being in a play with an employee, my boss yelled at my recruiter for hiring me away, and more

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

1. Can I be in a play where my character tries to assault my employee?

I was recently promoted to my first management position. Shortly after I started my new position, I was cast as the lead in a community theater production. One of the songs I’ll be doing is a duet with another character. While all clothes stay on, this duet is highly sensual and involves coercion and borderline rape. I also have another scene where I have to passionately kiss this character.

We had our first cast meeting this weekend, and to my shock, one of my direct reports is playing this other character. I feel completely out of my depth here about how to handle this. When I got promoted, I didn’t expect that I’d be in a situation where I’d have to pretend to assault one of my direct reports. Is it okay for both of us to stay in this production? Or would that be a major no-no? Am I professionally obligated to bow out of the show?

Yeah, you should bow out. I can’t see any good coming from a situation where you’re passionately (or dispassionately) kissing an employee or pretending to assault her.

2. My boss yelled at my recruiter for hiring me away

I had been at my role for a little over a year, and was approached by a recruiter with a job that more closely matched my interests and skills, and for more pay. When I gave notice to my manager, at first she seemed happy for me and asked whether I was receiving more money and where I was going.

Then she turned on me. She told me that she had been approached by the same recruiter for the company I’m going to, and that she didn’t feel they were the “market leaders.” She also told me that there’s “no money” in the field I was going into – even though I told her I was going to receive a higher salary at the new job. She then counter-offered, in a sense – she never gave an exact number. I tried to demur and she ultimately gave up, but I felt very uncomfortable. Then a few days later, she told me she called the recruiter who I worked with to “yell at him” for taking me away. I was surprised and embarrassed, and a bit concerned about what she could have said to the recruiter.

A few friends told me I shouldn’t have told her where I was going, but that didn’t even occur to me. Every other time I’ve quit, my boss has been sad. I have received counter-offers in the past, but never with so many insults attached! Did I make a mistake by telling her where I was going? In retrospect, it seems that she was just looking for fuel for her counter-offer.

Nah, it’s pretty common to tell your boss where you’re going. You did a normal thing in answering her question about your new job. She’s the one who behaved weirdly and unprofessionally.

I wouldn’t worry too much about what she said to the recruiter. If she “yelled at him” for taking you away, it was presumably clear she didn’t want to lose you (which doesn’t reflect badly on you, although the call reflects badly on her).

3. Face flushing in Zoom interviews

Today I had my first-ever Zoom interview, and I discovered something unnerving: my face flushes — a *lot*. I’ve always known I’m prone to blushing in interviews or when speaking in public, so I tend to wear high-necked shirts in those situations (which hides any blushing or blotching on my chest) and have generally just decided that no one cares if my cheeks get a bit red.

But dear god, in this Zoom interview I could see myself on camera, and it wasn’t just my cheeks! My face and neck were blotchy and red in weird spots, and it looked awful.

The interview itself went well otherwise — my partner, who works in the same field, heard me from the other room and said my answers were great and I sounded calm and confident. Now I’m wondering how much interviewers care about flushing in candidates, and whether it comes across as very uncomfortable or lacking in confidence (or even that you’re being dishonest or something). Ugh. Watching yourself on camera in an interview has got to be one of the circles of hell.

You’re probably fine! Since you sounded calm and confident, if they noticed the flushing they probably didn’t think much of it. For all they know, it could have been a hot room or hot lights or a hot flash or a rosacea flare-up or who knows what; it’s not a sign that says “I AM VERY NERVOUS.” And even if they did think nerves, the fact that you sounded calm and confident anyway is a point in your favor. A good interviewer isn’t going to care.

(To be thorough: An exception to this could be if you were interviewing for a job that required doing something where it would matter, which is a pretty narrow category — regular TV interviews among your duties, or similar — and even then they’d be unlikely to write you off over one instance of it.)

4. Offering suggestions for improvement in a thank-you note

I was hired to do a job by the director of a company where originally it was very flexible and I had the ability to design the role based on my skills, experience, and the needs of the organization. As time went on, the manager they placed me with began to get difficult, as she did not understand my work and made things difficult for me.

My contract is coming to an end and I am not interested in renewing it. That being said, I would like to leave a thank-you note to the director who hired me, but also acknowledge some of the concerns I have for the organization (this was originally why I was hired). I would like to supply a few soft suggestions meant to lead to some organizational changes. I would never write anything insulting or degrading. The work the company does is phenomenal, but they’re struggling and it’s hard to watch. Is it acceptable to write this kind of note? Or is it none of my business and I should allow the chips to fall where they may?

“Here’s where you could do better” isn’t really thank-you note material. It’s not really “put it in writing unsolicited” material either — it’s more suited for a conversation with the director if you have the kind of relationship that allows that. (If you don’t, I’d tell her in your note that you have feedback if she’d like to hear it, and then leave it to her to let you know if she does.)

5. How to tell my network about a job opening

My company is trying to overcome some issues they’ve had in the past with hiring gaps — too many people promoted from within into roles that need some level of experience/guidance and not having enough or any people to provide either. They’ve asked me to reach out to people I’ve worked with previously who I would recommend in this role.

It’s a public posting and I’m happy to do that since so many people are un- or under-employed. But I’m hung up on the awkwardness of it. “Hi! We haven’t talked in literally five years, but I wondered if you’d be interested in this job that’s far below your skill set since it’s better than where you are now? Look at this posting, let me know if you or these other guys I’m not in touch with but you are might be interested?” I find it hard to sell the role because currently, management has only vague ideas of what they want it to be and I know only that it will change to some degree, based on what the person hired suggests to improve the process. Could you please suggest a better script for cold-calling a request to apply?

The easiest way to do it is to just say something like, “I’m trying to circulate the job posting to people who might be interested themselves or might know people who would be.” (This is also the best way to do it when you’re hoping the recipient themselves will apply, but you want plausible deniability with their manager that you didn’t try to recruit them away, if there otherwise would be potentially awkward relationship ramifications.)

And as for not having talked in five years — it doesn’t really matter! Professional relationships don’t have the same rules as social relationships do; in a professional context, it’s perfectly fine to contact someone you haven’t talked to in years because you need a reference, think they might be interested in a job, or so forth. It’s not considered rude just because you haven’t stayed in touch in the interim.

As for selling the role, that’s trickier. You shouldn’t try to sell a role if you can’t do it genuinely; that would be a disservice to your network and could harm your credibility with them. If that’s the situation, then just pass along the job posting, rather than talking it up in a way you can’t stand by.

{ 452 comments… read them below }

  1. Renee Remains the Same*

    Oh my. I just kept shaking my head when I got to the end of the first question. Noooooooooooooooooooooo. I cringed at the mere thought of me being in this situation. Please follow Alison’s advice and bow out. Please. Please. Please.

    1. Aphrodite*

      Yes, as the higher up it is your responsibility to bow out immediately. I am cringing at what your direct report must have felt when she saw you there too and discovered what role you had.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Okay, but why not ask the director if there’s a different role you can take instead? You don’t want to push anyone else out of course (and a good director wouldn’t do that, even for a more talented actor), but you could see if she’s planning to promote one of the other actors in the cast into your role and you might be able to switch with them into a different part — that doesn’t have emotionally loaded scenes with your subordinate in its requirements! Or ask to do technical or behind the scenes work for this show, if you want to participate and don’t need to be on stage to do it.

        Because I’m not inherently seeing anything terrible about being in the same play as your employee — lots of people do that, especially in fairly small communities. It’s what that play expects you to do onstage that’s the problem. So maybe if you can get a position with the play which doesn’t have that kind of interaction with your subordinate you wouldn’t need to drop it altogether.

        1. MM*

          Great idea! I know it must be disappointing to earn the lead role only to have to bow out because of an unlucky coincidence. Hopefully there is a way that you can still participate without being put in an awkward situation with a report.

    2. Not Australian*

      Yep, unfortunately work colleagues and amateur theatricals have a bit of a spotty history IMHO. Some years ago a colleague I only knew slightly was cast in a farce produced by a good local amateur company and a whole bunch of us went along … about twenty or so, loyally filling up the first two rows of the audience. What he hadn’t told us, and what clearly none of us had known in advance, was that his first appearance was a dramatic one where he suddenly emerged from a doorway, bounded across the stage, and threw himself down on a sofa facing the audience … stark naked except for his glasses …

      1. Bagpuss*


        On a far more benign note, years ago when I was a teenager I was in an amateur pantomime. One of our neighbours, who was a very well respected local lawyer, played the villainous wizard, which involved a lot of green makeup, including green colouring and dye in his bears.
        Which he discovered he could not get entirely out. He had a court hearing the following morning and wound up shaving off his beard as he felt that appearing in front of the magistrates with green, glittery facial hair would perhaps be considered unprofessional…

        1. parsley*

          Oh dear. At least it was something that could be shaved off and not something more permanent like stained skin.

          1. Em*

            One of the benefits of being involved in theatre is you have access to the kind of makeup that’ll cover up stained skin ;) Much harder to pancake over a beard.

        2. Ethel*

          Too bad it wasn’t recently where the hearing is held by video and he could turn himself into a cat.

          1. Bagpuss*

            Ha! I’m not sure whether being a cat would be better or worse than having a glittery beard..

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I had several days of staff turning themselves into cats on video after that one :)

    3. Medico*

      Oh yes, totally agree with Alison. There is just too much risk here for you professionally, OP1, aside from the optics of it, things can be misconstrued or feelings from the theatre setting can ‘bleed’ over into the workplace.

    4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      It really feels like the set-up for a cringe-humor sitcom episode. I could see Michael Scott not thinking this was a bad idea.

      Poor Erin.

    5. Duck*

      It’s amazing to me how many people posting here are unable to separate reality from make-believe.
      If somebody works for a suicide prevention center, they shouldn’t play Romeo or Juliet? Calm down, everybody!

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        If someone works for any kind of employer, they shouldn’t play a role that includes sexually charged situations with their direct report. Why is that so hard to fathom? If Juliet reports to you, don’t play Romeo. Maybe play Benvolio or Mercutio or something. Your comment sounds very much like the “what’s the matter, can’t you take a joke?” that people say after saying things that are really inappropriate, as though their being a joke makes it OK. In this case, it being acting doesn’t make it OK either.

          1. PolarVortex*

            It’s not just about the role though, it’s about the person it’s with. I am currently thinking about my past managers and my past direct reports and I just don’t think it’s a line that’s easy to keep distinct between direct report and person I’ve made out with in a theater production.

            And I was/still am a theater kid, I’ve long since gotten used to the weird relationships you develop with everyone in it.

        1. Momma Bear*

          Agreed. There are plenty of letters about not socializing with direct reports or not connecting with them via social media. There should be a line between employee and management. Bowing out of this role is the responsible thing here. It’s not about playing pretend. It’s about keeping a professional boundary at OP’s day job.

        2. Renee Remains the Same*

          Sure, it’s make believe. You know what’s not make believe? Actually and physically kissing your direct report even if there are no feelings attached to it. Stage kiss? Sure. But still a kiss and I don’t want to think about any boss I’ve had over the past 20 years getting remotely close to my lips nor do I want to consider me touching any of my employees lips. Even if it’s for the greater good of a play. You cannot mitigate the physicality of the role.

        3. Elle by the sea*

          Yeah, but isn’t it about not socialising outside work so intensely in general? Being in the same theatre and acting in plays together is an intimate relationship, regardless of what roles they play. Why is everyone suddenly scandalised at the sexual nature of the role? Everyone knows it’s acting, not reality.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Because kissing someone onstage is categorically different than do-si-do’ing with someone onstage. It’s not being scandalized to recognize there is a difference between the two things.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              Yeah, playing the two romantic leads in Oklahoma!–you might be able to get away with that. Playing Stanley and Blanche in Streetcar? No. Big no. Bright, neon, Broadway letters NO.

      2. Aquawoman*

        I believe there is some science that supports the idea that our brains cannot completely distinguish reality from make-believe.

      3. Xantar*

        In my experience, “calm down everybody” has never been a useful contribution to an online conversation.

      4. yala*

        I mean, if someone has had a problem with suicidal ideation, then no, they probably shouldn’t play the roll of a character that commits suicide on stage, because that could be very triggering.

        I don’t know why you’re talking about “reality from make believe.” If OP went through with it, then the REALITY would be that they were REALLY rubbing their REAL actual body all over their report’s REAL actual body. They would REALLY be kissing their REAL mouth.

        That’s just a can of worms better left sealed tight.

      5. Keymaster of Gozer*

        As someone who sometimes DOES have problems separating reality from what’s going on in her head: no.

        It’s a simple thing that while acting alongside a direct report can be completely harmless; doing things that require pushing past a certain boundry (like snogging, violence, pretend sex) can irrevocably damage the working relationship afterward. I’d have no issues with my boss say acting as a friend in a play alongside me but the instant they have to manhandle me or try anything sexual or violent – even if just acted – it would be highly inappropriate.

      6. Spero*

        I think your perspective might be valid if it was just ‘I’ve been cast in a play as the bad guy, will this cause an issue with coworkers/image problem for the company.’

        But the issue is whether it is ok to sexually harass/assault an EMPLOYEE, even in ‘make believe’ and the answer to that has to be firmly no. No in make believe, no off site, no on site, no in all circumstances.

    6. Free Meerkats*

      Could be worse, he could be playing Bill Sykes in ‘Oliver’ and beating her to death.

    7. B Wayne*

      My goodness! I feel icky just reading the details of the production. As someone who felt weird seeing anyone I’d work with outside the work environment (ie, running into them at the grocery on Saturday with everyone dressed in home on the weekend clothes doing normal home on the weekend chores) I cannot even imagine having to ask if interacting in a play together would be a bad idea. Do set design on this one! And coordinate on new projects to not have a similar dilemma later.

  2. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

    A community theatre production is not as likely as professional film or theatre to have this role, but I could see #1 being more doable if the production has a good intimacy coordinator (someone who works like a fight choreographer or stunt director, but for physically intimate scenes) on set. That can turn those kinds of interactions into much more choreographed movement, with appropriate boundaries and consent across the board, and is part of a growing movement to make performance sets safer places.

    While an amateur set with power dynamics outside of the show is still probably too far, I think this is still worth mentioning as an additional factor that could influence a decision.

    1. a sound engineer*

      Even then I feel like the power dynamic that is already established makes it a hard no (and, as people have said above, since the OP is the higher up it should be on them to leave the production)

    2. Nikita*

      It sounds like 1 was comfortable with the scene before he realized who he would be doing it with. I’d also imagine his direct report was as well, considering she must have auditioned for the role. I don’t see any scenario (outside of the professional theater/film world) where it would be acceptable for a boss to very publicly act out a sexual assault scene against an employee. That’s not exactly a great look.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I proposed going and asking the director something similar below. But I also have zero community theatre experience, so don’t know if that’s even possible.

          1. Ginger ale for all*

            I apologize about not seeing your post below when I wrote out my post. I did not intentionally copy you. I typed and retyped my question several times before submitting it and the time stamps on our posts are close. I think we just had the same thought at the same time.

          1. AgentofBway*

            Having done a lot of community theater that’s generally not how that works. Once a show is fully cast all roles are accounted for. Taking even a smaller role away from someone who was already given it is EXTREMELY unprofessional.

              1. Your Friendly Neighborhood Stage Manager*

                If you’ve cast someone as the lead and someone in a smaller role, it’s unlikely that that person in a smaller role has the skills necessary to take on the larger role, so just swapping roles likely wouldn’t work. Even in community theater, assuming it’s being done right, directors consider very carefully how they are casting. While I agree that the LW bowing out is necessary, it’s going to cause a whole domino effect of recasting which is going to cause big issues for the director and staff. Recasting a lead is really difficult.

                I’m so sorry, LW, this must be SUPER disappointing for you. I’ve done community theater in my area for years; yeah, we do it in our free time, for fun, but we all take it pretty seriously and want to put on quality productions and get invested in our work, and this would be a tough pill to swallow.

                1. Working Hypothesis*

                  If the LW leaves the production, the director will need to promote *somebody* into the role they left. In my experience, usually that’s someone else who’s already with the cast — it’s rare that they’ll go hire somebody else off the street for it. That leaves a smaller role available. Maybe that role wouldn’t be appropriate for the LW (although the odds are better if the LW’s role was considered appropriate for the person who left the smaller part; at least age and gender should correspond) but it probably can’t hurt to ask.

                2. Sondheim Geek*

                  It’s not a given that someone already in the cast would be promoted to the lead role. In my experience it’s just as likely that someone who was up for the lead role but wasn’t cast at all (either they were only interested in the lead role or the director didn’t feel they were right for any other role) would be contact to see if they are still interested.

                3. Aggretsuko*

                  In my experience, when someone drops out, the director (or someone else in the production) asks an actor friend if they can step in.

                4. EchoGirl*

                  I don’t think that’s necessarily true. You can have multiple people audition who have the skills to play the lead, but there’s only one role, after all; some of the people in secondary roles might have also been candidates for the lead but lost out to OP, so the director instead cast them in other roles. For all we know, it’s potentially a win-win-win: the director doesn’t have to find a replacement, OP gets to still take part in the show, and an actor who auditioned for the lead and initially didn’t get it would probably be thrilled to move up.

    3. PT*

      Honestly I could see a community theater production being willing to cut or drastically alter a scene like that, specifically for reasons like this. Especially if it’s a small community and their pool of talent isn’t that big and replacing the actors is the more difficult option. Everyone in the community has to live and work together after the play wraps, and the theater group isn’t going to benefit if they create situations where people’s jobs are jeopardized or they face significant social repercussions over roles they performed.

  3. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

    I do think it’s relevant to ask what OP #1’s employer does. If it has nothing to do with the arts world, then Alison’s advice is spot on. On the other hand, if this is an arts organization, I would actually have more issues if the manager and report are **unable** to work together after this play. What you’re describing is par for the course in performing arts, and I would expect people to be able to perform scenes such as this then be completely professional in day-to-day settings (and I’m including arts admin setting, not just future performances). And as Polyhymnia said, a good coordinator is going to go a long way for this.

    1. Fabulous*

      Agreed. As a fellow theatre nerd, you have to be professional about these type of things. You’re literally kissing married people, brother and sister could be cast as love interests (but hopefully the director is smarter than that), or in my case, I had to play opposite a 15 year old when I was 28. You rise above the awkwardness of your real-life relationships and make it work.

      If it were me, I would at least have a conversation with my direct report to see how uncomfortable they felt, and then come to an understanding and agreement. Either one of them bows out, or you move past the awkwardness and put on a great show!

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Yes, the other employee needs to be part of this decision. If I was cast alongside my manager and then the manager bailed, I’d assume it was because they didn’t trust me to be professional on set and that would have huge implications when I was at work. AND if they are both actors and they aren’t allowed to be in dramatic scenes together then one will have to pretty much quit the stage. That is something that has to be discussed between the two.

        1. PersephoneUnderground*

          I think the power differential means LW has to start from the assumption they have to bow out, because the direct report might not be comfortable saying yes in a conversation like “Hey, so I was cast as Villain, do you want me to drop the role since it would be awkward at work?” It’s too easy for a subordinate to want to say “oh no, I’m fine” and maybe even convince themselves they’re fine with the situation when ultimately they’re not, or it ends up feeling weird despite what they thought. I don’t know if it’s possible to ask the direct report this in a way that avoids the possibility that sort of thing. Bowing out unilaterally because LW is uncomfortable themselves is the safest option here.

          1. AndersonDarling*

            I was thinking more of a conversation where the manager states what they are doing and why, so the employee is clear why the manager is leaving and that there is no room for misinterpretation. But also, it’s possible the employee was considering quitting the play for completely unrelated reasons and this gives them the chance to bow out before the manager does. It would be awful for both to quit when they could have had a conversation.

