Two singers going to employment tribunal as a result of alleged bullying.. A 47-year-old director of music has been dismissed from his position at Glasgow Cathedral after allegations that he bullied and intimidated singers in the choir group.
The choirmaster had been in the position for six months, during which a total of 10 singers decided to leave the choir as one claimed that he “bullied the ladies of the choir unmercifully”.
There were also complaints that the he had made disparaging comments about Scotland including the claim that he had said he had “come to a Third World country” after taking up work in the Cathedral in January.
Another comment attributed to the choirmaster by those in the choir that caused offense is his alleged assertion that “I feel like an old-time missionary trying to bring water and electricity to the natives”.
He is also accused of being insensitive to the singers in the choir and adopting an aggressive attitude towards them as one account states that he told one choir member that they sounded like “something dragged up from the Clyde”.
However the musical director who also works in Paris defended his comments and said that they should be interpreted within the context they were made:
“When I say ‘dragged up from the Clyde’, it might have been dragged up from the Thames or the Seine.
“To motivate a group of people one might be using light-hearted metaphors. In this case it relates to a particular type of sound that was quite dark.
“If that is bullying then it is a very sorry state to be in.
“Ten people left but not only did 10 join but a whole number of other singers, 24, have wanted to join.
“I find the allegations of bullying offensive. The standard of the cathedral choir when I arrived was shocking.”
However, two former choir members are going to an employment tribunal as a result of the alleged bullying and harassment they received while the Cathedral is conducting a full internal investigation into the matter.
Susan Turner, who was principal chorister and had been a member of the choir for 15 years is one of the choir members who is taking action against the director.
Mrs Turner said: “My situation is that I and others have had to endure insults and gross rudeness.”
HR experts say these cases are often the toughest to deal with because it is hard to know when the line has been crossed between good-natured humour and outright bullying and this line may vary depending on the individuals involved and their particular sensitivities. Therefore it is recommended that all businesses have some kind of bullying & harassment plan in place so that all staff are aware of what is and what is not acceptable in the workplace.