Only You Can Affect Real Change In Workplace Satisfaction

Regular readers know that the topic of Workplace Satisfaction is one of the more popular here at Adaptistration and even though it continues to remain firmly swept under the rug for the field as a whole, that doesn’t mean we’re without options to begin taking some measurements.

Adaptistration People 001To that end, GlassDoor.com serves as a useful benchmark for gauging current and previous employee satisfaction and after a bit of research, it turns out there are enough orchestra employers listed in their database to produce a worthwhile overview.

Although there were at least three dozen orchestra employers with entries, most of those only had a handful of reviews and/or the reviews were dated; as such, in order to be included in this overview, an organization needed at least three reviews, one of which being submitted in the past 12 months. Using that threshold, the list came down to 15 and it is worth noting that even though the majority of organizations are middle to large budget institutions, there were no budget thresholds for being included.

Based on these organizations that fell within these parameters, the average review score was 3.33 out of 5.00, or a solid D on a letter based grading scale.

Here’s the list broken down by average score, number of reviews, and alphabetical order.

By Average Score/Grade

# of ReviewsAvg. ScoreGrade
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra54.3B
Boston Symphony Orchestra113.9B+
New York Philharmonic63.9B+
Chicago Symphony Orchestra93.7B
Nashville Symphony Orchestra53.5C-
Cleveland Orchestra43.5C-
Grand Rapid Symphony53.3D
San Francisco Symphony103.2D
Detroit Symphony Orchestra63.2D
Los Angeles Philharmonic93.1D-
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra33.1D-
Philadelphia Orchestra93D-
San Diego Symphony33D-
Dallas Symphony Orchestra42.9F
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra32.4F

By Number of Reviews

# of ReviewsAvg. ScoreGrade
Boston Symphony Orchestra113.9B+
San Francisco Symphony103.2D
Philadelphia Orchestra93D-
Los Angeles Philharmonic93.1D-
Chicago Symphony Orchestra93.7B
New York Philharmonic63.9B+
Detroit Symphony Orchestra63.2D
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra54.3B
Nashville Symphony Orchestra53.5C-
Grand Rapid Symphony53.3D
Cleveland Orchestra43.5C-
Dallas Symphony Orchestra42.9F
San Diego Symphony33D-
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra32.4F
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra33.1D-

By Name

# of ReviewsAvg. ScoreGrade
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra32.4F
Boston Symphony Orchestra113.9B+
Chicago Symphony Orchestra93.7B
Cleveland Orchestra43.5C-
Dallas Symphony Orchestra42.9F
Detroit Symphony Orchestra63.2D
Grand Rapid Symphony53.3D
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra54.3B
Los Angeles Philharmonic93.1D-
Nashville Symphony Orchestra53.5C-
New York Philharmonic63.9B+
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra33.1D-
Philadelphia Orchestra93D-
San Diego Symphony33D-
San Francisco Symphony103.2D

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s not enough data to even begin thinking about drawing any conclusions but perhaps we can begin to implement some positive change by making sure more orchestra managers are aware that something like GlassDoor.com exists and can be used by both current and former employees.

Granted, there are certainly critics of services like GlassDoor.com, which allow members to post review content anonymously, but some Google sleuthing turns up more favorable reviews than not.

We’ll check in on orchestra employer reviews again in a few months and see if there is any difference; in the meantime, be sure to participate by leaving your own reviews and encouraging colleagues to do the same.

Just For Fun

Although not technically an orchestra employer, it seemed logical to see if the League of American Orchestras was in GlassDoor’s database and sure enough, there were a pair of reviews from 2014 producing an average score of 2.1 out of 5.

And since you can’t have a Yin without a Yang, searching for the American Federation of Musicians was next and although there wasn’t a direct database hit for their NYC office, it did turn up a result for the AFM-EMP (the AFM’s pension fund) and AFM Local 802 (one of the largest and, arguably, most influential Locals). The former generated six reviews with an average score of 2.7 out of 5 while the latter had two reviews with an average score of 3.1 out of 5.

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 “Only You Can Affect Real Change In Workplace Satisfaction

  1. Drew, indeed an interesting collection of data but I think that any of these types of sites (employee input and commentary) will be their very nature draw people who want to vent and release their negative feelings about their workplace which will naturally skew the numbers to the downside. My guess is that people who are happy with workplace and situation won’t take the time to fill out a survey or post their opinions.

    Most interesting to me is the fact that Orpheus seems to rate so low given that their model is so different than the norm. My impression has been that this has always been a musician led organization without having to submit to the will and desires of a music director. That their rating ranks so poorly means that there are some other organizational issues that go beyond the norm.

    Sample sizes are too small to really get a sense on what the cultural zeitgeist of each organization is but I am surprised that there were 11 inputs for the Boston Symphony which seems to operate under the radar on most counts regarding press, ICSOM bulletins, negotiations, conductor issues, etc. Of all the major orchestras, they seem to do a good job of keeping their internal issues behind closed doors.

    Most interestingly, the NYPO, which historically has a reputation of being quite dissatisfied, actually comes up with a high rating and has more inputs than most of the other orchestras. So perhaps the perception from outside the organization is different than the reality.

    Makes me very curious to know which industry comes out the best given the recent flap about working at Amazon etc.

    Dileep

    • Thanks for the insight, I don’t believe anyone would be surprised that employer review sites attract unhappy and/or disgruntled employees but going through the reviews at glassdoor (not just the orchestra-centric reviews) it seems there are no shortage of satisfied employees leaving reviews as well.

      What’s important to keep in mind here is currently, there are no other outlets for orchestra managers to use for sharing experiences and insights via a publicly accessible forum without fear of retribution or censorship. As a result, having an outlet to help define workplace satisfaction can only serve as a positive catalyst for making the field as a whole devote the attention this traditionally underserved issue deserves.

      And you bring up an interesting point in that reviews can be left by musician employees as easily as administrative employees. I would recommend the service be used by administrative employees as musicians would be better served by creating their own review portal. Having said that, I wouldn’t hold my breath on one coming along anytime soon unless it is developed by a source outside traditional AFM or player conference channels.

      To reaffirm, I would caution anyone against drawing any firm conclusions from the available reviews simply becasue there isn’t a large enough sample, but that could change quite quickly if enough orchestra managers begin leaving reviews.

      • Interesting in that I did not realize that these comments were from internal administrators. I had assumed that they were musicians. Musicians rarely understand the inner workings of the administration and the larger the organization the more corporate they tend to be run (silos, egos attached to job titles, and resistant to change or new ideas).

        Dileep

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