    2. The Happy Graduate*

      While I see where you’re coming from, it’s still an uncomfortable power dynamic because it’s boss/manager and coworker. If these were two colleagues who were on the same level, in different departments, etc. I can see your viewpoint a bit more, but at the end of the day even if you were in an arts field, would you actually be perfectly fine to have your manager passionately kiss and “assault” you? It’s much safer/wiser to just not even have this be an option at all regardless of field/organization they work in.

      *”assault” in quotations because it’s acting and not legitimate.

      1. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

        Yes, I would be comfortable with it; that is literally part of my job. If the OP or the employee cannot separate the artistic work from the administrative, then they need to get out of the artistic side entirely; I’m in agreement with everyone there. However, it is completely common (and reasonable to expect) that professional artists are able to do this. I’ve played across from people I can’t stand and/or have power imbalances with many times because whatever our outside feelings, we play off each other wonderfully. We’re intimate on stage, cordial during other working time, at completely opposite ends of the bar when we all get together socially, and completely ignore each other otherwise. That’s the job.

        1. Disco Janet*

          Thank you for the perspective of someone who has actual experience with this! Honestly, a lot of the responses here seemed a bit hyperbolic to me – yes, it sounds crazy awkward to me, but for people who are serious about acting, I had imagined it would feel very different. This isn’t really an area I feel qualified to have much of an opinion on due to my lack of experience!

          1. AndersonDarling*

            I acted in some really dynamic plays when I was in high school and never even thought about ruining my relationships outside of the set. And that was in high school when I was emotionally a baby compared to the working adult I am now.
            To me, it’s almost like saying that the manager and employee can’t be in a football league if their respective teams are too competitive. I’d think there would be more of a chance of awkward workplace interactions when two players are personally insulting each other on the playing field rather than controlled scripted lines in a play.

            1. yala*

              That doesn’t seem like a remotely fair comparison. The football league doesn’t involve sexual contact.

              In high school we acted with our peers, not with people who had control over our jobs. (And lbr, high school drama club relationships were…A Lot.)

              If this was just a coworker, maybe this would be an overabundance of caution. But a direct report? Nah, it’s not a good look)

        2. Emilia Bedelia*

          These are not professional artists, however. It’s not a matter of the acting job ruining a social relationship – in this case, it’s a hobby that has potential to impact their actual day job. They cannot sacrifice their working relationship for the play.
          Professional actors certainly have the experience to separate themselves from their characters and approach acting as a job, but OP or the employee may not even have had that experience of having to separate their personal life from their acting role. They might think they can be objective, but just like other letters about people who want to date someone they work with, it’s hard to know ahead of time whether you have the emotional capability to do that… and it would be even worse to get halfway through the production and realize that it’s having a detrimental effect on the work relationship.
          I think it’s also worth considering the perception of the situation if anyone else from their workplace were to see the show. Would OP be comfortable if THEIR manager watched the play and saw them playing that role with their direct report? Even if OP/employee are okay with it, I think this could raise questions with others. As a first time manager, OP also doesn’t necessarily have a track record of good judgment to balance it out. Perhaps unfair, but OP should probably take the more conservative approach.

        3. Jack Be Nimble*

          I think my response to this question comes down a lot just how “professional” this production is. My immediate association with “community theater” is “budget of $0, performed in the rec room at the library with rank amateurs,” but I’ve also seen community theater productions that were extremely polished with actors who’ve performed professionally.

          If it’s the former, then I think it’s not realistic for the OP and his direct report to separate their extant power dynamic from the role. But if it’s a more professional production with more experienced actors, it might be more realistic.

      2. Sparrow*

        I’m going to assume they don’t work in arts administration, since there’s a decent chance they would’ve seen this kind of thing happen before and know how others have handled it. So in this case, I completely agree that the boss should go in with the intention of removing himself from the role. I do think it’s a good idea to give the employee a heads up and explain his plan and reasoning so she knows it’s not personal/he’s not questioning her ability to remain professional at work, but asking definitely creates the possibility that she’ll feel pressured to say it’s ok.

    3. sasha*

      Yeah, I used to work at an arts org and MANY of my coworkers were cast in productions together. I remember one person laughing awkwardly when telling me about an audition, saying if she got the role she’d have to kiss someone who used to be a manager at our org. He had recently left so it was a bit different, and the theater community just isn’t that big.

    4. Observer*

      The performing arts world is pretty dysfunctional in many ways, and this conversation illuminates that dysfunction.

      The power dynamics are real and so are the effects of the specific roles being discussed. Pretending that it’s “unprofessional” to acknowledge and act on these realities may be par for the course but it does not make it sensible or appropriate.

      1. serenity*

        This feels judgmental. I’m not sure how the OP benefits from being told their hobby (or, as far as we know, the field they are in) is “dysfunctional”. They can bow out of playing this role pretty easily with no harm done to anyone.

        1. Observer*


          It’s useful for the OP to know that their hobby may be great, but that it would be a serious mistake to import the norms of that world into the workplace.

        2. yala*

          Well, the comment this was responding to felt judgmental as well.

          There is a conversation to be had with coercion and “that’s just the way it is” in the performing arts community. Maybe not here. But I also don’t see how OP benefits from folks acting like this is NBD and anyone who thinks it is is overreacting.

        3. Caramel & Cheddar*

          The hobby isn’t being described as dysfunctional, it’s the power imbalances that are all to common and brushed aside in this sector that are dysfunctional. This kind of thing is rife in the arts; just because it’s common and lots of people have made their peace with it doesn’t mean it *is* okay or that people should be forced to suck it up just because others have.

    5. EventPlannerGal*

      I mean, I would think that if OP works directly in the performing arts in the kind of environment where it’s expected and par for the course that coworkers should perform scenes like this together then they probably wouldn’t be writing to Alison about it.

  4. Aggretsuko*

    Holy shiiiiiiiiiiiit, #1. Even if you were totally professional in both contexts and both of you were okay with it, I shudder to think what would happen if other coworkers found out about it. Or your supervisor.

    Now I’m really glad there’s only one other actor at my work and we perform at different theaters and aren’t actually ever working together on anything.

    1. DD*

      Why do you shudder to think what would happened if coworkers or a supervisor found out? Maybe it’s just me but I can’t think why I’d be all shocked, disturbed, whatever to find out that two people I worked with were in a play together and kissed or fought as a part of the performance.

      Of course where I live it wouldn’t ever be a secret being as all community theater productions get a write up in the paper including the names of all the actors and an overview of the story.

        1. DD*

          I don’t know what the play is so I don’t know the extent of the scene so I just picked some words. But okay, it’s a sexual assault scene. I would not be shocked or disturbed to find out that two coworkers were in a play where they had to act that out. It wouldn’t make me think less of either one of them. I wouldn’t think it was inappropriate of them to have participated in the play together. I legitimately don’t understand what would scandalous about it.

  5. MommaCat*

    #1, talk to your director, maybe there can be some shuffling of roles so that you aren’t playing that role opposite your direct report. Because yes, you can’t be in that role with your direct report. And I’m not sure if the power dynamics would mess things up, but you can talk with your direct report to see what they want, too. Would they feel uncomfortable in the assaulted role if you played a different character, or would it be too weird for you to be in such a heavy show with them at all?

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I think this is worth trying, if you really want to stay in the play. Otherwise OP1, just bow out gracefully, using the wonderfully vague “outside commitment conflicts.” But I have to agree with Alison here, you just can’t keep this role in this play – the conflicts because of your day job are just too great to overlook.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Clarifying my comment – I would only try the approach the director and see if you can be recast into a different role – I don’t think I would approach the person you supervise – that would just feel wrong to me.

      2. Artemesia*

        drop out with ‘outside commitments’ and you don’t get cast again because you are unreliable. I’d just tell the director the truth and see if you could take another role.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          If that is the case – then yes, but I think talking to the director/casting board would let you know if it would be a “will never be cast again” sort of thing.

          I have zero community theatre experience, so I will bow to those who have it. In my few experiences with community choral or band groups it is possible to say I can’t be in this week/moth/series because of personal conflicts, and still get a fair try out again later when schedules permit.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            That’s earlier in the cycle, though. That’s like saying you won’t audition for this play. Here LW has already auditioned and been cast.

            1. Elenna*

              Yes. This is going to be a pain in the ass for the director to recast everything, and for the actor(s) who have to suddenly change roles – if LW just drops it for nebulous “outside commitments” it would really look like LW doesn’t respect others’ time at all (not to mention people will wonder why LW couldn’t have thought about those commitments and dropped out earlier in the process). I think it’s perfectly reasonable to just say “I’m sorry, but I just realized so-and-so is my direct report, so unfortunately I’ll have to drop the role.”

            2. SimplyTheBest*

              Exactly. Think of it in work terms. This is you’ve been hired for a job and you flake out after the first day. That company is not hiring you again.

          2. Emilia Bedelia*

            In this situation I think the conflict of interest is so obvious that there’s no reason for OP to NOT tell the truth. Dropping out of a show once cast is a big deal, especially when you are the lead. There was no way to avoid this ahead of time so it’s better to OP to explain the situation to make it clear why they have to drop the role at the last minute.

          3. Observer*

            . In my few experiences with community choral or band groups it is possible to say I can’t be in this week/moth/series because of personal conflicts,

            Letting people know before you audition is one thing, it’s another when the production is this far along. Also, with choral groups, unless you are a soloist with a significant role (a lot of solos or just some really important / difficult ones), it’s often a lot easier to move forward one person down and / or to replace someone. This is especially true if any given series doesn’t use the entire group and the group uses a repertoire that everyone in the group knows and has practices at least a little.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              The times I had to drop out it was well after auditions – and also well into rehearsals as well. It never impacted me later – but I’m also a common voice and common instrument – so easier to replace perhaps.

              And the situations were also so private and still in motion that I didn’t want to be more specific than “personal reasons.” Privacy, especially when others could be impacted, is still valid and important. The only blowback I got when auditioning next season was, “have things improved to the point you can finish the season?”

        2. Harper the Other One*

          Second this. You should definitely tell the director why you need the change and/or to drop out. And I think in OP’s shoes I’d also tell the report immediately that’s what I was doing because she may be debating whether she should drop the role.

        3. MCMonkeybean*

          I highly agree–I think most reasonably people in a community theater would understand why they were not comfortable with this. There is no reason to lie about it, which just makes you seem flakey and unreliable. If you back out you definitely need to be clear about why if you don’t want them to blow you off in future auditions.

      3. Observer*

        . Otherwise OP1, just bow out gracefully, using the wonderfully vague “outside commitment conflicts.”

        The OP should only do that if you also want to bow out of the theater world altogether. Dropping out of a major part at the point where rehearsals are basically starting is a BIG deal. You only do that when you REALLY don’t have a choice. And even then, if it was something you could have foreseen, you are going to look really bad. “outside commitment conflicts” means that either you have something really problematic to hide or you are just unreliable and not to be trusted.

        The OP’s issue is not something they need to hide. They shouldn’t act like it is. I do want to know why the cast didn’t get the cast list ahead of time, though.

        1. yala*

          Your comments are reminding me a lot of my college theatre teacher.

          That’s not a good thing.

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            I agree with Observer that if the LW drops out now with no explanation, it’s likely to burn a bridge, which will hurt his ability to participate in a hobby he enjoys. In contrast, if he does explain why he’s dropping out, he is more likely to retain the good will of the community*. Or is that not correct?

            *I don’t know about theatre specifically, but in the amateur classical music “scenes” in places I’ve lived, networking is huge in terms of finding opportunities to actually participate in things, and I think this must be sort of similar?

    2. tommy*

      I don’t feel like the direct report would necessarily feel free to answer honestly — which is one aspect of the power dynamic that’s already in place.

    3. PspspspspspsKitty*

      This is what I was going to suggest. Talk to the director and explain the situation and make it clear that you can’t have this dynamic over someone you manage in your career.

    4. allathian*

      Talk to the (casting) director, yes, but please don’t ask your report. It’s possible they won’t feel safe giving an honest answer and may feel pressured to drop out unless you do.

      1. Elenna*

        Eh, that’s exactly why I *would* tell the report, so that they know that I’m going to drop out and they don’t have to.
        I wouldn’t phrase it as “do you feel comfortable with this”, though, because a) as you said, they may not be able to give an honest answer, and b) regardless of whether they’re comfortable, OP isn’t comfortable, so this isn’t OK. I’d just say something like “FYI, I know this is awkward, so I’m going to talk to [director] about my dropping out or switching to a different role”.

      2. Observer*

        I agree. Do NOT ASK them. Just TELL them that you realize that this is totally inappropriate and therefore you are dropping the role to avoid putting everyone in a difficult situation. Make it clear that you are not blaming them nor do you suspect that they are not going to be professional.

    5. Mama Jo*

      Explaining to the director your circumstances is the best route. The director may have better options recasting one role over the other. Unfortunately one actor will lose their original role.

  6. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    OP2, I get the feeling that you are embarrassed here – but you didn’t do anything worth being embarrassed about. Your boss, on the other hand could seemingly use some lessons in handling professional changes more gracefully. Go on to the new role with a clear conscience.

    1. Mercurial*

      Just to add, if I myself were the recruiter, receiving a call of that nature, I would have OP’s decision to leave completely clarified and their reasons supported – and all without OP themselves saying a word. I certainly would not judge OP negatively for it!

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        My thoughts too. If I was the recruiter I would be well that explains why she’s leaving. I wouldn’t want to work for that manager either.

      2. Observer*


        We’ve heard from people who have worked at toxic workplaces, and when they are getting out and they mention to prospective employers who they are trying to leave from, the employers don’t even ask why they want to leave. Rather it’s a knowing nod and “Oh, gotcha” type of response. If I were the recruiter, I think I would have that kind of response to anyone else I ever worked with who was working for your manager.

        1. Joan Rivers*

          I would think it’s professional to thank manager for the contract when not renewing it, but also say the reason why; in this case, not a good fit w/the manager.
          I would think it’s professional for LW to offer to discuss that if mgr. wishes.
          And I would think it’s professional for Manager to ask to discuss it.

          I would think the same thing if it were a PT grocery bagger or newspaper deliverer. How is anyone’s feedback unimportant?

    2. Katrinka*

      That recruiter is probably very happy that LW’s manager said no; they dodged a bullet there.

  7. GammaGirl1908*

    Maybe this is the result of not being Caucasian / lighter-complected (so facial redness is not a thing I notice in myself; my face gets hot, but does not change colors), but flushing or blushing or blotchiness in others is a thing I almost never notice.

    Unless the person has just done something terribly embarrassing in public, or they are sobbing, or a similar situation where the redness is a side effect of some situation that I can clearly see (so I would notice them falling down the steps and splitting their pants first, then maybe observe afterward that their cheeks are pink), it’s just not a thing where I pay any attention at all or see a huge difference. Certainly it’s never a problem or an indicator of a personality flaw.

    Do other people really even notice this in others? Am I just unobservant?

    1. river*

      I’m as white as they come — to the point it’s difficult to find makeup that matches, and I don’t visibly blush. Like you said, my face gets hot, but nothing shows. Skin colour is not a good indicatior of blushiness.
      If I see someone red in the face, my first thought is always that they’re hot. It’s a really common reason. If they don’t seem nervous, I don’t think people would assume that they’re red due to nervousness.

      1. Hazel*

        For the OP: You can turn off your picture for yourself. The other person sees you, but you don’t. I do this for a lot of my meetings because it helps me focus on what I’m doing instead of on my appearance. It really helps!

        1. Katrinka*

          It was an interview. Generally, you’d need to have a really good reason to shut off your camera during an interview, and “because I don’t like how I’m looking” is probably not a good enough reason. As Alison said, if the interviewers even noticed, they probably didn’t pay it much attention. If this were a friend of mine, I’d probably advise them to say something in their thank you note, if they felt very strongly that they needed to address it.

          1. EngineerGal*

            I think what Hazel was saying is, not turn off the camera, but turn off you seeing yourself

            I have to do this sometimes to keep myself from getting distracted by my covid hair (sad but true)

      2. dealing with dragons*

        plus you don’t know if someone is blushing or that’s just their complexion in an interview. I’ve never interviewed someone and thought anything bad about someone blushing or bad-complexion wise.

    2. I tap my foot when interviewing*

      As a Caucasian, I don’t think I’ve ever noticed it except when I’m teasing a friend about a crush or something slightly embarrassing. And then I take the flushed cheeks as a sign to stop. I genuinely don’t pay attention in any other situation. Plus people have much more noticeable nervous ticks, and they get hired too. I think interviewers expect everyone to be slightly nervous.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, I think so too. Maybe not nervous to the point of blushing, but certainly a bit tense and on edge. Certainly an interviewee who seems really laid back could give an impression of not being interested in the job.

        I can’t remember when I last blushed out of embarrassment. I’m fairly light-skinned, so my I blush if I’m out in the cold, or feeling hot after exercise, or because it’s warm outside. Intense emotion, especially if I’m angry or sad to the point of crying can also leave me completely blotchy.

        I hate the idea of recording myself on video. I can barely bear to listen to my recorded voice because it sounds so different in my head. I’m okay on actual video calls because then I’m focusing on the other attendees rather than myself, but looking at and listening to myself on video? Nope, nope, nope, not gonna happen. For that reason, if a video meeting I’m on is being recorded, I’ll switch off the camera if it’s on. If that’s not an option, I very probably won’t even consider watching the recording. If I have to do that, I’ll cover my own picture with a post-it note.

        I’m old enough that when I was a kid, video cameras were expensive and most people I knew didn’t have them. We didn’t even have a VCR when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s. So I never got used to seeing myself on video and I’m not going to start now. Luckily my job is such that it’s unlikely to require me to perform on video.

      2. Stevie*

        I’m half-Asian and half-white and don’t flush in regular situations, BUT like some other Asians, I can’t drink alcohol without turning deep red. I always feel like it’s super noticeable, but I usually get told that it isn’t. I’m still dubious, but I guess that is a sign things are more noticeable to ourselves than they are to others.

        I will say, though, that I have noticed colleagues who flush regularly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing! In a beloved former colleague of mine, I almost see it as it emphasizing their trustworthiness. Maybe it’s a sign of their humanity or that their face would give them away somehow if they were lying? No idea. In a former boss, it was a little bit scarier.

        I guess the takeaway is that I’ve never noticed blushing in someone I’ve just met. I’m too busy listening. In someone I’ve seen more often to the point that I could notice something like this, my mind tries to use this as emphasizing what I already know about them in some weird confirmation bias way. It doesn’t, on its own, change my opinion of someone.

        Takeaway #2 is that watching yourself on camera while you talk is a new, unknown circle of hell.

        1. Claire*

          Just so folks are aware, you can “hide self view” on Zoom so you don’t have to watch yourself on video in meetings or interviews.

          1. Mimi*

            Yes, I was hoping that someone would say this. OP may still be aware that they’re flushing, but at least they don’t have to stay in interview mode while watching it on camera.

    3. Grace*

      I get blotchy and red in very strange irregular patterns on my cheeks, neck and chest, when I’m too warm or embarrassed or nervous about public speaking.

      I’m very pale – always the palest shade of makeup, incapable of tanning – and people absolutely notice when I go red. Usually to ask if I’m having an allergic reaction. On one memorable occasion, to insist that I must be having an allergic reaction. (I was not. It was summer and I was too hot.) On the other hand, no-one’s ever brought it up in a situation when it was due to embarrassment or nervousness, presumably because they didn’t want to bring attention to it.

