I walked in on two amorous coworkers, calling in sick after a vacation day was denied, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I walked in on two amorous coworkers

I work backstage at a theater. One evening during a show, I went to use the bathroom in an unused dressing room and I walked in on our diction coach getting a blowjob from someone. I said “sorry!” and left very quickly, but he ran after me and begged me not to tell anyone. I said something like, “Don’t worry about it” because I just wanted him to go away so I could get back to doing my job and forget what I saw. I didn’t tell anyone except my husband. I couldn’t decide if it was a funny story or a weird gross story.

I don’t know who the other person was, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the diction coach’s wife, who was also in the show. (Later on, one of my colleagues mentioned seeing another cast member walking in the direction of those dressing rooms, so it might have been that person, but that’s just speculation.) Both the diction coach and his wife have been with the company for over 15 years and will continue to work with us, so I imagine I will run into them regularly, and now it feels like I have some awkward secret that I have to carry. This awkwardness bothers me slightly, but not really enough to request not to be put on projects that he might be working on. My job requires a lot of discretion and poker face-ness so it’s not a huge deal to pretend it didn’t happen, though I might prefer not to have too much direct contact with him in the future.

I keep wondering, though, if I should have said something to management or HR. On the one hand, it seems to me that having sex in a bathroom at work during a performance is not okay (never mind the cheating on your wife thing, though that isn’t really my business). On the other hand, they were probably both consenting adults and there is a “hook up” culture in theater. (I was partly motivated to write because of your response to the “drug deal gone bad among restaurant employees” about how different workplace cultures tolerate different behaviors). Also, I don’t think that he was actually neglecting any show-related duties; our dialect coaches are only on contract through opening night, but once in a while they’ll come to the performance on their own accord to listen or say hello to the cast/staff, even if not officially on contract. Plus, if he were to be reprimanded, it would be pretty clear that I was the one who told, and I’m not really up for that.

I don’t know if the arguments in my head for not saying anything are naive and I’m just trying to avoid conflict, but I do kind of feel like the ship has sailed on mentioning this to HR/ management or the dialect coach himself, and I should just go on pretending it never happened. I haven’t been able to talk to anyone else about this, so I was hoping to get your thoughts?

If you felt really uncomfortable — if you felt like you’d been forced to witness sexual activity against your will and were upset about it — that’s absolutely something you could report. You’re entitled to go to work without having to see people having sex!

But it sounds like you’re more wondering if you’re obligated to report it, and I don’t think you are, as long as the people involved aren’t in each other’s chain of command. (If they were, you’d need to.) You’re allowed to decide “eh, that was gross but not my business” if you want to. You’d also be well within your rights to tell the guy, “Hey, I didn’t appreciate seeing that and you need to keep it out of the theater.”

2. Calling in sick on a day when time off was denied

Two weeks ago, I learned that my high school reunion was scheduled for today. When I found out, I submitted a PTO request so that I’d be able to attend. Generally, no news is good news in my company, so after not hearing back for a week, I assumed the request was approved and made plans accordingly. It was noon yesterday when I got an email from HR saying they’d decided not to approve time off requests for today, and so mine had been denied. I admit I made it pretty clear to my manager how frustrated I was that they’d waited until the last minute to let me know.

Then last night, my newborn daughter got very sick. My wife stayed up with her to try and let me sleep, but sound carries in the house. By morning we were all exhausted, and my wife has a seizure disorder exacerbated by sleep deprivation so I was nervous to leave her alone with the baby. All in all, it seemed like a legitimate reason for a sick day … but we both knew how suspicious it’d look. We’re currently working on health insurance for the baby, so a doctor’s note isn’t an option; I’d have no way to prove my story.

For now, one of our neighbors has agreed to check in on my wife and I’m heading into work. In the future, though, what do you suggest as a way to corroborate a situation like this? Is the whole situation my fault, for being irritated by the email from HR?

It’s not your fault. You’re allowed to be frustrated; their delay was legitimately frustrating. (I mean, you should have checked back after you didn’t hear anything rather than just assuming it was approved, but they’re being ridiculous by waiting until the day before to approve/deny vacation requests.)

If you’re a good employee with a decent employer who doesn’t treat employees like children, you shouldn’t need to provide hard evidence that your baby was sick. I get why you’re worried that this looks bad, but good managers don’t generally assume that good employees are lying, as long as you acknowledge that it looks weird and explain what happened. So I’d just address it head-on to your manager, as in, “I realize the timing of this looks bad, but Jane actually got very sick last night and we’ve been up all night with her. I feel awkward about the timing, so I want to assure you this is an actual sick day and not an attempt to do an end-run around HR’s decision about my earlier request. And I’ll be here if you need to reach me for anything.”

Unless you have a track record of shadiness or your manager is a jerk, she should accept this. Stuff happens! Sometimes people get sick on days they had hoped to use for other things, and that doesn’t automatically cancel your ability to use sick time. But if your manager seems skeptical, then get even more direct: “I realize I originally wanted this day for something else, but that would have been moot anyway once the baby got sick. I was frustrated that my original request for vacation time wasn’t approved, but I’d never make up a sick baby to get around that. I’d bring you a doctor’s note if I could, but she’s currently uninsured. Let me know if there’s some other way you want me to handle this.” And you could stress that you’ll be home all day and accessible, which might underscore that you’re not out carousing with old classmates.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Can my raise be applied retroactively?

I was given a promotion a few months ago. To be completely honest, I shouldn’t have received this promotion at that time: my boss knew there wasn’t money to pay my raise, and she should have waited until the money was there. Nevertheless, I was promoted and received a new title and responsibilities.

Well, my raise just now came through, but in the meantime, I’ve been doing the work that my new title required. Is back pay for this kind of situation a thing? I’m going to guess no, but I’d really like to be paid for the work I’ve been doing since my promotion.

It’s sometimes a thing! Some employers will indeed back-date a raise, and so it’s worth asking. You could just say, “Since I’ve been working at this higher level since July, would it be possible to back-date the raise?” The answer might be no, but it’s not at all unreasonable to ask about.

4. “I believe I would be an asset to your organization”

I agree that as an applicant I shouldn’t assert that I’m “the best” candidate for a position. Having said that, in cover letters I usually include something along the lines of “given my qualifications and experience, I believe I would be an asset to your organization.” Do you think that is too presumptuous?

No, it’s not presumptuous. But it’s also not really adding anything to your letter; it’s a given that you think you’d be an asset, since you’re applying. That’s more of a filler sentence before you get to the substance of the letter, or (if it comes at the end) it reads like fluff that you put in so that you don’t end abruptly. That’s not terrible — no one is going to reject you for either of those things — but it’s unnecessary and you don’t actually need to say it. Try going straight into the substance of why you think you’d be great at the job and see if that strengthens the letter.

5. We gave a gift to our boss last year — how do we backtrack this year?

I now realize that last year I made the mistake of organizing a group holiday gift for my boss (>$50). I don’t believe I pressured anyone to participate, but understand it can be hard to gauge if someone feels pressured. From reading your blog over the past year, I now do not think we should do a large gift like this again this holiday season. However, I’m worried that I set a precedent last year, and it will seem awkward that we didn’t get him anything. Do you have any tips for how to navigate this?

Get him a card, signed by everyone. You don’t need to explain to him why there was a gift last year but no gift this year, and doing that may make things more awkward. (And if you’ve had any staff turnover in your group, this could easily be a casualty of that change.)

But if you think he’s the type to notice and take offense or be hurt, you could always say, “I realized it could have made you or others feel awkward, so we’re not doing a group gift this year — but I didn’t want you to read anything into that.” If you have any kind of Secret Santa or Yankee Swap or anything, you could soften this by adding, “But we’re excited to do Secret Santa with you!”

{ 369 comments… read them below }

  1. Greg NY*

    #2: Ugh. I don’t have anything to add to Alison’s advice other than to say how crappy your company behaved. To not let you know until the last minute about a day off request, and one for a legitimate reason at that? I would’ve been tempted to go anyway and say I didn’t get the email. (As it turns out, you might’ve had to skip the reunion anyway with your daughter’s illness and the resulting exhaustion, so the entire thing may have been no harm, no foul, but this is still a black mark on your HR department.)

    1. Engineer Girl*

      My old company used to pull the opposite stunt. They would refuse approval until the day before then tell me I could go on vacation. Um, no. Plane tickets are now $800 instead of $300.

      A good boss (and HR) lets people plan ahead.

      1. Poppyseed*

        I’m confused by all this talk of HR approving or denying requests. I’ve never worked anywhere where that was up to HR and not your line manager.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          HR should really be nagging the managers that pull these kind of stunts. Their silence is approval.

          1. Jadelyn*

            That assumes HR even knows about it. Unless EEs come to us and complain, at most places we don’t even see the PTO request/approval, just the end results on the timesheet and PTO balances. It’s got nothing to do with approval – it’s just that we’re not actually psychic and aren’t even necessarily aware of the issue.

        2. JamieS*

          Yeah that confused me a bit too. Since OP said HR decided not to approve any PTO for that day I’m wondering if it’s normally up to the direct manger but there was something special about that particular day.

          1. OP 2*

            I’m in a somewhat unusual situation. I work in a 24-hour tech support center where schedules for techs and managers don’t perfectly line up, which is probably why scheduling in our department goes through HR rather than through managers. That’s also a part of the reason I didn’t check in sooner; my direct manager, when I checked with him, was under the impression that the request was approved.

            1. Holly*

              OP, does your HR department allow for any pushback at all or requests for reasons, or even support from your manager? It just strikes me as cruel that you wouldn’t get approval for a high school reunion unless there was a very good reason

              1. Alldogsarepuppies*

                I don’t think it being a high school reunion should make a difference. Days off should be based on business needs not why you want off (with exceptions of your own wedding and probably some funerals but that would likely be bereavement leave anyway), otherwise you are ranking how important people’s plans are and that’s not cool

                1. Holly*

                  I get what you’re saying in terms of HR shouldn’t be in the business of ranking importance plans, so it pretty much has to go on business needs – I guess I’m just not used to it being anyone else’s business but my own when I take off and for what reason, so I was wondering if noting it was a special event that can’t be rearranged would make a difference. Essentially, I was thinking more along the lines that its a fixed event that can’t be rescheduled vs. vacation plans you can make for a different date.

              2. OP 2*

                Our HR department is kind of a mess, and I already expended an lot of capital trying to convince them to allow me to shift my FMLA leave when my wife had our baby a few weeks early.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  That…shouldn’t even be a thing. Assuming you were taking the time as baby bonding and all as one block (I think employers have discretion over allowing intermittent FMLA for baby bonding but I’m not a leave specialist so I could be wrong about that), your eligibility for FMLA kicked in as soon as the baby was born. They can’t deny you that just because you were scheduled for the leave later, as I understand it.

                  TL;DR your HR is fucked up if they’re pulling shit like that around someone’s baby being born. Between this and the PTO thing it sounds like you’ve got a petty tyrant somewhere in there who is exerting their control just for the fun of it.

                2. Friday*

                  Yeah…. your HR department is off the rails. Nobody can say exactly when a baby is born. Even a scheduled C-section can always be moved up with no notice for Reasons.

                3. Benefits Specialist*

                  OP2- I’m in HR and manage FMLA leaves and benefits for a mid-sized company. 1. Apply for intermittent FMLA for your wife’s condition. If this happens again, you won’t need to worry about taking the day off. It will be covered. There is no reason they would deny this as long as your wife’s doctor completes the paperwork and you cooperate with them. 2. They absolutely should not have given you a hard time about taking FMLA earlier than expected for the birth of your child. That is illegal. 3. In the US, you have 30 days to get your newborn onto your health plan. Any visits that occur before the 30 days will be covered retroactively. I have people call me in a panic every time the baby is born and has to go to the doctors and they haven’t received a card yet. The pediatrician should be very used to newborns coming in without an insurance card.

            2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

              Question: with this result, (that your request to use your PTO for a fun thing was denied, but you still call in and use a sick day from the same pool of time,) don’t people simply call in for one-off days on the morning of and say, I need to use PTO today? Because people are going to get fed up and do that.
              Do you have a separate sick pool of days?
              Your place sounds like it’s messed from the inside out.

              1. OP 2*

                Yes, a lot of my coworkers have begun doing that, although I’d like to avoid it if I can.

                Our sick days, vacation, and weather days (whenever the roads are impassable due to snow, ice, or flooding) all come from the same bank of PTO. The only difference is that sick and weather days can be taken as UTO if your bank of paid time is empty, whereas vacation time cannot be taken as UTO.

      2. MassMatt*

        Alas it is the same stunt, they are waiting until the last minute to notify people about whether they have the time they scheduled or not, making it impossible to plan anything.

        Your PTO is part of your benefits, it shouldn’t be something you wonder about being able to take, and the company needs to plan for people taking PTO. If they cannot do this (and I get some places like retail need to black out dates such as shopping holidays) then they are not adequately staffed.

        I worked someplace that was almost this bad. They had over 100 employees and would only approve 3 people off per day on the initial schedule and wait until the last minute for additional. So Mondays and Fridays would all fill and your “vacation” would be 3 days in the middle of the week, even away from the holidays. After 2 years there (picks went by seniority) I could not get a full week off even in late September, and many people were unable to use up their vacation by year end.

        A clueless upper manager then sent a scolding email telling people to take their vacation time! In a meeting later several people lit into him with epic rants I was sure would end their careers, but to his credit things changed. Person handling the schedule had that responsibility removed and they opened up more days.

        1. Maya Elena*

          This reminds me of a situation where the scheduler who did weekends and holidays (in a health care environment) seemed to firmly believe that it was somehow unfair if people got their first choice, even if those choices could be accommodated easily. She especially seemed to relish not responding to requests such as “can I have this less desirable date, I’m willing to do more than my share on other days everyone else wants” just because she could. (There was a lot of informal trading after the schedule was set up, afterwards.)

      3. Julia*

        I had a co-worker who would sit on my or our third colleague’s requests forever, or claim a certain holiday for herself and then “release” it days in advance. Sure I was glad to see my family for Christmas, but my bank account certainly wasn’t, and it felt like such a power play.

      4. schnauzerfan*

        Our old boss used to wait until the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to let us know if we had Friday off and the week of Christmas to tell us about Christmas Eve, etc. Sometimes it was a yes, YAY and sometimes a no. You could request the time, and make your holiday travel plans, but then if Friday came through you’d lose the days leave as you couldn’t cancel. Or you could wait and hope… Really took the edge off the goodwill and moral boost the day(s) would have gained. Someone finally must have got through to them. Last few years we’ve had some notice and this year we were told the holiday schedule thru Jan 7, 2019… so plenty of time to firm up plans.

        1. ThatGirl*

          That is super obnoxious, I’m so glad to work for places where the holiday schedule for the year is announced in, like, the previous October (we just got ours for 2019).

