Why Are Executive So Keen On Breaking HR Rules?

It seems as though hardly a year passes that doesn’t have one or more incidents that give HR professionals heartburn. The latest is a whale among the minnows in light of news that recently departed Lincoln Center (LC) president, Jed Bernstein, left as the result of what the organization described as a “[violation of] Lincoln Center human resources policy by not disclosing a personal relationship with an employee.”

Adaptistration People 076The 5/4/2016 edition of the New York Times published an article by Robin Pogrebin that reports on the details, which are comparatively straightforward.

  • LC prez has relationship with subordinate.
  • Subordinate received multiple promotions.
  • Anonymous LC whistle blower reports the couple to HR (thank goodness for Sarbanes-Oxley).
  • Prez departs citing desire for career change (and receives hefty severance package).
  • Actual reason comes to light, LC retains crisis management firm, story goes public.

All in all, it is a by-the-numbers sort of affair. That doesn’t make the situation any better but wouldn’t it be nice if the field of performing arts management could go 12 full months without something like this happening?

If there’s a silver lining here, it appears that the LC board acting accordingly by bringing in outside counsel and investigating the allegations instead of turning a blind eye.

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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