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How Superintendents Can Create A Level Negotiating Field

Jim McLoughlin


Back in the mid-1990s, I was invited to GCSAA headquarters in Lawrence, Kansas to attend a series of meetings for the purpose of addressing superintendents' job security issues. No matter how the conversations went at these meetings, I was consistently told by GCSAA Board members, staff and chapter leaders (all acting in good faith) that . . .


"It would not be prudent for superintendents to take the initiative when negotiating job security issues because it would anger/offend their employers and, therefore, be counter-productive to their career welfare."


Consequently, because the above mantra inherently permeates the thinking of most golf course superintendents to this day, they are generally hesitant to take a pro-active approach when negotiating their job status with their employers; and consequently they are left with only one remaining option - namely, a counter response to their employers' initiatives. Unfortunately, this results in their routinely failing to gain access to legally binding written employment contracts, freely negotiated compensation and severance packages, or to binding arbitration and outreach programming, etc.


The purpose of this blog message is to suggest ways for superintendents to break out of this career debilitating exile because: 


The fact of the matter is that their employers do not resent superintendents taking the initiative when negotiating their employment agreements if it is done the right way and the superintendents are doing a good job delivering a professional maintenance program to their employers.


Identifying The Problem

The real problem that must be dealt with is that while the nominating process delivers some natural leaders to the GCSAA Board, it does not deliver enough leaders which means the "good guys" constantly get out-voted 7-2, or  6-3 - a consistent voting pattern that makes it virtually impossible to bring the necessary changes to GCSAA's and the chapters' bylaws and mission statements to facilitate superintendents gaining access to a level negotiating field.


Furthermore, this voting pattern will continue on indefinitely because established superintendents possessing the necessary leadership skills see the futility of GCSAA Board service where "politics" drives the voting process over members' needs and, accordingly, they consistently decline invitations to be nominated to the Association's Board.


A Recommended Plan Of Action

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to the problem where job securing opportunities are being denied superintendents today as profiled above because - quite logically - if this matter could be easily dealt with it would have been dealt with a long time ago.


To constructively address this matter the following action plan is recommended to effect the necessary changes to GCSAA's and the chapters' bylaws and mission statements to enable superintendents to see themselves as peer equals at the negotiating tables with their employers.


Some will question whether it is necessary to enact a bylaw change to bring peer equality to the negotiating table? The answer is "yes" if any initiative in this regard is going to be credible, command respect and have permanency.


PHASE ONE  (Implement when ready)


Following the procedures presented in Article XII of the GCSAA Bylaws, amend the GCSAA Bylaws and mission statement (and those of their chapters as well) to add the following policy statement:


"The primary purposes for which this Corporation and its affiliated chapters were formed are to help to secure the jobs and to advance the career welfare of its members; and furthermore to also make professional outreach program counseling available to its members through its chapter infrastructure."


PHASE TWO  (Implement concurrently with Phase One above)


Because Executive Directors must be the eventual outreach counselors for their chapter members, GCSAA would develop on-line educational programming that would: First - circulate a model job description for the position to each chapter - a sample of which is presented later in this blog series; and Second - provide a course of study with testing to prepare the Executive Directors to become effective career planning and outreach counselors for their chapters' members.


With the above described amendment to the GCSAA and chapter bylaws and mission statements in place and promulgated to both members and course administrators throughout the region, and with chapter Executive Directors properly qualified to counsel/support their members career planning initiatives - golf course superintendents across the country will begin to reap the often denied benefits that accrue when granted access to legally binding written employment contracts with outreach counseling support.


In summary: while the above action plan is clearly do-able over a relatively short period of time, it will require the natural leaders within the GCSAA and chapter memberships to "come out of the closet" to make things happen that will bring pride to a profession (individual superintendents have enjoyed this level of respect for some time - but the profession as a whole not yet to date) - a situation that once realized will educate the golfing world to the scope of responsibility and the true mastery golf course superintendents carry with them every day in their service to golf.



Recommended Comments

Guest Jon Scott


Jim, I have been an advocate of this since I was a superintendent more than 20 years ago. A couple of consecutive job losses that were caprecious at best almost put me out of a career. I often thought - what if I had access to an advocate who could have helped me both in my employment agreement and my subsequent release. I looked to GCSAA to provide that help but it just wasn't there. Fast forward to present times where superintendent security is the topic of most professional conversations, and we still have no help. Bravo for saying what needs to be said and backing it up with sound reasoning. Bravo for saying that the PGA of America has long been in front on this issue. It is time for GCSAA to move forward on this issue as a top priority and quit hoping that the times wil change and it will go away. The times are not going to change for the better on the issue of job security unless we collectively do something to make it happen.

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