Start with respect.
You may have heard it too on the news this morning, that the musicians and management met last night to talk. We can only hope that Michigan’s weather is chillier than the relationship between the two parties as they resume their efforts to find common ground and end this impasse.
A good place to start a thaw in a chilly relationship is with respect. Respect can be a tough one when you are dealing with someone whose opinions are the polar opposite of yours, so the best place to start is with language.
Addressing the musicians as musicians instead of players is a good place to start. Acknowledging the validity of one parties’ concerns instead of saying “they just don’t get it” is half of it. Acknowledging critical challenges presented by the recession and donor fatigue is the other half.
Finding common ground is the next step and that’s where the going gets tough. While no one disputes that the DSO is facing a financial crisis, figuring out how to raise the money and reclaim the DSO’s financial viability is the heart of the matter and when you deal with matters of the heart, it can be very painful.
So far the pain has included a fair share of mud slinging and demands for sacrifices without an acknowledgment of what those sacrifices really mean or recognition for the sacrifices that are willing to be made.
And when I hear statements like, “A third of the staff was laid off; for those left, nearly all make less today than when they were hired,” it makes me wonder who didn’t sacrifice? Who was not part of that “nearly all…?” This statement came from a DSO flyer handed out in front of the musicians’ concert at Kirk in the Hills last Saturday night.
A big part of respect is realizing we are in this together. We all must make sacrifices together. Lets be transparent about what those sacrifices are and lets not force one party to make ALL the sacrifices. So far, ALL the musicians are being asked to make considerable sacrifices to secure the financial future of the DSO. Fair enough. They have agreed to very painful salary cuts. What other cuts besides laying off a third of the staff was made by the DSO’s executive staff? Have they ALL agreed to the same salary and benefit cuts that the musicians are being asked to make? Does anyone know the answer to this?
I don’t believe that the answer to the DSO’s solvency lies solely in downsizing administrative staff, and forcing the musicians to accept salary cuts and changes in work rules. The true path to solvency lies in a cooperative, team-oriented environment built on mutual respect so that parties who are invested in the DSO’s success can work together to solve this difficult problem.
The solution will need to be creative, multi-faceted and long-term. Finding the solution will require a committed, enthusiastic team comprised of the Board, the executive staff, the musicians and the audience. Respect and trust will be vital to healing relationships and forging the bonds needed to rebuild this team.
The strike has gone on long enough. The time is now to try a different approach.
Let’s work together, let’s all make the necessary sacrifices, not just the musicians and lets all begin by acknowledging each other with respect and the recognition that we all play an important role in preserving the DSO and its legacy.
SOSers, I know you get it and you’ll step up and help out when its time for the audience to play a role. In the meantime, the spring thaw can’t come soon enough.