I am becoming the director's punching bag
  • True I may only be lowly accompanist, but there are a growing number of incidents that I am struggling to just "let slide". First of all, if the director hires a soloist and said person arrives late, I have nothing to do with that right? She is a friend of mine, but the director hired her, and I had no part in that. I am not responsible for my friend, yet the director wrongly assumed that I was. So, in a nasty and passive aggressive tone, the director starts harping on me at last week's rehearsal to be on time because we had another soloist coming. Uh lady I am here on time, every time, and you know this. Karma and Mother Nature took care of that by making it impossible for that person to play with us yesterday...If anything goes wrong, or she's having a bad day, anyone else is fair game. She routinely says rude and offensive things that the rest of us ignore, and seems to have zero regard for anyone. A choir member was in a car accident-not serious, but she was shaken up and called to say she could not attend rehearsal. The director's response? She asked if the choir member was hurt and if she wasn't could she still come, even though her tail lights got busted and the car wasn't drivable. 19 year old girl has her first wreck and is an emotional mess? She doesn't care. Sick? Well just how sick are you? Unless you are dead she has zero compassion and understanding. I wish this was a caricature but sadly it is not. I've been on time for everything, I take all the crap she throws at me and play it even though I hate most of it, I save her ass when someone can't be there because of inclement weather and fill in/improvise the solo parts on the fly, grinding my teeth the entire time and saying NOTHING. Oh and don't even get me started on how she nags and argues with her husband, who also sings in the choir, on a daily basis and the constant awkwardness of that hot mess.

    I need a drink...and a way to have a serious but professional conversation with her about this.


  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,898
    Sounds like time for a choir committee to have tea and conversation with the pastor.
  • No good. She will put on her fake face, talk all gentle and sweet and say "Oh dear, I didn't mean it like that!" Classic emotional manipulator with no intention of examining her own behavior. In her mind everything she does is perfect, it's everyone else that is wrong and "if only" we would just see things her way.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,898
    Do you need the money and can't quit? If not, wish her well as you sail into the sunset - taking as many choir members with you as possible.
    Thanked by 1Ben
  • BenBen
    Posts: 3,114
    I have to agree with @CharlesW here. If you are not in a position to bring it up to the pastor, or you try and it doesn't work, I would get out of there, if you can. Sounds like a very, very toxic situation.

    I can just imagine the awkwardness of the nagging....
  • I am desperate enough that before I got the job we visited food pantries at the end of some months. I don't want to go back to that. I thought I was imagining things sometimes or even felt silly for posting this discussion. I'm relieved that I'm not crazy...although I feel like I am going crazy.

    I have applied for another non-music job because I need a "real" job to support music habit and pay for my kid's orthodontic gadgets, but it will be some time before I hear anything about it.

    Pray for me :( And for my crazy director. She's not evil, she's just clueless.

    Thanked by 1JulieColl
  • bonniebede
    Posts: 756
    Matt 18 15 "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

    Ephesians 4 walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called,2 with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;3 giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace..
    15 but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ;
    25 Wherefore, putting away falsehood, speak ye truth each one with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.
    26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:27 neither give place to the devil...
    29 Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear.
    31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice:
    32 and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.

    You may be there for her sake, not yours. you may be the first mature Christian in her life willing to call her on her behaviour, and call her on to something better.
    If you are the point of leaving, then what have you to lose?
    As someone who is very very averse to confrontation, I know this is easy to say but not at all easy to do.
    on the other hand, God may be using the situation to indicate it is time to move on, Not mutually exclusive possibilities.

    Hope you get through this, and please know that people are praying for you.
  • I cannot leave, and I don't necessarily want to either. I just don't know how much longer I can smile and nod before I explode in a ball of fiery anger and quit...My anger can lay dormant for a long time, simmer for years, and then it's the next Mt St. Helens. I need to figure this out before that happens...
  • This may not seem like practical advice, but you may find it is.

    Pray. Pray for her.

    There may be more going on in her life than you realize.

    OK... I am not mister holy. I get angry easily. I mean, I REALLY get pissed off at people I percieve are making my life miserable. And some of them really are. I mean, making my life miserable.

    But when I start praying for someone it somehow gives me a bigger perspective.

    ...That doesn't mean they stop making my life miserable, but they stop making my life miserable. Wierd oxymoron, eh?

    And you have actually helped me, for the past year I have been seriously thinking of going Mt St. Helens and quitting my job.

