And Don’t Be The Person Using Their Passion Against Them

It seems appropriate during this Independence Day week to recall the words of The Mission Paradox’s Adam Thurman which I wrote about back in 2009. In a post dealing with issues of over work and burn out, he offered this valuable advice:

3. Don’t let them use your passion against you. Consider this:

Imagine you were a lawyer. What if I told you that there were some law firms (not all, but absolutely some) that didn’t get a damn about their employees? What if I told you that some firms were designed to bring in people and get as much out of them as possible before they burned out?

Would you believe me?

Of course you would. Hell, because it’s the legal profession you would expect such behavior.

Here’s da rub:

Some arts organizations are the exact same way.

Just because the end product is art and not a legal brief doesn’t mean the place automatically values their employees. Just because the place is a non-profit doesn’t automatically make it a nice place to work.

But here’s the really messed up part. At some of those arts orgs, if you complain that the hours are unreasonable, or the pay is low, or your input isn’t valued . . . they imply that your commitment to the “cause” is low. They convince you that if you really were passionate about your work, you would put up with the sub par conditions.

Don’t fall for it. It’s a trap. Remember point 1, it doesn’t have to be like that . . . you deserve better.

As I wrote in my original post–don’t be the person who uses people’s passion against them either.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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