Volunteer/Director Power Struggle-Advice welcome
  • SMire
    Posts: 13
    Good morning, everyone!

    To preface, I'm not looking to badmouth a particular volunteer that I've been struggling with, but I am looking for advice from other directors who have experienced a sort of wrestling with attitudes of possessiveness, entitlement, and "bullying-type" behaviors in their volunteers?

    Background: I just began a new job as the lead Music Director seven months ago at the third largest parish in my Diocese, which also happens to be very affluent (they bring in more in a weekend than I make in a year). So, naturally, the size means: more opinions, the money means: a general mindset of what cannot be got, can be bought.

    I have one member who continues to text, email, call, or approach me before or after Mass/rehearsals with her opinions of how things should be run, mostly in response to my covid-protocols (of which I observe none, I approach it with the mindset and expectation that people will stay home if they're running fever in general...I do not require masks, nor do I require vaccination status to sing in the choir) and even in regards to my musical direction. It's a very covert and passive-aggressive operation she runs. She's never said "you're doing a bad job," but will simply point out things that other "amazing" directors do in other choirs she's a part of or been in in the past. She won't say: you should do these things or have you considered doing "x," rather she'll forward emails from other area churches and say: look at their covid protocols! Or: I hate to have to tell you this, it must be so difficult for you to hear, but so and so said such and such about you and I just feel you really need to know...I generally ignore her emails and text and only respond when necessary, and only during my normal business hours, but it's getting to a point where I'm feeling very depleted and, honestly, highly annoyed.

    What would you do? Any words of advice?
  • Get a copy of the book "When Sheep Attack". It addresses a lot of situations similar to yours, and gives great advice on how to handle them.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Please note: I'm being only slightly facetious when I say this.

    Make her an employee, but not one with much authority. Then dismiss her for (I don't know.... insubordination, poor performance review....)

    Hire her as your secretary. Have her reply personally to every complaint letter.

    Dismiss the complaints by saying "Yes, but I'm not..... (that other director, that other protocol enforcer, Pope Francis' conscience...)
    Thanked by 1StimsonInRehab
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    You could invite her to join those other amazing choirs with amazing directors. Some people are simply more trouble than they are worth to you or your music program. Throw her out.
  • I don’t know why people ignore emails and expect people to stop emailing them. I just assume the person is busy with other emails more important and assume nothing is wrong and keep emailing.

    Have you tried actually communicating with her and setting some boundaries? Maybe start there.
    Thanked by 1mattebery
  • jcr
    Posts: 132
    You might suggest that she might be interested in applying for a music director's post when one becomes available.

    I don't think that I've had one quite like that. I had a young singer audition for a college ensemble once, though, who gave me a lot of talk about her experience in really good choirs and that she was just not sure that our group would be up to the Professional standards that she was used to. When she sang for me it was quite clear that she had no musicianship skills, had some vocal problems that would cost me some time to deal with, and it was all hot air. So, I told her that I would consider her for membership in a year if she would work during that year to become the kind of singer of which fine choirs are made. You guessed it already, I know. I never saw her again.
  • Stimson, there are three books by that name on Amazon and they all have different authors. Do you remember which version you read?

    Dennis R. Maynard
    Mark Conn
    Kent Crockett
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,500
    I've had the sense in the past that this kind of conflict comes from the person's unhappiness, well beyond my power to address. Be unfailingly polite, draw strong boundaries, toss the suggestions into the bin. Hope for better days but don't expect them.
  • Serviam, it's the Dennis Maynard book - although the other two look good as well.
  • I'd suspect it's a combination of insecurity and desire for attention/desire to be admired on her part that probably comes out in other contexts, too. The complaining can be an almost unconscious reaching out for reassurance. But whatever the motive, being plain abour what you do and don't want is probably useful. People really often can't guess or are not aware that they are annoying. Sometimes they are so caught in their own worries they can't do differently either.
  • SMire
    Posts: 13
    Thank you for all of the feedback! I have not directly addressed this issue with this specific volunteer, though I did send a general email to the entire choir on my expectations, to try and protect the health of the ministry. I think, for now, I will continue to stick to my current approach which is to address what is absolutely necessary, but only during my normal business hours, to let the rest roll off my back, and to pray for her.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,473
    Simply ignore her and get on with the job.
  • SMire,

    Believe or not, I have had a situation very much like yours. In fact, it offers me some psychological relief to know I’m not the only one who’s gone through it.

    You are the music director, you deserve respect. Set some boundaries with her, and if she’s not willing to honor them, you don’t need her. The only people you need to ultimately worry about are God, the pastor, and yourself.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,152
    And the big donors! Don't forget the big donors!
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • Refer it upwards… You take your directives from your boss (ie. the Parish Priest).

    Make the PP responsible by supervising and approving your COVID-safe measures.

    Any criticism of you then becomes a criticism of the PP!