          One “bonus” thing we get sometimes is to leave an hour early the day before a holiday/holiday weekend, but that’s such a small thing that it being last-minute is fine.

        2. MM*

          I had a boss once who never said anything to anyone about whether we had independence day off (this wasn’t in the US, and while most employers in that country would observe the holiday, it wasn’t legally required or assured), and everybody seemed to be afraid to ask him. I was brand new and an intern, so I followed their lead. As a result, we all showed up for work that morning, and then he rolled in at 12pm and asked us what we were all doing there. He was really annoyingly inconsistent about hours and so on in general.

          (I was especially annoyed because my friend’s birthday was on the holiday, and he’d had his party the night before so everybody could sleep in and recover on the day off. I, of course, did not get to do that. Obviously it was my choice to go to the party, but just knowing that I could have had a fun night without worrying about what time I was going to get home or getting up to go in in the morning if the boss had just acted like a reasonable person really didn’t improve my mood.)

          1. Michaela Westen*

            That is unbelievably annoying and disrespectful. It would be normal to GTFO just because of that.

      5. Peachywithasideofkeen*

        Ugh, mine too! I’d request a day off, it would be denied, then when I got my schedule for that week, it would be my day off. So annoying!

    2. OP 2*

      For what it’s worth, this is not the first (or worst) time they’ve denied permission at the last minute. Several years ago I won an all-expenses-paid weeklong Caribbean cruise. I requested the time off and it was approved. Less than a week before my vacation was scheduled to begin, a coworker quit and HR informed me that because we were suddenly short staffed, I’d have to cancel. I still can’t believe I agreed to stay.

      1. It's mce*

        I had a similar scenario where I put in a vacay request for an international trip four months in advance. It was approved. Colleague left two-three weeks prior my trip; owner of the company suggested to my boss that I would cancel my trip. Thankfully, my tyrant boss had a change of heart and we worked out a deal in which I stayed late and completed all of my projects before I left for two weeks.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          I’d be so tempted to say that my first day off was the start of my two weeks notice. What a jerk move.

          1. It's mce*

            We were a staff of three, as our boss foolishly thought we each could do the work of two people. My colleague left for many reasons, such as cruelty from others and overworked for less pay. I was young at the time and wish that I had the same courage to leave (had some savings to get buy and still lived at home) before my trip. I don’t know what I would have done if canceling the trip was mandatory. I wouldn’t have gotten any money back.

      2. samiratou*

        Your HR sucks. I’m sorry.

        How is your baby doing? You have my sympathies. Last week I put in for a shift swap at my 2nd job (retail) because a vendor came into town for a big project in my day job and I wasn’t sure how late it would go. As it turned out my husband ended up in the hospital (he’s fine now) so I had to take care of the kids and had to miss a bunch of the vendor stuff and call in at the retail gig. I wondered the same thing, whether they’d think I was lying, but what can you do?

        1. OP 2*

          She is doing much better; thank you for asking! It was rough for a few days and our pediatrician wants to do an abdominal scan as soon as we resolve the insurance issues, but she is able to eat and sleep again and that’s a huge relief.

      3. Antilles*

        For what it’s worth, this is not the first (or worst) time they’ve denied permission at the last minute.
        “What it’s worth” is that your company has shown you clearly that they do not value employees or time off. Changing an employees’ vacation at the last minute is something that should almost never happen in a well-functioning company…and even if it DID happen once due to an extreme, crazy circumstance that justified it*, a good company would bend over backwards to make sure that never ever ever happened to you again.
        *No, “one employee left” is not at this level – that’s a normal and routine part of operating a business.

        1. Nita*

          Yes. OP, I hope you have the ability to search for a new job – tech support is an intense field, but what’s going on with your job seems to be 80% poor management and lack of consideration for employees, and only 20% actual tech support needs. And I hope your family is well, and the baby is feeling better.

        2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          I can’t get my head around this, at all. In my place, my supervisor accidentally approved three of the five of us on the same day, instead of department required two, max. She said, oh, I made a mistake. We will manage. And the office got along fine for one whole day without me.

          1. Antilles*

            Well, I mean, there are definitely jobs where coverage is so important that you DO really need a specific minimum number of people there, but that’s fairly rare…and in those sorts of situations, the company should make sure they’ve planned in a way that they’d never need to ask someone to change their vacation plans unless it’s a truly extreme perfect-storm circumstance like “half the department simultaneously had unexpected major illnesses and are hospitalized”.
            And even in that case, the tone should be incredibly apologetic, as low pressure as possible…and very appreciative, repaying any out-of-pocket costs you incurred (change fees, etc), and probably even some other form of ‘thank-you’ compensation like a couple extra days of PTO or the like.

    3. Discouraged Former Adult Employee*

      How far in advance do some of you request time off? And have you felt pressured to give specific reasons why? My Old Boss was very understanding with PTO requests (basically, let me know when and I’ll touch base if I think it may be an issue; no questions on what I’ll be doing on my own time). I like to do three conventions a year so it is easy for me to plan the big stuff six months to a year out and avoid conflict against project deadlines, holidays, or work conferences. The trips are a few days each and the time in between each convention is so long that I’ll hit my PTO cap before the next one comes up. New Boss is argumentative about PTO requests. He will ask for the specific PERSONAL reason for the request, which no other boss has asked me for…and even then won’t give a definitive answer so I’m left knocking again and again asking for a confirmation because some conventions require a hotel deposit or tickets purchased in advance (and can sell out within an hour). New Boss and I are still trying to develop trust but it seems he’s taking a cue from his department manager who is also argumentative when it comes to his employees even calling out sick (Old Boss protected me from him so I never had to personally experience it…until now).

      1. Alienor*

        That sounds terrible, I’m sorry. :(

        To be honest, I don’t really request PTO, I just inform my boss and the rest of my team when I’m going to be away, and it’s understood that I’ll wrap up what I can/let people know the status of my projects before I go. How far in advance I inform them depends on how long I’m going to be out–for a single day, it would probably be that same week, usually with a full workday in between when I announce it and when I’m going to be out (e.g. no later than Wednesday for a Friday PTO day). For a few days to a week, it would be a couple of weeks in advance, and for anything longer than a week, probably a month or two in advance with a reminder as it gets closer. The only time anyone ever asks about a reason is by way of making conversation–“oh you’re taking time off, are you going on vacation/doing something fun?”

      2. Antilles*

        Your New Boss is way out of line. Alison’s got a bunch of questions in the archives about this, but the general consensus (both among what she’s said and from the commenter replies) is something along the lines of:
        1.) A decent boss shouldn’t ever expect a reason for a vacation request. If you’re friendly with her and/or it’s something you think Boss would be interested in, you can freely talk about your upcoming plans, but it should be totally your choice. Related, your Boss shouldn’t judge your reasons or what you’re doing on your vacation as a deciding factor in whether they approve leave. The leave approval process should be equally fair whether you’re planning on hiking Kilimanjaro as if you’re going to sit on your couch and watch Netflix.
        2.) How far in advance you need to request PTO really depends on your department needs and your role. The longer you’re taking off, the longer in advance you probably need to request it…but if it’s only a day or two, it generally shouldn’t require more than a month of notice at max except for highly desirable days (e.g., near holidays).

    4. mcr-red*

      My immediate supervisor used to wait until the day before I had asked for off, and then say I couldn’t do it for whatever reason. It got so I couldn’t take any days off if it inconvienced him at all, all of my daily work had to be done in advance and even then there was still a 50% chance he’d deny it last minute. And I was never ever allowed to take a full week off – the world would end. I was also the only employee he did this to! I started having last minute “emergencies” so I could actually take days off and even then I had to be careful or he would suggest ways I could circumvent the emergency and still come in.

      New grandboss came along and told him he had to make requested vacation days work for everyone and it stopped.

  2. El Esteban*

    Re #4: I’ve been using that same wording, but pairing it with a more concrete opening clause, such as, “With my passion for teapot design, I believe I would be a good fit for your team.” Does that still come off as fluff?

    1. Engineer Girl*

      It’s still fluff. Make it specific.

      “With over 6 years of experience in teapot design I believe I could help you set up your new Mad Hatter line.”

      1. Jen RO*

        I wouldn’t do this, because – unless you have unusual insight into the company – you don’t know whether you could help with a given project. If I got a resume saying “with my 5 years of technical writing experience, I can help you revamp the help system for product X”, my first reaction would be “how the hell do you even know what we are planning and whether I even want you involved?”.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          I disagree. If a company is branching out in an area where you already have experience then you most certainly can help them.
          Sometimes companies post contract awards on their web sites or are vocally going into an area where you have direct experience.
          For example a new start up satellite company would benefit from my launch experience.

          1. Butter Makes Things Better*

            I agree with Engineer Girl. This isn’t exactly analogous, since it was at an interview (vs. in a cover letter), but after my interviewer said, “I’m not going to hire you,” because I didn’t have enough experience, I mentioned the experience I did have would dovetail nicely with a new project they were launching. It was clear I’d researched the project (which wasn’t widely known) in enough depth to speak about it. He ended up giving me a glowing introduction to the head of a different arm of the company mid-interview, which paved the way for me to land a job with that department instead.

      2. Smarty Boots*

        TBH, I don’t see what’s wrong with a little “fluff” if it smooths out the writing. “With my passion for teapot design, I believe I would be a good fit for your team.” — that can round off the end of your first para, or the end of your letter. The cover letter is not just showing you have the necessary stuff, it’s making an argument (in the sense of a logical argument, not a bar fight lol) that you are potentially a good fit and worth a second look (phone interview). The first part of that sentence shows what you think is most outstanding about yourself and shows, we hope, that you’ve read the job posting carefully.

        Moreover, sometimes you really do have to state the obvious — while you don’t want to insult the hiring manager’s intelligence, you often need to connect the dots for the reader, because you cannot be sure the reader is going to make the connection. As long as you’re doing it in a graceful way, I can’t see that a statement like “With my passion for teapot design, I believe I would be a good fit for your team” is going to bother anyone so much that your letter will get chucked out, and it may in fact be useful. I’ve been on lots of hiring committees — trust me, someone on the committee is not the sharpest pin in the pack. Or even, is plenty smart but inexperienced in reading resumes and cover letters and connecting them to what the job requires.

        1. Ophelia*

          Yeah – I have found that the connecting-the-dots thing is particularly helpful (if it is specific) for whoever in HR is screening through a pile of resumes to pass to a hiring manager. Particularly when it’s a position that requires a specific skill in teapot handle tapering or whatever that isn’t necessarily something everyone with a background in teapot design will have, HR will likely need a signpost to know it’s relevant.

        2. Matilda Jefferies*

          Yes, exactly. It’s not fluff – it’s a transition sentence, which helps make the letter more readable. As I said last week, I use it at the beginning of my last paragraph, right before “Please don’t hesitate to contact me/Sincerely, Matilda.”

          I suppose you could argue that “please don’t hesitate to contact me” is fluff as well, since they will contact you – or not – regardless of whether or not you use that sentence. But it’s a standard way to end a letter, which is why it’s included. Not every sentence needs to be 100% about your skills, to have a valid place in a cover letter!

          1. AMPG*

            I agree that it’s a good transition sentence – I use it in my intro paragraph, which is generally only two sentences long, anyway.

          2. Le’Veon Bell is right*

            At the end of my cover letters, I usually go with “Thanks so much for taking the time to read this, and I look forward to hearing from you!” which I like to think isn’t fluff because it’s thanking them for reading my cover letter (which plenty of hiring managers don’t do), and planting the idea that they should get back to me (which I believe they should do, whether they hire me or not). I don’t think either is ultimately any different than fluff, but I do try to make my fluff work for me. :)

        3. DivineMissL*

          I’ve used something similar as a “wrap-up” sentence at the end, after I’ve explained my qualifications; and then end with a “looking forward to meeting with you soon” kind of thing. I’m not sure how else to draw the letter to a conclusion that sounds good – any suggestions?

      3. Genny*

        I like highlighting the specific amount or type of experience you have. If the job requires 10 years in teapot design, and you have 3 years in teapot design at one place, 5 at another, and 4 in other, it can be useful to do the math for the hiring manager and just say up front “I have 12 years of experience in teapot design”.

    2. Poppyseed*

      Honestly yes, this is fluff at best. At worst it’s presumptuous (in the same way that calling yourself the ideal candidate is presumptuous) because you can’t possibly know what will fit their team.

      You don’t need to say: I believe I would be a good fit / ideal candidate / whatever because I’m so passionate about teapot design. Just highlight your passion for teapot design with concrete examples.

      1. Psyche*

        It’s fluff but it isn’t presumptuous. You aren’t saying that there is no one better and saying “I believe” acknowledges that you do not necessarily know all of their needs. As Alison said, applying for the job implies that you believe that you would be an asset. Outright saying it isn’t terrible it just doesn’t add anything unless you need filler to soften the close of the cover letter.

    3. Someone Else*

      In a vacuum it’s fluff. In context of other more specific statements, if used at the end it may fall more on the side of “trying to end without seeming abrupt” that Alison mentioned.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It’s still fluff, unfortunately. You want to show, not tell—provide concrete examples of why your specific passion/experience would be an asset for the employer’s specific needs.

    5. Jasnah*

      Genuine question… what else do you use as the final sentence of your opening paragraph to show interest in the job? I imagine after this sentence, further paragraphs would show detailed interest/experience. Or at the end of a cover letter before “I would be happy to discuss with you further…” etc.?

      Maybe it’s fluff but personally I need a certain number of stock phrases that perform functions like Show Interest and Show Experience With Tiny Teapots so that I can quickly draft cover letters without starting from scratch. In my field many job postings don’t even tell you the company name until you’ve submitted something so it’s not like I can write a whole cover letter about my excitement for “Entry Level Teapot Designer wanted– competitive pay”.

      1. Lady Jay*

        See, I’m with you here. I *don’t* think the “I’m a good fit” is fluff, provided it’s used as a kind of topic sentence (last sentence of first paragraph, or very first sentence of one of the subsequent paragraphs) and is backed up by supporting details of the kind Engineer Girl suggested. You can’t just launch into your recitation of your skills, after all!

        1. Micromanagered*

          Yeah, I think people are harshing this one unrealistically. In order to write a cover letter, you need words. Those words need to be organized into sentences and at least one of them needs to declare what your letter is about. (/s)

          Really though–the “I’d be an asset” sentence, when it’s specific, is an opportunity to show that you read the job posting and are correlating it to actual skills/background that you have. It’s not fluff. To me it’s the whole point of a cover letter.