    Oddly enough I have to do work at an archabbey later this week. Where I was thinking about going on a retreat with my wife later this year. Usually I work in hospitals and data centers and manufacturing plants. Maybe you and those monks (or their facilities manager) will convince me to take the advice I just gave you.
    Thanked by 1JulieColl
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,898
    I have reached an understanding with God, that I am grateful that He in his great love for humanity is willing to love and accept the dysfunctional. But as I pointed out to Him, my gratitude doesn't extend to putting up with the scrawny and paranoid, the chubby and disorganized, or any others who don't even do a good job of running their own lives, much less attempting to direct others. I also noted that just because He loves them, doesn't mean I have to deal with them. So there! LOL.
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,465
    My sympathy and prayers, FideminFidebus. The Divine Mercy chaplet works every time for me in situations like this.
  • Oh yes the disorganization, under the guise of impeccable organization, and repeated accusations of "Didn't I give you that piece? I gave you this too, oh well I will get another copy for you." Nope sorry you never gave me that music...YOU forgot, not me.

    @SeasonPsalt: I have no doubt that she experienced some kind of trauma early on in her life. But I am with Charles in many ways here-I can't fix her. I can pray for her, I can stay tight lipped because my desire to maintain my own dignity and ability to buy groceries overrides my desire to tell her right off, but I don't have to like her. I also believe I should not be beaten into silence either. Thanks for the kind thoughts everyone.

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,898
    You will be in my prayers this evening, and I wish you the best outcome in all this.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,577
    Classic emotional manipulator with no intention of examining her own behavior.
    She's not evil, she's just clueless.

    First time you accurately assessed the situation.
    Second time you made excuses for her.
    She counts on it.
    Googling her behaviours should produce items that offer alternatives
    that help you hold your line and defend yourself without attacking her.
    Modeling them helps choir members and even the poor husband.

    Don't those Safe Environment things help identify a bully?
  • At a church I visited the kitchen while the KOC of cooking and asked the organist's husband if, on those days that she beat me up one side and down the other, if on one of these days she treated him better when she got home, having gotten it out of her system. No response, though there was a flicker in his gaze.

    Nice lady, greatly mistreated by former directors and totally unprepared to work with someone who respected and encouraged her. The result of the respect and encouragement - "I know you really don't believe that."

    I felt bad that I was unable to reach her. After 4 years of that, I was gone. Recently I heard that she has walked out three times under the new director in the last year, making him hop on the bench as I had to myself more than once.

    Some people cannot be helped, so they work in Catholic churches.

    You've been her punching bag since you got there, but were probably patient and tried to be understanding. It's going to go on because you need the job and anything that you could do to change it would get you fired, including going to the pastor or even talking with choir members about it.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,098
    First, today is the first day of the rest of your life. Keep a written log of incidents.

    Oh and don't even get me started on how she nags and argues with her husband, who also sings in the choir, on a daily basis and the constant awkwardness of that hot mess.


    Maybe this behavior can become the point to present, because it's not between her and you, but it creates an atmosphere of conflict and anger and therefore intimidation. A prudent pastor might hear about this and decide to put a stop to it by regretfully removing the husband from choir. It doesn't matter if he's the only tenor or the only bass.
  • @Noel: I didn't have to go to the choir members, they pulled me aside and warned me in the first few weeks of the job.

    I know too much about emotionally abusive people because I was raised by one. This is good and bad because even though I know what I'm dealing with I also have a default "just suck it up" reflex. The gaslighting is very hard to handle though...if you've ever been a victim of it, and in my case lifelong and still ongoing by the perpetrating family member, to experience it from yet another person is almost too much.

    "Some people cannot be helped so they work in Catholic churches"

    And those who cannot hack it there work in highly disorganized and laissez-faire Presbyterian ones...although she is co-director of a group at her own Catholic church, apparently needs more than one outlet for her wrath.

    You may be right that even the most sensitive, benign mention of an issue could land me out of work.

  • Thanks!
  • Reval
    Posts: 176
    Whenever I have impossible people like this in my life, I just try to be thankful that they are not in my immediate family, or that I only have to work with her for a few hours per week, etc. My husband has a very difficult person that he works with, 25 hours per week. He manages to stay sane somehow. Just keep an eye out for other jobs...
  • It sounds like a pretty abusive situation to me. I'm sorry. I know that you're worried about losing your job if you talk to the pastor, but what if a few choir members went with you to talk to him? He needs to know if something like this is going on, and that way all of the blame wouldn't be put on you.

