Keeping Conflict at Bay


Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra,” a newly released, multi-party role play case by Scott K. Dasovitch under the direction of Professor Robert C. Bordone, explores the various challenges that a renowned symphony orchestra faces during a complex time of negotiations.

Although the orchestra has operated in a deficit for several years, a donor has just offered a $20 million gift to the endowment under the condition that the orchestra must balance its budget in the upcoming negotiation. In light of this donation, the musicians now call for an increase in wages, while management hopes to keep expenses at bay. As the possibility of a strike looms in the background, the negotiators of the case must come to agreement on a range of issues, from salary and pension to a controversial “smile” policy that would govern musicians’ demeanor onstage. The greatly opposed “smile” policy is particularly intriguing: instituted by the management, it asks the musicians to maintain eye contact with audience members and smile a few times during each concert. The musicians, though, remain unanimously dissatisfied with this policy, claiming that it is an insulting form of micromanagement to their serious art.

An engaging exercise in conflict resolution, “Golden Gate” provides a challenging opportunity for participants to engage in a complex negotiation involving multiple stages and multiple issues. The case is designed as a three-on-three negotiation, though it could also be run as a one-on-one exercise. Because of the complexity of the issues and background, participants should plan to invest time in preparation:  at least 1 to 1.5 hours to read the General and Confidential Information, and an additional hour for the teams of three to meet on their own prior to the main negotiation.  The negotiation between the teams should take place within a four-hour time block.

The case offers a multitude of potential directions for an instructor’s debrief:  the instructor could cover how the groups of three negotiated a process, roles, and their intra-team dynamic; how the teams of three negotiated together to arrive at a substantive resolution (or not); and the challenges of negotiating in a group.

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