      If it looks especially bad over Zoom, sometimes I end up making a random comment like God, I knew it was warm in here, but this lighting is making me look even worse! just for my own peace of mind. Like, okay, I’ve addressed that now, hopefully no-one thinks I’m getting hives anymore, time to get on with my impromptu presentation.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Yes – normal blushing is not so noticeable, but extremely pale skin with red blotches can look very much like some sort of rash, and people can wonder if you’re 1) contagious and 2) okay.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Yep. It happens to me. When I drink alcohol, have too much caffeine, am nervous, am excited, am too warm, am worried that I’ll turn red. And it’s noticeable, too. I think in the OP’s case they would make the assumptions that Alison mentioned.

          I did read a trick a long time ago that if you try to make yourself blush, you can’t blush. I don’t know if it works (generally no mirror around), but it does make me feel better & like I have some control over the situation.

        2. Sylvan*

          Yeah, I’m not pale, but my skin’s done that thing a couple of times. Instead of an even blush across your cheeks, it’s like splotches on your face, neck, and collarbone with non-flushed patches mixed in. If I saw it on someone, I might wonder if they were very stressed out or allergic to something.

      2. Quinalla*

        Yes, I am the same where I am met with great concern. And I get flushed like that when embarrassed, angry, upset, etc. At least I’ve mostly been able to learn to control tearing up in the same situations, but the flushes I don’t.

        I remember in middle school and high school being teased relentlessly for my blushes/flushes and people trying to elicit them. I have come to embrace my lack of being able to hide my feelings at this point, people know when I’m upset so I no longer pretend things are ok when they aren’t.

        Anyway, blush/flush can be very noticeable, but after middle school/high school unless someone thought I was having an allergic reaction, it is rarely commented on and while something where people can often tell I am upset/embarrassed it hasn’t held me back that I’ve noticed. I felt like the tears were which is why I worked hard to get control there. It shouldn’t, but it does.

      3. A*

        Same! I call it ‘pinkaging’ because it happens more often than not and causes blotchy red spots all over my chest/neck up to my chin line. I rarely have people comment on it, but if they do it’s almost always out of concern that it might be an allergic reaction or a rash. I used to be self conscious about it and would dress to cover it up, make mention of it when I first met people etc. but a few years ago I just…stopped. It was exhausting, and it’s a physical reaction I can’t control and that isn’t tied to any specific emotion. Now I just go about my day and if it happens, it happens.

      4. Environmental Compliance*

        I wouldn’t say I’m super pale, but very definitely not superbly tanned either. I have rosacea and every darn time I get a flare up, somebody asks if I’m okay.

        Thankfully no one pushes at all once I say oh, I’m good, my skin just does this sometimes. But for sure if it’s bright like mine people do notice. Normal blushing isn’t noticeable IMO.

    4. Retail Not Retail*

      I notice it in people’s necks because that’s been a sign of overheating/allergies in most cases (and I say people but I mean like… 3 and 2 of them are relatives).

      As for zoom, unless you’re that person who wrote in about having money and an expert partner, most people doing interviews aren’t going to have everything professional and polished visually so I imagine people don’t notice. We notice because we don’t usually see our own face in an interview! Props to everyone who’s been successful, I have not yet.

    5. Monkey tree*

      People do notice. Polite people don’t care and/or know that it’s just a reality of being white and means nothing.

      But I have heard not-white colleagues laughing at it and commenting about it in the work place

      To plenty of us there – they looked really bad for doing so as it is considered incredibly rude and unprofessional to mock people’s skin colour.

      I’ve also had people ask if I’m ok not understanding that red face doesn’t mean anything. But they learn.

      1. MK*

        I disagree that people notice and don’t say anything out of politeness; the truth is that we are profoundly less interesting to others than we think, many people don’t pay enough attention to notice and also, something that looks incredibly noticeable in the mirror is very likely to pass completely unnoticed (Due to covid, I haven’t been to the hairdresser since Christmas, my haircut has gone wild and I show a lot of grey hair. Last week at work three separate people commented on how great my hair looked and how nice it is to be able to go to salons once more. I don’t know if we have just gotten more used to more natural looks or if I was just having a great hair day).

        Also, people who mock others are simply rude and it has nothing to do with them being not-white, or even with whether they have the same issue themselves sometimes.

        1. Myrin*

          I mean, I wouldn’t go so far as to say “People do notice, period.” and I very much agree with the assertion that we everyone cares more about their own looks than that of others, but there definitely are people who do notice. I am one of them. Granted, I’m generally very observant just by nature, but I notice a lot of “unusual” things about people all the time and I indeed don’t say anything out of politeness (and also, frankly, because it has nothing to do with me).

          1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            Yeah, I think it’s more: some people notice, most people don’t. And then: of the people who notice, only a small amount of them will care or find it meaningful.

            I’ve also found that different people seem to routinely notice different details. I don’t tend to notice skin flushing, for example, or skin in general (once I knew a girl for *years* and didn’t really clock that she had chronic acne until she started complaining about it to me). On the other hand, I always seem to spot people’s haircuts and I seem to unconciously develop a mental catalogue of people’s wardrobes – I can always tell when colleagues are wearing something new!

            I remember this coming up when there have been posts in the past about busty people/cleavage in the workplace. It was interesting to see how many people were arguing that noticing busts is unavoidable, that they can’t help but notice them….and there was a whole separate chorus of “honestly, I just don’t notice that”.

            1. Threeve*

              I usually notice flushing (would never, ever comment on it) but most of the time I’m just honestly impressed with the person.

              Because if their tone/body language/etc otherwise gives no indication that they’re uncomfortable, and they just have this one clue that most people really don’t notice, it means they’re basically really calm and professional.

              I remember a classmate in college giving a really excellent presentation. She was well-prepared and eloquent. She was also redder than I’d ever seen her. And my main thought was how jealous I was! I would probably be up there umm-ing and fidgeting and looking at my notes too much. She had one single tell that showed she was nervous that people who didn’t know her probably wouldn’t clock at all.

            2. Myrin*

              Oh yeah, definitely. I’m an allrounder in that regard – just three days ago, I had a talk with my sister about how I would 100% be able to identify every one of my coworkers and friends by a picture of their butt in jeans; I don’t go out of my way to extensively study their backsides, I just notice. I literally couldn’t tell you how or why, I just know that I’m a visual learner as well, so it might have to do with my ability of… visual processing?

              Our mum, on the other hand, is the complete opposite – you’re lucky if she can tell you what colour hair any given person she doesn’t already know whom she’s interacted with for even lengthy amounts of time had. She was recently trying to describe a new bus driver on our regular route to me and my question of “Did he have glasses?” was met with an incredulous “Well, I didn’t look at him that intensely”. She would be the worst possible person to have as a witness to any kind of crime.

        2. SimplyTheBest*

          Plenty of people notice and do point it out. I can’t believe there’s any kind of correlation between people who notice flushing in others and people who are rude, so there has to be plenty of people who notice and being polite, do not point it out.

      2. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Your not-white reference has made me vaguely uncomfortable. I’m not white, and would never dream of mocking anyone’s skin color. Is this really a racial thing? I don’t think so. White people used to rub on black people to see if the color would come off. Now that was rude and ignorant.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          As a white person who turns red easily, I’ve only ever had other white people comment on it. And it’s annoying, but definitely NOT comparable to what a POC has often had to endure in having their appearance monitored.

          1. Former Young Lady*

            Yup, this! Pasty-complected redhead with a hair-trigger blush, here, and the only colleague who ever harassed me was one of those olive-skinned brunette white women. (She asked me to “stop” doing it because it was “upsetting” her.)

        2. Julia*

          I think the point of “I have heard not-white colleagues laughing at it and commenting about it in the work place” is that they heard people who are *not susceptible to blushing”* laughing and commenting.

          I’m not white, so blushing is somewhat unfamiliar to me, and in my younger days I could’ve seen myself laughing immaturely about it. Because it’s a bodily difference – my body doesn’t do that – and lack of familiarity can sometimes breed insensitivity. These days I’d hope I would have more maturity, of course.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I have a very dear Indian friend, his skin is pretty dark, darker than the average Indian, and he happens to blush very easily. I find it very charming. He blushes right down beneath his collar. It’s more visible on white skin, for sure, but with him it’s not so much the colour of his skin that changes, but there’s a kind of sheen to his skin that it doesn’t normally have. Like you can also tell if a dark-skinned person is too hot, their skin will be shiny.

      3. Forrest*

        This feels like an attempt to equate bad manners (mocking a white person blushing) with the serious violence of structural oppression based on race. Seriously, the former is nothing like the latter and it’s incredibly trivialising for you to suggest it is.

        1. Julia*

          I didn’t read Monkey tree was equating that incident with systemic racism, or even calling it racist.

    6. Asenath*

      I’d say most people either don’t notice or don’t comment on redness. I’ve got a very pale complexion, and although I don’t blush easily, my face often turns bright red if I’ve been out in the cold. I remember that being mentioned only once, by a co-worker. I just laughed and said sometime like “Yes, I always look like this when I first come inside from this kind of weather”, but a couple other co-workers overheard, spoke up and told him he shouldn’t make such comments. I wasn’t offended, but maybe they thought a comment on my personal appearance was out of place.

      1. Asenath*

        And just to clarify in terms of Monkey tree’s comment, in my case, I and all three co-workers am white, so it wasn’t a case of them noticing it because they were non-white and I’m white. I didn’t think the comment was mocking, either, but it was thought to be inappropriate by some people present.

    7. mreasy*

      I have a couple of friends who flush when they drink red wine, but I don’t notice it until they say something. I am actively interviewing on video calls right now, and I can’t imagine I would notice this – and if I did, I would just assume it was hot or they had rosacea or something unrelated to the role.

    8. pleaset cheap rolls*

      Adding that one good thing about the rise of video calls is the ability to see more often how one presents oneself.

      For the OP, it might be worth playing with lighting and settings in their webcam to reduce color saturation or even redness, such as changing the white balance in the camera and/or using different lighting. If they’ll be doing a lot of interviews, it might be worth considering a light where the color temperature can be changed – there are many such desklights and ringlights available at reasonable prices now.

      @river “Skin colour is not a good indicatior of blushiness.”
      Well, it’s accurate to say if blushing happens it is is more noticeable on light skin.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          Haven’t tried that – I’m a black guy. Perhaps I should. But my skin is pretty uniform so far, so color control via light/computer has worked well so far.

      1. F.M.*

        I discovered when I started teaching by Zoom that my background made me look pink. Like, “sunburnt” or “drunk?” levels of flushed-pink, as a default. (Probably something involving color correction, and the rather bright white behind my pale self.) I ended up getting a cheap canvas wall hanging to put behind me, and it helped enormously.

        It won’t do much for the kind of flushing that makes for bright splotches against pale skin, but could help a lot with “whole face goes pink” issues.

    9. twocents*

      I don’t notice general blushing. I do have a coworker who gets VERY red and splotchy when she’s mad, so I definitely notice it in her.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Two thoughts OP and FWIW.

      I have trained a lot of people. Of all the people I trained only two were not nervous. And those two were the worst workers I have ever seen. I concluded that people get nervous because a job means something to them. They want to do well. IF, (notice Big IF), I happened to notice discomfort, I think to myself, “This is important to this person. They want to do well.” And that is the end of my thought. I too turn red a inopportune times. No one has said anything.

      I am working with someone now who is new to their job. She will point out to me, “See how red I am???”. Uh, actually I did not notice until she mentioned it. Once she gets used to the job that will fade, no doubt in my mind. So I keep telling her, “No, I really did not notice that.” And that is the truth.

      I’d suggest starting the interview with cooler clothing, this might be one of those times where being a little cool before the interview is a small price to pay to help with discomfort later on.
      The other thing I suggest is hydrating. I understand you don’t need a bathroom rush in the middle of an interview. So my suggestion here is the day before the interview, make sure you hydrate well. Having enough water in might help to dissipate the rush of heat.

    11. Lacey*

      I blush quite easily and, unfortunately, quite randomly. When I was younger people often pointed it out, but either it’s stopped as I’ve gotten older or people don’t feel the need to point it out anymore. I can’t tell when I’m blushing, my face doesn’t generally feel hot when it happens.

    12. Dust Bunny*

      Glow-in-the-dark white here: I don’t flush a lot.

      Also, I assume that any “discoloration” I see on faces in Zoom frames is because most of us are Zooming from spaces that have makeshift lighting. I might (might, but probably not) notice that somebody looked flushed but a) yeah, sometimes people look flushed and, b) it’s probably the lighting. It’s definitely not something to which I’d give any actual thought.

    13. Allonge*

      Frankly, I don’t notice (I am not especially observant), don’t care, and never understood why it’s treated a source of embarrasment to blush. I also have no idea what to do with blush as part of a makeup (I am white). I don’t know, blushes just don’t compute for me. I know it’s a thing, but… just, no.

      Also, if somebody was nervous in in a job interview – even in a visible way – as long as their reponses were intelligible, that would be ok too.

    14. Red*

      I have rosacea. I usually wear light foundation from a cosmetics line created just for rosacea and skin redness. It tones the color down but not completely. My neck and arms are usually flushed like a sunburn. Doesn’t bother me.

      Also, I use f.lux to cut blue light. My screens have a warm peach tone so everyone looks ruddy. On top of that, my laptop is an older model and the screen resolution isn’t as sharp as it used to be. So in Zoom meetings or video replays, the outline of your head appears to me as peach fuzz, lol.

      OP3, don’t worry about it. Each of us thinks we look terrible on screen and everyone else looks fine. In reality, we’re all focused on the substance of the meeting or interview while on screen. I worry more about sound quality so I can hear what everyone is saying.

      1. Em*

        Red, this might be off-topic, but which cosmetics line is that? I have rosacea and have never been able to locate a foundation that doesn’t cover it but also make it worse. I’d love a suggestion.

        1. SyFyGeek*

          I’d like to know that brand too.

          For OP3, I have rosacea, and even when it’s not flaring up, if I get overheated, embarrassed, nervous.. my cheeks go bright red. Not the rest of my face, my cheeks. So I use a green primer (ELF) under my make up. It’s not noticeable once it’s on, even without foundation.

          Other people may not notice your redness, but using the green primer gives me more confidence, then I’m less nervous, less likely to get flustered, less likely to turn red.

        2. Red*

          Clinique Redness Solutions. Complete line of face cream, spf/green corrector, powder, foundation, face wash, etc. Bit pricey, but is the only line I have found designed to treat rosacea specifically. I recommend the daily relief cream and the daily face wash at the minimum. I only use the other products if I’ve have a severe flare-up. Recommend trying only one or two products at a time – ask for samples to see how each works. It may still react a little at first if your skin is extremely irritated.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            thank you!! I have rosacea as well and have not found anything that works for me yet. I’ll give this one a try!!

          2. Em*

            Thank you! I work from home even in non-plague times, so I mostly am without makeup, but it’s always good to have something that works for particular meetings or special going-out.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        “we’re all focused on the substance of the meeting” or maybe all looking, horrified, at how awful we ourselves look on screen.

      3. pleaset cheap rolls*

        Nah, I look better than average on screen. Not the best, but better than average. I work on it in terms of light, camera, background, colors. My skin is pretty good so far in life. Many people look terrible. But it’s not their faces or skin or hair I’m judging, it’s their setups (and sometimes their clothes).

        You’re right that sound quality is super important, and our own sound quality is probably more important than our appearance in the impression we make on other people.

    15. Hillary*

      My hairdresser noticed about my skin, but she didn’t mention it until I said something casually 5+ years after the first time she observed it.

      We talk about it in team video calls, but we also all know that we’ve been playing with lighting in our home setups. Mine is the most difficult because I’m very fair skinned and the only woman. I bought a ring light with something like 30 brightness/color combos and eventually found something that makes me look not pink but also not about to pass out.

    16. fhqwhgads*

      Unless it were a visible shift from very obviously not red to very suddenly very red during the call, I probably wouldn’t notice, and even if I did, I wouldn’t assume it meant OP were nervous. I think my knee jerk reactions would run from “must be warm in there” to “this is probably crappy lighting and looks different in real life”.

    17. Richard*

      A few years ago, I interviewed a lot of students, nearly all young white women, for a campus job and my colleague and I noticed after a while that most of them were getting blotchy like this. We didn’t think anything of it, but it was noticeable and I’m usually pretty unobservant.

    18. HannahS*

      As someone who is also very pale (like, hard to find makeup light enough) AND blushes easily (thanks, rosacea!) yes, it’s a thing that other people notice and feel entirely comfortable commenting on. Loudly. To me. I turn very visibly red from my neck to eyebrows to ears when I feel any emotion at all that causes my heart to pound–fear, excitement, laughing, stress, etc.
      I seem to have grown out of it, somewhat, in the last few years, but I can’t tell if it’s because my rosacea is better now, or if I’m just a bit generally calmer. Certainly it was still really visible into my 20s.

      1. Batgirl*

        This is me too and people comment on it less as I’ve aged because I project a more calm demeanor, so people usually assume “warm”. In fact I often feel better (which results in less redness), if I suggest that explanation just as I feel all the blood about to move into my face: “Do you mind if I just open a window just one second? Very warm in here”.

    19. Al*

      I find that Zoom really makes reds visible, to the point where I have started regularly wearing foundation if I’m going to be in Zoom calls. I don’t feel self-conscious about my easily flushing, sometimes splotchy fair skin in person, but it seems much more visible on Zoom.

      Not saying you (or anyone else) needs to wear makeup if they prefer not to! Just that for me personally, once I saw how much Zoom seems to emphasize my redness, wearing makeup became my preference for online meeting.

    20. babyporkypine*

      I have had this exact same issue in zoom interviews! I wear a little more makeup on zoom than I would in person, in part to help camouflage this. I never normally wear foundation in person, but on zoom it doesn’t look like makeup (I think) and helps hide the blushing.

  8. Language Lover*

    LW #5

    If you feel the need to sell the job, I do think there’s something you can do that’s honest and ethical. You can offer to be a reference for your workplace. Obviously, if you’re miserable where you are, don’t put yourself into a position of having to lie but personally, nothing “sells” the potential of a job more than someone offering to be a reference for their place of business. While the actual job is important, my interest in actually pursuing a position does increase when I know there’s someone I can casually reach out to with questions. This is especially true if we’ve interacted professionally in the past.

    I’d follow Alison’s suggestion of sending an email but also add on “I’d be happy to answer any questions I can about the job or the company for people interested in the position so they should feel free to email me directly.”

    When people reach out, you can share what working there is like and if they ask about the specific role, you can be honest and say it is newly created so you don’t have the full sense of the role compared to the hiring manager.

    1. Reverse Networker*


      Selling the company is easy! :) It’s a wonderful place and my team is amazing – this role would be tangentially related to us. But the people I know that could do this role have advanced degrees or years and years of experience on billion-dollar projects. I’m asking them to be interested in (what’s currently) an entry-level position hampered by years of bad practice and duct-taped band-aid solutions. I’d love for all the over-qualified people to apply, that would be ideal. It just feels like I’m undervaluing or being patronizing to people that I know are absolutely experts, because while I understand the ultimate goal of the role, it’s not something I can share.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        Maybe the overqualified people you know have people working for them who have the aptitude and would be interested in moving, though.

        1. Reverse Networker*

          OH! Of course, I hadn’t thought of that – thank you, that’s a really good point.

          1. Lars the Real Girl*

            I get recruiting requests like this regularly “hey we have this entry-level (or junior or staff, etc) role – do you know anyone who may be interested?” It wouldn’t be awkward at all!

      2. Reba*

        This is why Alison’s script of “circulating the posting” is great — you’re not really saying anything about the colleagues, their level or skills, but just reaching out because they are in the field! They know people you don’t know, people who could be suited to the entry level role! And they also know their own situations.

  9. Classic Peg*

    I’m definitely imagining the play is Spring Awakening and now I have one of the songs stuck in my head. Fully agree with Alison, regardless.

