HRMT Forum

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some possibilities for handling conflict within a professional environment?
  2. What can happen if conflict arises?

Instructions:  Your initial post should be at least 250 words.  Please respond to at least two (2) other students (see forum grading rubric).  Responses must be a minimum of 100 words each, and include direct questions.  You may find appropriate articles at the end of each chapter, and/or identify articles through the APUS online Library. Finally, be sure that all forum discussions are answered in full, in order to ensure the best possible grade based on the work submitted.>> I just thought I would check in to see how the Carl issue was doing. We haven’t seen each other in a while.>> Right, right. It’s progressing about the way I thought it would.>> His behavior has been better?>> Yeah, yeah.>> That’s good.>> I knew there was something going on with the musicians. I’m Jonathan McPhee, music director for Boston Ballet. I need to concentrate and to focus, and to have a musician who suddenly stands up and says, “We’ve got to stop, we’ve got to get out of here, you know, this is it,” was completely out of line. If I had let that go, it would have continued to get worse to the point where now I lose the fabric of discipline within the orchestra. That can’t happen, because then the public knows that we’ve got a problem of some kind down there, and they look down and go, you know, what’s going on. And we did have public in the dress rehearsal.>> That’s right, you had people in the rehearsal.>> Yeah, we had press in there, we had board members, and when there’s something like that that happens, it looks like there’s a problem that we’re not addressing or in control of the situation. There’s always a lot of pressure in those situations, because usually the dress rehearsal — well the dress rehearsal is the only time you put the orchestra together with the dancers, and you’re going to open the next day. So we’ve got three hours minus a half hour break, or even if there’s two breaks more, to be able to get this production on stage. The dancers are all highly charged and everybody’s worried about their own things. You’ve got lots of things that are happening. The last thing I need, since I’m sort of command central in making the performance work on stage for the dancers, as well as the musical performance work, the last thing I need is somebody pulling my attention away from the clock of the job that I have to do, because if we hit overtime, it’s big bucks. Our overtime then triggers overtime on the crew. In a theater situation where you have so many different unions and so many different collective bargaining agreements, and so many penalties that could happen, that can be an enormous pile of red ink. So my first reaction was to say, removing him for nonmusical reasons, because he’s detrimental to the group.>> Right.>> And that’s where we both went into the position, and your position always is –>> I think that as the president of the union, I have a responsibility to try to protect a musician’s job. I’m Barbara Owens. I’m president of the Boston Musicians’ Association. I know that sometimes they may deserve to be fired, and management may be well within their rights to fire them. If I was Jonathan, I would have wanted to fire him. I understood Jonathan’s perspective on this. The musician acted completely inappropriately. But I think that as the president of the union, I have a responsibility to try to arrive at other solutions, so that the musician is able to retain their work and hopefully the musician learns a lesson about what’s expected of them and what kind of a standard they have to hold to. And I think that if I can arrive at that kind of a solution, that actually helps everybody. It helps the orchestra, it helps the musician, it helps the management.>> And then I think you were the one that actually suggested that we meet.>> Yes.>> As a group with him, with our representative chairman of the committee and everything else, which I really wanted to do, because the purpose for me is not so much removing the player, but fixing the problem. One of the things that you have always take into consideration when looking at disciplinary action is the fabric of the orchestra, the fabric of the organization. And you can even apply this to any business situation. When you have new leadership that comes in, or when you have leadership that makes a decision, which affects people’s lives, especially in a dismissal where someone is removed from a job, it causes upset. You have to be very careful how you use that, because what you don’t want to create is paranoia and fear, because again, that will hurt what you’re trying to achieve, which is the highest quality music making you can do. And people can’t do that if they’re totally afraid. I knew with this situation with Carl that the stakes had now gotten high enough that it had to be a very clear message. I wasn’t so much concerned at it backfiring. I felt I had no course of action other than to follow the disciplinary action. As long as the process was as transparent as possible, and that was why when the union, when Barbara representing the union said, well, how do you feel about having the orchestra committee or the committee chair in there, I thought that was a good thing, because again, it gives another set of ears and eyes in the situation. What the message I knew that would go back was, we’re examining the problem, we’re airing the problem, and as long as the result is fair, then I knew it would not backfire. Now, I could have said, he deserves to be fired, and I don’t really care about the rest of it, he’s fired, he’s out of here. And I actually could have gone through that whole thing, because I was able to prove the case. But to me, more important than firing the musician was making sure everybody has an update on how we proceed as an organization. Fairness is an issue. I felt because of the fact that the musician, and this was part of settlement, actually, the part that was not just saying, well, he’s in the job, or he’s fired, I wanted him to be able to sit down with me with the other representation in the room and say, I was wrong. It won’t happen again, because I value this job. Now, to me, that’s worth far more than getting rid of somebody who is having a little problem in the workplace. I would rather fix the problem, and the message that then goes out to the orchestra community is the administration is fair. They care about the employee, and we all care about the product. And then, I think we ended up with that he would be the last chair, second violin. I knew at the time that was probably not going to work.>> Right.>> But at least it set up, you know, you have, because of what you’ve done, made yourself less than equal. So since he didn’t pick up the music, I went in and I changed the rotation roster and put him in the first violins. So he came into the rehearsal and immediately went, “I’m in the first violins.” Now, again, it puts us in a good place, because we’ve never talked about the fact that he’s back in the rotation and he now is completely rotational. What I’ve gotten is somebody who now practices their part, somebody who plays the violin, and he’s been absolutely fine. So I think this is one of those really good success stories.>> Yes, I agree with you. I feel that the process worked for both sides. If there was any kind of a vulnerability to an employee rights violation, it would have been if the musician had been fired without having any kind of a meeting or any kind of a chance to present his side. When you have a situation with a firing, if the music director made a determination to fire the musician for just cause, the union would have interceded as a matter of practice to clarify what the just cause was, and to determine whether or not the musician had any right to any kind of a process under the terms of collective bargaining agreement. So if the musician had just been fired that day, you know, told to pack up his instrument and leave, the union would have interceded on his behalf just because we would have been trying to determine if he had any kind of right to a meeting or any of kind of a right to a conversation or, you know, any kind of a warning procedure. We have would have had to do that automatically for him. I think that the musician had his due process. He retained his job, which was what he wanted to do. He had to alter his behavior and become a better employee, which was what management wanted him to do. And he became a better union member, and the union also benefited, because now we have a member who we fought for, who got a good result, and now he’s an advocate for the union rather than being someone who would work against the union, or speak against the union. So I think that everybody involved, there was a positive result for everybody involved. And that’s what the union’s job is supposed to be.

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