          1. Jaybeetee*

            This is why I hate cover letters, and try to avoid them wherever I can (I’ve managed to get my last couple of jobs without one). I’m actually a fairly strong writer in other areas, but something about “cover letter composition” leaves me feeling so uncomfortable and wrong-footed. I never know what to write or how to say things. I was taught (waaaay back in high school) that you’re *supposed* to say things like “I believe XYZ skills would make me an asset to your company.” (I was also taught that I’m supposed to prove I’d be the best candidate for the job, so I can see where that other OP picked up the idea, even she was going about it a big wrong-headed). But generally I have no idea what to write, possibly because I struggle with the whole idea of “selling myself”.

            1. Alton*

              My issue with writing cover letters is that they can feel extraneous unless you truly have some sort of experience or passion that you want to elaborate on or emphasize beyond what’s on your resume. It’s so easy to feel like you’re just rehashing your resume with some added awkward self-promotion.

              1. schnauzerfan*

                From the hiring side, for us, a local well qualified candidate may well not NEED a cover letter. But if you’re in Paradise, applying for a job here in the frozen wastelands, or if your making a total change in fields. I need to hear your whys and wherefores. Tell me you grew up just down the road and would love to be closer, but not too close to family… and that you’re anxious to get back to snowboarding. Tell me that the best part of your current job is the part that’s “like” my posting, and that you really want to move into this or that. I don’t mind fluffy cover letters, as long as the convey some answers to questions your ap raises, and if it shows me you’ve got a good command of the written word, so much the better. For the search we are doing now, however, we got a letter from a person who was at least a candidate for a phone screen… until we read his letter, full of misspellings and mangled grammar, and arrogant to boot. He went to the thanks for applying pile.

          2. Psyche*

            Yeah. Fluff is good! If you have no fluff you end up sounding very harsh and abrupt. If you have nothing but fluff it is bad.

          3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            That’s how I feel. You need some lead-in/transitions, so, “I feel that with my three years experience in llama washing, five years as lead llama manicurist, and recent certification as an expert llama wrangler, I would be an asset to your llama grooming team” reads better than “I have three years experience in llama washing, five years as lead llama manicurist, and recent certification as an expert llama wrangler” because the first ties the skills to the specific position.

          4. madge*

            Yes, it’s part of crafting a narrative, and hard to avoid unless you’re a writing expert. I do think there are better and worse “filler” sentences–I think Alison discourages the “good fit” argument on the grounds that the candidate can’t really know that from the outset, and I would avoid things that sound very formulaic or cliche–but leading in by briefly summarizing what you’re going to tell the reader doesn’t seem like the worst thing.

            1. Lady Jay*

              My impression was that Allison discouraged the “best candidate” argument, because thatcouldn’t be known–but we should be able to take a stab on whether we’re a “good fit”, based on our reading of the job ads, company website, etc.

              Also, I literally am a writing expert. Transition/topic sentences are unavoidable and in fact do good work within a paragraph. It’s not that a topic sentence is a crutch to fall back on; it’s part of writing a clear paper where you actually state your point.

              1. madge*

                I agree that transition phrases are necessary. I think there are creative ways of incorporating transitions that don’t require distinct topic sentences of this variety, but I suppose it’s more of a stylistic thing.

      2. Persephone Mulberry*

        This is how I approach cover letters, too – I have a template that’s about 50% boilerplate, and I plug in specific examples that best match up with the particular job I’m applying for.

    6. Anon because SECRETS*

      Ha. It wasn’t a cover letter, but a thank you email after an interview, that I wrote that “I would be a boon to your company”. Much later my supervisor told me I almost didn’t get the job because the hiring team didn’t think boon was a real word. It has become a running joke in the office, so they had a good sense of humor about it.

    7. mimsie*

      It’s fluff but I really think it’s inocuous. Like at the level of an email greeting that says, “Hello, I hope this finds you well.” Just a soft, meaningless sentence to open up the topic.

  3. Greg NY*

    #3: Depending on your analysis of the situation, it may be negative thinking to say you shouldn’t have gotten the promotion until the money was there. Most of the time, you want to be paid a fair salary for the new responsibilities you took on, but if you are looking to move on to another company in the not too distant future and live in a jurisdiction where it is not permissible to ask your salary history, you might want to get a jump up on your new role to parlay it into a better salary at a new company.

    1. Poppyseed*

      Well no, it’s not ‘negative thinking’ to suggest you might want the resulting raise that comes with new responsibilities. Whether or not it’s helpful when job hunting is beside the point – that’s not what they asked.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Being paid fairly for your labor, and asking if you can negotiate fair payment, is not “negative thinking”?

      1. MassMatt*

        I see your point, but IMO saying he should not have gotten the promotion until the money was there is negative-adjacent. No positive sentence starts with “I should not have gotten the promotion…”

        Lots of places are of the “promote someone who is already stepping up to do the job” mentality. I was once promoted over more experienced people because I took on responsibilities during turnover in supervisors that needed to get done and weren’t. Others saw what needed to be done and waited to get the job to start doing it. Meanwhile people started asking why I wasn’t a manager. During interviews it was easy to show my value as I was already providing it.

        Ideally budgets would allow for raises right at promotion (and many places string people along with a “the annual reviews are already done this year” type nonsense) but often it just doesn’t happen that way, fair or not.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          But OP isn’t saying they didn’t deserve the promotion, and stating one’s values is not “negative thinking” just because the sentence is phrased in the negative. OP was already in line for the promotion, and they’re saying that folks should be fairly compensated for their labor, and if they take on increased responsibility through a promotion, an increase in pay should be timed to when that employee takes on those responsibilities.

          I think it’s a reasonable argument to make, which is why I also think it’s reasonable to ask that the raise be retroactive to the date of promotion. The tone of the sentence, whether negative or positive, has no bearing or reflection on OP’s larger argument. It casts aspersions on OP’s mindset that are not really deducible from what’s in OP’s letter.

        2. Julia*

          It’s great that this has worked out for you, really, truly, no snark intended.
          Unfortunately, we often see letters or comments from people who stepped and were then overlooked when it came to promotions, or who did a higher level job without ever getting compensated for it.

      2. Rat in the Sugar*

        I think Greg is trying to say that is negative for thinking that they shouldn’t have gotten the raise until the money was available, and that it may actually have been a positive for OP to get the new title under their belt even if the raise wasn’t in the current budget. I don’t see anything about asking for fair payment being negative.

    3. JamieS*

      I get what you’re trying to say about it being beneficial to have a longer tenure at a higher level job if an employee is planning on leaving for a new job relatively soon. However, assuming the promotion wasn’t a desperate attempt to keep an employee who was already headed out the door, an employee starting a job search right after being promoted seems unlikely. Of course it does sometimes happen but it’s not among the most likely scenarios.

      As far as looking for a new job at some point in the future I don’t know that a few months will make much, if any, difference. After all, assuming everything else is comparable, a company isn’t going to be significantly more taken with a candidate who was in a similar position for 4 years 3 months compared to another who had 4 years experience.

    4. Michelle*

      Our whole team got a raise 2 years ago in September and we were retroactively paid back to January. We didn’t have to ask, they just did it. Basically, we were called in (individually) to our manager’s office and were told “Great news! You are getting a raise of $X per hour and we are retroactively paying you “.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I got something similar – I’d expanded my role to a whole bunch of analytical duties starting back in late 2016/early 2017. We wrote a new job description for me in early 2017, but it took a million years for it to get approved and priced, and not until December did I actually get the promotion and raise. But the company wanted to be fair and recognize that I’d already been doing that work, so my raise was retro’d for the whole year back to January 1.

        And I’m not the biggest retro we’ve had, either – we processed one early this year that went back to the beginning of 2016! That was a good chunk of change, let me tell you. My employer may have its issues sometimes, but at least they really do try to be fair rather than pinching their pennies when it comes to stuff like that.

      2. Sketchee*

        Same! I once had a job promote me three months in and they gave me backdated raise for my work from the first three months. It does happen! I was pretty entry level at the time (2007), so I didn;t know it was a thing until it happened

      3. Mrs. Fenris*

        I had a boss who could be a nightmare in some ways, but he had a really good heart. I got a raise one year and he forgot to change it in payroll. He felt so terrible about it he immediately backdated it PLUS he threw in a few hundred extra dollars just for goodwill. God…I loved and hated that guy.

  4. Anon for this*

    #1: As someone who works in the music industry, I totally get where you’re coming from on being disturbed but not outraged. I do think something like this is definitely more tolerated in music/theater, and I wouldn’t judge you at all for not talking to management.

    That said, because this was on the premise, during a show… I’d probably lean towards saying something to someone to make sure this doesn’t happen on site going forward. The music world can be very sex-forward—I definitely know much more about colleagues sex-lives than I would in another industry—but every professional music gig I’ve worked has managed to keep that separate from the performance time.

    I really don’t care than the coach’s contract was finished by that point; it’s performance time and someone is messing around. Strange as it sounds, I’d actually be less upset if the coach was doing this during his/her contract for the simple reason that it’s not happening during a performance. (Yeah, I’ve basically talked myself into saying “talk to management.”)

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is going to sound strange, but this is one of the rare scenarios where I think it’s ok for OP not to report it or mention it if they prefer not to. I don’t think the ship has sailed in terms of the timeliness of reporting, but at almost anytime, it’s reasonable for OP to tell the diction coach that the experience was awkward/gross for OP and that OP would appreciate the diction coach keeping his pants on during performances (or at least lock the door?).

      In general, it’s better for folks to conduct their sexual activities outside of the workplace. But it sounds like OP is asking if there’s an affirmative obligation to report, and there may not be in this case.

      1. valentine*

        #1: It’s weird/gross and I would report it. I would rather deal with retaliation than a preemptive strike.

      2. RVA Cat*

        I also think it was gross for the coach to involve the OP in his infidelity when the OP works with his wife. I wonder if an awkward conversation with the OP “assuming” that was his wife might send the “at least lock the damn door so she doesn’t walk in on you” message.

      3. Lexi Kate*

        I agree this is one of those times where you just forget it happened. There is nothing to gain by reporting this.

        1. Micklak*

          Yeah, the LW said they were “bothered slightly” by this. That seems like something you bear in silence and never think about again.

      4. Micromanagered*

        In general, it’s better for folks to conduct their sexual activities outside of the workplace.

        “In general” LOL! Now I’m stuck on trying to think of specific situations where it’s not “better.”

        1. JanetM*

          The obvious-to-me answer is sex work, whether that be porn, prostitution, or whatever.

          But I could be wrong.

        2. Not a Mere Device*

          There are people whose basically live in their workplaces–for example, residential assistants in college dorms, a minister who lives in the rectory, or on-site building superintendents. They can and should lock their doors before having sex, but I wouldn’t ask them to abstain because a student, parishioner, or tenant might turn up at any hour with an emergency.

        3. JSPA*

          Can do, and it’s quite a range.

          1. There have been arguments about how to handle years-long spaceflights (when Mars runs become commonplace?) since before we reached the moon.
          2. Adult film shoots and bordellos are workplaces. Depending on what you mean by “sexual activity,” you might also include strip bars / lap dance emporia etc, where intercourse (at least, legally) does not take place, but the point of the exercise is erotic stimulation.
          3. There are research campuses (in some nations more than others) where the line between workspace and living space are not well-delineated, and where people may live in relative isolation for long periods.
          4. the lighthouse keeper and spouse

        4. JKP*

          I did read about a study where they did MRI scans of people’s brains while they masterbated to orgasm. I don’t know how they kept still enough in the MRI machine.

        5. Michaela Westen*

          On the set of a porn movie/show…
          But seriously, I expect extraneous sexual activity would be frowned on even there.

      5. Anon From Here*

        In general, it’s better for folks to conduct their sexual activities outside of the workplace.

        Only in general?!

          1. Anon From Here*

            Oh, please. Wink-wink, nudge-nudge all you want, but this wasn’t the Bunny Ranch. This was no different from any other workplace, and I’m a little floored that people are treating it as maybe possibly OK because “artists!” and exploring the edges of where sex in an unlocked bathroom during work hours might be acceptable.

      6. Holly*

        I’m just really concerned about the dynamics of the cast going forward – apparently his wife is IN THE SHOW, and his position as a “coach” of some sort – I am curious if there’s an unstated power dynamic in that. While sure I understand her wanting to stay out of this, I wonder if there *is* going to be an impact on the cast and how people are treated rather than just awkward walking in on someone.

        1. Anon for this*

          A diction coach is not the same as, say, a football coach. His/her job is more akin goals rehearsal accompanist, with the added responsibility of working with the singers on their diction. There can be situations where the coach might also be involved in the hiring from auditions, but given that the OP said the coach is on contract for just the rehearsals (and not still technically employed come showtime), I’m guessing that’s not the case here.

          1. Holly*

            Got it – something still strikes me as inappropriate about that. Someone in a “coach” type role, assisting singers, should not be behaving like that considering his wife is in the show and it could cause all sorts of horrible drama with the cast. Maybe this stuff flies in theater world but it is just so wrong. :(

      7. JM60*

        I’m a little surprised by this response, because it seems a lot more subdued than your comments about porn at work on another thread a week ago. The context of each case is different (“Am I obligated to report this” vs “should we hire someone who was fired for that”), but I almost get the impression that you feel like sex being displayed on a screen at work is a greater wrong than people actually having sex at work.

    2. Jasnah*

      I agree, as gross as sex at work is, I think in theater it should be a big deal that he did this during a performance. Maybe with one of the cast members. I imagine if it were a restaurant, the employees might get in trouble not for having sex at work, but for doing it during the lunch/dinner rush.

      1. Dragoning*

        Actually, they’d probably get in trouble for violating health codes. That kind of thing can get a restaurant shut down.

    3. LabraBOOdle Daddy*

      Yeah, the entertainment industry as a whole is SERIOUSLY behind the curve in terms of acceptable workplace behavior/culture/compensation/etc. It’s why I left.

      1. Aveline*

        I have a friend who did as well.

        It’s not really a”hookup culture” that’s sex positive and open to all. There are definitely gender, race, and power dynamics to it that are UGLY. What is called hookup culture/sex positivity is often “service men in power” culture.

        One of the questions OP needs to ask herself is whether or not what is bothering her is the sex act specifically or the implications of the sex more generally. If it’s just the one act with this one guy, she can simply tell him “lock the door next time, like an adult.” If it’s the culture generally, that’s something else to unpack.

          1. Grapey*

            It did not start there, only became popularized there. Google Tarana Burke and see how she started the MeToo movement in 2007.

            1. Aitch Arr*

              “It did not start there, only became popularized there. Google Tarana Burke and see how she started the MeToo movement in 2007.”

              Yes, thank you!

        1. Psyche*

          Yeah the thing that stood out to me what that there is no way to know if it was actually completely consensual. However, since she doesn’t know who the woman was there is no way to check to see if she is actually ok with it or needs support.

        2. Labradoodle Daddy*

          I found that I couldn’t tolerate how everyone was ok with lower-level employees being abused and screamed at. No way.