    1. Jinkys*

      Lol, great minds! And noooooo!!!! Even the idea of singing “Touch Me” in front of my employees is giving me the heebie-jeebies, much less doing “that” screen with Wendla

      No good, or comfort can come of this letter writer. Try to switch roles or bow out.

    2. Khatul Madame*

      I am not too familiar with the American canon, so started matching the LW1’s situation to classical operas… until I realized that too many of those would fit in this situation. Sad.

    3. Lizzy May*

      And my first thought was Phantom of the Opera so guess who is stuck with that organ intro in her head now?

    4. Fabulous*

      I was thinking 9 to 5, but I can’t remember if Hart actually assaulted Doralee or not.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        Great, so if he’s Hyde they can just swap him with the guy playing Jekyll!

        (I kid)

    5. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, I keep wondering what the play was too. I’m afraid to think about it too hard.

      1. OyHiOh*

        As we’re all wildly speculating on which show this is, it’s fairly astonishing to note how many very popular, award winning, considered suitable for high schools to perform, shows have really difficult scenes in them.

        I’m not saying that directors should unilaterally steer away from difficult material – life is full of difficult things – but be far more aware, and much more proactive about power dynamics and consent and intimacy issues.

    6. OyHiOh*

      Heathers was my first guess, but that very much assumed the LW is female and direct report male (J.D. and Veronica in Dead Girl Walking)

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        Damn, that’s true and would slightly change some of my comments here where I was assuming a male lead actor who would probably have a much easier time getting a lead role again.

        It doesn’t change the advice because as the boss they are the one with more responsibility to make this situation okay, but honestly it would suck a lot more.

        1. OyHiOh*

          If it makes you feel better, OP1, I know of a situation a couple years ago where a brother and sister were both being heavily recruited to audition for a summer stock production of Le Miz. Both siblings are theatre nerds, with theatre nerd parents, so suffice to say their basic knowledge of american musical theatre standards is higher than average. The brother of the pair had gotten hints about which role the directors wanted him for and he said he would flat out refuse to audition if they put him in that role – because there was a better than average change he’d end up playing across from his sister and an onstage romance with his sister was just a bridge too far.

      1. Sondheim Geek*

        OP mentions a duet and I don’t think there’s a Streetcar Named Desire musical yet (unless you count The Simpsons).

        1. AnnieB*

          There is an opera, though! (Probably not what’s being performed in this case. Just trivia)

  10. Meera*

    LW3 – fellow stress flusher here too! It’s very annoying, especially the blotchy neck. If I know I have something stressful coming up, I try practice to reduce nerves; and do the turtle neck or scarf to cover my neck as much as possible and maybe a bit heavier makeup to lessen the effect. But seeing yourself would make it worse so is it possible to minimize the camera view? Outside of that it’s basically a physiologically response not really inside my control; so I try to ignore it and move on.

    1. OP 3*

      I think seeing myself definitely made it worse – I could see how bad it looked and felt embarrassed, and then of course the more embarrassed I got the worse the redness was! Vicious cycle.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Could you put a post-it note on your screen over yourself once you’ve established that your video link is working ok? I find my own face very distracting!

      2. Cat Tree*

        As someone who is now the interviewer, even if the flushing is due to nerves, so what! Every person conducting an interview has been on the other side of things, and most of us have felt nervous about it at some point. We recognize that it’s one possible response within the spectrum of normal human reactions.

        I can’t guarantee that I will have zero subconscious bias at seeing it, but it’s not something I would consciously hold against a candidate.

    2. Blue wall*

      Hiding self-view in Zoom is my favorite trick — I’m so distracting (for myself!) to look at.

      1. MCL*

        I was going to echo this! In Zoom it’s right click on your tile and “hide self view.” Your tile is still visible to those you’re meeting with but not you. Not sure if it’s a feature of other software.

    3. Outside Earthling*

      I get flushed and blotchy too and it can just be when I’m reasonably animated rather than under stress, for example laughing over something with a coworker. I have a very low threshold for the blotchiness starting! People have commented at work over the years but I have largely made my peace with it and don’t try to cover it up, unless I have to present to seniors, which I do very rarely anyway. It’s no big deal to me any more.

    4. An.On.*

      Fellow flusher here – I’m an attorney and I always seem to flush on court calls, even low stress, basic ones (“we’re continuing this for another 30 days”, etc) when I am not anxious at all. Client calls are not a problem, for some reason. I worry that it makes me look angry or distraught, but no one has ever commented, and I haven’t noticed any different in treatment. I try to focus on the rest of my comportment and message, and assume that I notice the flushing more than people who are strangers. Unfortunately that means I don’t have any tips for you, except to say: ignore it! Unless you’re showing other signs of distress, everyone else will.

  11. The Itchy and Scratchy Show*

    #3 – I had a very similar experience. I had a Zoom interview as well and wore a new, not washed linen shirt. It ended up being very scratchy around the collar and I could see my collarbones and neck fill up with red blotches more and more during the meeting. It bothered me a bit, as I am prone to blushing as well, but in the end, who cares? We’re all humans with skin that sometimes behaves in very wierd ways!

  12. Not Australian*

    Speaking as a bit of a theatre-buff, I would imagine it’s more likely the director will prefer to re-cast the co-worker; OP is a lead and it’s also a singing part (I’m guessing maybe ‘The Beggar’s Opera’?) which is always tricky in amateur productions and would be seen as more ‘valuable’ overall. That this could cause resentment with the co-worker is undeniable, and could also look like an abuse of privilege. In any case, I’m going to lay the blame squarely on the director here; this kind of casting needs to be done with half an eye to external factors as well as the good of the show itself, and talent is sometimes not the only factor to be considered.

    1. PollyQ*

      I’m surprised the two of them weren’t asked at any point to read together and that they only found out they’d be acting opposite each other after they were cast. Although perhaps that’s related to COVID?

      1. I should really pick a name*

        Casting can be handled a lot of different ways. I’ve been in a number of productions where people were cast basically on a solo audition.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          Yeah, the show I auditioned for this week said they don’t pre-cast and then we found out at the callbacks “Oh, we did pre-cast someone who couldn’t make the original auditions.” So if they made an exception for someone, you might end up with a surprise like that. They didn’t even have a callback for that role.

    2. Polyhymnia O'Keefe*

      Especially if the OP’s lead role is a male role. There’s no indication in the letter, but casting a singing male lead in community theatre can be tricky, to say the least.

      1. yala*

        I feel like there’s more leeway for a male singer to be…not great, than there is for a female singer. At least it sure seems that way in our community theater.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      That’s a good point. The OP would have to back out rather than have them recast their report, even if the director suggests it. Pushing your direct report out of a theatre production isn’t as icky as enacting sex scenes with them, but still not okay.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Agreed. This is not about what the director wants, but about the supervisor’s responsibility to the employee. OP should make it clear they will accept a role switch for themselves or to drop out, but that they do not want the employee’s role changed.

        1. Rob aka Mediancat*

          And — not knowing the director and knowing whether they’d try this, so this may be hypothetical — making clear that if the director shoves the report out anyway, that the manager still won’t be in the play in that role, so they’ll have to recast two parts.

        2. Smithy*

          This is important. Depending on the nature of the community theater opportunity, it’s very often a case of far more women auditioning than men. And the OP dropping out entirely without working with the director to hopefully find a solution that avoids an inappropriate dynamic but also doesn’t blow back on the direct report.

          1. Observer*

            And the OP dropping out entirely without working with the director to hopefully find a solution that avoids an inappropriate dynamic but also doesn’t blow back on the direct report.

            Sure. But the OP must make it clear that they are NOT going to be playing that role. Period. Because otherwise, it’s really likely that the Director is going to try to spin this or claim that having an “intimacy coordinator” resolves the problem, etc.

    4. I should really pick a name*

      A community theatre directory probably isn’t going to know where the auditioners work.

      1. Elenna*

        This – it’s only the director’s fault if the director was previously aware of the work relationship, which seems unlikely. Otherwise it’s just bad luck.
        That being said, I agree with other commentators that OP should insist on being the one to drop the role. (The one maybe-exception I can think of is if OP’s current report can reasonably be moved into a role that is clearly larger/better than the one they currently have, and even then it would depend on if the report was comfortable playing a larger role.)

        1. Elenna*

          Actually, even with my exception, there’s gonna be awkwardness and upset for whoever used to have the larger role, so nevermind, yeah, OP should just drop out. Sorry, OP, I’m sure that’s not what you were hoping for.

        2. Observer*

          The actual casting was maybe not the director’s fault. But the Director DOES know that most, if not all, of the actors have day jobs. So at minimum, they should have provided the cast list to everyone as soon as it came together. This gives them some time to make changes if necessary.

          1. MCMonkeybean*

            I would usually expect to see a cast list before the first rehearsal, but it’s possible that OP wasn’t actively looking for one. For leads they often call you to make sure you will accept the role before finalizing the cast list, so once they knew they had the part there isn’t as much need to stalk the website for a cast list as there is for those of us who are always in the ensemble.

          2. OyHiOh*

            Yeah, this is one question I have too. The theatre I act at posts cast lists generally a week to two weeks before rehearsals begin. If someone needs to drop out, they’ve got time to replace the role before rehearsals actually start.

            1. MCMonkeybean*

              I’m very surprised to see people here saying they would expect to see a cast list two weeks in advance! In the shows I have been in there’s usually like maybe 4 days between when the cast list is distributed and the first read-through.

        3. Just Another Manic Millie*

          I agree that it’s unlikely that the director was previously aware of the work relationship, because I don’t see HOW the director was previously aware of the work relationship. The OP wrote, “Shortly after I started my new position, I was cast as the lead in a community theater production” and “We had our first cast meeting this weekend, and to my shock, one of my direct reports is playing this other character.” Even the OP had no idea that the direct report would be playing the other character, so how should the director have known? How was it the director’s fault? It hasn’t been said that the director worked at the OP’s company. I’m totally baffled as to why Not Australian is putting the blame squarely on the director.

      2. OP1*

        Yes. I live in a very large city, with a large population to go with it. It isn’t feasible to expect the directors to know where everyone works. I don’t blame the director (or anyone else) at all here. They had no way of knowing.

    5. Observer*

      Speaking as a bit of a theatre-buff, I would imagine it’s more likely the director will prefer to re-cast the co-worker;

      I can see why the director would want to do that. On the other hand, they would be stupid to actually DO that – and I hope the OP realizes that they simply cannot cooperate with this. As others have noted, it definitely creates an appearance of abuse of power, and I don’t care how “professional” people are supposed to be about this, the employee IS going to be upset by this.

      Of course, given that the director was not doing their job all too well in the first place, I could see them trying to convince the OP to do it. But, OP do NOT agree. This could go very wrong for you.

        1. Observer*

          Because they should have sent out the cast list right away. Either they knew about the problem in which case, there is not much to say. But, as I would guess is more likely, they did not know about the problem. But they did know that they don’t know about everyone’s non-theater lives, and so should have made sure to give people enough time to provide feedback if there is a potential issue.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I’ve done a little improv and community theater… I don’t think the director of a production like this has the responsibility to make sure there are no personal connections with the cast/crew members that would interfere. They’re adults, they can determine if it’s unworkable or not

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        It would not be stupid for the director to do that, it would be really normal. It is generally harder to cast men then women in community theater. But it would suck for the wco-worker so OP should definitely work with the director on the best solution and make sure that isn’t where it ends up.

        And I don’t know why you think the director has done anything wrong here, “hey do any of these names of other people who auditioned happen to be your direct report” is really not a standard question on the audition sheet. It’s possible they end up not handling the situation well, but there is nothing that has happened so far that indicates the director is not doing their job perfectly well.

        1. Observer*

          It would not be stupid for the director to do that, it would be really normal.

          The two things are not mutually exclusive.

          And I don’t know why you think the director has done anything wrong here, “hey do any of these names of other people who auditioned happen to be your direct report” is really not a standard question on the audition sheet.

          When you know that all of your cast have active professional lives outside of your theater, and you know that you can’t know of everyone’s connection, at minimum you send out the cast list as soon as you can so that if there is an issue, it can be flagged early. And if there is no issue, which is true the vast majority of time, no harm done.

          1. MCMonkeybean*

            Making the easiest and best casting decision for the play would be the director doing their job. Your opinion on what directors should do and what they are responsible for is just flat out not correct.

            And if they did not have a cast list then that would be a mistake but 1) we don’t know if that is the case there is nothing in the letter to make me think one was not available it is possible OP just didn’t like and 2) even if OP had seen a cast list… what would that change? Literally nothing, they would be in the exact same predicament except that they would have found out about the situation slightly earlier. But all the next steps and problems to sort through would still be here.

  13. Fizzy Kontini*

    Re: LW1, my stepfather was in plays in college, and then, out of the blue, decided to join one maybe the third year or so after he married my mother. There was all this big talk at the dinner table from him all the time about how great it it is to be in a play, how everyone should be in a play, blah, blah, blah. Lots of loud rehearsals in our house. My mother went to the play, and then there was never any talk about the play again, or being in plays in general. What happened? My stepfather conveniently forgot to tell my mother there would be, um, romantic scenes in the show. They both worked for the school district. Even at 13 years old it was easy to figure out it didn’t go well. So no, don’t do it.

    1. Fabulous*

      That’s on your stepfather, though. With open communication and an understanding of what happens in the acting profession, many people perform these types of roles just fine with no repercussions on their relationships.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. My parents regularly did Amateur Operatics and G&S. My father is significantly taller than my mother so was usually put with someone else in the dance / partner bits for aesthetic reasons. They were both cool with any romance scenes (and we’ve some lovely pictures of my father having to court another member of the company).

        I think the main thing was that they both knew that they were acting and they were both comfortable with it.

        It’s funny I do Argentine Tango (or I did before lockdown) and that’s a very intimate dance where you’re in close physical contact with someone. I’m trying to think if I’d be comfortable dancing with a colleague. I have met and danced with someone from a different part of the company at a social event but it was someone I didn’t know well and that made it easier. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable dancing tango with someone in my management chain because it’s too much intimacy and body contact for my comfort zone.

  14. Grey Coder*

    #4, I’m wondering how closely your suggestions for improvement align with the job you were hired to do. If it makes sense to produce an “end of project” report summarizing what you were able to achieve and what the next steps could be, then that might be an appropriate means of communicating your ideas.

    1. Not a Morning Person*

      That’s what I was coming here to say, too! It’s the perfect opportunity to create a “state of the company” or “state of the situation” report based you your experience and observations. Include any accomplishments over the year of your contract. Include opportunities for improvement you see. Do you know what a SWOT assessment is? It’s an assessment of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats you see. It’s often used by organizations that are working on their strategic plans to help them make plans for the future. Maybe you don’t do it exactly as a SWOT assessment, but create something like it – maybe just Strengths, Opportunities, and More Critical Needs for the organization, or base your assessment on whatever the reasons for your hiring. What did that person want you to do? Put your efforts and discoveries in an “end of project” report like Grey Coder suggests.

      1. Mockingjay*

        We do “Lessons Learned” – can be a report or an oral brief. List the good, the bad, the ugly (the latter usually addresses a workaround or a solution to a problem).

        Don’t, however, create a laundry list of needed suggestions and improvements. Pick one or two items and discuss succinctly.

    2. Pete Hornberger*

      The suggestions would align directly with what I was hired to do. But I admit, I don’t think the director understood how in-depth the process is.
      Like Not a Morning Person suggested, I performed a SWOT (+ many other tools), but would normally work side by side with admin to co-create solutions that respond the opportunity areas. Instead, the supervisor she planted me with didn’t like the SWOT results and took them as insults. Then proceeded to inform the Director I was unsupportive and disrespectful of the organization. All in all it got thrown completely out of proportion, became personal, and made it difficult to communicate with the Director directly. I guess this is why I would like to write the note; clear up some confusion and let he know I truly care about the future of the organization.
      I will also be delivering a “large business strategy” as well for a final deliverable.

  15. Jinkys*

    LW1: I imagined doing the Melchior and Wendla scene in Spring Awakening (1st musical that came to mind) with my boss and almost threw up!!!! Noooooo!!! Maybe it’s early enough in production to switch roles with someone else so you at least can still have the show in your resume, but if not, you’re going to have to drop out. I’m sure the director will understand. Sorry.

    1. Cassandraic*

      I was thinking The Fantasticks (El Gallo and Luisa) and cringing. Nope, not okay.

      1. Fabulous*

        I just directed this show a few years back. I’m pretty sure they don’t even let you perform the original version of the show. The scene is now called “The Abduction” and there’s really nothing in it (aside from some minor acrobatics) that would be considered assault. But that could just be the way I directed it, too!

  16. Fried Eggs*

    It’s possible they couldn’t even tell. Zoom tends to show your own video much more clearly to you than the people on the call.

    My family did a Zoom Christmas this year, and we all screenshoted the call as this year’s family Christmas photo. When we passed them around after, it was clear everyone looked very washed out on everyone’s display but their own.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yes, this is true. The lighting and settings in different rooms / on different monitors will impact this.

      I think also we look different in Zoom than we do in the mirror, and we tend to be very aware of those differences, so they can seem larger — but other people don’t have that comparison and so might not notice the features that we’re focusing on.

    2. pleaset cheap rolls*

      If you really want to test your appearance, set your account to save recordings in the cloud (not sure this is possible on the free account, but it is on the lowest level paid account). Then start a Zoom call with no one else, hit record to the could, talk for a few moments, then end the meeting. Then view your recording. Repeat as needed when yu make tweaks.

    3. Cat Tree*

      I’ve been avoiding salons like the plague since the beginning of, well, the plague. In person, in my mirror, my hair has tons of gray. On Zoom with my friends, you can’t see it at all and my hair just looks brown. The low resolution really helps.

    4. Lacey*

      That’s encouraging! I always think mine is SO high-res, you can see every freakin’ pore, while the lower quality of my coworker’s camera’s blurs them flatteringly. I’m going to hope mine is blurred on their screens too!

    5. Lily Rowan*

      AND a lot of us have probably had the experience of looking odd to ourselves, so there’s a lot of benefit of the doubt here on Zoom.

      But also like others have said, even if you were noticeably blotchy, if you sounded clear and confident, that’s what matters.

    6. Sacred Ground*

      Heh, the other thread reminded me that I was a theater major in another life and that this problem is solvable with lighting. Most people’s desktop camera and lighting arrangement is pretty awful.

      Sit back further from the monitor, even 6 inches will make a difference, and turn its brightness as far down as you can stand to work with. Big bright monitors will make you look washed out, kind of blue-ish. I see lots of folks using ring lights with their web cams which I don’t get why. Front light, bright white will certainly be the most revealing way to light a face, but hardly the most flattering.

      Light your face from the side with a desk lamp, ideally with a yellowish, warmish color to it.

      1. Marni*

        Ring lights have adjustable light levels and tones. At least mine does. There’s a medium-warm setting that flatters me like sunlight. Without it I’m a low-contrast blob.

  17. Percival!*

    #5- yes, this feel weird but as alison says, professional rules are different. I’m 38 and there’s a guy I worked with when I was 24 that reached out when I was ~35. “Hey, remember me from ABC Corp? I’m applying for a job at your company and would love the scoop.” We connected and had a great chat.

    I’ve also run into people at conferences from jobs a decade ago and had a great time catching up.

    I think of work networking/relationships like extended family: you last saw aunty Ann when you were six, but it would be weird if you didn’t talk to her the one time you both showed up at great grandma’s Christmas party. Or, you meet a second cousin twice removed and it’s no big deal to chat about family stuff.

    Regarding the job, post it on LinkedIn, email it to a few people asking them if they know anyone, etc.

