A Mess Of Our Own Design

Douglas Rosenthal published an article on 8/1/2016 that tackles the difficult topic of sexual harassment inside the orchestra field. Although the topic is always bound to make some uncomfortable, it is difficult to deny that our field has a track record of making things worse than it needs. This is due to a lack of adopting practices designed to make sure all employees understand the institution’s key HR policies and procedures related to ethical conduct principles, discrimination and sexual harassment prevention, workplace privacy, compliance, conflicts of interest prevention, formal complaint processes, workplace violence prevention, health and safety, use of company equipment, etc.

Adaptistration People 096This is a topic that seems to make an appearance at this blog with an increasing degree of frequency. And it isn’t as though there’s a shortage of high profile cases spotlighting misogyny.

Across the board, there is a missing support structure to effectively address infractions and reduce the likelihood of future occurrences.

Employees aren’t provided with adequate onboarding HR indoctrination and since most professional orchestras don’t have the resources to employ a trained HR professional, the task of handling something like sexual harassment complaints among musician employees tends to fall on the shoulders of personnel managers. In turn, those individuals rarely receive adequate training on how to handle and process complaints.

Although it may appear to be a basket case, the good news is that it is relatively straightforward problem to correct. But until the field begins to address the issue with the attention and resources it deserves, don’t expect much to change.

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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