We Owe It To Ourselves To Be Better

Joe Patti published a spectacular article on 9/18/2013 titled Drama Is A Choice that, among other things, examines the long term impact of becoming conditioned to operating in high drama environments. He suggests that even though there are no shortage of reasons why arts groups are operating in extended crisis management mode, that doesn’t mean some of it isn’t brought on by choice.

Adaptistration People 037Patti’s post reminded me of an article I published nearly a decade ago titled Seeing Past The Anger that examined how managers can actively filter out unnecessary drama. The article is old enough that it predated reader comment functionality (can you imagine it?) and I recall being surprised at the number of email messages from managers taking issue with the post and asserting that there was value in listing to vitriolic complaints.

I had more or less forgotten about that post until reading Patti’s opening paragraph (emphasis added):

You may have heard the phrase, “He who yells first, loses.” This is a rule that is often used in beginning acting classes because anger is an easy emotion to go to when faced by the obstacles presented by the other people in your scene or exercise. In order to force the student to explore and exercise all the options available in human interactions, anger is often removed as a choice.

Certainly, it is one thing to remove anger in an exercise but something entirely different in real world conditions. Nonetheless, everyone in the field has a responsibility, doubly so during the Season of Discontent, to make an extra effort to refine the skills needed to see past the anger and remember that drama is a choice.

But now that comments are a reality, I’m curious to know what you think; but first, go read Patti’s post and my post from 2004. Yes, that’s a good bit of reading but you’ll be glad you did.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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3 thoughts on “We Owe It To Ourselves To Be Better”

  1. If you are operating in extended crisis mode, you can control the urgency and the situation – for instance, deficits must be dealt with NOW, this fiscal YEAR, instead of having constructive and rational (and calm) discussions and working together to deal with the new situation. See any parallels?

  2. It is a choice to be in solution mode instead of problem mode. The problem mode is what mainly creates all the drama. “Woe is us” only will work for a short time. Constantly wanting to be bailed out will only work for a short time. Positive, becoming self-reliant, solution mode is the better way to go!

  3. Much of my own job amounts to delivering bad news of various kinds to businesspeople, which sometimes leads to nasty conflicts. But to do my job effectively, I don’t get the luxury of disregarding someone’s words just because they’re having a bad day, were caught off guard, have a fat ego, or whatever else it is that’s causing them to be yelling at me.

    So, I agree with both Patti’s article and your blog post: we do have a choice to avoid drama, and should strive to remain calm in heated discussions for all the obvious reasons. And it’s equally true that if we really want to resolve a conflict, we can’t tune out legitimate (or otherwise compelling) points that are being obscured by someone else’s inability or unwillingness to remain calm.

    Punishment (e.g., locking out the workers, or refusing to submit any counter-offer) has no useful role in adult conflict resolution unless you already hold all the cards, in which case “engaging” is just window-dressing anyhow.

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