          1. Aveline*

            Yep. Even a lot of our “heroes” who don’t sexually abuse people treat those under them like dirt. Or at least like something other than people with feelings and opinions.

            I will never forget watching Maggie Smith talking about when Lawrence Olivier slapped her in the face because she wasn’t performing as he wanted. Specifically, he felt she was upstaging him. So he lashed out in anger and struck her tout her in her place.

            What was shocking about it was not that Mr. Egomania did it, but that Maggie described it so neutrally. To her it was no big deal. It was just part of the process. She still talks about him as if he’s a god who was worth the veneration.

            The only good part of that story was that he didn’t try and ruin her career in retaliation.

            But I think that any system so driven by ego and idol worship can, and typically does, feed the worst in people. The entertainment industry needs more protective measures than typical work environments for this reason.

        3. Holly*

          That’s what I’m curious about – is there a level of power to being a diction coach that will create potential minefields with the cast going forward?

        4. Aveline*

          PS When I say “sex act” I don’t mean that it was fellatio. I mean the incident v. the general culture.

          Sorry that wasn’t clear.

        5. Michaela Westen*

          Yes, this brings up an issue – not clear if it’s actually this, but was the other person someone the coach had been coaching? Or could he have told this person he could help their career? That may be why it’s bothering the OP?

    4. Lily in NYC*

      Wow, I really disagree. In my opinion, this is just such a non-issue. My sister is a big cheese at a large federal agency and has her own private bathroom (it even has a shower!). They hosted a gala one night and she went upstairs to use her bathroom and to change out of her gown before driving home – she found two of her employees making whoopee in it. And she just shut the door and left and never said another word about it. She could have gotten them in such huge trouble but she realized that there was really no point (both single and they work in different divisions and have no job overlap) and not doing anything gained her two incredibly loyal employees (they both apologized to her later).

      1. Holly*

        I actually think that is a really different situation! In that situation your sister is in the manager role, there’s seemingly no infidelity going on, and she’s able to use her discretion to decide how to best handle that. In this case, the person is a) having sex on work time b) cheating on his wife who is *also on staff* c) he is a “coach” position which may have varying levels of influence on the cast, although that’s been left unsaid by OP, and d) the bathroom in OP’s situation could be used by anyone/there’s a wider use. I think there’s more problematic issues in OP’s example.

        1. Cheryl Blossom*

          Honestly, I don’t think the affair is any of OP’s business. It’s gross to know about it, but it’s not relevant.

          (And yes, I know EXACTLY how weird it can make dynamics– two coworkers at my old job were openly having an affair– including having sex in the basement!!!!– and everyone knew.)

          1. Properlike*

            I agree that this is a non-issue. Think of two other sides to this situation; if she’d walked in and he was having sex with himself, or if she walked in and he was having sex with his wife, then I feel like OP would be less inclined to want to tell someone about it. Had she walked in on the man having sex with someone who clearly was in distress or unconscious, that would warrant telling someone immediately. If, later on, OP hears that the diction coach has a reputation for sexual assault, then maybe she’d want to tell someone in management. But there are no indicators for that here, so it looks a lot like a moral issue in search of a business reason to tell someone else. (Worked in theater and the entertainment industry for years, btw.)

          2. Holly*

            My point was that because his wife is in the show it creates specific *work* issues that may become OP and the rest of the cast’s problem. I personally find it a relevant distinction that the wife is also a coworker, as opposed to someone off working elsewhere.

    5. JSPA*

      If he’s there on his own time, I’d treat it as you would if some “friend of the company” who had been comped tickets and had pretty free access to backstage, had been spotted there. Namely, ignore it if it’s not something you’d report about, say, one of the donors or the cousin of the theater owner. But if it bothers you, mention to the boss that “someone familiar-looking whom I’d rather not name was having a bit too much fun in the restroom” and ask if you could put up some little signs reminding people that the theater–including bathrooms and dressing rooms– are a workplace, and that people need to keep their private behavior behind locked doors. Sure, the guy will know it’s directed at him, but there are plenty of other people who have done something “private” (sex, drugs, whatever) in non-private spaces, before. It does not pass judgement on the acts. (They would be none of your business if you had not had not seen them–you don’t know what sort of kinks or monogamish stuff the speech coach and his spouse are into and have agreed to.) It does draw a line on not involving unwilling workmates in one’s sex life, even tangentially–which is a good line to draw. Frankly, unless “risk of being caught” is part of the draw for the pair, I’m guessing you catching them means that this will have been an (ahem) “one off.”

      1. TheatreBee*

        ” ignore it if it’s not something you’d report about, say, one of the donors or the cousin of the theater owner.” Not to be an internet meaney but EL OH EL. Both a donor and a relative of the owner of a theatre would NEVER EVER be reported for bad behavior, and if they were, absolutely NOTHING would be done. Those are both classes within the theatre community that could get away with anything up to literal murder without repercussion. And it kind of depends on who they murder!

    6. AKchic*

      I understand what you’re saying.

      Performance time means it’s time to focus on the job, not on giving the backstage crew / coaches bj’s and helping crew / coaches cheat on their spouses. You focus on the show. You give the audience what they paid for. The last thing anyone needs is an angry spouse walking in to whatever dark spot you two ducked into and catching the two of you and start yelling after catching the two of you in flagrante delecto. Trust me… your libidos can wait a few hours. If you can’t time your amorous affections for a non-show, non-theatre/stage time, then perhaps the dalliance should not be happening in the first place.

      *sigh* However, I am anti-cheating. If you can’t be honest about your relationship(s), then it’s not one worth having. (I say this as a married woman in an open marriage, who does have entertainment connections)

      I’m sure the coach’s proclivities are an open secret, and the coach gives “special, individual lessons” to a new person every show. This will happen again, but it is probably already known and people pretend not to notice.

  5. Greg NY*

    #1: My motto is that at work, I keep out of situations that don’t affect my job. To walk in on what you saw would make me uncomfortable, but aside from that, it wouldn’t have any impact on performing my job responsibilities. (If it traumatized you, it might be worth speaking up.) I would talk to both of them and explain how it made you feel, so they never think about doing it again. But talking to HR, absent it affecting your mental health, falls too much into the tattling category. In general, it’s not worth it to police people at work. If it does happen a second time that you witness, then things change because you should not have to deal with this type of thing anywhere.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I don’t think this is tattling. Although I think it’s fine for OP to decline to report this, it’s really not ok for people to be having sex at a worksite during work activities.

        1. JamieS*

          Agreed “not OK” doesn’t always equal “should be reported” but sex at work would meet most reasonable people’s standards for what is appropriate to report.

      1. Annie*

        It’s extremely normal and common in theatre though. It shouldn’t be, and it’s part of theatres’ own MeToo movement (my boss Vicky Featherstone has been doing leading work in this area). But such a big cultural shift is hard to police.

      2. Czhorat*

        I thought we all agreed that “tattling” is a concept we should have left behind in the schoolyard (and it wasn’t even appropriate there).

        Having sex in the workplace is, at best, unprofessional and inappropriate. Raising a flag about this behavior is, in a way, protecting your employer as well as working to keep a professional with environment.

    2. JamieS*

      I don’t think OP needs to have a talk with a colleague about how walking in on said colleague getting his dick sucked made OP feel. Either OP reports it (either based on being personally upset or just on principle) or OP decides it isn’t worth reporting. Neither of these options necessitate a heart to heart about dick sucking.

      1. WellRed*

        People that have sex at work are gonna have sex at work. A heart to heart about it won’t change that.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Nobody is obligated to provide said heart-to-heart, but some people who are thinking of having sex at work are under the impression that everyone would find it So Sexy. Or that a magical cloak of invisibility would waft around them at will. Finding themselves classed as Those Icky People With Impulse Control Problems can take the shine right off that temptation.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Hear, hear. When a boss at an OldJob happily told me that, over the weekends, he and Mistress had come into work and “christened” every cubicle and office, I guarantee he thought he sounded cool and adventurous. But all I heard was “barf, body fluids in cubes”.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                It may have happened after I left there. One of the reasons I left was too much relationshippy drama surrounding Former Boss. He and I had quickly developed a good working relationship, but then it got out of control just as quickly. It was my second job, and second year in the country, I had enough problems of my own at home, and honestly had not thought of addressing any of that mess in any way other than leaving that company.

                1. Holly*

                  Sorry, I wasn’t trying to be judgy if you didn’t go to HR – there are legitimate reasons why you would want to just get past it. I just meant to convey how egregious that comment is on multiple levels!! That such a thing would have happened, and then the boss told you!!

            1. Parenthetically*

              I’ll take “Things that are inappropriate to do AND to talk about with a subordinate” for $800, please, Alex!

      2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        I’d ask him to be a bit more careful and lock the door because no one wants to see that

    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      I’d consider it as affecting my job, as having to walk in on sex between coworkers is very far out of the scope of my job description. But a private “Dude, I don’t need to be walking in on that shit – one more time and I’ll tell your wife/the manager” would be my response. He does it again, I’m telling.

      Once could be seen as a lapse in judgement. But if you don’t learn to lock doors after getting caught in flagrante once, you’re either getting off on the danger of discovery or just don’t care who sees – and either way is not cool for work.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        Something like this might be what I’d do. “Dude, you cheating on your wife is not my business, but I don’t appreciate seeing it at work. Lock the door next time or who knows who else could walk in.”

      2. Julia*

        That’s kind of what I thought Alison meant when she said to talk to him.
        Going to HR might work in most companies/cultures, but if this is considered somewhat acceptable in your field, HR or the boss might not take you seriously.

      3. It's mce*

        I think the diction coach should be giving a stern lecture though; a verbal warning. Especially if the other person was maybe an intern.

        1. Psyche*

          That is a good point. If the OP suspects that the other person was an intern or someone else very low on the totem pole, they may want to consider reporting because the power imbalance is concerning.

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            I’ve been trying to craft a joke about “you know how in the olden days, people used to work on their diction by practicing speaking with marbles in their mouth? Well…”

          2. whimbrel*

            I actually did a ctrl-f for ‘diction’ because I needed to see if anyone had before I went there :D

          3. LGC*

            I mean, I thought about it, but I figured I’d get jumped on for making a penis joke.

            At any rate, the guy doesn’t sound like a cunning linguist anyway…

      4. Anon From Here*

        I gotta say, I’m a little hung up on the issue that they didn’t lock the door. That really takes it out of “sweep it under the rug” and “alert the stage manager,” to me.

      5. Alfonzo Mango*

        From the letter I’m thinking they don’t mind who walks in.

        Who cheats on their spouse at their spouse’s place of work? Someone who wants to get caught.

        1. Marthooh*

          In this case, it sounds more like someone who gets off on the danger of getting caught, but only as long as the danger remains theoretical.

    4. LGC*

      I’m anticipating you’re going to get quite a few responses to this, Greg.

      But anyway…in general I’d find this reportable in a workplace. (That is, if I walked in on an off-duty contractor performing sexual acts with a working employee – if she was acting in the play – I’d think that looping in management would be reasonable the first time.) I think you’re really off-base by considering it “tattling” – it would be just as bad if the diction coach was receiving oral sex from his wife in the bathroom, because it’s still having sex in public.

      The issue here is that LW1 doesn’t know whether this is a workplace incident because she doesn’t know the other woman (and whether she actually was working), and the venue is public to begin with. She has information about the coach that she didn’t before (possibly way too much information), but…there might not have been much management could have done (unless the other woman was actually a girl or something of that nature). She made an appropriate call in this case, but I wouldn’t say it was blanket appropriate.

    5. Lance*

      Explain how it made them feel? I’m not sure if that’s the angle I’d be focusing on; rather, that they need to be more careful to make sure nobody can walk in on them (I’d say to just outright not do it, ideally, but judging by the comments so far, I doubt that’s going to happen… so at the bare minimum, make sure it happens behind closed doors).

    6. Anononon*

      This comment is very similar to the one you made a week or so ago, which is concerning. In both, you think the “victim” (not the best word for this question) should speak directly with the perpetrators and not use any formal channels. The last time, almost every response explained why that could be a bad idea, but you’re still saying it.

      1. Not today buddy*

        lets not call this OP a victim, or go anywhere near that. While I don’t think talking about your feelings here is going to help anything, setting this up like a someone was sexually assaulted is far more harmful. So can you not with the victim and perpetrator crap.

        1. Labradoodle Daddy*

          Buddy, they acknowledged it wasn’t the best word to describe what she was talking about. Nitpicking isn’t cool!

      2. Greg NY*

        In this case, unlike the past two, the LW isn’t the victim of sexual harassment or assault. So it has only an indirect impact on the LW.

        1. Editor Person*

          Hostile work environment is part of sexual harassment. That includes being subjected to sexual activity that technically doesn’t include you. So LW has a credible claim to sexual harassment if they wanted to. (They clearly don’t but lets stop minimizing their involvement.)

          1. Czhorat*

            Yes, absolutely this.

            One has the right to go to work and not walk in on co-workers having sex. I’m both surprised and dismayed that we still need to spell this out.

          2. Starbuck*

            Yeah if I’d walked in on this at my workplace I absolutely would consider that sexual harassment and you bet I’d be reporting it. I really don’t understand why people are so relaxed about this… maybe I’m just uptight but I’d be pretty disturbed at having seen a coworker(s) like that – how is seeing a sex act against your will not counted as sexual harassment? Just the thought of this is grossing me out.

        2. Labradoodle Daddy*

          Greg, you really don’t seem to understand sexual harassment. There are a lot of great commenters here who have given thoughtful responses to both this comment and your comment from 2 weeks ago. I would strongly encourage you absorb what’s being said.

        1. Czhorat*

          I think the problem is that it’s a pattern; this is at least the third letter with workplace sexual issues (the woman asked to pose topless, the thread about watching porn in the office, and now this) in which Greg has taken what is, at best, a problematic stance.

          He’s either trolling or has no idea the effect a sexually charged workplace can have on those who do not wish to be exposed to it. What’s worse, he doesn’t seem to be interested in learning from the many, many commenters who pointed out that his views have both moral and legal issues.

          1. Labradoodle Daddy*

            Yeah, seriously, the lack of learning ANYTHING would concern me way more than some people pointing out that he said something clueless (a good way to avoid this? don’t be clueless)

            1. Czhorat*

              We’re all clueless sometimes. I’m fairly loud online and am sure I’ve had my share of boneheaded statements.

              I try to learn and, in the future, be boneheaded in new and different ways. Ignorance is curable; willful ignorance less so.

    7. Colette*

      I think deciding to keep out of situations that don’t affect you personally is a good way to let things like sexual harassment or other abusive behaviors slide because you’re not the one being harassed. Sometimes it is important to get involved because the people who are the recipients of the problem behavior don’t have the power to do so.

      I’m not sure if this is one of those situations, but it might be, and the OP should weigh that as she decides what she wants to do.

