Author Topic: Team player vs. "undermining" SM - discussion...?  (Read 5160 times)

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megf

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Team player vs. "undermining" SM - discussion...?
« on: Jul 19, 2007, 04:05 am »
Hi all,

I'm posting this in Employment because it seems like a workplace/professional protocol issue to me, but if other Moderators feel it should go elsewhere, please move it as appropriate.

I've run across the two terms in the subject line a few times, in light conversation and as actual players in the workplace. It seems that playing on a team means making some compromises; my question, then, is when does a compromise turn into a way of undermining or being undermined?

Fortunately, this is not a pressing issue for me at the moment - but I've been chasing myself in circles trying to develop a rule of sorts to identify healthy and less-than-healthy ways of balancing the team/undermining idea, and would love the input of the SMN. (It could be that, since I'm on the deck for my current show, I just have too much time between cues ;) )

Meg

Mac Calder

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Re: Team player vs. "undermining" SM - discussion...?
« Reply #1 on: Jul 19, 2007, 08:59 am »
Here is "The thing" as I see it.

So many people think that "A team" means everyones input has the same weight. That could not be more wrong.

Teams are still composed of an authority structure - however "Working as a team" means that you do collaborate, however the person at the top's word, in the end, is the one that matters.

A commedian who I am quite fond of has a great line "We work as a team, and we do it my way". Slightly over the top, but never the less true.

As Stage Manager, as far as the team goes, on certain issues, your word is law - just as directorial word is law on artistic matters. That does not mean that other 'team members' cannot make suggestions, or even request that the issue be talked about together - just that in the end, if you say XYZ - then XYZ is done.

The authority structure and the team 'working environment' are too separate things - no 'teamwork' overrides the fact that as far as authority goes (which is often proportional to responsibility) there is a person at the top, and verious levels below that. Working as a team does not mean that everyone gets one vote on an issue, or even that everyone gets X votes based on their 'rank'. It is purely an environment, and a method of ensuring communication.

Sarah

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Re: Team player vs. "undermining" SM - discussion...?
« Reply #2 on: Jul 19, 2007, 04:55 pm »
Quote
A commedian who I am quite fond of has a great line "We work as a team, and we do it my way". Slightly over the top, but never the less true.

IMHO, collaboration is the heart of successful theatre but I agree with Mac's comment, for the most part. And like Meg, I agree that compromises are necessary and right. In the past, however, as is inevitable, I have found myself part of a team in which the leader is most obviously the weakest link and "their way" is precarious, redundant and inefficient. I too would like to work towards a healthy understanding of this relationship and would love to hear the what the rest of the network thinks.

KMC

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Re: Team player vs. "undermining" SM - discussion...?
« Reply #3 on: Jul 19, 2007, 08:31 pm »
I have found myself part of a team in which the leader is most obviously the weakest link and "their way" is precarious, redundant and inefficient.

In my experiences these are usually the people least willing to work as a team.
Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

megf

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Re: Team player vs. "undermining" SM - discussion...?
« Reply #4 on: Jul 20, 2007, 06:16 pm »
Thanks, folks, for your thoughts. Mac, that's a great quote - I'm putting it on my list of favorites :-).

To direct the discussion a bit: in terms of assigning/accepting responsibilities, making decisions that affect the whole company (anything from quick-change location to emergency procedures to whether there is decaf in the green room), and communicating with producers, how do you prefer to streamline things to avoid the "weakest link" problems Sarah brings up ("precarious, redundant and inefficient")? Do you expect a set of givens? Of course, the presence of any entertainment labor unions plays a role in how things fall out, but we also have a huge margin for personal style, particularly in management positions.

Mac, looking at the last set of comments in your post, it reads like you're stepping away from a more traditional (or more sports-oriented :-) ) use of the word, and toward a more corporate use. Am I misinterpreting what you said? I'd love some clarification, particularly here:

It is purely an environment, and a method of ensuring communication.

Thanks.

Mac Calder

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Re: Team player vs. "undermining" SM - discussion...?
« Reply #5 on: Jul 20, 2007, 08:02 pm »
Mac, looking at the last set of comments in your post, it reads like you're stepping away from a more traditional (or more sports-oriented :-) ) use of the word, and toward a more corporate use. Am I misinterpreting what you said? I'd love some clarification, particularly here:
Thanks.

Yes and no. Sports teams still have a defined structure - with the coach up the top, then the captain, and then god knows what underneath (sports are not my "thing") and if the captain or coach give instructions, then they expect them to be followed. That combined with a reliance on most members of the team pulling their weight to complete the job.

Re your quote: Teamwork is one working environment - there are a multitude of other types of environment you can work in to complete a job, although their level of effectiveness are obviously different, and setting the right tone for a company/team etc depends on the work that needs doing, yadda yadda yadda.

Teamwork is (at it's core) an environment that requires communication between all parties (hence the "method of ensuring communication" bit).