    1. Reverse Networker*

      You know, there might be some social awkwardness on my part playing into this here. I’m never sure old relatives are going to remember me, I’m probably half convinced my former co-workers have no idea who I am. Which, putting into writing, seems really silly.

      1. Colette*

        If it’s someone you knew well (worked closely together for a long time), you’re fine. If you worked independently and never talked to anyone or if you were theree for a couple of months, they’re less likely to remember you. But in this case, it’s still OK to reach out with the info, since the OP is offering help, not asking for it.

      2. Filosofickle*

        I have that same idea that no one remembers me! It turns out everyone remembers me and that’s been proven over and over again, but I still have this sticky self-assessment that says I am insignificant and unmemorable. I assume people don’t want to hear from me after years, either and that belief sabotages my networking. I’m working on it!

        Once, a few years from after college, a couple hours away in another city, I was walking downtown. At the traffic light I looked to my right, there was a next door neighbor from my dorm! I was like, Hi, remember me? Filosofickle? From Dorm X? At College Y? And she was like, Yes OF COURSE I remember you, duh, why are you explaining so much.

  18. NoodleMara*

    #3 I think we are all more likely to notice things than other people are, especially with zoom. I find my own face extremely distracting on small zoom calls, so I usually drop my notepad app over my face so I can type and still look at the other person on the screen.

    1. RosyGlasses*

      There is actually a way to hide yourself … the three little dots in the top right of your video image – click that and then “hide self view” and voila!

  19. mreasy*

    Question 5 is an example of what LinkedIn can be good for. Lots of LI detractors on here (and for good reason as it sounds like it’s not used well in some fields), but this is the ideal use for it.

  20. Sunshine*

    1: Looking at the information offered on community theater further down the comment chain, I’m not seeing a super great path here. Either OP bails without explanation after committing to a major role, which is going to look really bad to the other people involved and may cause them to lose what appears to be a hobby they’re fairly devoted to, and also means that if they get cast again the problem may recur, or they explain the problem and run the risk of the other people involved deciding it’s easier to recast the other role. Is there a way to explain so that the problem won’t happen again, without any possible harm to the other employee’s hobby aspirations?

    3: My first assumption if someone was looking blotchily red on a Zoom call would be “oh, their camera’s not interacting well with the lighting”. It wouldn’t be anything about you personally. There’s also a good chance I wouldn’t even notice. Zoom camera slots are tiny.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      For LW 1, there’s a third option, give the reason they’re leaving the show, and leave the show. Even if the director offers to recast the co-worker, the LW can still just say no.

    2. Rob aka Mediancat*

      1. I’m still thinking bailing with explanation is better, as long as the OP makes it clear that they’re not going to continue in the role regardless, so if they recast the other role they’ll have two roles to fill, not one.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        *nods* Why wouldn’t LW1 just say “hey, head’s up, Other Cast Member is in my chain of command at work!” and the director would go “well, we can’t have that, that’s clearly a conflict of interest” and recast? We can assume everyone involved is a reasonable person…

        1. I should really pick a name*

          I’d argue that it’s the manager’s responsibility to make it clear that they will step out of the role to ensure that their report doesn’t lose their rule because of it. Some directors might not see a problem with the conflict.

          This column has time and time again shown that you can’t assume that everyone involved is a reasonable person :P

          1. Dr. Rebecca*

            It has, but let’s also not jump to assuming they’re the *least* reasonable person, hmm?

            1. I should really pick a name*

              I wouldn’t call them the least reasonable by any stretch, but a lot of people just don’t see a real problem with the conflict of interest. In the same vein as not seeing that it’s a problem to have your best friend as a direct report.

              “Well, we can’t have that, that’s clearly a conflict of interest” feels like an exceptionally good response to expect.

          2. Gray Lady*

            That doesn’t mean that LW can’t first request to be recast, and then bow out if the director isn’t reasonable/wants to recast the co-worker instead. The director being reasonable and fair *is* an option, though one that might not actually be available. It’s borrowing trouble to insist there’s no good path here until you find out there actually isn’t one.

            1. UKDancer*

              Definitely. I think it’s best to proceed from the assumption that people will be reasonable unless you have clear evidence that they won’t be. I’d suggest going to the casting director and explaining the situation and saying that you didn’t feel comfortable doing this role with this person opposite you given the power disparity. You may be the person with power but you’re within your rights to feel awkward about this and not want to do it.

              There may be a solution either to adjust the casting or to reduce the elements of violence in the way the staging works.

              But you won’t know what’s possible until you talk to the director. If they can’t resolve it then I think you should step down.

        2. Mockingdragon*

          Agree with others, I don’t think this is “clearly a conflict of interest”. It may be awkward but it’s not going to immediately read to everyone as a genuine problem.

  21. CatMom*

    OP 3, I find that my desktop camera specifically brings out all the redness in my face when I’m on Zoom for some reason. I’ll go and look in the mirror and my face will look totally normal, but I look very red on camera. I’ve found that Dr. Jart’s Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment helps a TON. It goes on green, but it fades to your skin tone (I’m a white person with a medium-light complexion and an olive undertone, but it’s one color fits most, I gather).

    1. Barbara in Swampeast*

      Yes, I recommend a green-tinted base to cover any blush/flush. I found out it when I read that Lady Diana Spencer had used a green base on her wedding day because she was prone blushing. She used Clinique, so I started using Clinique also. They still have a “Redness Solutions” foundation.

      1. blink14*

        Clinique Redness Solutions foundation is AMAZING. Prior to rosacea treatment, my skin used to be SO red all the time and very blotchy. I deal with flushing constantly, but this was consistent red blotching that nothing could hide until I tried the Redness Solutions foundation. It’s great for reactive skin, neutralizes redness well, and I still use it even with having the rosacea under control, because I have a lot of red undertones.

    2. pleaset cheap rolls*

      See if you can adjust your camera or lighting. A lot of webcam software has ways to adjust white balance or colors. If you are using artificial light for yourself, you could also try bulbs or lights with a different color temperature.

  22. FinallyWorkingRemote*

    OP3 you have my sympathy! I have mild rosacea and Renaud’s Syndrome so it is not unusual for my ears/hands/feet to be bright red (and hot!) or bluish white when cold. Don’t get me started on the hot flashes either, NOT helping!
    I talk with my hands and while doing a video interview a couple weeks ago, I noticed that my hands were SUPER red, I’d say almost cartoonish they were so red! They don’t look that red to me even in real time. I was mortified and sat on my hands after that.
    I also had a client in my office one day ask me if I was OK. I said yes, why do you ask? She said my ears were bright red, maybe I was sick or something.

    I did get the job though, so either they didn’t notice or they didn’t care. :)

  23. Message in a Bottle*

    About number 5, it would burn a bridge for me if someone even distantly in my network suggested that job. “Far below my skill set, but better than where I am now,” does not sound great. Yes, I could do my due diligence but if that’s the case I’m better off finding potential roles on my own.

    A former co-worker did alert me to a job she may be leaving. She knows well the toxicity of the workplace I’m in now and while this role is part-time and may be below my skill set, she gets along well with the supervisor and it has great benefits. In this case, I feel like I have some sense of the culture of that workplace which is vital when looking for a place ‘better than where I am now.’

    My $.02.

    1. Reverse Networker*

      This is exactly what I’m afraid of. I did reach out to one colleague who’s currently working in a supermarket, but it absolutely feels like I’m still undervaluing how good he is and being patronizing. I can’t share with him what I know management wants from this role, but he really would be great; it does not sound great to say “hey you’d rock this role that’s currently written like an entry-level thing”. This reverse networking is as hard as regular networking.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        I’m confused as to why you can’t share what management wants from the role. Surely if they are hoping that the person they hire will be able to step in and fix some issue with your company that would be a thing to use to “sell” the role to people?

        1. Reverse Networker*

          I think it’s an airing dirty laundry thing. We had a fairly public change in ownership last year (notorious only in our industry, nothing that would make the news) and just in the 3 years I’ve been with this company, it’s become very obvious that they have significant gaps that have not been previously identified or caught by audits. The intention is to interview with emphasis on problem-solving, troubleshooting, and analytical functions, but until the person makes round two of the interviews, they want to minimize how much information is shared.

          1. Observer*

            I think it’s an airing dirty laundry thing.

            I think that this is a significant flaw in your thinking, to be honest. If you are trying to get someone good into a role that is intended to be transformational for the company, you HAVE to share relevant information.

            If this is someone who would actually be a good fit, and you are really not devaluing them, the you should have a conversation that starts with the understanding that you are sharing confidential information for the explicit purpose of helping make a reasonable decision. You don’t have to share everything at this point, but enough for them to understand that the overall framing doesn’t convey the true scope of the job.

            If I’m understanding the issue here correctly, you do not want an entry level person because you need more experience and knowledge. Which means that you need to frame the job in a way that does NOT sound like it’s an entry level job.

          2. Hillary*

            Are they overqualified for the job or for the job description?

            If you legitimately think it could be a good fit, you can encourage them to apply anyway. Tell them you know the description is pretty vague, but from what you’ve seen internally you think it would be worth their time. The big caveat here is you should be confident that they’re not going to lowball candidates financially.

        2. Reba*

          I agree, the level of mystery here is definitely not helping!

          Reverse Networker, do you think you would get anywhere if you went back to TPTB and said, “you know, you asked me to get the word out about this position but I’m finding that not able to do that effectively/make it sound attractive to the good folks I know, without substantive details about the role! I don’t feel good about telling them information that may ultimately not be accurate to the work.”

          From your letter it sounded like they don’t know the details, but now I’m wondering if they do have some ideas but are not saying them (?) Sorry if I’m off base.

          Also, “have the chance to shape the role” is a thing — if that is really what is going to happen. If they are just disorganized, well, I can see why you are uncomfortable.

          1. Reverse Networker*

            Maybe some degree of disorganization, but it’s more that management doesn’t even know how much they don’t know about this area of expertise. They don’t know how to recognize skills in this area that will support plans that are mostly vague hand-waving at this point. Management is incredibly technical (mostly engineers) and areas such as supply chain or accounting or hr/marketing are a foreign language to them. They’re trying to address that, but I don’t have much to work with. And like I said on another comment, I think I see now that there’s some level of social awkwardness just generally from me.

            1. Message in Bottle*

              I’ve read more of your comments and understand better now. The workplace is great but you know it’s an entry-level role.

              I’d talk up the workplace if it’s that great. I agree to with Reba that the mystery makes the person think there are other things wrong. I think the specifics of the role are details for those who make it that far in the hiring process. If you say you love working there and there is a job available and then leave it to them to apply, that should suffice. They may ask you more questions, but you can refer them to HR for those. Being too vague in your letter put up my spidey senses! Which may be warranted but not in the way I thought.

              A disorganized workplace is easier to figure out. I had to remind my phone interviewer about my appointment yesterday and she was seven minutes late. It’s a small flag, but is a flag.

              1. Reverse Networker*

                Yeah, it’s really hard to convey, at least I’m finding it so, even here with anonymity. I didn’t mean to make it sound shady, just nebulous.

                It’s dirty laundry in the sense that I can’t really say “well, the grand-boss and my aunt-boss don’t get along, and grand-boss is taking over this process because her last 3 hires have been garbage. Also, grand-boss made this off-hand comment, this remark two weeks later, and then asked these 6 questions. And there’s been general unspoken unhappiness with x and y, but it’s all in his face.”

                I can pretty well guess what he wants and what the company needs, but what’s been officially shared versus my own spidey senses are very different.

                I definitely didn’t mean to make it so convoluted.

      2. OhNo*

        I think some of that risk can be mitigated by presenting it as “do you know anyone who might be interested?” or “can you pass this on to anyone you think would be good?”

        Not a magic bullet, of course, but presenting it as a request to pass the info on avoids the worst of the condescending subtext that might occur if you can’t give your contacts more info about why your company wants someone with more experience for what looks like an entry-level job.

  24. Llellayena*

    I’ve got a different take than Alison on the first question involving theater. The theater community is well aware that on stage romance (or other dynamics) do not (typically) reflect off stage practices. The key is to discuss it with your co-actor to make sure of exactly what you would do and that they are comfortable with it. If it’s still too much after that, talk to the director and there might be some shuffling of roles, but depending on the size of the cast, you both might be able to stay in the play still.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      The problem with that is there’s a power imbalance which means that the co-worker may not say what they really feel in that discussion.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        Yeah, unfortunately OP has double-power here if they are both the boss at work and likely the more difficult to replace cast member if they are the male lead. They definitely need to talk to the director and probably to the coworker, but a conversation with the coworker would need to be from a “this would be too weird so I’m going to see what we can do” rather than asking if the coworker would be comfortable.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Because the other part is played by a subordinate at work, talking to her is not a good idea. She might feel pressured to say everything is fine because she doesn’t want her boss resenting her for him not being able to play the lead in the local play. The power dynamics FROM THE WORK SITUATION make trying to work something out in the play too difficult.

      LW1, I feel bad for you. getting the lead is a BIG DEAL. But unfortunately, being able to do your day job effectively takes precedence.

    3. The Happy Graduate*

      I think the fact that the LW is so concerned for what to do that he wrote in for advice yet is clearly good enough to be cast in the lead role, means that it’s not as simple to say “what happens on stage stays on stage” especially with such charged scenes as what seems to be here. We have to remember that this isn’t the professional theatre community, it’s a community theatre, and there’s a big difference in how this situation can be realistically approached/handled because of that.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        And optics matter as well. Even if they both somehow managed to handle things extremely professionally, if people they work with come to see the show and feel really uncomfortable watching the scenes play out that is something they would need to consider as well.

    4. Observer*

      The key is to discuss it with your co-actor to make sure of exactly what you would do and that they are comfortable with it.

      Nope. Off stage, the “co” actor is not a “co”. They are a “managee” and the OP has way to much power here to give the other person the freedom to speak clearly and set the boundaries they need.

  25. qtippyqueen*

    #2 – I have the same issue. I actually was not aware until I was doing a work presentation and a snotty coworker asked me why I was all red and blotchy. It happens when I have the slightest bits of emotion, not even VERY nervous or anything. Just…happens sometimes! Very aggravating. But it is what it is. I just try and think lots of people have weird skin things, I can’t control it, and people don’t notice as much as I do.
    Sometimes I will try and put a cool paper towel on my chest or neck to soothe the red, and that can help!

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Yikes, your coworker is a jerk. They’d probably ask why someone’s voice was shaky (if that’s how the speaker’s nerves show up).

      I know that I get red blotches at times, sometimes just on one cheek and just randomly. I’m pale so I would guess it’s noticeable to those prone to noticing, but no one’s ever said anything. I wouldn’t mind if it’s coming from a place of concern (I have been asked if I’m okay due to my apparent pallor), but if I felt like it was a criticism or intended to put me off my game, definitely not okay.

    2. Batgirl*

      I usually respond to that very blandly with “Oh I had no idea”. Or even “Oh?” …with the implication that they’ve yet to make their point. It’s always, always said in the hope that you’re nervous and will be further unsettled and I enjoy disappointing that hope. Like you it doesn’t mean I’m especially nervous, I’m usually just enthused, or focused or just plain old busy.

  26. Guacamole Bob*

    On OP3, do most interviewers care and count it as a negative if someone show signs of nervousness? Granted I’m usually interviewing for relatively junior roles (less than 5 years of experience), but in our discussions as a panel it’s usually comments like “well, he did ramble a bit, but that might have been nerves so we don’t want to count that against him too much” and “she struggled to give specific examples for the third question, but she also seemed a little nervous so maybe she just couldn’t come up with them on the spot.”

    If “able to act poised in stressful conversations with strangers that have high personal stakes” were in any way related to the job we’re hiring for then we might care, but it’s really not. There’s a level of nervous where someone just can’t answer the questions in a way that lets us assess their fit for the role, and that’s a problem, but redness, a touch of rambling or speaking too fast, nervous laughter, a couple of awkward answers? Totally normal and something we actively try to overlook.

    1. Tom*

      Speaking as an interviewer who has done hundreds of interviews at several companies, a major goal as the interviewer is to set the interviewee at ease. Where I’ve worked, we’ve deliberately opened with “softball” questions to make the interviewee comfortable and boost their confidence. So if the interviewee is showing signs of nerves, my conclusion is that *I* need to improve my interviewing skills. In this case (flushed face but answers are good), the flushed face probably wouldn’t even register to me.

      As you said, I’m not hiring for a role that requires looking/acting poised under stressful scenarios. So I want to eliminate as much of that as possible from the interview, and I try to consciously disregard anything that’s clearly because of nerves.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*


        Someone interviewing for a high-pressure high-level job should generally not appear nervous in the interview. While the interviewers should try to put the interviewee at ease, if the job is going to have high stress in front of important constituents or the public, being visibly nervous in the interview is not good.

  27. shedubba*

    OP #1, know your troupe before acting on this. My local community theater groups growing up were short on qualified men and long on qualified women, so any man that could carry a tune and not throw up on stage was basically guaranteed a lead role, whereas a woman had to either be really talented/skilled or be married to one of the male leads. (They decided to do 1776 one year, for some reason. That had them trawling the local high school choir classes begging for male recruits.)

    Anyway, my point is, in some troupes, if OP is male and the direct report is female, giving the director the full story could result in the direct report being switched to a lesser role or dropped from the production altogether, which would also not be a good outcome. In that case, OP should obscure the actual reason for wanting to bow out or trade down to a lesser role.

    1. Elenna*

      As others have said above, OP can insist on being the one to drop out, so that recasting the direct report would just result in two roles needing to be shuffled around. Although I’d like to think that the director would react reasonably to OP just saying “I would prefer to be the one who’s role is moved to minimize awkwardness” even if it does make more work for the director…

    2. Spencer Hastings*

      I think obscuring the real reason would be really counterproductive — the LW will just look flakey and burn the bridge. Plus, if he explains everything and says “therefore, I have to bow out” (i.e. he’s made his decision), they’d have no reason to recast or kick out his direct report, because with the LW gone, the problem no longer exists.

      That said, I’m a musician, not an actor, so I don’t have experience with this specific thing.

    3. Observer*

      giving the director the full story could result in the direct report being switched to a lesser role or dropped from the production altogether, which would also not be a good outcome.

      Not if the OP bows out. The OP needs to state what they are doing, without giving the director a choice. “I cannot take this role because I am co-actor’s boss. If you want to cast me in a different role, that’s fine. Otherwise, I’m going to have to drop out.” And the STICK TO IT, even if the director drops the other cast member . If the director has any brains, that will be the end of it, because dropping the other cast member is not going to get them anywhere. If the director is stupid, then that’s all the more reason to leave.

      1. Pescadero*

        Oh… even if the bows out.

        Depending on the theatre company and town – a male lead bowing out may be the end of the entire production altogether.

  28. twocents*

    Re #1: I see a lot of comments speculating on how they would feel in the employee’s situation but I don’t see comments from people who are actually Community Theater hobbyists. Like others here, I also do not want to have to kiss my boss passionately, but I would never apply for a role where any rando gets to kiss me passionately. So I think this really needs to be less about speculating about what the employee would want — because they chose to apply for a role where they knew some stranger was going to be opposite of them doing these things — and it should focus more on what the LW is comfortable with. When he bows out, he should be making it about him and his feelings, not speculating about her feelings.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Speaking as a community theatre person (actor, techie, director) I’m fine with kissing a rando, but I acknowledge that if I manage someone, there’s now a situation where the employee MIGHT not be okay with it and MIGHT not be okay mentioning that because I’m their boss.

      To me, this is enough for me to give up the role. A show just isn’t worth possibly screwing up the work relationship.