    8. Izzy*

      I’m a little confused. The OP shouldn’t have to deal with this anywhere… unless it’s this incident, which she shouldn’t “tattle” on unless she’s completely traumatised?

      And… Tattling? They’re not children. That’s a really strange way to frame it, as though the OP would be somehow mean or unreasonable to say something about this if she wanted to.

    9. Temperance*

      Yeah, no. Tattling would be telling on Jane for stealing a pen it taking an extra 5 minutes at lunch. Talking to HR about a colleague having his pants down and engaging in sex acts where anyone could see is absolutely not “tattling”.

    10. Yella3*

      Tattling? That is a word for children. I feel like you should seriously consider stepping back from the comment section here for a beat, unless your goal is to stir up responses.

  6. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    #2 This was one of many reasons for leaving a former job. Management sat on PTO requests until 24 hours before the dates requested making it almost impossible to make firm plans. For one or two day requests most people learned to simply call in sick which led to holes in the schedule which would never happen if the PTO was approved in a timely manner.

  7. mark132*

    #2, I suspect employers like this get a lot of “random” sick call-ins. It can be easier to just call in sick for a single day rather risk than being told no.

    1. Jasnah*

      +1 If this is the policy this is what they get. I’d see if this becomes a pattern with HR, and if so, I would suddenly be sick every time I had a vacation planned.

    2. Matilda Jefferies*

      Yep, and especially given OP’s comment that this is not the first time they’ve pulled this stunt. I think the lesson for OP here is just to not ask, and suddenly develop a migraine or whatever if s/he needs a day off.

      Also, OP, I hope your daughter is better!

    3. Jadelyn*

      Yep. Plan your vacation, book your flights, say nothing, then call in on departure day. If an employer is going to jerk its staff around like that, they deserve to be jerked around in return.

  8. Dramaholic*

    #2: If this is the way your company deals with leave requests, that really sucks.

    That aside, I do think it’s wise to use Alison’s script and acknowledge the awkward situation. As a manager I’ve dealt with so many employees behaving badly. Unless I know that person is reliable and trustworthy I default assume it’s a fake sickness in this kind of situation. It shouldn’t be like that, but I’m cynical now.

  9. BlackBear*

    On #1 – Alison mentions that if they had a direct reporting relationship her answer might have been different.
    So – thoughts, what if it had been a senior person & a junior – 2 or 3 levels down in the chain of command that were intertwined?? Would the approach be any different if the incident had happened away from the workplace?
    For a lot of people if something like this happened whether at or away from the workplace even with Senior/Junior person they would probably not report, but maybe that is a wrong instinct.

    1. MLB*

      I’m in the “pretend I didn’t see it” camp. Unless I’m close to either participant, or I get the feeling that it’s unwanted by one of them, I would stay out of it. Or maybe if they were gettin busy on a conference room table, because EW.

  10. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    LW #2, this is unrelated to your question and you don’t specify what “very sick” is… BUT what is a manageable at home illness for an older child or adult can be very serious for a newborn. I hope you get your insurance thing worked out. But as a PSA for the future or anyone else, a very sick newborn needs to go to a doctor whether that’s the ER or somewhere else. Glad it all worked out for you, though, LW.

    1. Valenonymous*

      This stood out to me, too. OP, it sounds like not only is your company bad at communicating and approving time off, it sounds your company health insurance (if any) is subpar or nonexistent. It doesn’t cover your child at ALL, to the point that you cannot take her to a doctor when she’s “very sick?” I don’t know what your wife’s coverage is like, but given she also has health issues, I’d be job hunting ASAP.

      1. Frozen inger*

        Or at the very least taking a better look at your benefit options for the coming year (I know my company just started doing benefit elections for 2019).

      2. Reba*

        It’s normal, unfortunately, for there to be some gap for newborns. Some US insurers don’t allow you to start the process to add the dependent until they are here. Then it can take a while to received the paperwork that proves their existence (birth certificate etc). With most plans you have 30 days, Marketplace plans 60 days. The coverage should then be backdated to the birth, but yeah, in the meantime you would need to be ready to pay up front for any medical needs of the child.

        1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

          This is completely OT but newborns need medical care before 60 days. I don’t remember the exact visit schedule but maybe before 30 days also (this I am not sure about). They have to be checked for feeding issues, weight changes, jaundice. And they certainly need to be seen when sick.

          It’s terrible that it has to be out of pocket in the US for some parents. But at the same time, it’s not acceptable to deny a newborn baby necessary care. If the parents can’t get into a pediatrician, then they need to go to an ER or UC (not sure if most urgent cares would agree to see a sick newborn) and work out a payment plan.

        2. Nita*

          Wow, that’s kind of scary – does insurance reimburse afterwards? I’ve also had to add the kids right after they were born. We could not do it in advance. But, the insurance allowed us to print a temp card right away so the kids would be ready to see a doctor whenever, and then we had 30 days to send in the paperwork. As I recall, it was something like the process in the website I’m linking to.

          1. MC*

            There is a “30-day rule” in the U.S. so both parents’ insurance (if the parents are on separate plans) have to kick in for the baby in the first 30 days, and then you have 30 days to formally add the baby to one of the parents’ plans (usually done by simply calling your insurer). There shouldn’t be any gap in coverage unless the parents are uninsured.

            1. OP 2*

              Actually, my wife is insured through the marketplace and the process to get our baby added to that plan has stretched beyond the 30 day period because of some complications related to that. I’m lucky to have a wife and several family members who have worked or currently work in healthcare and know what to look for in terms of when to seek emergency care. I appreciate everyone’s concern, but our child is safe; I’m just looking for help managing my work concerns now.

  11. Bagpuss*

    I think I would feel I had to report #1 specifically because I didn’t know who the second person was, and therefore can’t know whether they were someone who may have been pressured, or who was more junior / vulnerable, or influenced by the fact that he was in a coaching / teaching position.

    I do appreciate that it is awkward, but I do think that you ought to raise it, even if the way you do it is to state that you have no reason to think it was not consensual but that you don’t know who the second person was and are concerned that it was in any event inappropriate and unprofessional.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Oh, good point. Even before that, though, this is kind of like masturbating while watching porn in your office; you’re risking exposing coworkers to something that has ZERO place anywhere NEAR the workplace. And then you have the additional fact that office hookups can be coercive and expose the company to liability and the participants to criminal charges. Hey, if they’re both consenting, let them hook up elsewhere outside of work hours, and no one at work has to know. That’s how responsible adults would handle it, IMO.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Oh yes, I agree – it’s inappropriate and unprofessional and has no place in the workplace even if everyone is an equal and enthusiastically consenting adult, but I feel the uncertainty over the 2nd person are what pushes it, for me, from “It would be appropriate to report it but ultimately, your call” to “I think you ought to report it, even though that may be uncomfortable”

    2. INTP*

      Agree, and given that this guy and his wife have a lot of history with the theater company, he could have a lot of status and influence within it, making any newer or less influential employees junior to him in power even if he’s a contractor that no one reports to. He could be implying to actresses that his willingness to coach them is contingent on sexual favors, or using his status as someone that everyone knows the management won’t fire to harass other employees that don’t need his services. And he has already committed one clear act of sexual harassment by having sex at work, so I don’t think it’s dramatic to suggest this is a possibility.

      If OP fears for his job then I think OP has a right to self-preservation and not to report. However, I think this is fishy enough that I wouldn’t avoid reporting it just because it feels awkward and unpleasant. This guy could be hurting people.

    3. Hey Nonnie*

      I agree with this. There has been a lot of scandal in professional theatre circles in the last couple years, where it turns out that long-established producers, directors, or theatre company management have used their position of power to sexually (and sometimes physically violently) prey upon actors, especially those who are young, female, and trying to break into the business (so the threat of “you’ll never work in this city again” can be very real).

      Here’s just one example (content warning: physical and sexual violence):

      It’s been bubbling to the surface often enough that communities are forming organizations to establish safety and anti-harassment protocols. Here is one: https://www.notinourhouse.org/statement-of-principle/

      Frankly I would err on the side of caution here, and report it. LW says the guy in question is very established (15 years) and probably has enough power and influence within that theatre community to make those kinds of threats to someone’s career. A lot of this abuse has been glossed over in the past by saying “well, that’s just the theatre hook-up culture.” It takes people actively working to change that attitude.

  12. OP2- similar company*

    For OP2- I’ve worked a at a company where this would have been an issue but it was in the handbook and widely known that taking of a denied day counted as two absences. If that out you in firing range then you’d lose your job. The company had an, obviously, overly strict attendance policy that resulted in them not really being able to plan time off. Staff would take the hit on a call in if they felt the day would be denied (holidays etc). This company also had a two step process for timeoff approval- HR to validate time off and potential firing standing and then dept head for coordination between teams.

  13. Czhorat*

    For OP#2, I think you probably made a good choice to find other coverage options. I agree that taking a sick day an isn’t at all wrong, but the optics are very bad. You chose to protect your reputation at work which, rightly or wrongly, would have taken a hit with the perception that you used a sick day to replace the vacation day you were denied.

  14. Mike*

    #1: I had a similar experience a couple of decades ago. I caught two coworkers in a stairwell doing the same thing, and the woman was married to someone else. I didn’t report it, and within two days they had lied through their teeth to get me forced to quit–unfortunately, I worked at an art museum that believed being non-profit meant they still had to pay time and a half for overtime, and I co-wrote a memo about three weeks before making that point to the administration and threatening to go to an employment lawyer, and I was the last of the six of us who signed it to be forced to quit. My boss actually told me that he was sure they were lying, but he didn’t care because I was too much trouble. I say report it and protect yourself.

    1. Holly*

      Wow, what a mess! I’m sorry you had to deal with that. But does highlight something OP might want to consider… potentially not saying anything might make issues for her more than she thinks saying something will.

    2. Jadelyn*

      …I really hope you and your other former coworkers filed a complaint with your state’s labor board over that stunt, and possibly the NLRB since you were fired for organizing with coworkers about your working conditions, which pushes that into unfair labor practices territory (anti-union suppression) if I’m not mistaken.

    3. Artemesia*

      That was actually my first thought when I read #1, that if she doesn’t report it, he will do something to damage her position in. pretaliation and she won’t be in a position at that point to make the case that it was bogus.

  15. Rebecca*

    #5 – I have tried unsuccessfully for many years to stop the big gift to the manager at Christmas. In our office, we’re expected to give $10. If you don’t put money in the envelope, you’re not supposed to sign the card. The card is placed in a manila folder, and a checklist of office staff is stapled to the inside of the folder, and there are two columns to check: money and sign card. I wish I was joking. I tried to point out Alison’s posts about “gifts should flow down”, etc. but to no avail. I was called stingy and people actually said “it’s the least we can do”. At least Boss’s Day has gone by the wayside, at least I think it has, because nothing crossed my desk yesterday, but I’m not at work yet, so that remains to be seen. Will keep trying again this year.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      What’s the term for Stockholm Syndrome, but with your employer rather than a kidnapper? Your coworkers have totally been brainwashed into supporting their “captors”! (I have worked for bosses that I have given small gifts to individually, because I socialized with them outside of work; that is very different from being pressured into contributing for a group gift.)

      1. Rebecca*

        Exactly. And these are the same people who complain about management all year long, then feel compelled to give them gifts.

    2. Life is good*

      This is exactly what the suck-ups would do at old dysfunctional office. The envelope with the list of everyone’s name. We would be asked (brow-beaten, TBH) to give $10, $20, one time $40, to gift boss for a holiday, boss’s day, his 25th anniversary owning the company, just because…..etc. This guy was a multi-millionaire and we were paid less than market rate and then maybe given a bonus at the end of the year to sort of make up for it. When I’d see a company envelope with names and check marks coming towards my desk, I would just scream inside.

    3. MLB*

      If that were the case in my office, it would be a hard NO from me. I’m not going to be guilted into gift giving – and I wouldn’t care if there was backlash.

    4. Anonymous for this*

      In my office, they do a “gift” to the owners but with a twist- You can contribute to a scholarship fund, the employer will match your gift and then all the monies collected are given to the scholarship fund in the name of the owners. It’s called the “Annual Gift to Owner, Owner’s Wife, Owner’s Daughter and Daughters Husband”. When the email and forms are sent this year, I’ll forward to Alison if she wants to use it for an article.

      It’s not mandatory, but you are strongly encouraged to donate. If they don’t feel like they have collected enough, there will be several reminder emails sent. I’ve never donated and if there were tacky enough to ask, I think I would go with “I’m unable to donate”.

    5. Rainbow Roses*

      I have ignored group shakedowns and gave the boss my own holiday card with a heartfelt message including any good/memorable events of the year. Maybe with a cute chocolate bar or small box of candy, but that’s it.

    6. Bea*

      When folks here suggest pointing to AAM to get the gifts to bosses to stop, I always assume your coworkers reactions to be the norm.

      Honestly we don’t do any of this presently. However anyone who does probably won’t be swayed due to an advice column. I am anti-forced giving, I know all too well people living paycheck to paycheck in all walks of life. But gifting if ingrained in people who push so hard for this.

      I’m.sorry they called you names. They’re rude AF.

    7. Lance*

      ‘The least we can do.’

      You mean… besides being good (I’d hope) employees? Besides helping the business succeed at the lower levels, which are very much needed? Besides loosely helping them stay employed and helping the business run with the day-to-day, ‘lower-level’ tasks? But no, they just deserve more, huh.

    8. Jadelyn*

      Maybe organize a separate card for the manager, from the rebels? “If you aren’t permitted to sign the main card since you didn’t pay your entrance fee, come sign our card so we can still convey warmth and holiday cheer without having to pay for the privilege!”

    9. cheluzal*

      I’m a teacher and years ago (luckily it’s stopped) they used to do that and send a TEENAGER around checking off names, interrupting your class and wanting you to go unlock your purse, dig out money, sign the card, and hand a kid money (all while your class stopped and stared). So gross.

    10. Banker chick*

      This is very timely. A couple weeks ago, my manager approached me and a couple coworkers about a few coworker and his wife having a baby soon and how much should we put in for a gift? Now it wasn’t their first child and before I could say something, someone blurted out$20 and the other person agreed. Did I mention that I work PT at this job and make $15 an hour?? They wanted to go out after work and give the gift at the restaurant/bar. I made an excuse not to go as I would have had to pay for that too. If that wasn’t enough, the guy who the gift was for came around a couple days later and wanted money for the manager’s birthday! Said everyone was putting in $10. I did so to keep the peace but a couple days later another coworker’s MIL passed away and the manager said we sent flowers. Now, she didn’t ask for money and I certainly didn’t offer but if she did I probably would have blurted out that I quit as it would be cheaper than working there!!

    11. MatKnifeNinja*

      Do you work at my old hospital job?

