my coworker took the day off to bake cakes and stuck me with her work

A reader writes:

Thanks to your great advice, I was offered my dream job at a property law firm over 3 months ago. I absolutely love it here – my bosses are fantastic and my coworkers and I seem to make a great team.

However, there is one coworker who really irritates me. Let’s call her Amy.

This week, our office had a huge thank-you party for all of our clients. It was a large catered affair with a huge table of homemade desserts that everyone in my office pitched in to make. Amy took the day before off to bake three homemade cakes for the party, which apparently she does every year (in fact, last year she took two business days off to bake the same three cakes). I really don’t think I would mind if she took off a day to bake cakes for this party, if she hadn’t left TONS of work to be done in her absence.

On the day she was absent, she had five files scheduled to be closed that day. As a newbie in my office, I was actually tasked with handling almost all of her work because I haven’t been assigned as much work yet as my coworkers; they basically had plenty of their own work to do and couldn’t really handle any of Amy’s work. At the end of the day before she was to be absent, Amy insisted all of her files were complete and ready to go and that I wouldn’t even really have to bother with them. That was entirely untrue – three out of five of her files were left disastrously incomplete. It made for an incredibly stressful day for me, and I was even reprimanded slightly by one of the senior attorneys for several mistakes left in one of Amy’s files.

Am I completely wrong to think she shouldn’t be allowed to take a vacation day to bake cakes when she had a huge amount of work to be completed? These closings were scheduled weeks in advance and she clearly left the files incomplete.

I had a candid conversation with another coworker who I can trust, who said she felt that Amy shouldn’t be allowed to take off because we all went home at the end of the day and baked our own desserts that evening. One of my coworkers even went home and peeled 20 pounds of potatoes that night for potato salad!

Should I bring up the mistakes and amount of work left undone on Amy’s files directly with her? Or should I bring it up with my bosses? Or should I let it slide, because it might come off as whiny since I’m so new?

Is it weird that your company gives someone a day off to bake three cakes? Yes. But is it something that you should bring up? Probably not.

Look, I don’t know what’s behind this cake-baking arrangement. Maybe Amy makes fantastic cakes that no one can resist. Maybe one of the partners loves her red velvet cake and a few years ago she said she didn’t have time to make it anymore, so they let her take a day off to do it. Who knows — but it’s their prerogative, weird as it might strike you.

That said, you’re right that it doesn’t send a great message to everyone else, when they all have to stay at work and then cook for the party on their own time, while she gets the day off. But it’s not a battle I’d take on as a new employee. (Especially since it’s just one day a year, but I’d say that even if it were one day a month.) This is just not your battle to fight right now, and you risk looking out of sync with the rest of the team or just complainy.

And neither of those is good when you’re new on a job and people are still forming impressions of you.

As for the fact that she left work incomplete and stuck you with finishing it … I wouldn’t bring that up either, because it’s only happened once. If it happens repeatedly, you could first talk to Amy about it and then talk to your manager if that didn’t resolve it. But even then, you wouldn’t want to approach it as a complaint about her, but rather as seeking clarification about how your role should work — i.e., “I’ve noticed issues A, B, and C when Amy’s projects come to me. I wasn’t sure if I should go ahead and handle those things myself or not.”

But again, this happened once. It doesn’t rise to the level of involving your manager at this point.

{ 100 comments… read them below }

  1. A Bug!

    She stuck you with five closings?

    I don’t work in property law, but I work near it, and my understanding is that closings aren’t often a surprise matter. And I don’t imagine that this party was scheduled on short notice, either. That is to say, ‘Amy’* was in a position to know she was setting herself up for a scheduling conflict when she accepted the files that are closing that day.

    Presumably, she has done everything humanly possible to make those closings go as smoothly as they can for you. If she hasn’t done at least that, then… well, I’m not sure what to say, except that perhaps next year you can touch base with her a couple weeks ahead and ask her if there’s anything on her schedule for that day that you’re going to need to handle. When you do that, you can explicitly ask her to make sure everything that can be done in advance is done in advance, because you have your own workload.

    *Amy….’s Baking Company? Please say yes!

    1. A Bug!

      Also, I don’t know what kind of brain fart resulted in the majority of the second paragraph there; it’s addressed in the OP and I feel very silly now.

      Still, you might then be able to say “Well, tasks X and Y were not complete and they don’t need to be done on the day of closing, so next time you’re going to be away on a day with closings please make sure those are taken care of.”