      1. twocents*

        Agreed! I just don’t like that so many people are convinced she would absolutely hate it. If she could see this post, she might very well think it’s much ado about nothing. That’s why I think it’s more important for LW to focus on himself and his discomfort with this, not on guessing at her feelings.

        1. Elenna*

          Yes! Like I said above, regardless of whether the report is comfortable with it, the important part is that OP is *not* comfortable with it, so it’s not okay.
          (Do we actually know that OP is male and their report is female? I guess there’s probably few plays with sexual assault scenes that aren’t a man assaulting a woman.)

            1. Spencer Hastings*

              How many shows are there featuring musical numbers where a female character assaults another female character?

              1. FDSnovice*

                What threw me was that I was wondering how many male bosses would normally be this conscientious for them to actually pause and think about this. Kudos to him but in my experience it’s not common enough.

              2. OyHiOh*

                My first thought was the musical version of Heathers, actually. There’s a pretty graphic song and “dance” number where the female character takes charge of her male co star.

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely. The OP may be the one in the position of power but they’ve as much right as the direct report to find the situation uncomfortable. If the OP doesn’t want to do this with this person that’s a perfectly acceptable thing to feel even though the workplace power is on their side. The direct report may or may not have a problem but the OP obviously does.

            There are some things I’m perfectly comfortable doing in some situations but not in others. For example I will dance tango with strangers and acquaintances but would feel very uncomfortable doing so with my colleagues. In many ways it’s easier dancing (and I guess performing) with strangers because you don’t have the same pre-existing relationship.

        2. Observer*

          I just don’t like that so many people are convinced she would absolutely hate it.

          The problem is not that we KNOW she would hate it, but that we know that she may not believe that she can actually push back if it’s a problem. And there is no way to change that problem.

          The OP’s discomfort is also completely relevant and legitimate.

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely. I’m picking up a certain sense that it’s not as much of a problem for the OP because he’s male and more senior whereas the junior staff member may be uncomfortable. The OP is entirely within his rights to feel uncomfortable and not want to do this role with his member of staff. His discomfort is just as valid as whatever she may feel.

            And definitely depending on her level of comfort speaking out the female member of staff might not feel able to admit to being uncomfortable or want to rock the boat. That’s a fairly unenviable position for her.

    2. OyHiOh*

      I would audition for a role like the one LW describes their direct report having, specifically to push myself as an actor. Heck, I auditioned for the female lead in Extremities, just to see what I could learn about myself in the process of trying out the part.

      I’m the also the sort of theatre nerd who researches a script before I show up for auditions. I’ll read legal excerpts online, check out the script from the library if available, find the character synopses, etc. Not everyone is me though – either in researching the script ahead of time, or in wanting to push and stretch as an actor.

    3. MCMonkeybean*

      I am a community theater regular and honestly I also would not be comfortable kissing someone on stage, but that’s not been an issue for me as I am strictly ensemble. People going for leads do of course know that may be necessary–but kissing a stranger (though by the time you get to the that point in rehearsals they would obviously not be a stranger anymore) is very different than kissing your boss. And I think the issue is having to manage both the theater relationship AND the work relationship–I think it’s totally likely that in this situation by the time you get to that part in rehearsals if both parties are regular theater performers they may be pretty comfortable with the kissing scenes… but that means that the relationship at work will probably be altered to one that is too familiar.

      I think especially since OP is newly promoted and they are presumably still figuring out their working relationships, this is too much to add into the mix.

    4. Batgirl*

      It’s part of a manager’s duty to consider how their behavior, and the power differential affects their staff; even if it’s a staff member that doesn’t care, or one “that would kiss a rando”. More junior employees don’t have to consider anything but their own career, or plan against things going wrong for other people, but more senior ones, with responsibility for modelling good behavior and anticipating problems, do. If someone is a junior employee who thinks it’s NBD to snog their boss on stage then that’s because they’re someone with terrible, terrible judgement for their own small arena of responsibility and hopefully their boss has enough experience to know better. Also, I’ve snogged plenty of random guys in my time, but I’d rather pluck out my eyes than kiss the person who oversees my employment, references and reviews.

  29. Anon for this*

    This reminds me of when I was in a show where I got naked on stage, and HR came to see it with some friends XD.
    She did NOT know that I was in the production beforehand.

  30. EPLawyer*

    #2 – sounds like your boss showed you that getting out was the right choice. If she behaved this way about something beyond her control, she does not sound like a reasonable boss. Who knows what other things may have come up if you continued working there.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed – sounds like manager needs lessons in taking disappointments with tact and grace.

      They also probably killed any chance they ever had with that recruiter as well. I know I wouldn’t reach out to this boss again seeing how they acted over loosing this employee.

  31. irene adler*

    #5: please reach out – especially to those in your network whom you haven’t been in touch with for years.
    You never know how people’s circumstances may have changed. You could be the answer to someone’s prayer.
    And the ‘plausible deniability’ approach is a good way to do this.

  32. Khatul Madame*

    LW5, you could share the job posting with select contacts via LinkedIn and invite them to call or write to you if they have questions/interest. This way you give agency to the other side and avoid “selling” the job up-front.

  33. Heidi*

    It’s hard for me to tell if LW4 is indeed thankful or mostly looking for a space to air concerns. I imagine that Miss Manners would say there is no obligation to write a thank you note at all if its primary message cannot be one of gratitude (or something to that effect). The suggestions sound like the kind of material for an exit interview. The LW could ask if there is this type of feedback process in place, which would clue people in that they had thoughts to share. Some companies just aren’t into that kind of feedback, though, or they are well aware of the problems and do not feel they can change them.

    1. Jack Straw*

      “It’s hard for me to tell if LW4 is indeed thankful or mostly looking for a space to air concerns.”

      I had the same read. Once the OP figures out their why, they will know which type of letter to write.

      1. Pete Hornberger*

        I really am thankful. They supplied a great opportunity for me to hone my skills, work on an amazing project, create a great portfolio piece, and work in the exact career area I dream of.
        But I feel like I can’t pretend my concerns aren’t unimportant. The person that I am grateful with is not the person I had problems with. I worry that a lot of information will be lost, if I don’t inform the Director of my concerns.
        Also, I am a much better letter writer than verbal communicator and that is why I would prefer a letter.

    2. Pete Hornberger*

      Can you tell me more about the “they are well aware of the problems and do not feel they can change them,” part of your comment.
      One aspect of my role is change management. Some of it feels like they don’t know how to change (which is an aspect of my role – to help develop changes with admin), but a small part makes me feel like they’re not interested in changing. They’re hoping the problems will somehow fix them selves or they can force a bad change.

  34. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – Please do what Alison suggests. Your company shouldn’t be asking you to “sell” the role to your network – unless you’re actually a recruiter. All you have to do is to put it out there, and ask people to forward the opportunity onwards to their networks. Someone will hopefully see the position and apply.

    The tricky bit is to not get sucked into being the recruiter here – make it clear how people should apply in the message itself. eg. put in the link to your company’s career page’s requisition for the role, so people can apply directly. Or refer people to your HR department, the recruiter (if there is a specific person), etc. Your HR dept can best advise you on what contact information to put, and may be willing to craft the messaging themselves for you.

    1. Reverse Networker*

      Selling the role might have been the wrong phrasing – it’s more that I’m trying to explain why I’m reaching out to very experienced people that I respect with what is currently written as an entry-level position, without being able to share what I know from my management.

      1. Enn Pee*

        Reverse Networker,
        My workplace (which doesn’t have a lot of $$ for publicity or recruiters) asks us to share postings with our network.

        I tend to post them publicly on LinkedIn (especially with the relevant hashtags, which can get people I don’t necessarily know) as well as on a message board specific to our industry.

        For one specific job, I actually have been encouraging someone I only speak to once a year to apply. She’s great, she’s unhappy in her current position, and we’d love to have her.

  35. SomebodyElse*

    OP#1: Congrats on your first management position :)

    Good job recognizing a situation where boundaries are concerned and asking about it. (Sometimes I don’t think managers who ask questions like this get enough credit for asking questions). You were right to question this and your instinct to bow out of the production was the right one.

    I wanted to expand a bit because, while your situation is pretty clear on the problem and best course of action, a lot of situations aren’t. It can sometimes be a tough balance between being friendly with employees, sharing enough of your personal life to remain ‘human’, and sharing personal opinions. My advice for all is to err on the side of formality while you are still getting used to the dynamics and then as you grow into the management role, you’ll be able to figure out how and when to relax (but never too much!).

    It’s not only the idea of how actions and words will taken, it’s also about the perception of your actions and words. For instance, even if there wasn’t sensitive subject matter in the play, you would have to ask yourself if it is wise to be in a play with your coworker at all. How will that be perceived around you? If you have other employees will that create a dynamic where you are naturally closer to one employee vs. another? Can you be objective and fair when it comes to things like performance appraisals and opportunities. If you think you can be fair, will those around you question your judgement?

    Just wanted to give you something to think about as you navigate some of these new to you waters. Managers don’t always get it right, but the good ones learn

    1. The Happy Graduate*

      A very good point! Imagine if his boss came to see the play? Or his other employees all came out to support and next thing you know everyone is watching their manager assault their coworker and then act like nothing the next day at work? And even if everyone understood it was “just a play” you’re right that now everyone knows that one employee had such a big “in” with the manager by doing a major role with them. Perception is a big thing here, you made an excellent point!

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        now everyone knows that one employee had such a big “in” with the manager by doing a major role with them.

        Yes, I was thinking of that broader (outside of the kissing, ‘assault’ etc considerations) point as well … is there a fairness aspect here with the report having greater ‘access’ to the manager through this shared activity? That would apply if they were in a band together, or cookery class or whatever.

  36. Sondheim Geek*

    As an active member of the community theatre scene in my area, the first one made me sad. I still agree with the advice, but boy that would be hard for me to bow out from. Also, just guessing: Jekyll and Hyde?

    1. Elenna*

      As an ex-member of my university’s theater club, yeah same. The advice to drop out is definitely correct, but also oof, this must be a huge disappointment to OP. I was never anywhere near good enough to get lead roles but I know I would have been super disappointed to get one and then have to drop out. Better luck next time, hopefully?

    2. Observer*

      In a way, this makes it all the more important for the OP do be absolutely definitive when they approach the director. If the director tries to convince the OP that it’s “not so bad” or that they can “figure this out” it’s going to be much harder. Nip that kind of discussion in the bud.

  37. River*

    If you’re updated to the latest version of zoom, there is now a “touch up my appearance” setting, with a slider of how much to adjust your appearance. The main thing is seems to do is smooth/blur skin. I’m not sure how much it would help hide redness, but you can definitely experiment with it. I don’t recommend putting the slider higher than 50% because it makes you look very glowing, but i find ~30% it helps to not feel as though my colleagues can see every little pimple, wrinkle, and mark on my face.
    There is also a button to “adjust for low light” that you could try – I’m not sure if that would help or not.

  38. Save the Hellbender*

    I just noticed in Teams video calls that sometimes I get a red blotch on my neck that looks a lot like a hickey! I’m young and I’ve never met my coworkers in person, so I’m a little worried they’re all thinking “bold of the new hire not to cover that up”!

  39. Jack Straw*

    OP#4 – I’m a big fan of examining your own motivations in situations like this.

    If it’s truly to thank them, there’s no need to add the other stuff. If it’s to make the org better, that sort of productive, proactive discussion shouldn’t be muddled with other topics.

    If it’s to show them that they’re losing someone great because they don’t have their stuff together, which is the vibe I got, there’s no reason for the letter. If it’s for you, and not them, don’t do it.

  40. AndersonDarling*

    #4 If possible, have a discussion face-to-face about the improvements you would like to suggest. If you can’t do it face to face, then let it go. If you put it in a letter/email, then it will turn uncomfortably long and distract from your thoughtful thanks.
    The reality is that companies aren’t ready to make improvements until they are ready to make difficult changes. If you didn’t see that movement while you were consulting, then it isn’t going to happen soon. The company will reach out again if they want to bring in your services and you can wow them with your suggestions then.

    1. Pete Hornberger*

      For my final deliverable I will be supplying a strategic plan. I admit many suggestions for improvements will be in this plan (why and how). It is possible to use this as the “concerns” area of the letter I would like to write. My only concern is that feels very strategic and apathetic as opposed to sincere and hopeful.
      I also may have to admit that after I leave, I will continue to have contact with the organization for a long time, but in a different capacity. I think that is why it would be a challenge for me to move on, so long.

  41. Fabulous*

    I have to slightly disagree with Alison’s advice for #1. As a theatre nerd, you have to be professional about these type of things. You’re literally kissing married people, brother and sister could be cast as love interests (but hopefully the director is smarter than that), or in my case, I had to play opposite a 15 year old when I was 28. You rise above the awkwardness of your real-life relationships and make it work.

    If it were me, I would at least have a conversation with my direct report to see how uncomfortable they felt, and then come to an understanding and agreement. Either one of them bows out, or you move past the awkwardness and put on a great show!

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Hard disagree, given the nature of the production. (Please re-read this part!) This isn’t about the theatre part of it; it’s about going in to work the next Monday morning.

      It’s totally inappropriate. OP should bow out.

      1. Nice is different than good*

        Op should not have to give up this hard won role and risk looking flaky when all that needs to happen is for everyone to be professional at all times.

        1. Sylvan*

          I think keeping the role might look worse than flaky, though. I don’t know. Professionalism probably wouldn’t save this IMO.

        2. SomebodyElse*

          Disagree, managers have to give up things all the time due to their work.

          Just to name a few:
          Opinions – Managers can’t share their opinions freely on many things
          Time – Managers should put their employees first if possible. Meaning that many of their priorities come second when an employee needs help or an issue arises and the managers priorities are dealt with later.
          Friendships – Managers shouldn’t be friends with their employees and sometimes personal relationships are sacrificed due to the role
          Fun w/coworkers – Often times a manager will take a back seat to fun stuff because it’s not appropriate or they want to put their employees first, or because they are a visible role model
          Time off – Yes, if it comes down to me or an employee taking the same time off, I will put the employee first

          I could go on… but yes, this is the type of thing managers give up all the time.

          1. Mental Lentil*

            Yes, all of this exactly. I have seen a lot of issues when managers cross these lines.

            1. Spencer Hastings*

              Just out of curiosity, what are your thoughts on the comments above that are suggesting that a manager would also be duty-bound to drop out of a cookery class or a football league if a direct report ended up there (because it would mean that person had more access/face time with the boss than others might)?

              And does the fact that some hobbies (like theatre or sports) have to be done with other people — whereas something like cooking could be solitary — change the calculus at all?

        3. Observer*

          when all that needs to happen is for everyone to be professional at all times.

          Is this serious or a troll?

          Let’s be real here. Professional actors have trouble with this in many cases. And you are expecting 100% professionalism from 100% of the cast and support staff, 100% of the time from a bunch of amateurs?! It’s not that I think that amateurs a sloppy or don’t take their roles seriously. But theater is NOT their primary job. The kind of detachment you would need to cultivate for a situation like this requires the kind of focus and training that only generally comes with full time practice.

    2. Geek*

      Ditto Fabulous.

      Alison is answering this as if it were a binary choice.

      I would have a combined discussion with both the director and my direct report.

      “How do we navigate this? The situation makes me uncomfortable for several reasons. One is that I don’t know if you would feel comfortable speaking up if you are uncomfortable. Is there any path forward where we both remain in the play? If one of us bows out, I insist that it is me.”

      It’s theater. This wouldn’t be the first production ever where innuendo is used and more lascivious acts are left to the audience’s imagination. Could the actual scenes in question happen behind a blind where the action is carefully choreographed to make the shadows appear to be doing something other than what is actually happening?

      If neither the OP, the direct report, nor the director can think of a creative way forward, I would be very surprised.

    3. Observer*

      If it were me, I would at least have a conversation with my direct report to see how uncomfortable they felt, and then come to an understanding and agreement.

      I hope you don’t manage anyone. That’s a flaming abuse of power.

    4. yala*

      “If it were me, I would at least have a conversation with my direct report to see how uncomfortable they felt, and then come to an understanding and agreement.”

      The problem is, you can’t really do that, because of the inherent power imbalance that already exists. There’s no way to tell if the employee is ACTUALLY comfortable with a situation, of if they feel pressured to be ok with it.

      Also, there’s only so much you can “rise above the awkwardness of your real-life relationships.” You can’t forget that real life is a thing that exists.

      Someone else brought up a good point. Beyond OP and their report, what if their coworkers came to the play? Or OP’s boss? That could wind up hurting both OP and report, even if they personally were comfortable with it.

      Optics are a thing. Compartmentalization is all well and good, but there are limits.

  42. The Happy Graduate*

    We have to remember that for LW1, this isn’t professional theatre. This is community theatre with every day people – it doesn’t matter how much of a theatre nerd you are, you can’t expect every single person that you work with in a community production to uphold the same professional standards that legitimate, career actors are supposed to. We also have no idea how long either the LW or his subordinate have been doing these plays for, for all we know it’s his employee’s first time and makes this situation all the more worse.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      And given what we read about in the news every day, even careers actors don’t often meet professional standards.

      1. Observer*

        So much this. Professional actors wind up this way, what do you expect from amateurs, even REALLY GOOD amateurs?

  43. nice is different than good*

    Noooo, #1, don’t drop out! This is, I’m assuming, a huge passion of yours and something you’ve worked at for years. It must feel amazing to finally get a lead role! Dropping out will mean you lose the opportunity and maybe other opportunities for looking flaky or non-committed. Talk to the director and your employee. If she’s uncomfortable, she can drop out, or the director can find a work around. But unless everyone you know is REALLY bad at separating real life from the stage and/or work from a hobby, I don’t see the issue.

    1. EnfysNest*

      There could be merit in the LW speaking to the director first to see if there is someone they could trade roles with, but the burden of leaving the show or the role should *absolutely* not fall to the employee. The LW is in the more powerful position at work and their role is the aggressive one – there is no circumstance where the LW should pretend to assault their employee. “Well, if you’re not okay with me pretending to attack you, you can just quit” is not even remotely acceptable for a boss to tell their employee.

      An essential part of acting is imagining what your character is feeling and then portraying that, and the employee should NOT have to make a choice between having to think about being assaulted by her boss’s character vs having to give up a role that presumably represents just as much passion and past work as you’re assuming it does for the boss.

      Plus, assuming the most common genders for musical roles and this sort of story context are the ones in this case, the employee was probably auditioning against a lot more people than the boss, since in my experience there are a lot more women auditioning for community theater for significantly fewer available roles.

      Also, even if the LW does chose to talk to the director to ask about changing roles instead of quitting outright immediately, they’ll need to be very clear that they will not stay in this role no matter what, to ensure that the director won’t just “fire” the employee instead to try to keep the boss, if there’s any chance of that.

    2. MCMonkeybean*

      “If she’s uncomfortable, she can drop out” would be an extremely selfish way to handle this.

      Also there isn’t anything in the letter that suggests this is their first time landing a leading role? If it is I’m truly sorry for him but if he got cast in this one then it is probably not his last chance. In my community there is pretty much a small number of men that tend to get cast as the leads over and over again in all the local productions because there just aren’t that many options. There is usually a much smaller pool of male actors and far more leading male parts. It will likely be much more difficult for her to get a leading role again than it would be for him.

  44. Jennifer*

    RE: #3 and the face flushing
    First, I agree with Alison. As a hiring manager, as long as you were a good interview, then things like that won’t matter to me. It’s when those things happen in combination with just a poor interview that I may rationalize that the “jitters” or “sweats” (this has literally happened with me) are perhaps physical manifestations of the lack of suitability for the role as based in the answers or conversation. But yes: if you’re a great interview, then never would I think about a bit of redness.