      We were required to give $20, with the same envelope check off list.

      25 people x $20 dollars a piece to gift some tacky porcelain Christmas dishware, and the rest as cash.


      Boss Day was a massive floral arrangement sent to the boss’s home.

  16. Op #4*

    I think in the back of my mind I always knew it was filler – a way to marginally lengthen my cover letter.

    I should concentrate more on my specific qualifications throughout the letter.

    1. MassMatt*

      I think there’s nothing wrong with the sentence you mentioned, as a link or intro, but it doesn’t stand out on its own as a reason to hire you. A letter should be like a sandwich, it needs some bread (linking sentences, intro/conclusion) but the meat (showing your accomplishments and how they match the employer’s needs) is what likely gets you the interview and ultimately, gets you hired.

      Alison has great material here on resumes and cover letters. Good luck in your search!

  17. City Mouse*

    In regards to OP #2’s issue, what are everyone’s thoughts about workplaces that require employees to call in when sick and 1) state their symptoms and 2) if they are going to the doctor? I work in a white-collar/tech environment but management in our department requires us to speak with a lead and give them that information. Outside of retail, I’ve never experienced this line of questioning.

    1. Cat wrangler*

      I live in the UK and it’s pretty common here to be expected to give a summary of the reason for sickness and how long you anticipate being out, in my experience anyway. If you work in a medical setting, even as non-medical staff, and you report an upset tummy and/or vomiting you can be required to provide a stool sample before returning to work.

      1. SarahKay*

        Seconded. It’s very common in the UK, and not just in retail.
        I have to call in sick (by phone, in person, unless I’ve lost my voice) to my manager and tell them what’s wrong, and how long I think I’ll be out. If it’s a cold or something where it’s likely to clear up fairly soon, I have to call in daily, mostly to say/croak/wheeze “Still sick”. If it’s something more serious like actual flu, then I can tell manager that (eg) I’ll be off for at least the next three days, I’ll call you on the fourth day.
        Once I’m back I have to complete a Return to Work form, and have an interview with my manager, where I tell them what was wrong, if I saw a doctor (doctor’s notes are needed for absences over 7 days, we self-certify otherwise), if I’m still on any medication, and if any medical follow-up is needed.
        As a side note, when this was introduced about 12 years ago my (male) manager was as unhappy about it as anyone else – on a site with mainly male employees, most of the female employees reported to him. He was heard saying (wailing) “I don’t want to ask them what’s wrong – none of them are shy and they’ll tell me. In detail!

        1. Manya*

          That seems amazingly intrusive. Aren’t there any privacy laws in the UK around health and medical conditions?

          1. London Calling*

            I’m the UK and I have to say I have not worked in any company that requires such an amount of detail. We have to phone in and speak to our manager and on return submit a sickness form, but I’ve never had to have an interview with my manager for a day’s sick. Guess despite all its failings my company does treat us like adults and I’ve been lucky with where I work

            1. Magenta*

              I’m in the UK and we are not required to give information when taking a sick day and I wouldn’t expect anyone in my team to give me specifics, some volunteer others don’t. I tend to give general info if I think it is relevant.
              We also don’t need to call, a WhatsApp message will do, but I have one person in my team who always phones me, that is her choice. I sometimes call my boss if I need to discuss work that needs handing over.
              We only need a doctor’s note if we are out more than a week, this is a standard NHS form that says whether the employee is fit to work. The answer can be yes, no, or maybe if they feel like it.

              1. Marion Ravenwood*

                Also UK here, and we have a similar setup – I can text or email my boss to say I don’t feel well, without giving specifics (though I generally do, but not beyond ‘a bad cold’ or ‘stomachache’ level of details) and hand over anything that needs to be picked up if I’m too ill to do any actual work. I do work for a non-profit though, so I don’t know if this is a thing that’s specific to that sector.

          2. Ange*

            Where I work (healthcare) I think it’s partly to keep track of infectious things and partly because some absences (pregnancy-related, or in my case, cancer-related, and some disabilities) count towards your number of sick days but not your attendance targets.
            There might also be a public health aspect: tracking for clusters of some types of illness/injury. And some illnesses or work-related injuries are reportable to the department of health.

          3. Bagpuss*

            I’m in the UK. We don’t require anything like that much detail and I’ve never worked anywhere that does.
            Our policy is that you need to to call in and ideally to speak to either HR or a manger. What we need to know is that you are ill, and whether you know how long it is likely to be.
            Ideally you speak to a manager who can then ensure that the people who need to know, do, and can rearrange appointments etc as needed.

            The manager who takes the call will then log the sickness, which allows payroll to adjust pay if needed, if someone has used up their sick leave, or to arrange SSP if they have used up their sick leave and are out for more than 3 consecutive days. Other employees however can only see whether someone is in the office or not, not whether they are out due to sickness, Holiday, or other reasons.

            If someone is going to be out for more than 7 days then we do ask for a fit note from the doctor – these go to HR. My understanding is that the fit note either says that the person is not it for work, or that they are but with some limitations , so in that section it may have comments about how the persona’s condition may affect them (e.g. side effects, limitations) but my understanding is that it would say something like “fit for limited duties, not involving heavy lifting” ,for instance.
            The standard fit note does refer to the condition it relates to but wouldn’t go into detail about specific symptoms etc, and most employees only require one for longer absences, and part of the reason for it is to allow employers to make appropriate accommodations to help people back to work.

        2. Venus*

          Wow, that’s terrible. I keep thinking of when I had an abortion and of course had to take time off work. I would have been terrified if I had to tell my boss about it!!!

          1. Magenta*

            I have never worked for a UK employer who expected detail on sickness unless it was part of a pattern of poor attendance and performance.
            I’ve worked for small and large companies, in retail, hospitality, banking, finance and data and none of them would have needed to know that much detail, nor expected it.
            The food places needed to know if you had a bug that could be passed on and when there was a swine flu epidemic and I worked in a bank we had to notify them and quarantine ourselves in case we passed it on to someone vulnerable (old). But these are specific cases.
            I have had an employee disclose a similar issue to Venus above, but that was her choice because she wanted help and advise and didn’t know how to access the appropriate healthcare for her situation.

        3. londonedit*

          I’m also in the UK and have never worked with a company that required employees to give full details of their illness or have an interview on their return. Everywhere I’ve worked, you can just say ‘Won’t be in today, I’m not feeling well’ and that’s fine. Often you can email or text instead of having to physically phone the office.

          I think in instances of extended absences, or where there’s a health issue that would require a phased return to work (could be surgery, could be mental health) you probably would have some sort of consultation process with your employer to figure out what was going to happen, and then in that case you’d obviously need to let your employer have more details, but in terms of ‘I’ve got a cold/I’ve got a stomach bug/I’ve got a migraine’, no, in my experience you don’t need to explain and you don’t need any sort of return-to-work procedure. Even if it was ‘I’ve had an abortion’ you wouldn’t have to explain fully – you absolutely could just say ‘medical procedure’ or whatever.

          As others have said, ‘sick leave’ in the UK isn’t an allowance to be used up, it’s there for actual sickness. The usual thing is that you can ‘self-certify’ for up to a week, meaning you don’t need a doctor’s note and you can just say ‘I’ve got a cold’, but anything over that your employer can/would usually request a doctor’s note with more information.

      2. Ciara Amberlie*

        Yes. On our return-to-work form we have to state the reason for our sickness, but it’s multiple choice from a list that includes quite general categories, e.g. “cold, virus or flu”, “gastric illness” etc.

        It’s never particularly bothered me having to do this, and I suppose you could fib if you didn’t want to tell the truth (you only need a doctor’s note for absences over seven days). But I think that’s because the UK in general has more generous sick leave policies (outside of retail and hospitality) and the trade off for that is more openness about why you’re calling in sick.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I would find that ridiculously intrusive here in the US. If you don’t trust your employees enough to use their sick leave like adults, then what’s the point in asking, why wouldn’t you also assume they would lie about why they’re using it? Or whether they went to the doctor? And not every bad cold requires a doctor’s visit!

      1. Magenta*

        I think sick leave is different here in the UK though.
        I get 30 days holiday on top of 8 bank/public holidays, that is generous but the legal minimum is 28 days (including bank holidays).
        Sick pay is on top of that but is only paid when you are sick, it is not an allowance that you get to use, it is more of an insurance type thing that you only use if you need it.
        For example I get 30 days sick pay on a rolling year basis and then after that if I was still sick I would get paid Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) which is paid by the employer but claimed back/taken off the employer’s tax bill.
        That said I would never describe my symptoms to my boss unless it was relevant to how much time I was taking, as in “it feels like flu I might be out more than a day” or “if my headache gets better I will log on from home this afternoon”.

        1. Bagpuss*

          SSP isn’t claimed back by the employer any more, it used to be, but these days it jut comes out of the employer’s pocket

    3. EPLawyer*

      grown ups at work should be treated like grown ups. If I think I am too sick to go to work, I am too sick to go to work. The company doesn’t need the details. If someone is abusing the system, then you can deal with that directly with the individual. No need for everyone to come in with a sick note like in grade school.

      But sadly, many companies don’t want to do this. They don’t want to appear discriminatory so they treat everyone the same — including the rock stars and the problems. Then they wonder why morale is low.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Its the same here in the UK. a lot of the rules are to protect employees from discrimination and favouritism, and to protect employers against allegations of discrimination, or favouritism, by having clear and consistent policies which apply the same to everyone.
        I think the downside is that it does mean it is more difficult for employers to be flexible with good employees.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think that’s pretty intrusive. What are they going to do with that information? If it’s an extended illness or injury, then I can see requiring a doctor’s note, but for a cold or a migraine or an upset stomach, that’s just silly. This hits a bit close to home because I’m currently quietly fighting my co-workers’ practice of sending out emails with all kinds of details around absences, but that’s culture, not policy.

      It took a long time for me to feel ok about staying home without the long explanations. I’m not sick very often, and I still feel the pangs of guilt: is this enough of a reason? Could I come in later? Should I call someone so they can hear how sick I really am? But I have never, thankfully, been pressured to share my symptoms by my employer.

      1. Magenta*

        “Should I call someone so they can hear how sick I really am?”
        I have a report who always calls me rather than text/WhatsApp/email me, to me it comes across as if she feels she has something to prove. I assume this is a holdover from a previous, much stricter, workplace.

        1. JustaTech*

          One of my coworkers was super frustrated when one of her new direct reports came into work even though she was throwing up, because she wasn’t sure if she was “sick enough”.
          Her boss was all “dear god, why are you here? Of course I believe you!” and then had to find somewhere for the poor woman to sit away from the rest of the lab until someone could take her home.

          That’s what happens when bosses are super strict/disbelieving about sick time: people come into work and vomit on the rug.

          1. Banker chick*

            Reminds me of when my niece was sick the day after a holiday. Her boss told she needed to come to work if she wanted to get paid for the holiday and IF HE thought she sick enough, she could go home. She went to work and soon vomited on the boss and his shoes! She was sent home.

    5. Tardigrade*

      In the US and neither has ever been a requirement in my experience, although I generally do provide an explanation anyway (stomach bug, a cold, etc.).

    6. MLB*

      +1 on being intrusive. I’m an adult and if I’m too sick to function, I’m staying home. I shouldn’t have to give my specific symptoms. I have the ability to WFH as well, so most of the time, I’ll still work but do it from home and keep my germs to myself.

    7. Justme, The OG*

      I think it’s treating employees like children. If I have something (or my kid has something) that is likely serious and will cause me to be out for a number of days then I will relay that information. But if I have a migraine it’s really none of their business.

    8. Chameleon*

      That’s awful. What about people with stigmatized illness? I can’t imagine “I can’t come in today because my depression is flaring up and I’m feeling suicidal so I’m going to go see my therapist instead” being something my employer needs to know.

      1. Cat wrangler*

        I think that publicly funded institutions such as community schools, hospitals, councils and so forth tend to have quite strict rules around sickness absence. A couple of jobs ago, the policy was that staff had to ring in each and every day of sickness unless you had a medical note covering the period plus a RTW to interview. It’s the same place where a colleague had been signed off sick, had dropped off the certificate for her file and had been prevailed upon to ‘clear up a few things whilst you’re here’ (which was illegal).

    9. Cheryl Blossom*

      It’s awful. I find it leads to questions about whether someone is “really” sick or why they aren’t going to a doctor if they’re “actually” sick.

      I have chronic migraines. One of the (many) reasons I left my old job was because my boss didn’t believe that all the sick time I was using was actually for migraines, and thought I should bring doctor’s notes… when there is no reason for me to be spending money on a doctor’s visit if I’m so sick with pain I can’t get out of bed! I know how to treat my migraines and driving to the doctor is not part of that treatment.

      (To anyone thinking of replying to this with advice on how they/their friend/their loved one treats THEIR migraines and “helpful advice”: you are the worst sort of person.)

      1. Jadelyn*

        UGH, yes. I get migraines as well, and the idea of being forced to haul myself out of bed and DRIVE – and how unsafe would that be??? – to the doctor just so he can look at me and say “Yep, that’s a migraine”, which I already knew, makes me want to cry.

        I once forced myself to go to work with an incipient migraine because we had a record 7 new hires starting that day and at that time I was the one managing onboarding. I had backups, but I didn’t feel comfortable dumping the biggest group we’d ever had at once on them without warning (and a couple of the hires belonged to an executive who I knew would make a Big Deal out of it if anything went less than perfectly because I was out). So I came in long enough to check everyone in, get paperwork done, and get the orientation session going, and then immediately went home. Even that was too long to be out of the house – I had to pull over on the way home to throw up, and when I got home I was nearly crying with pain by the time I hauled myself to the bedroom and fell into bed. Why would you force your staff to suffer like that by making them go out when they’re dealing with a migraine, just to satisfy your bureaucratic needs for extra paperwork? What a jerk.

    10. Jadelyn*

      What the hell? That’s an employer who’s treating their staff like untrustworthy children. I’d be very tempted to get into extremely graphic detail about mucus, vomiting, bowel movements, blood, etc. just to make a point. Like, just get super gross about it. You wanted to know my symptoms, okay, then it’s officially TMI hour!

      I’m so glad my employer just wants a text if we’re going to be out, and all we have to say is “I’m not feeling well” – you can say more if you want to, but just texting the group and saying “Hey guys, not feeling well, won’t be in today.” is perfectly acceptable.

  18. Bree*

    My province recently passed legislation that bans employers requiring sick notes for absences below a certain number of days. This practice is generally considered harmful by medical professionals because it’s a drain on the health system, a waste of a doctor’s time, and because with most minor illnesses people should just stay home and rest, rather than going out and exposing other people to their germs in the process.

    1. Mommy MD*

      That’s great. It’s terrible to see sick patients have to wait two or more hours to come in and get an off work order for one day when they could have been resting in bed. Many employers are so punitive.

