can be strained and could lead her into trouble.
But it is one of her most famous quotes we’ll look at here: “Happiness is a warm puppy…” That quote is well known to most fans of the Peanuts series and remains me of an entertaining Christmas Party tale (albeit about cats!)
Basically, a Receptionist within a firm had a few sherries too many at the Christmas party and sternly told every staff member she could get hold of that she would rather be spending the evening with her cats because they were ‘more fun and much more intelligent than the lot of you’. Upon returning from the Christmas break, and noting the icy working relationship from colleagues, she quickly departed for pastures new… Perhaps a lesson to be learnt for Lucy about blunt honesty within any working environment.
Snoopy – Snoopy is the second biggest character in the Peanuts universe (behind Charlie Brown). Obviously, he needs no introduction save stating that he is a mischievous dog with human qualities who lives in a doghouse (as per the picture to this blog).
In one way, Snoopy would be a handy substitute for myself in writing blogs due to his propensity to get out his typewriter and start many a tale with the dramatic words: “It was a dark and stormy night”. However, it is perhaps worth admitting that some of his written exploits aren’t of the highest quality:
- Snoopy types on typewriter: “”Help” she cried. “Help! Help! Help! Help! Help! Help!””
- Linus (reading the page): “This is a very boring story…”
- Snoopy (back at typewriter) thinks: “I’ll add another “Help!””
Nor does Snoopy seem to have the greatest work ethic: “Learn from yesterday. Live for today. Look to tomorrow. REST THIS AFTERNOON!” Overall, Snoopy may also well be at risk of a poor performance process due to his incessant daydreaming about fighting the “Red Baron” for control of the wartime skies ensuring he stops what he is doing in real life!
Would the Peanuts gang make great employees? Of course not! However, some of their traits (poor performance, daydreaming, harsh internal comments to colleagues) are real-life issues which require careful consideration by employers!