Basically, to relate it to sports - it is possible for them not to 'work as a team' - so they do not communicate between themselves, except to do what (for example) a coach screams from the side lines. It would work - the ball could end up down at the goals, and goals could be shot, HOWEVER, a sports team that has a very team oriented approach is more effective, which is obviously why teamwork is encouraged on sporting teams.

So really, no matter what definition of team work you use, I believe my comments apply - however I was basing my comments on the more corporate style team.
« Last Edit: Jul 20, 2007, 08:09 pm by Mac Calder »

centaura

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Re: Team player vs. "undermining" SM - discussion...?
« Reply #6 on: Aug 10, 2007, 08:34 am »
Its an interesting discussion.  Folks are always striving for an ideal work environment, but that's not always what will be available, but then how do you handle it when it isn't?  For things to work smoothly in a team set-up, each member of the team must be willing and able to work with each other.  I unfortunately work in a venue where the union and the house have irreconsilable differences, and the idea of the two of them playing nice with each other is out of the question.  That is due to the personalities involved, not with the inherent relationship between the two entities.  As the out-of-town hire-in who works as the go between, I get stuck with a lot of situations that would go so much more smoothly if folks were willing to compromise and work with a 'team' mentality, but they won't and nothing that I will ever be able to do will change any of that.


So, with that long intro, I will answer this question:
Quote
when does a compromise turn into a way of undermining or being undermined?

with this comment:

When the goal of the person doing the compromising IS to undermine.


-Centaura
« Last Edit: Aug 10, 2007, 09:47 am by centaura »

Sarah

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Re: Team player vs. "undermining" SM - discussion...?
« Reply #7 on: Aug 10, 2007, 01:07 pm »
Quote
when does a compromise turn into a way of undermining or being undermined?

When the goal of the person doing the compromising IS to undermine.

-Centaura

Indeed...I have seen this workplace tornado form itself many times. I suppose it is an occupational hazard that we must weather inflated, prideful egos determined to have it "their way," no matter on who they drop a house. I think then, it's about how you use the "ruby slippers" to create compromise and negotiate whatever road to success for the production you need to travel. That said, sometimes it's just downright difficult to squeeze a size 8 foot into a size 6 1/2 shoe...
« Last Edit: Aug 10, 2007, 01:15 pm by Sarah »

centaura

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Re: Team player vs. "undermining" SM - discussion...?
« Reply #8 on: Aug 21, 2007, 05:27 pm »
Quote
but I've been chasing myself in circles trying to develop a rule of sorts to identify healthy and less-than-healthy ways of balancing the team/undermining idea, and would love the input of the SMN.

I think its more going to be in the line of figuring out why certain folks are unable/unwilling to work with the team, and figuring out how to deal with them on a case by case basis.  Dealing with the designer who's feelings were hurt in a previous production is going to be different than dealing with the director who doesn't feel that others should have input into their 'dream'.

For me I'm always looking for the motivation behind a behavior, and trying to deal with that as well as the behavior.

-Centaura

juliz1106

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Re: Team player vs. "undermining" SM - discussion...?
« Reply #9 on: Oct 07, 2007, 12:18 pm »
this is a very interesting topic, but so far a very abstract one.  i was hoping to hear more gory examples of the "team player" vs. "undermining" conflict.

when i first read this post, a very specific conflict occurred to me. this is when someone comes to the SM with a problem, telling the SM to be a "team player" to solve the issue, but by doing so is in effect "undermining" them.

some examples -

SMing a show with teenage youth who are unfamiliar with theatre, who are being paid, but who refuse to treat the show as a job and show up on time, call the SM, or behave themselves during rehearsal.  the SM cannot run rehearsals properly because of this lack of discipline, but when SM attempts to solve the problem (calls the kids on their tardiness, instructs them to call the SM, and generally asks the kids to be quiet during rehearsals), the management informs the SM that it is their job to "babysit" the kids, and that SM should stop being "so hard on them," and "be a team player." 

SM of a new play, which is not going so well. The director clearly hates the play and is uninspired, and the playwright isn't helping. SM is repeatedly told that director is not interested in SM input and that SM is just timekeeper.  SM keeps her mouth shut and keeps time. All are worried going into tech, because more tech has been thrown at the play to solve its artistic issues.  PM asserts that the director's worries all stem from a poor stage management team, because SM not "team player," and therefore likely unable to run tech properly.

in both of these instances the SM is undermined by the team, but put in a position that is difficult to resolve, because it is criticism given in a "you're not being a team player" attitude.  being singled out in this way, with your only defense being "i'm being singled out!" doesn't really get you anywhere.  so the team isn't strengthened at all, because one member is even more unable to become "part of the team" with the understanding that the team is not on their side.  This is that unpleasant, problematic area that arises with the "team player" mentality - if you end up undermining someone who you want to be a part of your team, that person's never going to actually want to be part of your "team."

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