Saturday, July 17, 2010

Entertainment Internship Issue

Seems even Dear Prudence weighs in on an issue in being an entertainment intern. I saw this letter a while back:

Dear Prudence,
I landed a dream internship in the entertainment industry and on my first day on the job got to be part of a fabulous evening-long project that culminated in a victory party at a bar. Due to pressure from my supervisors, who were buying the drinks, and poor decision-making, I wound up too drunk to drive home. One of the bosses took me home with him, and when we got there he repeatedly tried to kiss me. This confused me, because I had been certain that he was gay. When I rejected him, saying, "I don't understand," he told me that he found me incredibly beautiful and sexy. Twenty minutes later, I was throwing up in his living room while he tried to play nurse and let me sleep it off on his couch. The next day he begged me not to quit, although he didn't apologize for putting the moves on me. I intend to stay at this internship, because it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Do I write the incident off as a crazy, drunken night and nothing more, or confront him about it? Harassment on my first day, though committed under inebriation, is a pretty heavy issue to just sweep under the rug. What should I do?

—Harassed and Hungover

Dear Harassed,
Get the full DVD set of Entourage and discover that yours could be considered a tame first day on the job in the entertainment industry. Certainly your supervisors should never have encouraged an intern (or any employee) to get drunk. But if you are old enough to have an internship, you should be old enough to know your own limit. Now you do, so that was a valuable evening. There is no Most-Powerful-Man-in-the-World exemption for hitting on an intern (even if the intern flashes some thong); and there's no Hollywood one, either (especially if the intern is inebriated). Your boss gave you a revolting welcome to the industry, but at least he backed off and got all Florence Nightingale after you ralphed in his living room. Although I'd love to be there, as would any reality-show producer, when you clarify your surprise and horror at his unwanted advances by explaining, "I was certain you were gay, so I couldn't believe you were trying to kiss me!" there are some things that are best left unsaid. His begging you not to quit indicates that he knows he behaved terribly. Now that you've both showered, sobered up, and returned to your desks, you need to show your boss that you have the good judgment to forget about your unfortunate start, and instead spend the rest of the summer showing that you are great at your work.


So memo to me: make sure to recruit interns who know how to behave like grown ups. Make certain that the top brass also behaves like grown ups.

Take home message: if you can't hold your alcohol or not become a lecherous cretin/fight instigator/other undesirable behavior that will cost a company lots of $ in lawsuits, damages, harmed reputation, etc., then do not drink at business functions.

Anything where you're dealing with a boss is a business function; I don't care how cool the boss is or how much fun the event is. You will still be judged on how you act if anyone in authority over you is present.

It's a reason I'm in favor of professional distance & would never even hang out socially w/professors when I was a student in their classes. If you want to date your professors or your boss & they're cool with it, that's fine but if you don't, I think it's better not to put yourself in situations where someone could get the wrong idea.

Anyone running an office should take note of this. I sure have. I couldn't see something like this happening at any company I deal with & if I heard about it, you'd better believe I'd be keeping a careful eye on that intern. There are lots of people who think they can sleep their way up in this business & not face any consequences. Some even try to accuse others of sexual harassment if the higher up rejects him/her. I also wonder what sane supervisor would pressure an underling to drink, since you really can't assume all people are happy, fun drunks. My father, for instance, is what I call an asshole drunk.

Situations like this are exactly why you'd better have a well written, detailed sexual harassment policy as well as some forethought not to put alcohol in front of people who can't handle themselves properly when they drink. What if this intern had been a potential investor, director, producer or someone else who might get deeply offended if you try putting the moves on them? I'm probably the only non-drinking attorney in my profession so respect for others & behaving like a grown up when you drink is going to especially be something I'm concerned about.

Honestly, I think we should lower the drinking age since it could cause fewer problems w/too much drinking in America but that's another story.

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