    I'll be praying that something works out for you. Maybe she'll move, or maybe a better job will come up for you. Hang in there.
  • I should hear about the other job I applied for by the end of this month. At the same time I don't want to quit this one. I enjoy being a church musician and things have been mostly positive, she's just very difficult to deal with. I always try to give people a second chance, and even though this is not my home church the people there have been very welcoming and generous to me and my family.
    Yes, it is sometimes an abusive situation. But these kinds of people often behave this way because they have hurt or issues that they carry, and no one has ever taken the time to even ask a simple "Are you okay?" And yes, even if I tell her that some things are making me uncomfortable I know she might improve for a while and then go back to old habits. This kind of goes back to @bonniebede's comment, and by the way you aren't the only one who told me I am there for her sake. With all of the bad behavior, I still believe there is a genuinely good person in her. She is very devoted to her Catholic faith and her family, and her micromanagement of everything is more like the protective mother hen. It is clear to me, knowing what I know from conversations with her, that she worked hard to "rise above" her own upbringing, and I can definitely relate to that-although I can't necessarily relate to the extremes she has taken it.
    She is expecting her first grandchild, so I am going to get her a nice little card and maybe use that as a springboard for conversation, ask her how she is doing, maybe say "Hey, you seem a little stressed lately is everything alright?" And see what happens.

    I know, I know, fool me once shame on you...I never give up on people-it's a bad habit.

  • She is expecting her first grandchild, so I am going to get her a nice little card and maybe use that as a springboard for conversation, ask her how she is doing, maybe say "Hey, you seem a little stressed lately is everything alright?"


    That might be a good way to open up the conversation. I just know that you're a much more patient and forgiving person than I am.
  • Patience and forgiveness are supposed to be virtues, but I don't think I have much of either. I might forgive but forgetting is another matter. I don't easily forget what others have done, and I also remain on high alert for them to repeat the offense. But that's a defense mechanism I guess. I actually think the whole mantra of "forgive and forget" is ridiculous. God surely will remember our offenses, but he will also forgive them.
    And if I am honest with myself, I know that my only motivation for keeping the peace with difficult people is a selfish one: bring out the good in others so they are easier for me to deal with. If that happens to have a positive effect on other people in the director's life that's great, but unfortunately it isn't why I'm putting the effort into this relationship. :-/
    Well, tonight is rehearsal night...should be interesting.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,121
    Good luck, and my prayers are with you.
  • JDE
    Posts: 588
    Fidem,

    you don't owe anyone a green light to abuse you. You and the director are both deserving of respectful treatment. I, too was raised in a household full of emotional and mental abuse, but rather than keep giving in, I suggest you respect yourself and decline to accept any more abusive talk. Call her out about it in front of the choir. If she says she was "just kidding," explain that you didn't perceive it that way and ask her not to "kid" any more.

    You should not tolerate such behavior. It sets a bad example for the choir and anyone else who might be observing.

    If I were in such a position, I would buy her a month's worth of yoga classes and insist she go (in fact I would insist she come to class with me). That might give her enough time for introspection to realize what a pain in the tuchis she has been to everyone, not just to you. If yoga seems too pagan/new agey or whatever to you, sign her up to be a Guardian at the nearest perpetual adoration . . . you can't escape the voice of the Lord in that situation.

    Peace and best wishes. I am really thankful for my good position and the well-behaved people who work with me and for me.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,202
    I'm currently serving as assistant to a DM who has been in place for over 11 years. She and I get along well, despite her full knowledge (or perhaps to her credit in spite of it) of my sensibilities and core principles surrounding the RotR and the restoration of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony to the Mass. I have learned quickly and most likely thanks to the brutal treatment I received in the end at my former parish - one that is by all accounts committed to the same principles, but has permitted a number of "inner circle" types to control things - that one can, and should, express one's knowledge and carefully formed opinions on these matters in the most charitable and (dare I use the word) "pastoral" way possible. In this way, I have found that people for the most part are willing and open to hearing what I have to share, and in some cases they've expressed appreciation for the knowledge I've shared.

    To her credit, the DM has in her own ways come to my defense when "spirit of the Council" types who are long-standing and respected colleagues of hers in the area make unnecessarily provocative remarks about various subjects they believe to be "hot button" and likely to rile me up. They keep trying to bait me, and I refuse to rise to it.

    So in this way I'm lucky. Very lucky. My current supervisor, I believe, has a healthy respect for my skills and knowledge and would not do anything to jeopardize the collegial relationship we've forged. There have been times when things have gotten a bit tense. But because we both know well that there are folk on the outside looking in who were quite literally taking bets that I wouldn't last in this current situation, we're both too stubborn and determined to let that happen. From this sense of challenge we've developed a cooperative alliance. She does not share in the harassment others in the circle engage in because of my preferences for a more "orthodox" musical and liturgical practice, and I don't criticize or challenge her for certain musical choices she makes that I may find problematic. It's called diplomacy.

