Whenever the potential for a work stoppage enters the stage of public debate it becomes troublesome to see senior executives comment on how many opportunities their musicians have to supplement their income outside the ensemble or how much less some other supposedly peer orchestra pays their musicians. Not only do those tactics (or perspectives if you prefer) send a disturbing message to the musicians and patrons, many executives fail to realize that it sends an equally dismal message to their own staffers…
One of the long-term negative impacts from a bitter work stoppage is that staffers are typically put in a position of having to choose sides: support your bosses 100% or suffer the consequences. Those consequences include being ostracized by coworkers, being passed over for promotions down the road, and everything else in-between. Worst case scenario is that you’re branded as being “labor friendly” and if you have executive aspirations that is tantamount to the kiss of death (how being considered “labor friendly” became a negative term in this business is beyond me).
Whenever I’m contacted by a staffer or middle manager at an organization embroiled in a work stoppage my advice is to listen to the rhetoric coming from their superiors. If they hear an increasingly negative stream of language devaluing the players my advice is to run and don’t look back; there is a world of hurt coming your way so get out of that job as soon as possible and detach yourself from the events before you get sucked into a self-defeating course of events. After all, if the executive leaders don’t place a great deal of value on musicians guess where middle managers and staffers fit into the equation?
Essentially, if your job title contains popular non-executive buzzwords such as coordinator, representative, manager, associate, supervisor, assistant, or team member then get out before it is too late. If not, the alternative is to stick it out and fight the good fight but odds are you’ll end up selling out or getting unofficially blackballed by your colleagues. Either way, the result is likely a high degree of unhappiness, complete lack of job satisfaction, and limited job advancement opportunities.
Perhaps, the worst part of this is many organizations that suffer through work stoppages end up marginalizing and/or losing a number of superb employees who are not easily replaced. The end result is the organization suffers from lowered efficiency and an entrenched “us against them” mindset between musicians and the remaining administrators. And really, who wants to work in that sort of environment?
In the end, I hope that even if some organizations have to endure a work stoppage this fall the executives won’t inadvertently eviscerate their own administrations by language they direct toward musicians.