    Second, and what I really came here to say is, turn off your view of yourself. So many people seem to not know that this option exists. You can have the camera on but disable your own view so that you’re not so consumed with how you look – or are focused there instead of the other people. We don’t sit in front of a mirror in in-person meetings. We shouldn’t do so on virtual ones either. :)

    1. Red 5*

      I’ve been buried deep in Zoom settings on multiple occasions and I had no idea you could turn off the view of yourself! That really should just be a checkbox in the opening screen when you’re joining with video…

      (And if it is and I haven’t seen it, then let’s just pretend I never said anything)

  45. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP3: try not to let it bother you. My face looks weird in video calls too. Something about the lighting, camera angle, my posture, quality of the camera, etc. makes it look like the little dimples under the corner of my mouth are heavily bruised. I spent 15 minutes once rearranging things to try to get rid of it but no luck. I look like I got punched in the mouth or decided to grow some really weird facial hair.

  46. Spearmint*

    LW1: Is it relevant how big the part is that the employee is playing? If the employee is playing a relatively major role then yes, LW should drop out, but if the role is relatively minor with only a few lines, maybe the employee should bow out/switch roles instead. I’m not in the theater world but I would think playing a lead role would be a rare, possibly even once in a lifetime, opportunity while a minor role with only a few lines wouldn’t be that big of a deal to let go of.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      As the one with on the higher end of the power imbalance, it should probably fall on the manager to step down.

    2. EnfysNest*

      If this is following the more expected gender roles of most musicals, and the boss is male and the employee female, it is my experience in community theater that there are a lot fewer female roles available with a lot more competition, whereas it is a lot easier for those audition for male roles to at least get *some* part in the play. Even if the female part “only” has a few lines, that doesn’t make it any less of an accomplishment to have been cast in the role. Any female role is coveted by those of us trying desperately to get to at least say *something* on stage, to at least have actual motivations and storylines to play out. Just getting a character with a name in the script is a big deal, especially in a musical. And, typically, if you’re singing a duet with the lead male character and your character has that major of a scene in the script, you’re a pretty significant character.

      It doesn’t matter how “big or small” the employee’s role is – they shouldn’t have to give it up because the alternative is to have their boss imitate attacking them.

      1. Spearmint*

        That’s helpful context, I didn’t realize community theater could be that competitive. I’ve only been (briefly) involved in any theater production, and it was in a high school context where pretty much everyone who auditioned got a role (albeit not always a speaking one).

        1. Sondheim Geek*

          It really depends. I’ve auditions for shows where by the end we still needed people (usually men) to fill roles, and I’ve also auditioned for shows where 100+ people auditioned (and yes, that was for a community theatre production). It really depends on the theatre and the show.

    3. OyHiOh*

      There’s a joke in the theater world that goes something like this

      High school theater girl: I’ve taken voice lessons since I was six years old, four years of dance, and I’ve been in 5 community theater shows and I’m just so thrilled to say I’ve been cast as Woman #3 in the chorus!!!

      High school not-theater boy: yeah, the choir director chased me down, gave me the script and told me I’ve got the lead in the show.

      This is even more true in hobby community theater!

      1. UKDancer*

        Same in amateur ballet and social dance. There are a lot fewer men than women so the ones that there are get more preferential treatment, e.g. being picked for leading roles in ballet or being able to pick and choose dance partners in tango.

        It can also unfortunately lead to unacceptable behaviour in social dance going unchallenged (and I’ve noticed it in tango and in salsa. If a man is a good partner, people can be pressured to overlook other behaviours.

        Interestingly I watched a programme about Black dancers at the Royal Ballet and interestingly 3 of the 4 male dancers had a story which went something like “I took my sister / cousin / babysitter’s daughter to her ballet class. They were really short of boys so I was dragged into class. I decided I liked it.” Whereas the female interviewees were all desperate to dance from an early age.

        1. OyHiOh*

          The pre-professional dance company in my community automatically offers full scholarships to boys once they test out of level 1 classes. Tell me how many girls get that opportunity!

          The ballet boys/men I know all have similar stories: they were somewhere in the building while a sister or relative took a class and they got roped in.

        2. OyHiOh*

          The social dance club I was in, in college, took a tactic that tended to discourage bad behavior (and also encouraged reporting of said bad behavior): Everyone danced with everyone else at a class, AND everyone learned to both lead and follow. It’s surprising how just shifting the dynamic so that regularly women lead male partners cuts back on inappropriate behavior and makes people more comfortable reporting when it does happen.

          1. UKDancer*

            I think that’s great. They definitely do that in swing dance (and I really enjoy leading) and people tend to learn both roles. Tango is a lot more old fashioned. A fair few women learn to lead but I’ve never seen a man willingly follow outside of the same gender tango scene. I think it would do a lot to improve the dynamics if more men did follow actually.

  47. LTL*

    I’m inclined to take the advice of the theatre people in the comments since this is really their area of expertise. But the overall divide between them and the other commentators also brings up something to consider. LW, even if you and direct report are okay with the situation, if anyone at your job hears about this, it could have hugely negative consequences on your career. Like many of the commentators here, your manager or HR may decide that not backing out of the play was an indiscretion on your part and that you’re not suitable for a management role, if they find out.

    If you do decide to talk to your report about this directly, I do think there are ways to do it without her feeling pressured to say she’s okay with it (as some of the commentators are rightly concerned about). Be very clear that your professional relationship comes first and you would gladly back out of the play if she wants you to, no questions asked.

    If you decide not to ask for her opinion directly and to back out of the play regardless, it may also be worth talking to her as well to let her know. Just based on a comment above about how someone may feel that their boss didn’t trust them to uphold professional acting norms if they backed out (also something to consider, if she doesn’t know why you backed out either, she may also see you as flaky with commitments which could erode trust).

    But oof, I’m sorry you have to make this choice LW. It’s a crummy situation to be in.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I know there are lots of theatre people here saying go for it, this happens all the time, theatre people are professionals, and all that, and I understand their point.

      But this isn’t about what happens in the theatre on Friday night. It’s about what happens in the office on Monday morning.

      your manager or HR may decide that not backing out of the play was an indiscretion on your part and that you’re not suitable for a management role, if they find out

      I could not have said it better myself. This reflects really badly on OP’s judgement if they decide to go ahead with this. (Also, this is not professional theatre, but amateur theatre.)

      1. LTL*

        I’m not sure if it does reflect badly on OP’s judgement. My point was less that HR would be correct and more so that even if the set up isn’t an issue, there are still potential consequences.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This isn’t about what makes sense in community theater, though. It’s about what makes sense in the workplace for a manager and his employee.

    3. EnfysNest*

      I’m also a community theatre person and I absolutely think the boss needs to back out of this role immediately. The power dynamics and the optics of it are just totally not okay. It doesn’t matter how much the boss says they’re not pressuring them, there’s still the pressure of “the show will go on” and not wanting to make a fuss and the employee not wanting to risk losing their role because the director thinks it’s easier to replace them than the LW.

      I’ve had conversations with cast members in more than one show just in the last few years where cast members were highly uncomfortable with the behavior and words of someone else in the cast, but were reluctant to say anything because they were worried about the impacts to the show overall if the offender’s major role had to be recast. The pressure is there already to not rock the boat once casting has already been made. The LW needs to leave this role and they need to do it of their own initiative.

  48. Maddy*

    Why is it a big deal if people are nervous at a job interview? It’s a job interview isn’t that to be expected that you are nervous? Lots of people flush when they are anxious or nervous. Why would interviewers be horrified that people are nervous about this?

    1. irene adler*

      Nervousness undermines the appearance of confidence a candidate is expected to show during the interview.

          1. Suzanne*

            Yeah well I’m still entitled to think it’s a heap of bs. Lots of people are nervous at interviews and still manage to land jobs.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Of course they do. It doesn’t change the reality that confidence in an interview helps. Please don’t tell people their reasonably stated comments here are BS.

  49. Mockingdragon*

    LW1….I don’t know, maybe it’s different for men in music theater, but I would *never* give up a lead role for a work issue. This also may reflect badly on me. The prestige of a lead role, the possibility for local awards to recognize you, the resume experience, and on the other side, the way you lose trust of a director (and, following, the entire community) when you flake out and make them re-cast THE LEAD. I’ve been in shows where they didn’t cast a leading man at all for the first week or two because they couldn’t find the right one. In extreme cases the show can’t go on without the right leads and the whole thing gets called off.

    Talk to your report. If she’s playing opposite the leading man like this it’s extremely likely that she also has a leading part that she doesn’t want to jeopardize. I…would much rather things be awkward with my boss in the context of playing pretend than risk everyone hating me because I’m the reason the lead had to be re-cast, or risk being thrown out of my leading role for someone who doesn’t cause a problem.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      At the very least, the LW should talk to the director about the situation, or maybe talk to the director and the report as a team.

      I would move the LW out of the role, though. That’s literal drama no one needs in their work life. It does suck that the LW and the report may have to just keep on avoiding each other in theater circles though.

    2. FDSnovice*

      I don’t have very much experience in the theater industry but it’s been eye opening to see how disturbingly male centered it is. I can’t imagine being the wine where I was uncomfortable with a role that I have to play with my boss then I have to be the one recasted. Or, if my male boss was that uncomfortable playing that role then I am the one recasted or it gets canceled altogether.

      1. Observer*

        It’s also very illuminating as to how all of the abuses we’ve been hearing about in the past few years happened.

        The dismissiveness about real and significant issues, and the willingness to shunt the burden on to the person with less power is very unsettling. But if that’s the way “professionals” then it’s not really any wonder that abuse gets swept under the rug and ignored for years.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      Community theatre varies from community to community.

      In a lot of communities, they would accept that this was a rare occurrence that made you back out, recast the role, and move on with their lives. I don’t think I’ve ever done a show where at least one person had to be replaced because they dropped out or got sick.

      What you’re describing sounds like a very competitive environment where awards are a big deal. Not all community theatre is like that. It’s often just a hobby that people do in their evenings and weekends.

      1. Mockingdragon*

        Sure, I don’t doubt the community would understand. But I would be devastated. People who do theater for free are often very dedicated. If LW1 is willing to give up his role then okay, he’s not me. I wouldn’t be.

    4. yala*

      Aside from local awards recognizing you, there’s also a good chance your coworkers and/or boss will recognize you. You could well lose the trust of your employees and employer.

      ” it’s extremely likely that she also has a leading part that she doesn’t want to jeopardize”

      I…you get how this is worse, right? Like, phrasing it like that is so much worse, and is kind of PART of the reason OP should bow out. It gets to a point where it could, to an outsider (including, say, HR) look like coercion.

      1. Mockingdragon*

        Worse than what? I think that if they’re both comfortable with it, then no one else should have a problem. LW1 doesn’t say he wants to drop out. He asks if he’s professionally obligated and I’d say no, unless either of them is uncomfortable. I understand it’s hard to talk about like adults. But FOR ME, I’d much rather deal with it being awkward than feeling guilty about being the reason my boss/the lead had to give up something valuable that he probably very much wanted. I don’t think it’s fair to make that decision without talking to her.

        1. yala*

          ” I think that if they’re both comfortable with it, then no one else should have a problem. ”

          Phrasing it as “you don’t want to jeopardize your leading part” kind of implies that it doesn’t MATTER if the employee is or isn’t comfortable with it, but that she has to do it regardless, or else she “jeopardizes” something.

          It’s not fair to make that decision contingent on her at ALL, because at the end of the day, it’s not just about her, and going through with it could reflect poorly on OP in a professional setting. A supervisor has a responsibility to their reports to mind the power imbalance.

          1. Mockingdragon*

            Oh I didn’t mean it’s something he should say to her! I meant that, as lots of us have been saying, the blowback to her as being part of the problem could be a real detriment in her hobby. Whether it’s true or not, people may assume that she made him quit or threw some kind of diva fit or insert other unpleasant stereotypes. Moving forward with the production as-cast, if everyone’s happy, is the least dramatic and simplest option.

            If everyone’s not happy, yeah, there’s a problem. I don’t consider optics and onlookers as part of this calculation,

            And like I said…this may well just make me look awful. I would sooner find a new job than give up a leading role.

            1. Observer*

              If everyone’s not happy, yeah, there’s a problem. I don’t consider optics and onlookers as part of this calculation,

              Well, that’s a major flaw. Because those onlookers actually could have a significant effect on both the OP and their employee.

            2. Batgirl*

              “The blowback to her as being part of the problem could be a real detriment in her hobby. Whether it’s true or not, people may assume that she made him quit or threw some kind of diva fit or insert other unpleasant stereotypes. Moving forward with the production as-cast, if everyone’s happy, is the least dramatic and simplest option.”
              So…not only would she be forced to go along with it by an oblivious-to his-power boss, but also because all theatre communities are sexist and unpleasant to women? I really hope you’re wrong on that one, but all the more reason not to inflict the situation on her. Gosh I hope she would quit a hobby like that.

        2. Batgirl*

          But it wouldn’t be about you; it wouldn’t even be about the OP’s employee. He wouldn’t be giving up the role *for her*. He’d be doing it for his own professional reputation and so he doesn’t get y’know busted down from manager by his own bosses or chastised by HR for showing such terrible judgement so quickly. It’s just one of many things managers have to give up, like their favorite bar or friendships with former peers. You really don’t get to say “but I wanna” as a manager when you’re being specifically paid to do better than that. And personally, I’d feel a great lack of confidence in my manager if he had no relationship boundaries even if one of my coworkers was fine with it.

  50. blink14*

    OP #3 – Hello fellow red flush friend! I’ve dealt with this my entire life. Often there is a trigger involved – heat, humidity, wind, extreme cold, unexpected attention (like being called on suddenly in school or at in a work meeting), spicy food, etc. And often, there is no obvious reason.

    I do sometimes get asked if I’m ok, and some people will directly point it out. I find the best way to deal with it is just power through – it will calm down. It’s just my genetics and having very reactive skin. If there’s an actual weather or temp related trigger, I’ll combat it with drinking a lot of water and putting a cool towel on my face and then on the back of my neck. And I’ll use it to my advantage, blaming the flushing on it being too hot, too cold, etc. But mostly, I just try to not acknowledge it at all if I’m in a meeting or speaking to someone, because the more I think about it, the worse it gets!

  51. MCMonkeybean*

    Community theater makes for some odd interactions! Drama on and off the stage for sure.

    I did a production where the leading man, who was a high-school teacher in real life, was very upset when we got to the first rehearsal and found that the director had cast a 17-year-old girl as his leading lady. He felt like it was not appropriate given that he regularly worked with students her age. Some people in the cast thought he was being a bit of a diva but I agreed and definitely understood why he was uncomfortable. It was kind of a crappy situation though because it is often hard to get enough men in community theater shows and we didn’t really have other options if he bowed out, and the poor girl who was so excited to have been cast in a lead role obviously didn’t want the director to recast.

    They did end up both doing the show but the director agreed to cut down a bit on the raunchier scenes, and at the end of the show when they were supposed to kiss they just walked off into the sunset instead.

    So I do think you could maybe consider having one conversation with the director about how this would not work and that you either need to step away from the show or else they would need to make some changes and see what could possibly be done.

    But another thing to consider is how big the theater is and what the rehearsals would be like. I am assuming you have done theater before so you know how friendly and familiar the cast can get which even without the kissing and assault might damage your working relationship (though sometimes there are people who just show up, rehearse and leave without much socialization so maybe not). And in my local theater the building is so small that there is only one co-ed dressing room, which would definitely be weird with your boss! So honestly… I think it’s not likely that you will be able to do the show and keep things professional with your direct report. Which really sucks, I’m sorry. Especially since we all have had to miss out on theater for the last year!

  52. CW*

    OP3 – Tell me about it! Not only that, but I would also sweat. It gets unnerving. In fact, I would always wear my glasses to an interview because I feel like it “hides” the nervousness in my eyes and my forehead (I usually wear contacts). One recruiter I worked with told me that the interviewer did not notice any of these things on me, but it still feels really uncomfortable when it happens. And because I am a shy person by nature, it doesn’t make it easy.

  53. Alexis Rose*

    LW5, why do you feel the need to sell the job? Just be honest and let your contacts decide on their own if it would be a good direction for them. If it’s not, ask them to share with their networks.

    I hire for a lot of niche positions and I’m always very up direct about the salary, benefits, hours, etc when I reach out to my network and ask them to pass it on to qualified folks.

    The most awkward thing that happened to me was two former employees thinking that I was recruiting them when I was actually genuinely asking them to share with their networks (both were mediocre and I wouldn’t rehire them unless out of options).

  54. Lyra Silvertongue*

    #3, I know this might not help, but it probably looks a lot worse on the webcam than in real life. I’ve discovered that I look ruddy and as if I’m having a rosacea flare-up on webcam, but IRL and on my phone camera you don’t see it at all. I’ve never met my coworkers in real life as I started this job in November, and sometimes it does bug me that I look so different on Zoom to how I do in reality.

    1. Red 5*

      This is definitely true! The average webcam is just a crappy camera with less than ideal light sensitivity. So it’s going to do some weird stuff to the colors. Most people couldn’t really stand to work in a space that was actually lit properly for an expensive high end camera (actors aren’t being whiny when they talk about the hot lights on set, it’s bad) so the average $50 webcam just can’t handle it well. The software does what it can, but it’s not going to get it entirely “right.”

      One thing most people can do to just up the quality of their image in the average zoom is just one more light than you think you need. There’s way more you can do to play with the lighting to just make it even better (learning about color temperature of light is one example, learning a bit about three-point lighting is another) but just adding one more white light to the room probably will improve a lot of problems with skin tone being off. If it’s comfortable for you to work in, it’s probably too dark for the camera, sadly.

  55. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    OP 1: I would tell the director your concerns and ask if there was another performer who came close to getting your part. If so, that might be a solution. I know how you feel, as I’ve done a lot of community theater. You don’t want to let down the director or the theatre company.

  56. OyHiOh*

    Community theatre nerd, and held a staff job at a non profit theatre:

    I think first, the LW and the directing staff need to have a conversation about this. Then the directing staff and the direct report need to have the same conversation. Depending on how those two conversations go, either LW drops out (directors very often have a group of “plan B” people willing to fill in roles for various reasons), or the directors re-choreograph the scene(s) to capture emotional intensity with less physical intimacy.

    The theatre I act at (and worked for) very much subscribes to the “be grown ups about this” school of thought – but they also are very aware of power dynamics and consent issues and coach their student actors about advocating for themselves. I know of at least two men who come out for auditions routinely, but will not ever be cast at that theatre ever again because of inappropriate behavior towards barely legal cast members. So, if LW’s directors are any good at all, they want to know about the power dynamics in play and find a solution now, rather than when the direct report breaks down during final dress rehearsal because they thought they could cope and suddenly just cannot.

    Side note – I hope LW is in a community where COVID is low and not spiking again, and that the theatre is taking appropriate precautions. I’ve been watching “my” theatre’s audition list with envy since January – they’ve run several shows I adore and would love to be in but just can’t quite justify being on a small stage with 6 to 12 of my best theatre friends for 12 hours or so a week right now.

  57. Mona Lisa*

    OP3, I would try not to worry about the appearance too much! As Alison said, it could be attributed to any number of things.

    To keep your own mind off it, I would recommend hiding your self-view on your next Zoom call. I like to do this because it feels more like I’m having a face-to-face conversation with someone instead of staring in a mirror for long periods of time. I’m surprised more people don’t take advantage of this feature!

  58. No Fools*

    Obligatory: What if it’s just a sexually charged embrace?

    (In all seriousness though, you should tell the director the truth. There’s no reason not to, and if anyone suspects you’re lying it is very easily checked.)

