I’ve been doing it out on my blog, fyeahgreatplays.com, for a while now, so it seemed only natural to migrate here in a more official Advice Columnist capacity. I’ve freelanced as a stage manager around New York as well as regionally, I’m a member of Actor’s Equity and a total contract junkie, and I occasionally cohost a podcast on theater and performance (Maxamoo).
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I recently got my first Big Kid Theater Job. I’m very happy at my office, and I’m thrilled to be getting to actually use my degree. It’s a great place to work, and I have no complaints. Except for one.
A few weeks into my new position, a male co-worker asked me to get drinks. I wasn’t interested, and so I tried to turn him down without saying an outright “no” (it wasn’t phrased as a date, but a near-stranger asking me to get drinks set off the “DATE” alarm bells in my head). The second time he asked, I gave a more concrete answer of “I really appreciate your asking, but I’m trying to focus on getting adjusted to a new city right now.” But now it’s been five, six times, and he doesn’t seem to be tiring of asking. A mutual friend told me that it is indeed romantic, and that – even after he told him “she’s not interested” – he believes I will “change my mind.”
I’m not sure what to do: I feel really uncomfortable with the situation (and with some of his other behavior – trying to hug me, sitting near me at every meeting), but I don’t want to cause a stir with HR. And I don’t want to make a stink: he knows a lot of people, and I don’t want to get a bad rep in a tiny new city.
How do I get this guy to leave me alone without burning a bridge?
As I said last month, everyone deserves to feel comfortable in their workplace. It’s hard to focus on your first Big Kid Theater Job (congrats!) with a gnat buzzing around. I’m sure you’ve been kind and polite in your interactions with him thus far, but now it’s time to cut that. He’s clearly not getting the hint, so you’ll need to be direct.
Tell him No. Don’t say you’re busy, or you’re not interested “right now,” because that leaves the possibility of something in the future. Don’t make it your issue- that you’re adjusting to the new city or your new job (even if it’s true!). Again, you’re leaving him with an implied “maybe later.”
The other part of this is that theater is a social job, and you’ll probably be out to drinks with this guy (and the rest of your office) at some point. I’d make sure you have a friend or two with you that will run interference for you as well as keep you entertained. If he invites you out, invite two friends. Just play it as dense as he actually is and ignore that he wants some one-on-one time.
And if it becomes more of an issue, and he really doesn’t get it and becomes more aggressive, take it to HR. Sometimes there’s an attitude that theater jobs are more relaxed than “real jobs,” so you shouldn’t take that sort of harassment seriously. But it is harassment. And you need to keep your focus on bigger things, like taking the theater world by storm.