“I’m your Director so whatever I say are the words of God. Is that clear?
Now get undressed.”
Yes, that’s an actual scenario that has happened with many individual in their life while they were working in a theater play for commercial or private purposes.
The other day, someone asked me about the last time my ethics had been tested while working on a play and how I reacted. I wasn’t sure how to respond. It’s a good question, and I wanted to answer it. Still, I hesitated to reveal too much about some of the less-than-honest directors I’ve reported to in the last 5 years.
These are directors who lied, gossiped about their actors to other actors, broke confidences, fudged numbers to governmental agencies, botched payroll tax withholdings and covered it up, and willfully and recklessly turned a blind eye to leadership abuse — for starters.
The truth is, everyone get their ethics tested on a regular basis.
When your boundaries are Tested
I believe boundary violations are at the heart of much workplace unhappiness. And of all the ways a director can cross the line, one of the most troublesome is when he or she requests that we compromise our ethical code.
Observing an unethical director in action is unsettling enough; being expected to participate can be excruciating. We know what’s right, but we hesitate to do it. Why?
Your director makes it sound reasonable
Directors and their nonsensical rules! We could never be 100 percent compliant no matter how hard we try, and no one really expects us to try. So, let’s fudge some stuff and move on. Everybody does it, nobody cares, and we have an audience to serve/a mission to fulfill/sponsors to appease, etc. This small transgression (if you even want to call it that) is nothing compared to the greater good that’s being accomplished by us.
Your director knows more than you do
Your gut is telling you loud and clear that something is off, but your director pooh-poohs your concerns with some management mumbo jumbo that (kind of) convinces you that your gut is mistaken and that you don’t know enough about (fill-in-the-blank) to make an accurate assessment of the situation.
You fear that standing in opposition to your director will cost you something you hold dear, such as your directors’ approval, to be a part of the play, doing a major role, or even your dignity.
Nobody else has a problem doing X, what makes you so special?
The desire to get along
Truth be told, you don’t feel like you’re getting paid enough to fight these kinds of battles. Let your director do whatever he or she will. You’ll make sure to cover your rear should the you-know-what hits the you-know-what.
A desire to get ahead
You tell yourself that if this is what it takes to advance within the theater world, then this is what it takes. You’re only following orders, after all.
Well, here’s the problem.
(Actually, there are two problems.)
Problem 1 — If you’re the decent sort (and most people are) eventually your conscience will get the better of you, and you’ll begin to resent a director who asks things of you that shouldn’t be asked, and that’s only after you start hating yourself.
Problem 2 — Unethical boundary pushers are never content to hit you up once and call it a day. When they realize you’re willing to play ball, they’ll come back time and again, assuming your willingness to participate in the unsavory.
That said, how you face that director will mark you forever, so decide wisely.
No man goes before his time – unless his boss leaves early ~ Groucho Marx