  59. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    OP2 (boss yelled at recruiter) – no, you didn’t make a mistake in telling her where you were going, that’s pretty normal. I do wonder what’s going on here though. It occurred to me that she may have rebuffed the approach from that recruiter (or been ‘screened out’ after expressing interest…) and now regrets it. (especially if the OP being ‘taken away’ now puts her in a significantly more difficult position, like if the role won’t be backfilled for some reason.) There’s not really evidence for this in the letter, but it’s the impression I got especially with the use of language like “taken away”.

  60. Red 5*

    OP 3 – If I was an interviewer (and admittedly I’m not) even if I noticed redness on the camera I would immediately default to thinking it was a camera/lighting/computer problem and not the person at all!

    Partially this is because I actually have a background in visual arts so I am noticing those types of things in general but also because I’ve spent the last year watching so. many. zoom. faces. and mostly of people I know fairly well and I know they don’t exactly look like that. When you’ve seen somebody every weekday for years you know that their face is not that orange/yellow/red when you are suddenly seeing them through a webcam instead.

    Also worth remembering: you’re seeing yourself on one screen, they’re seeing you on an entirely different one with different settings and resolution and everything else. Did they have you on speaker view or gallery? You can’t know, so you can’t even be sure how big your picture was at the time. Maybe their laptop screen is super high def amazing, but it’s probably just an okay monitor with factory settings. Maybe they didn’t notice anything at all because they know their color is already off.

    So remember that what you saw is not what they saw, and also that any reasonable person would assume that it was either a technical issue (weird camera) or just a weird one off physical issue (hot lights, AC on the fritz, the stuff Alison mentioned).

    All that said, you are absolutely right that being able to see yourself while interviewing for a job has to be a circle of hell.

  61. Aspie_Anything*

    Ugh…#1 sucks. I would feel terrible if my supervisor dropped out of a production because he was cast opposite of me. I’d also worry about underlying resentment towards me over it. And if she’s talented enough to land a leading role, she probably has the standard theatre profession attitude of “it’s just acting”. She may worry that her supervisor thinks she’s too immature to handle it or worry he doesn’t trust her. This sucks extra since it’s unlikely a male employee would ever have the LW drop out over being cast together and therefore wouldn’t have to deal with these concerns.

    Also, dropping out at this stage could impact LW’s ability to participate again.

    At the same time, as a manager this feels horrible. I would probably have a conversation with HR and my own supervisor to fill them in and get their take, then talk with with my report/co-star, and then speak with the director.

    And you know, I still don’t know if I would bow out or not. It would depend on how all of those conversations went. But if I did drop out, I would bend over backwards to make sure my report didn’t feel guilty or responsible by putting it very squarely on my own sense of duty and responsibility as a professional.

    TL;DR As an employee I want to be treated like everyone else and would be hurt, offended, and worried that my participation meant my supervisor bowed out. As a manager…Oh My God *shrieks in horror*

    1. yala*

      “This sucks extra since it’s unlikely a male employee would ever have the LW drop out over being cast together and therefore wouldn’t have to deal with these concerns.”

      I’m not sure I understand what you mean here? That a male employee in the same situation wouldn’t be a potential for liability in the workplace?

      1. Aspie_Anything*

        I’m not sure there’s a potential for liability here, at least not in a legal sense.

        But what I mean is that it’s very unlikely that the exact same situation would ever happen with a male report. Obviously, the advice would be the same if it did, but it’s just not probable that the LW will ever find himself dropping out of something like this because the presence of a male report in the cast.

        And yeah, the female report will know that and from her perspective, it will suck. We all want to be able to pursue our interests outside of work without posing conflicts of interests for our bosses in sexual ways. It’s no one’s fault, of course, but it is a unique problem that’s come up because of her gender (from her perspective).

        1. yala*

          But it’s not just the presence of a female report in the cast that’s the issue. It’s the presence of a report in a role where her manager is going to act aggressively sexual toward her on stage.

          Remove yourself from the theatrical community for a moment, and consider what that will look like to outsiders, especially if there are any coworkers. It wouldn’t take much for some nasty rumors to get started, and just doing it at all, like I said, could reflect poorly on OP as a manager in the eyes of his hirer ups.

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely. I mean if they were both in the chorus or if he were playing Mercutio and she were playing Juliet it wouldn’t be a problem. It’s the fact they’re doing something perceived as sexual while having a power disparity between them.

          2. Aspie_Anything*

            I’m definitely not part of any theatre community – too shy and awkward! I’m thinking about this from the perspective of a female employee. Would I be uncomfortable with this situation? Probably a little at first. But it would be a million times worse if he dropped out and I knew that was why. I would feel a lot of things, none of them good, and I’m not sure I would be able to stay in the job and work under him after he backed out.

            But then as a manager….again, YIKES!

            But we all know it’s just acting, and she wasn’t pressured to do this – she auditioned and given the gender ratio in theatre, probably had a more competitive field than he did.

            I think the best course of action is just to talk very openly with his boss, HR, the play director, and his report and for everyone to keep a sense of transparency and humor.

            I just don’t think I could get over the awkwardness, guilt, embarrassment, and worry about resentment if I was the report in this situation.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              I think the solution for OP is to tell the director that he cannot continue in that role, and explain exactly why. If the director can switch him with another male actor, great. Otherwise, OP has to bow out altogether.

              Then OP goes to his report, and tells her that he opted out of the lead, because he was uncomfortable with the dynamics of it. He should try to keep it casual. If she says, “Oh, no, you dropped your lead role for me!?” He should reiterate that he just wasn’t comfortable, not a good match with their theatre roles and their work roles, and say something like, “There will be other productions I can try out for, no worries.”

    2. Batgirl*

      Where are people getting the idea that the decision has anything to do with the employee? Much less the employee’s gender? The expectation is only on the manager and a female manager appearing against a male subordinate would be just as expected to back off for professionalism’s sake.
      No one cares if no “male employee would ever have the LW drop out over being cast together” because no one would consult the male employee about it. It’s not at all their responsibility!

    3. Batgirl*

      “I just don’t think I could get over the awkwardness, guilt, embarrassment, and worry about resentment if I was the report”
      That’s, like the exact reason it’s not conducive to enthusiastic consent. Misplaced guilt is a really terrible reason to do most things. Luckily it won’t be possible for the report to be pressed on in this way. Even better, it has nothing to do with them and normal professional convention backs this up.

      1. Aspie_Anything*

        I would agree 100% if she ever got the impression that she shouldn’t drop out.

        But enthusiastic consent isn’t present when she rehearsed, auditioned, and stayed in the production? Of course it is! And if she’s that into theatre, chances are she’d feel much worse about him backing out than him staying. In her position, I could do the play with him, but I’m not sure I could continue to work there if he dropped out (but much like staying in the play, him dropping would have to be handled well, too).

        This is such a crappy situation all around, and he should be prepared to drop out, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the best course of action without a few conversations. Much of this also depends on the personalities involved and the industry they work in.

        I would just rather deal with the initial awkwardness than the long-term issues if I was the report. As the manager, I’d want to change my name and leave town for good.

          1. Aspie_Anything*

            I’m a woman. A young professional woman at that. I’m not obligated to take on anyone’s feelings, but I am human. It just wouldn’t be a huge deal to have my male boss act opposite of me in a play. It would be a very big deal if he dropped out because of me. I think that’s a pretty normal thing to feel.

  62. yala*

    …starting to feel glad that that one teacher bullied me out of keeping up with theatre, because I forgot just how much of it involved internalizing the whole “don’t rock the boat, even if your gut is telling you something is wrong” in some groups.

  63. Despachito*

    LW1 – it seems that almost everyone here agrees that it would be inappropriate for a boss to perform a violent/sexually charged scene with his (her?) employee.

    I am probably going to appear naive, but what is it exactly that makes it so awkward, given that:

    – the problem must not be the “violence” or “sex” itself (as LW and the employee would be probably perfectly OK performing the very same scene with someone else, i.e. LW “attacking”/kissing another actress on the scene, and the employee being “attacked”/kissed by another actor who is not her boss)

    – both of them and the entire audience certainly know that anything happening on the scene is just pretending, not REAL violence and/or sex

    – some of you mentioned “what would grandboss/coworkers say if they saw LW and the employee in the role”. I can imagine them to be shocked if the play is heavily charged with of sex and violence, but if it is the case, wouldn`t they be shocked irrespective of whether both the boss and the employee are in the play?
    However, I doubt that an amateur theatre would cast an inherently violent/sexual play, and I am wondering how the level of violence/sex in a “regular” play could possibly be such an issue?

    So what is the real problem? The physical contact they will be in? (I get it that kissing the boss may indeed feel awkward, but any violence/attack is pretty much faked on the scene, i.e. definitely not the real thing)

    Again, before I read the comments, I would not think this may be a problem. After reading them, I kind of see your point, and a lot of people seem to coincide so that there must be something iffy, but I am still not fully convinced why this would be so awfully wrong.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      The optics of a manager and their direct report performing a sexual scene just aren’t good.

      Performing that kind of scene can be quite intimate which is not good for a supervisor/employee relationship.

      It opens up speculation on whether there IS something going on between the supervisor and employee, justified or not.

      What if over the course of rehearsals, the supervisor’s behaviour in the play starts making the employee uncomfortable? The employee might feel like they can’t push back because it’s their boss. This is more of a risk in the kind of scene being described here.

      1. UKDancer*

        The optics and the impact on the line management relationship are critical. Also I think it’s important to realise that sometimes it’s not what you do it’s who you do it with. I used to work with someone from a parallel company to my own (Grant). He was delightful and when Grant came into our office he’d come over and hug me because we were comfortable together and then we’d usually go for lunch after the meeting. I worked with someone who did a similar job in a different company (Phil) and I used to stand the other side of the table with my boss between us for meetings because I knew he’d hug and try to cheek kiss me and I didn’t like it. Just because I’m happy to hug Grant doesn’t mean I want to hug Phil.

        Similarly I’m quite comfortable dancing tango in close embrace with several of my the people in the dance clubs I go to but that doesn’t mean I’ve got the same comfort with my boss or the people who work for me.

        People aren’t interchangeable and agreeing to do something with one person doesn’t mean you’ll want to do it with everyone.

        1. Despachito*

          UKDancer, I understand this much more than the LW1`s situation.

          I imagine that Grant possibly “felt safe” in the sense he never used the situation to do something inappropriate, while Phil probably was likely to do the opposite and cross the boundaries.

          I, too, have met both “Grants” and “Phils”, and I see and share your point.

          But here it seems to me that we assume that LW1 would be rather a “Phil” than a “Grant”, and I am wondering whether the solution would be for LW to be always “Grant” and never “Phil”? Or is it a question of “Caesar`s wife (in this case LW) must be above suspicion”?

          1. yala*

            It’s more a “Caesar’s wife” thing, because it’s not just abut LW and their report, it’s also about optics and how it could be perceived by coworkers/employers.

    2. yala*

      I think UKDancer summed it up succinctly upthread: “It’s the fact they’re doing something perceived as sexual while having a power disparity between them.”

      1. Despachito*

        But everybody knows that theatre is not the real thing? I still cannot wrap my head around the idea that a staged situation, when everything is rehearsed and pre-arranged, can be perceived as sexual when everybody – both the actors and the audience – knows it`s just acting. I mean, even if the coworkers or the grandboss came to see the play, they KNOW that the love scene is just what is in the script, not that they are really living a romance.

        I have no experience with theatre acting though, and I was wandering perhaps there is some chemistry between the actors who play lovers, or at least there might be, and this is what matters?

        My only experience with theatre were fencing reenactments (Renaissance swordplay and the like) with a little bit of acting just to frame the fight scenes, and although we got occassionally complimented on that we looked really angry when we were trying to “kill” each other, we never WERE angry, just faked it. I realize theatre acting is different and the actors have perhaps to be more “invested” in their roles, but still – the common consensus is that it is just pretending. And although I can clearly see how a less scrupulous LW could take advantage of the situation, “our” LW looks like a decent and mindful person (given the way how they think about this issue) and they would probably act strictly professional, and left on the stage what happened on the stage.

        I get it that if it bothers so many people it is definitely a thing to consider, but I would feel sorry for LW , who is definitely thoughtful and considerate, if they have to renounce a lead role for something considered a potential, rather then real, problem.

      2. Despachito*

        And it also makes me think to what extent can an employee and his/her boss engage in leisure activities in the same club, whatever the club is? I mean, even if it is not sexual at all, and if we assume that the problem is the power disparity at work and a completely different dynamics in a leisure activity, how would this work if the boss and the employee were for example, members of the same fencing club, or even different clubs, and eventually had to fight each other? How would the dynamics work if the employee was a better fencer and beat the boss? Should the boss bow out somehow?

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          I’d say that if the boss is okay with being outfenced by his work report–can be a good sport about it–then there’s no need to withdraw if they’re matched against each other in competition.

          If they’re at the same club, I’d advise the manager to avoid extra camaraderie with the report–no hitting the pub after the weekly session, if you travel to events be sure to not room together, etc. That avoids the sense that ‘Oh, Fergus has special access to the boss because of their hobby,” going around at the office.

        2. MCMonkeybean*

          I actually do think that it would not be a great idea for him to be in any club with a direct report that is the sort that fosters familiar relationships between the club members–so anything that is a small very social group. I think something like what you described where they are in a different club and occasionally compete against each other would NOT fall in that category and would be fine, that wouldn’t be much more interaction than accidentally bumping into a coworker while grocery shopping. But anything that has them spending a lot of time together socially starts to get into “managers shouldn’t be friends with their employees” territory I think since in a lot of clubs it would be pretty difficult not to form a sort of friendship.

          It wouldn’t be as *obviously* inappropriate as having to kiss and assault her on stage so I’m sure a lot of people have managed to do that without major issues, but it has a lot of the same risks that being friends with a report has in the way it might create the appearance of favoritism even if there isn’t any.

        3. Batgirl*

          You can’t have an out of work intimacy or friendship with a direct report. It’s favortism. You could possibly be part of the same club only if you were able to maintain that formality and distance. So you might be able to be matched in a competition one time, but no regular training and face time.

    3. MCMonkeybean*

      “the problem must not be the “violence” or “sex” itself (as LW and the employee would be probably perfectly OK performing the very same scene with someone else”

      There is literally a never-ending list of things that are not okay to do with your coworkers but are perfectly okay to do with someone else. That is pretty much the crux of it.

      But also, even without the nature of the scene I do think doing a show at all with a brand new direct report may be a bad idea because theater in general is a fairly intimate environment and casts tend to get very friendly. If he is newly promoted and still figuring out the new dynamics with his direct reports this isn’t a great way to start things off on the most professional foot.

      1. Despachito*

        “theater in general is a fairly intimate environment and casts tend to get very friendly. ”

        Yes, I see that this can be a problem – basically to have to switch between two very different dynamics. But does it not mean that it would be basically a problem for them to be members of the same theatre club no matter in what roles they are cast? They will still interact and participate in this intimacy, even if he was cast as Mercutio and she as Juliet?

        I wonder whether this dynamic switching is ever possible, because if it isn`t, that would mean that you, as a boss, would have to exclude yourself from a lot of leisure activities which involve a certain level of bonding if any of your subordinates attend them too. Which would have to be pretty painful given this might mean you would have to give up a beloved hobby.

        1. MCMonkeybean*

          I live in a pretty small city and there are still at least 4 or 5 community theater programs within a reasonable distance, so hopefully if they are both avidly interested in theater they will have options to both participate without having to be in the same show! It might be okay in the future once their professional boundaries are more firmly established but yeah, I think it’s probably not a good idea regardless of role right now. I think if they had been cast in different roles for this show I wouldn’t necessarily say he needs to drop out, but now that they know this is a shared interest I do think it is something to be mindful of in the future…

          Though actually it also might be okay to do a show together in a bigger theater. The group I have worked with most is usually in a very small building with one tiny dressing room so casts have to be pretty small groups and everyone gets… REALLY close. But they also do an annual show where a huge professional theater is rented and the cast is like 100 people including a lot of children, so there are 4 dressing rooms and they are not coed. I was actually a little bummed even that I barely got to know any of my male castmates in that show! So something like that would probably be more reasonable.

          1. Despachito*

            If there are more possibilities in the given city of whatever hobby this is, that would be a solution. (I cringed though when I thought of the cities which only have one club of a kind) .

            However, even if the boss goes to a different club there is always a risk an employee might want to join it. I know that it is becoming pure theory but I imagine the boss eternally escaping from every leisure activity which might include some camaraderie if an employee decides to join.

            1. MCMonkeybean*

              Community theater isn’t like a club in that there are specific members who are in every show. Anyone can audition for any of the theaters for any production. I have personally only worked with one because they are based just down the street from my office so that is very convenient, but a lot of my friends have done shows with all of the local theaters! I’m sure there are places that only have one, but I think OP said in another comment that he lives in a big city so it seems likely they will both have plenty more opportunities once theaters are able to get back in the full swing of things.

    4. EnfysNest*

      Others have addressed the point of how there are tons of things that are okay with other people that aren’t okay with your boss, so I won’t belabor that, but I do want to add this: The absolutely are “amateur” performances of plays and musicals where sexual assault/violence is part of a plotline. The first two I thought of off the top of my head while reading this letter were A Streetcar Named Desire (the scene between Stanley and Blanche) and Oklahoma! (the nightmare dream sequence with Jud and Laurie), both of which are very popular shows and were both performed at my community theater within the last few years. There’s definitely no rule that community theater should stick with only PG-level productions – more intense storylines are not at all rare. And in a more general sense, the only line between what “professional” theaters can perform versus “amateur” theaters other than whether the performance rights are available for purchase or not.

  64. MJ*

    OP 3, For what it’s worth, I wonder if there wasn’t some sort of feedback mechanism in play? Normally maybe you’d be a little flushed, but you noticed the flushing in the video and flushed in response to that, and it just kind of snowballed? Is it possible that it’s less intense when you’re not observing yourself?

    I wouldn’t worry, though! If it were me I would have probably just assumed it was a normal state for you – skin tone or something. Good luck!

  65. Batgirl*

    Yes? That is why managers get paid more. It’s explained before you take on the role that you have responsibilities to others.

  66. hamburke*

    I literally called up someone I hadn’t spoken to in YEARS bc we had a job opening I thought she’d be interested in. Turns out she was moving so it wouldn’t work but we went to lunch, caught up and she’s thrown work my way when she hears of something and I introduced her to some friends who moved to the same area halfway across the country a few years back (same age kids so it was about schools and sports, etc). Worked out well!

  67. Clogs and Cardigans*

    I would be so bummed if I were OP #1. I’ve had arts-adjacent hobbies and I know how much work goes into getting those roles, and how in some small theater communities dropping out like this can ruin chances to get cast in future production. A director chose a work, and assigned parts, and because of a work relationship, that seems new, the writer has to bow out. I don’t know if I could handle this situation.

    I hate to think of this poor manager never doing theater again because they might be cast opposite an employee. Not quite the same, but I had a weird situation where my kids went to the same school as someone I supervised. We had very little control over this (public school) and we were both involved with PTA type activities. Everyone just seemed to accept that we didn’t control that community aspect of our lives. I know this isn’t the same, but I would hate giving up my hobbies, interests, or even activities in the community I live in for the sole reason I’m a supervisor.

    (I also realize that it is the role as well as the time spent with other employees, just so much was outside their control)

  68. hide self view*

    Sorry if someone already suggested this and I missed it but re #3: zoom has an option to Hide Self View and it’s a godsend!!! Job interviews are worse than normal meetings but even in normal meetings staring at yourself is indeed a circle of hell, just turn it off.

  69. Fae Kamen*

    Just wanted to say that I also get red blotches on my chest when nervous and I’ve never known anyone else who did. Thanks OP for showing me I’m not alone!! It really does feel like a neon sign that says I’M NERVOUS.

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