    2. Jessa

      I mainly agree with the OP, and I do think something does need to be said despite the fact that Alison doesn’t, I think something needs to be said about the errors in files she said were finished but were not. The OP should not take the heat for those mistakes. Amy had plenty of time to deal with getting her work done before she left for cakes.

  2. mel

    As someone who is often tasked to bake fancy cakes, no one does the whole thing in one day. I mean, I need a cake done by saturday but I also have to go to work.
    So monday I’ll do the fondant.
    Tuesday I’ll form the decorations.
    Wednesday I’ll form more decorations.
    Thursday I’ll bake the cake.
    Friday I’ll at least mask or maybe even finish the cake if I’m impatient.

    I agree with the coworkers, everyone else was able to do it on their time off! What might make the difference is if she simply doesn’t have time off. Night classes maybe? Graveyard shift somewhere else?

    1. The Other Dawn

      I agree. I sometimes make cakes also for special occasions and it’s a time-consuming process that has to be done over the course of severals days. It’s something that can be done after work, but maybe the coworker has prior commitments at night and can’t do it after work. In that case I could see her taking a vacation day. I’ve done that myself, although my job doesn’t need to be covered if I take off for just one day.

    2. fposte

      If I were making three layer cakes at home in my oven, I’d need the day just to cycle stuff through the oven space and cool them in time to frost. I don’t think most people who bring cakes are doing the fondant decoration thing, so about the only advance prep for this kind of cake would be making the frosting.

      Mind you, that’s why I wouldn’t make those for this occasion and turn instead to loaf cakes that improve with standing a day or two, but I’m not Amy. Thank heavens.

    3. Kou

      Agreed. Making three nice cakes can easily take an exceptionally long time, longer than your typical bulk baking (or other potluck) project.

      Whatever the case, if this is the arrangement she’s already made with the firm then the OP is not in any place to complain about it. And if Amy said she’d left things in order and the OP found they were not, perhaps there is some other mistake here– and not that Amy just left a pile of unfinished business. Or maybe she did, and this isn’t what typically happens and there was some other-other mistake, who knows. OP should mention it to Amy so they’re on the same page. If this isn’t a recurring issue, though, that’s where it ends.

  3. Cat

    I think that this question isn’t about the cake – it’s about vacation-time policies. The OP wouldn’t have been in a better situation if the co-worker had taken a day off for any other reason.

    1. Dani

      I agree with that. I don’t think that what you take the day of for should matter. I sometimes take a vacation day so I can laze around the house and do nothing. I wouldn’t want people judging wether work should allow me to take a vacation day so I can do nothing.

      1. Janelle

        +2

        I don’t care why she takes the time off, and, frankly, I don’t think the employer truly needs to know. If she has it in the bank, then she should be able to take it.

        The issue is the state of the work she left behind to be handled by someone else. *That’s* what I might want to have a conversation about.

        1. cf_programmer

          Exactly. Be sure to phrase it as all about workload and concern about handling closings. Not about what anyone does on vacation, unless you want your own vacation choices to be on the table for possible future discussion.

          I have to ask though, what is the average number of closings she is handling every day? Is 5 an average for her? Are closing dates up to Amy (or you?). Is it even possible to schedule them around a staffer’s vacation day?

          For me, lowly web developer, my stuff just waits for my return. Fortunately my clients are really great.

      2. Alexa

        Yes, it is her vacation time and she can use it to bake cakes or go to the beach or volunteer. It’s HER time to use. I also don’t want people judging how I use my days.

        She shouldn’t have left the OP in that position and hopefully it won’t happen again.

    2. straws

      Yes. This. The issue isn’t that she took off a day to bake, it’s that she didn’t properly prepare for her day off.

      1. Ann Furthermore

        Exactly. If the OP and the other co-worker agree that Amy shouldn’t be allowed to take the day off to bake, does that mean that they both think you have to give a reason to use a vacation day? And that your manager is allowed to deny said vacation day if s/he thinks your reason for wanting to use it is not good enough?

      2. Jessica

        Exactly! I’d actually argue that her reasons for taking the day off are irrelevant– if she has PTO available and her supervisor approved her request for time off, it shouldn’t matter if she’s taking the day off to bake cakes, care for family members, or sleep until noon and watch TV all day. It’s an approved vacation day, and she has the right to use it as she sees fit.