    2. Anon for this*

      Yes! So true.

      Happened to me! I’m a bit sick but rather than rest in the comfort of my home, let’s trudge to the clinic (via public transport no less) and wait 2-3 hours where others are also unwell and could potentially transfer their illnesses. Just to get a sick leave certificate since you’re out more than 1 day. And this “more than 1 day rule” took place if you take a half day off and then call in sick the next day! So glad some places are doing away with this!

    3. pleaset*

      It also discriminates against people without the wherewithal to see a doctor easily. If healthcare is truly universal at no specific cost, that’s no big deal. But if there are costs involved such a policy hurts poorer people more than others.

      1. Technical_Kitty*

        This is the case in Canada excepting some remote areas. Your provincial health care system gets you decent care and a doctors visit to a clinic is certainly covered.

        But it is a problem to clog the clinics and waste doctors time. If you have the flu for a couple days, fine, stay home, call in sick. If it’s more than a few days, you should probably see a doctor anyways. But one or two day sick absences are a waste of the doc’s time. They could be seeing actual patients not the person with a head cold looking for a sick note after one day home.

    4. many bells down*

      Yeah my husband has celiac disease. If he eats something wrong without realizing, he can be stuck in the bathroom the rest of the day. A doctor can’t do anything about it, so why would he go see one? All he can do is drink water and ride it out.

    5. Dance-y Reagan*


      As someone with a chronic issue that makes me unsafe to drive (migraines with nausea and light sensitivity) I’ve always been infuriated by being required to see a doctor for a day off. Not only can a doctor not help me (beyond filling my script), but I’m putting myself and others at risk by getting there.

  19. Madeleine Matilda*

    OP2 – You may wish to consider applying for FMLA for intermittent care of your wife and child if your employer is large enough to be required to follow FMLA. This would give you protected leave for times when you were concerned about your wife’s seizure disorder and needed to care for her or your child.

    1. No imagination*

      Yes. And I think, though I’m not sure, that even though you can’t complete the paperwork without medical documentation, there may be some protection from retaliation that kicks in from the point you make the request. Worth researching if you’re concerned.

    2. Madeleine Matilda*

      Although I see in a comment from OP upthread that his HR hassled him about using approved FMLA when his child was born because the child arrived earlier than anticipated so perhaps the company wouldn’t make it easy for OP to use FMLA intermittently either. Which is awful because FMLA is something that if needed shouldn’t involve additional hassle from an employer.

  20. Mommy MD*

    Have a card signed by staff for Boss along with a plate of homemade cookies or fudge. That’s enough and avoids weird conversation about it that is going to make both sides uncomfortable.

    1. Marthooh*

      Yeah, it’ll all be smooth sailing, unless your boss has the decency to ask who actually made the cookies or fudge. Or you can just institute a “no gifts” policy, have the weird conversation if needed, and stop worrying about it.

  21. Anon From Here*

    LW#1 – Um, unused dressing room or not, the couple, or at least one of them, left the door unlocked. That’s not just a couple of people getting it on in the wild ‘n’ wacky world of theatre. There’s another layer of inappropriateness going on.

    If it were me, next time I ran into the diction coach I’d say “I don’t ever want to see that again,” and I’d also totally alert the stage manager that this happened. Leaving the door unlocked is just creepy.

  22. Snickerdoodle*

    To OP #1: I worked as a stagehand for a decade, and while I never saw anything like that happen, I wouldn’t have bothered reporting it because it’s such a wildly different industry that inappropriate activity is viewed as the norm. It took me a long time to learn how to behave in an office setting. You can address it with a supervisor if you want, but I would not count on anything else coming from it.

    1. Michaela Westen*

      A good point is made upthread that the guy might try to get rid of her because of this, even if she doesn’t say anything. So she could CYA by mentioning to someone, or a couple of people, even if no other action is necessary.

      1. Snickerdoodle*

        Yeah, that’s why I said “mention, but don’t really expect real consequences for him.” The reporting is the CYA bit, but, if my own experience is any judge, nothing much will happen.

  23. Amy*

    All I do is shoot a text to my boss letting him know I’m not feeling well and won’t be in. I have added stuff like I think it may be strep throat or some else that may require multiple days just so I can update him after a dr appoint so I don’t have to text the next morning and can sleep in.

  24. Izzy*

    OP1: I agree with Alison that you’re not obligated to report this if you don’t want to.

    That said, I do think that the hook-up culture in theatre that you mention is not necessarily always a healthy one, and I know of a number of scandals that have come to light since the rise of #metoo. Many of them seem to have gone beneath the radar for a very long time in part because of the attitude that the theatre is somehow beyond the rules of the normal, boring workplace. Again, I don’t think you’re obligated to report and you don’t sound as though this has affected you too badly – but for the next person to walk in on something like this at your theatre this that may not be the case. So if it were me I would certainly say something to the diction coach at least.

  25. ThatGirl*

    I just have to add my small victory re: Boss’ Day.

    I work on a small team of about 5 within a larger department; yesterday morning one of my teammates suggested a card and flowers-or-something for our pretty new team lead. I diplomatically said I’d happily sign a card but that I felt gifts should flow down, not up and wasn’t comfortable contributing to a gift. I don’t know if anyone else replied to her privately, but it felt like a small win.

    I’ve only been here a year and change, and I know we didn’t do this last year, but we have all-new management since then. I did overhear our dept. manager getting some gifts, but I refuse to feel guilty about it.

    1. Anonymous Today*

      Was the card and flowers suggestion only because the new team lead was “pretty”? Have their been gift suggestions for previous team leads? I realize today is Boss’s Day but unless previous team leads were given gifts, the suggestion to give to the new team lead because they are “pretty” is icky.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I think you misunderstood; I meant “pretty new” as in she started three weeks ago. “Fairly new” might have been a better phrase; I was not implying that her attractiveness had anything to do with it. Four of her five employees are women.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Sorry, poor phrasing on my part I guess :) I certainly didn’t mean to imply anything about her attractiveness or that having anything to do with it.

        1. biobotb*

          I didn’t think you were referring to her attractiveness. “Pretty new,” “pretty recent,” etc. are all very standard phrases.

    2. kittymommy*

      We just did a Boos’s Day celebration here. It involved homemade turnovers (guava/cream cheese & nutella) and doughnuts. I think it was mainly an excuse to bring pastries. I don;t know if any of the bosses actually got any.

      1. Marthooh*

        — Boss, boss, we brought turnovers and doughnuts for Boss’s Day!

        ~ Aw, you guys! You shouldn’t have.

        — Then we ate it all for you!

        ~ … oh. … Uh, thanks?

  26. Bunny Girl*

    So funny/awful story related to #1. When I worked at the haunted house, it was mostly teenager and young adults. So that sort of “co-worker bonding” went on all the time but most people were really careful about it. We had a couple that got caught though. The next night they were separated and the poor girl’s make-up for the evening was a stitched up mouth!

      1. Bunny Girl*

        He was fired. They allowed him to come back the next night (as I said they were separated) but they decided to let him go after that. I can’t remember why she wasn’t fired as well. I know they did something else to him but it was over ten years ago. Haunted houses aren’t exactly known for their PC work culture.

          1. Bunny Girl*

            I am sorry. I realized how that looked after I entered it. I just really meant that a lot of haunted attractions have a work environment that a lot of people would consider toxic. Some don’t of course, they’re lovely. But I didn’t mean anything negative when I said PC work culture.

  27. Dina*

    LW #1 — [I am a non-eq SM and lighting designer]. LW, please check out the “Not in Our House” standards, for your own comfort and familiarity if not this. No, you are not obligated to report. But I would. Here is what I have a problem with:

    #1) DURING A SHOW. Not preshow, not postshow during the Opening Night reception, but DURING A FREKING SHOW. He’s lucky it wasn’t an actor who walked in on him!

    #2) Bathrooms have locks that they clearly did not use. This is the reason you saw it. As I tell people, “Break the rules smarter”.

    #3) Either he was getting a blow job from someone affiliated with the show/theater, in which case there is potential for casting-couch preference (If it was a director who hired the diction coach, if it was an actor the coach works with, etc) or he brought someone unauthorized backstage (again, DURING A SHOW). Neither one of these is okay.

    Now, if this had happened at midnight after the theater closed and he just happened to have keys to the space… Yeah, he’s still dumb but I mean haven’t we all been there? (In-space hookups, I mean). But BACKSTAGE, DURING THE SHOW is something that any decent SM or HM or Production Manager would want to be aware of. It could even be phrased as a “Hey SM, I walked in on two people in a bathroom during the show and I’m not sure they were supposed to be there. You might want to think about locking the unused dressing rooms during the run.”

    I’m livid.

    1. Anon From Here*

      Yes to all these. It took place while she show was on. They/He left the door unlocked. There’s likely an either-or between a casting-couch scenario or an unauthorized backstage visitor issue.

      I really, really hope LW#1 alerts the stage/house/production manager.

    2. Anon for this*

      Exactly! As I said above, the blowjob and infidelity aren’t cool at all, but my work issue is that it was happening during the show. I’ve spent over a decade in the music business, and have a bit of a reputation during the off hours as a goofball (I’ve been compared to Seth Rogan…). But, come show time, I have zero-tolerance for anything that distracts from the performance. People can do whatever they want when we’re not working; drugs, alcohol, and sex are not at all uncommon in this world, and I’d drive myself nuts trying to police people in my show from getting involved in them. That said, you show up drunk to my set, you’re gone. You create some goofy-ass love triangle drama, keep that out of our show. If I see you goofing around backstage in any way that could impact the performance, I get livid.

    3. Elizabeth W.*

      #1) DURING A SHOW.

      Yeah, that bothered me too. It’s really unprofessional. Even if it had been the guy’s wife, mid-performance isn’t the time or the place for sexual escapades.

  28. Hedgerow*

    Re letter 2: until I read this letter I had never considered that even babies in the US would require health insurance – I assumed it was just a thing for adults. It is profoundly shocking to me that healthcare is not automatically available for a baby. I hope your baby is now well.

    1. No imagination*

      Well…healthcare is available to everyone, regardless of age, citizenship, etc., in that an emergency room is required to stabilize any patient that presents themselves regardless of ability to pay.

      The catches are that 1) they are only required to stabilize the patient, not treat the underlying illness, and 2) they can’t require upfront payment, but they do charge you, at the very high ER rates.

      So the ill child with a fever will be given anti-fever meds, fluids and antibiotics as needed to stabilize, and then the parents will be sent home with a bill for thousands of dollars and instructions to follow up with a primary care doctor they can’t afford. And as the family is in the ER to begin with because they don’t have the couple hundred dollars the primary care Dr would have charged up front, they will be sent to collections and have their credit ruined. Which will make it harder to get a job, and so on.

      In most states there is low/no cost insurance available to children of low income families, but it’s not adequately funded so there is a big gap between those eligible and those that can actually afford private insurance.

      1. Technical_Kitty*

        It’s not “available to everyone” if it comes with crippling debt and bankruptcy. Especially given that US healthcare is run with a financial model that heavily marks up goods and services. Paying rent or getting your baby some care should not be things that people have to worry about in a “first world” country.

      2. Artemesia*

        There was a new report recently where a tourist took a toddler to the ER where she received a bottle of fluid (oral not IV) and they were billed thousands of dollars because every ER visit also gets a %charge of the cost of keeping and ER available each day. The main effect of computerization in US health care has been to grossly inflate medical charges by unbundling and spurious add ons like this. Thousands of dollars to give a feverish baby a bottle of fluid.

      3. MatKnifeNinja*


        Unless it’s a 911 emergency, my local hospital will not see you without picture ID. They’ve also started asking if you have a credit card if you have no insurance card to make a payment on a non life or death ER bill.
        (think ear aches, stitches, etc)

        So you roll in with a toddler with a 101F. Hydrated, alert, crying tears. Triage takes a peak. This is not life or death. You are then punted to their urgent care who is not required to treat you at all with no payment. They actually ask for $200 via cash/credit cards up front before you are even seen. So, you don’t need ID or insurance, just cash.

        In the ER, billing swoops in before discharge for deductibles/put some money down on the bill.

        You’ll get help if you are bleeding/turning blue. The days of rolling in with you aren’t going to die in the immediate 10 minutes to receive care is almost well gone where I live. The ERs have their own version of urgent cares where non emergency uninsured are moved. Those urgent cares have no problems turning up the heat for payment.

        Average Joe doesn’t qualify for the infant/child state funded insurance in my state. You almost have to be homeless/living in a shelter income wise to qualify.

    1. CoveredInBees*

      Especially when you know that some employers don’t read them. I’m so jealous of my husband’s sector where they don’t do cover letters. He is very experienced in his field and has literally never written a cover letter. I’m so jealous.

  29. Holly*

    OP # 1 – Do I think you *have* to say something? No. But your letter leaves a lot unsaid that I hope you consider in your decision – a) what power dynamics come with being a diction coach, and what kind of relationship is he supposed to have with the cast? b) The fact that the wife is also in the show – would she potentially be working with the person the diction coach is cheating with? c) Is what happened going to impact the show/the entire cast/the workplace generally (will there be larger fallout from the drama such that saying something now may be better than having it blow up later?)

    Essentially I think depending on the power dynamics and relationship of the cast and people involved, this actually might be more of a workplace issue than just a sex issue that’s no one’s business. It might impact everyone.

  30. Fabulous*

    #1 – Theatre definitely falls into the category of different-workplace-cultures-tolerate-different-behaviors! I’ve seen some crazy things at the theatre in the 20 years I’ve participated… Though it also sounds like you work for a professional theatre rather than for, say, a community theatre since you have the option of going to HR or management.

    If it were a non-professional setting, I would say just let it be, but this is a place of business. If you don’t feel comfortable naming names, I would still tell them you saw “someone” engaging in sexual activity in an unlocked location. Especially if there are underage people in the cast that could have walked in, it is an even more important thing to tell management/HR what is happening. That way (as I saw someone mention above) they can have a “break rules better” speech, or at least deal be able to with it however they see fit.

  31. Princess Scrivener*

    #3. Yes, getting payed retroactively for your promotion and subsequent job responsibilities is a thing! A good boss should tell you you’ll get payed retroactively, and a company with a good compensation mindset makes this a very common *thing.*

  32. OyHiOh*

    #1 – I also work in entertainment, somewhat similar to OP’s scenario but we’ll stick with entertainment so I don’t out myself (I might anyway, details are sort of identifying). In general, I think that OP should have reported what they saw to someone – the director or management – the night it happened. In this specific case, if the OP has good management, they should report what they saw now, even if it’s now weeks after the fact. The facility I work with has banned a few specific male individuals for the far less invasive behavior of “creepy around women young enough to be their daughters” from auditioning/performing because we develop young actors. We want our actors to know they can trust the directors/management. We want them to learn how to develop their own boundaries by modeling boundaries within the facility. And we want to maintain a culture of consent where nobody thinks to use their position or responsibilities to get an advantage (this last point relates to a lot of the work we do, not just sexual).