    There is, however, one very nasty bit of political water that I must navigate carefully when certain folk within the program or parish seem interested in dragging me into their agendas, and I'm thankful that years of experience have brought me to a place where I can say to these folk, "I appreciate your concern and your opinion, and please understand that I must be Switzerland in this matter."

    So, I wish everyone well who faces difficulties. I'm forever reminded of Red Green's little bromide: "Remember, I'm pulling for ya. We're all in this together."
    Thanked by 2melofluent ghmus7
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,145
    The Director of Music and Liturgy at my church is also the choir director for the Midnight Mass and Easter Vigil choirs. These choirs have slowly decreased in numbers since she took over that position. The reason? She has no internal filter. She says things without thinking. Year before last, she made a rather hurtful (to me) remark about me to someone else while I was there. I left. I think that the choir at Midnight Mass that year was 4 or 5 people.
    Thanked by 1musiclover88
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    JDE and David, my heart is full of joy and hope because your voices grace these "pages" again, wise...learned.....earnest....truthful and charitable. You guys are the best!
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,428
    You are not going to change this person, and more importantly It is not your job. Look every day for a better position.Call the diocesean music director, the folks at cathedrals and good parishes and let them know kindly that you are looking. If you are in at least a midsize city, you have a good chance of finding good work. There is no reason to work with someone who does not respect you,although you may have to for now. Think of your job search as a step toward recieving respect.
  • bonniebede
    Posts: 756
    ...I never give up on people-it's a bad habit.


    No it is not a bad habit. But I wonder do you think there is a contradiction between standing up for yourself and helping someone else? It is not either/or. If they don't know how to behave properly it is a loving thing to do to teach them (by example, or word ) that you are a child of God to be respected , and that anything less is not acceptable behaviour in the household of God.
    In Matthew, Jesus gives us a sensibly escalating way of going about it : first in private, (as you are doing, a place to be compassionate and listening, but also direct in a way that will expose her sins without exposing her to pubic shame) - but then with witnesses ( a loving wake up call) and finally formally. If that doesn't work, the relationship is to be severed, but we always 'pray for our enemies' so we never completely abandon them, but for their sake we do not let sin fester and grow.
    If life experience has overwhelmed us with an experience where we couldn't do this (for example with a parent when we were to young to be able to be that assertive) it can be a hard lesson to learn, easier to revert to the learnt pattern of staying quiet and then getting out, but how marvellous if we can get beyond that.
    Anyway, continuing to pray for you, that God will bless you and strengthen you.
  • Thanks again everyone, so many encouraging and comforting responses here!
  • I hesitated to suggest this, but...having written it, I am strongly in favor of this.

    Many choir members are recording rehearsals for review at home. When in a situation in which there may be misunderstanding of what has occurred has happened, it would be very useful to have an actual audio or video recording to refer to.

    A video record would be appropriate when working with a children's choir in case of anything happening - including a child falling, a bullying incident - so why not institute video recordings of all choir rehearsals.

    Then, if something happens, it would be possible to meet with the pastor privately, air the incident and give him the opportunity to evaluate and deal with the situation.

    If the decision is used to follow the When Sheep Attack formula and meet with the pastor and the person that one is having difficulty with, the knowledge of all that there is a video record alone may help, without having to show it.

    However, if the person refuses to admit or understand what they have done, the pastor could pull of the video and share it with the person and talk it over.

    This may sound really intrusive to some. But innuendos, rumors and outright lies are intrusive to the soul of a person. It's your choice.
  • A woman in our city landed a job for which she was totally unqualified. She knew nothing about choral conducting, vocal training or literature. She couldn't even articulate what she wanted and in order to cover her own deficiency, she beasted on the singers and accompanist. It took over a year to rid themselves of her, mostly because it was so hard to find a really capable replacement. It seems that more and more people are getting jobs in the Catholic church that they are untrained or unqualified for - a bad sign of the direction that church music is headed these days. Tragic!
    Thanked by 1musiclover88
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,898
    Ask Noel about the former music director in our city who was a friend of the pastor, but couldn't read music. It happens!
  • Just a little update: I've laid low, things are quiet right now so no need to poke the hornet's nest. An opportunity for me to build trust with her has come up, and she needs help with a big project. I have offered my assistance and think this could be a great opportunity to improve my relationship with her. I hope she accepts my offer.
  • And he appointed her music director of the cathedral and the diocese. After firing a member of this list who had been there 19 years...
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • ...a great opportunity to improve my relationship with her...


    May this happen, and then it is my hope (and probably many others' here) that when this happens the hornets in the nest will have no sting.

    Good luck!