    We work with a lot of teens. The place is practically throbbing with teen hormones, people getting together, people breaking up (that’s happened in the middle of a show run, more than once). We’re in the position of teaching young actors how to be in the industry, what they can expect if they go to college for this or start auditioning for professional gigs. In our place, they have to be explicitly safe so they leave us with better expectations than what entertainment has historically been.

    On a broader note, I think that changing the culture in entertainment will start at the bottom. It will start with today’s young actors learning differently in their classes and community theaters and taking their expectations for a better industry forward with them. And change will also come from outside pressure. From people like the vast majority of AAM readers who aren’t in the industry, saying no, that’s absolutely not acceptable in any industry.

    1. Fabulous*

      Absolutely agree! We just had to fire an older male actor this summer for trying to make passes at teenage cast members. They thankfully reported it, and the male is now blacklisted (again) from our company.
      I learned after-the-fact that he had pulled this stunt 10+ years ago too, but we had a complete board turnover who didn’t fully know his history and cast him in a show. The summer show was interesting, to say the least!

      1. Michaela Westen*

        They need to keep better notes! I’ve seen reference to a “do not hire ever” file. Sounds like your board needs one!

    2. OyHiOh*

      One of the men who got banned here, it happened months after the creepy behavior, when a couple women went to management with his behavior during a previous show. So that would make a timeline where they did a show, say in spring, he continued being creepy after that show closed but no one said anything. He auditioned in the fall, was cast. Then the women he’d been pursuing, who happened to have roles in that show as well, spoke up. His role was recast within days (and like many small entertainment programs, we have **issues** with finding strong male actors so recasting that fast was no small feat).

      Again, I would encourage the OP to go to management now. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that they have good managers/board who will take the potential power imbalance and consent issues seriously.

    3. JSPA*

      Creepy behavior is certainly possible. There are a lot of creeps who misuse their power. But “diction coach” is pretty dramatically not a role that lends itself to running a casting couch. I mean, sure, he could say, “baby, I’m going to be a director someday, and you’re going to be my leading lady.” But it’s not really more believable than if any other random guy says that. He could threaten to accuse one of the cleaning staff of stealing something, I suppose–but again, that’s something just about any guy could do.

      But nothing in the letter implies that the woman was unusually young, nor that their theater is a youth development theater, or that there was any presumption of exploitation. Sure, there are creeps. But there are also plenty of horny people who might mistakenly presume that (for example) the cast bathroom will be empty during an act when most of the cast is on the stage. So I’m not sure where the presumption of exploitation is coming from. Plenty of people enjoy giving as well as getting oral. (I hear that if you’re not one of those people, it’s really hard to believe, but ’tis so, all the same.) Plenty of sexual interaction, captured at any one instant, can look one-sided, even if it’s fully reciprocal, in toto. People who are cheating are pretty famous for grabbing any moment they can find, for whatever interaction they can manage. There’s really no reason to presume a misuse of power here, simply because misuse of power exists. Has no-one else here, at some point in their lives, engaged in sexual activity someplace that seemed “private enough” at the moment, but in retrospect, probably wasn’t?

      1. OyHiOh*

        OP describes a professional theatre. Where people are paid to perform, direct, and teach actors dialect/diction. Work place norms that include “no sexual harrassement/behavior on the premise” are entirely reasonable regardless of any age, consent, or power issues that may or may not be involved. #Metoo started in the entertainment industry and brushing off what OP describes as just consenting adults who reasonably thought they were private enough allows for a culture where #metoo continues.

        It’s a situation where OP should say something. Dressing room sexy fun and games should be just as unacceptable as sexy fun and games in the copy room. Quack!

      2. Elizabeth W.*

        Even if there was no exploitation, and the act was consensual on both sides, during a show is not the time or place to engage in sexual activity. It’s MASSIVELY unprofessional–showtime is work time. They are supposed to be WORKING, not f*cking.

      3. Izzy*

        To me, it doesn’t matter if this specific incident was exploitative or a misuse of power. The problem is that one of the many reasons that exploitative incidents occur so frequently within the entertainment industry is because there’s this idea that the industry is “above” petty, boring rules about appropriate workplace behaviour. When there are no clearly-defined ideas of what is and is not okay to do in your place of work or with your coworkers, it becomes much easier for exploitative people to push the boundaries.

        Like, there are horny people with bad judgement and cheaters grabbing a moment in every industry under the sun. But in most professional settings, getting caught by colleague when having sex with another colleague in your workplace bathroom with the door unlocked during work hours would be a really big deal. When it’s brushed off as ~just one of those things! horny people gonna be horny! what can you do!~, that normalises a sexualised workplace culture that allows exploitation to thrive, which is why so many people here are bringing it up.

        1. OyHiOh*

          Exactly. If we can dismiss “horny people being horny BUTIT’STHEATERWHATCANYOUDO,” it becomes far too easy to dismiss allegations that someone is being inappropriate in a #metoo sort of way

  33. uranus wars*

    #2, I don’t have a lot to add to Alison’s advice, but from experience I know that even in crappy companies your boss can be understanding when these things happens. I once took a vacation day to attend my cities Super Bowl parade and ended up getting strep and was unable to go AND I had to call in sick the day after, too. I was so worried it would look like a hangover situation (early 20s in a drinking town) but I just explained what happened and my boss was great about it – at her suggestion I also changed what was supposed to be my vacation day to a sick day. She understood things happen and I was an adult with no reason to lie.

    I haven’t read through all the comments, but I’ve never worked anywhere that HR (not my boss) approved my time off. Is this common?

  34. CM*

    #5 – I like the idea of a card with no gift. I feel like anything beyond that goes into the territory of trying to manage your boss’s feelings — saying “We’re excited to do Secret Santa with you!” sounds infantilizing to me. But maybe I’ve only worked with ultra-reasonable people. I can’t imagine any of the bosses I’ve had pouting because they didn’t receive a gift from their reports.

    1. Annie Nimity*

      The last Christmas I was at my former position, I did not organize a group gift for our boss. In previous years I had done this, not realizing the etiquette involved. When I didn’t start the rounds this particular Christmas, nobody else did either (and I was surprised because I really thought someone would, and I would just decline to participate).

      I had several reasons for dropping the gift that year. One, I had begun reading AAM and realized it was not appropriate. Two, she declined to participate in Secret Santa saying she did not feel it was appropriate given that she was our boss and was at a much higher pay grade. Three (and honestly the most important reason to me), she had made comments in passing that our gifts from previous years were “cheap crap” of poor quality and nothing she would ever have bought for herself.

      So, this particular year, no gift. When we got back from the holiday break, she pouted and told me her feelings were hurt that we didn’t give her a present. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me at this horribly toxic office. I gave my notice and left the following month.

  35. drpuma*

    At first I didn’t notice the comma and read today’s post as “I walked in on two amorous coworkers calling in sick after a vacation day was denied.” What an office THAT would be!

  36. Persephone Mulberry*

    #3: Definitely ask! I’ve had multiple occasions where my raise has been retroactive, in one case by several months.

    Fun story time: my annual review at Previous Job was supposed to happen in October every year, but somehow October always came and went and my review would happen months later and they’d make my salary increase retro back to October. The last year that I worked there, because of some restructuring at the management level, my review didn’t happen until April. And literally two days after my review, I accepted a job offer and gave my notice. And my first stop after my manager’s office was our HR/Payroll Director’s office to verify that the salary increase my manager had signed off on during my review would still be retro back to October – I was prepared for my new manager (who felt personally betrayed by my departure) to try and block it, but my argument was that if my review had been done in a timely manner, I would’ve been paid that increased salary all along. (The HR Director agreed with me, woo!)

  37. Name Here*

    LW 3: I got back pay for a raise last year. My boss put in a raise request for me and the higher ups took a couple months to approve the request. When it was finally approved it was effective as of the date my boss had originally requested. Which is to say, backpay for a raise is possible.

  38. JSPA*

    #5 if the boss is really great, and most of the people in the department would be into it, it could be fun to invite people to bring in old T-shirts (ready for the rag bin), turn them inside out, stencil / spray paint “[Boss Name] Fan Club” on them, let them dry, put them on, and take a group picture.

    Total $ cost: a stencil, a can of spray paint, and a good quality print-out of the photo, would likely be under $10 total. If you have an old frame kicking around (or pick one up at a thrift store, you can even frame it. This does require some extra time (before or after work or at lunch) and a place where any overspray of the paint will not be a problem. (Someone’s back yard would probably be a safer option.) Also, if anyone has spare “ready for rags” T-shirts they should bring them in, so nobody feels pressured to sacrifice a still-good shirt for the project.

    This will take some time, and involve people declaring themselves “fans” of the boss, so it presumes a really good boss! If you took up the collection from a misplaced sense of “should,” rather than because boss is loved, people may be pretty luke warm about this.

    For the “how to,” google “How to make your own T-shirts with a Stencil and Spray Paint method.”

    1. Marthooh*

      Or hire a tattoo artist to write “I heart my boss!” on everyone’s forehead. It could become a Boss’s Day tradition. Management might even agree to pay for it.

        1. Artemesia*

          No. I am digging it because if they got actual tatoos, then boss’s day is taken care of forever.

  39. Database Developer Dude*

    For OP #4’s letter…..

    I’m sensing a disturbing trend here for the pendulum to swing all the way over to the other side of the arc. Sure, you shouldn’t be arrogant in your job-seeking, saying “I’m the best”, but you are also not trying to beg for a pittance from a prospective employer. Do not hide your light under a bushel because you’re afraid someone else may be offended that you’re good at something.

    I was applying for a job where they wanted Microsoft Access database development skills. I said “Yes, I have years of experience doing this, and I’m very good at it. Here are some examples of things I’ve done, and by the way, here are some examples of disasters I’ve fixed and redesigned”. I got denied and told I was too ‘cocky’ because I thought I could *do* the job.

    Um, no. I’m trying to sell myself as someone who will be good at the job. I’m not arrogant, I don’t walk in saying “I’m the best and you’d be stupid not to hire me”…but I’m also not going to be all “well, maybe I could do the job…I dunno….”

  40. Database Developer Dude*

    OP#1 – In what universe is having sex at work at all acceptable?? I wouldn’t care whether or not this was fully consensual, with the guy’s wife having full knowledge and approval (polyamory or swinging)….this is sex AT work. No, just…no.

    1. Anoncorporate*

      It’s common in a lot of non corporate industries. I worked in a community organizing job for 6 months and hoo boy – it’s exactly like OP 1s job. I fortunately never walked in on anyone, but I know that one of my 2 coworkers who hooked up was married, and there was definitely the creepiness by older men thing going on. Between this job and the service jobs I’ve had, I’m a bit unnerved by the number of people who are willing to be creepy when not masked by cultural norms.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          Hospital setting. 15 years working there, walking in on 6 couples doing sticky fumbles.

          Learned to make a lot of initial stomping in the stairwells to give a heads up.

          Two teachers got in trouble playing kissy face and grab butt at my niece’s middle school.

          I’m sure this type of stuff happens at any job. Guessing the participants learn to keep it better under wraps than some.

  41. Jenny Grace*

    To #3, I just received a raise and promotion on Friday which was backdated 6 weeks to when I actually took over the role. It’s a thing!

  42. anon for obvious reasons*

    As someone whose husband had an affair with a co-worker and everyone (and I mean everyone) at the office knew about it, I was angry that not one person said anything to him about how horrible he was being. It made him feel like he was justified in his actions. “No one else thinks this is a big deal.” Plus, I’m embarrassed for the times I met with and talked with his coworkers before I knew about it.

    I really wish just one person had said to him, “your wife doesn’t deserve that.” I don’t think they were obligated to tell me as we weren’t friends, but I do wish someone had told him off.

    And her. As she was married as well. What’s wrong with people?

  43. LW1*

    LW1 here. I appreciate everyone’s comments, both from inside and outside the industry.
    FWIW, I do work for a major professional performing arts organization; cast and crew are all Union. This incident happened six months ago. I don’t think the diction coach is “creepy”, but if you had told me before the incident that he was cheating on his wife, I would not have been surprised.
    I realize that the idea of what my “obligation” is in this scenario is quite controversial, especially in today’s environment.
    Our organization has just put out a sexual harassment policy, so I think I will spend some time reading it tomorrow. If there is a way I can report the incident vaguely, I might do that. I think what makes me most uncomfortable right now is that it feels like a secret and if I could somehow report it, I would feel a little unburdened. I don’t feel sexually harassed by it, but it is definitely I ickier than that time I walked in on a crew guy peeing in the crew bathroom (why does no one lock doors?).
    Incidentally I’ve been assigned to the same show as the diction coach next spring, so I think I might feel a little awkward. I don’t imagine he will bring things up, but if he does, I have plenty of scripts with which I can tell him how I never want to repeat that experience again.

    1. Belle8bete*


      I’m in the performing arts. You should tell someone—not in a judgemental way, but in a heads up way. It’s gross to do that on set or backstage or whatever. It’s unprofessional and disrespectful to the space.

      I’m tired of people acting like the arts are the Wild West and “things are different.” That’s true but also it doesn’t need to be that way. Also, you should say something so that if a pattern arises, this will be another data point to consider.

      Good luck!

    2. OyHiOh*

      Like Belle8bete, I too am tired (so tired!) of the “but it’s theatre, what can you do” accompanied by a little shrug attitude. We talk a lot about the romance of being in theatre. We make it out to be this sacred, special thing that only some are called to do. But you know what? Not everyone can run a chem lab, or engineer the next new automobile, or keep the accounts for a corporation. We all have work things we’re good at and work things we’re not so good or quite frankly terrible at but at the end of the day we’re all doing a job. We might that job for love of . . . . something, or we might do it because it leads to steady regular paychecks. Expecting storytelling to be a magical sacred kind of work that’s above annoying work rules and expectations puts whole industries into a rather shady light.

    3. Dina*

      Thank you for the additional details and looping back. I agree with you, there can definitely be a distinction between “creepy” and “unprofessional”, and both of those can vary based on workplace. You know your own environment best.

      Hopefully the policy helps you!

  44. Big Biscuit*

    At a past job, a supervisor of mine walked in on another employee pleasuring themselves in our place of business after hours. Various employees had keys to the business and could be there after hours if it was work related, I suppose he could have kept it to himself, but he reported it and HR recommended immediate termination. I sort of lean towards reporting it since it seems like a place of business to me.
    I chuckled a little at the high school reunion, I started getting somewhat annoying reminder e-mails, phone calls and letters almost a year in advance. I locked my PTO in six months ahead of time! Two weeks is pretty short notice to be reminded of a high school reunion.

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