        However– and this is a big however– it’s a huge problem that she took vacation time without adequately preparing for it. It’s not OK to stick your co-workers with a bunch of time-sensitive, incomplete work while you take time off. I agree with the others saying that it’s probably not something you want to bring up yet, but start keeping documentation of these things so if they do become a problem, you’ll have evidence to back you up. Good luck!

        1. Victoria Nonprofit

          Right – she took a vacation day; she didn’t get a random extra day off for this. So the issue isn’t the cakes or the fact that the rest of the staff didn’t take time off to bake, but that she isn’t managing her workflow appropriately given her vacation schedule.

          1. Grace

            I think the coworker/baker should have been given the day off with pay, not had to take a vacation day, to bake all of those cakes for a work event: A thank you party for the firm’s clients.

    3. Jamie

      Cat is exactly right – the reason doesn’t matter.

      On the rare occasion I burn a true vacation day it’s to nap with my cats. I don’t want anyone trying to qualify how important that is – I have decided that it was important.

      1. The Other Dawn

        Napping with the cats is very important. Especially if they’re kittens. Although with the kittens, it’s not always a very restful day.

        1. Jamie

          Mine are older – the one thing they know how to do is nap.

          If there is ever an Olympic napping team we’re so going to make the cut.

          1. The Other Dawn

            I have a large number of cats, actually. Two are 6 months old (and they’re SO much fun!), three are about 7 years old, and the other eight are over 10 years old. Of those eight, three are about 14-16. Those three are definitely champion nappers. Kittens are too once they wear themselves out.

            1. ExceptionToTheRule

              Ah… kittens. They’re so cute when they run out of gas and just fall over wherever they were last playing.

              1. The Other Dawn

                I know, I love it! Mine are older now so they race around like maniacs for awhile, then go seek out their favorite pillow on the couch and crash. But when the were 6 weeks old? They would just deflate and fall over.

                1. KLH

                  Since I’m not having kids, I figure I am at least entitled to take maternity leave for the next kitten I adopt. Just a week or so at the height of its cuteness.

            1. The Other Dawn

              OMG the whining! One of the kittens can be whiney. It’s kinda cute though. And one of the older cats is very picky about having a certain level of dry food in the dish. If the dish isn’t completely full, there’s a lot of bitching and moaning.

              1. Jamie

                If you change level of food to type of food and you just described me. I’m going to tell my husband he’s now required to find it kind of cute.

                Although it would help if I were a kitten.

              2. the gold digger

                I walk in the door after work and the cats start crying and crying because they are starving.

                My husband works from home. I ask if they cry all day long. Nope. They wait for me to get there because I am the One Who Feeds.

                1. Rana

                  Heh. My cat yells at me because she has forgotten that she has food in her dish. You go in, shake it, and, wow! There’s food!

                  It’s a good thing she’s cute.

                2. The Other Dawn

                  Yup, same thing with me. Hubby is the one who usually feeds so when I’m home sick or on vacation they sleep all day. And they will sleep through dinner time if hubby isn’t home. Once he walks in the door, that’s their cue. Then they loudly complain that I totally ignored them and am letting them starve. At least that’s what I assume they’re saying.

                3. tcookson

                  My one cat yowls even when her food dish is full because it has to be stirred each time she approaches the bowl for a new feeding session. If nobody stirs it, she will sit and look at the food and meow pitifully until someone gives in; then she will eat it as if a new bowl of food has been set out.

                4. chikorita

                  LOL! Exactly the same situation in my family! Sadly our cats have since passed, but when I was younger they used to ignore my dad (who was at home all day) and then rush at me howling as soon as I got home- I was The Deliverer of Food. They did the same to my mum

            2. Mystic

              I have an orange tabby that whines and cries like no other cat I have ever heard. He’s a mutt from the Humane Society, but I would be surprised if there is a drop of Siamese cat blood in him just based on how he looks physically.

              But man, the whining!! We call it “squalling” because that seems like the perfect word for his wailing and crying.

              It’s most prominent when it’s feeding time, but unless he’s asleep, being petted, or playing with our other cat, he squalls. Constantly.

            3. Windchime

              I have a cat who is a mutt but is beautifully colored like a Siamese. I am told that doesn’t mean he necessarily *is* Siamese, but he sure talks, talks, talks as if he is one.

              When he’s not talking, he’s napping.

            4. KellyK

              I have two cats who are preparing for the Olympic whining trials as well. Sassy’s specialty is the growling and hissing event, and she gets a lot of practice when we have the audacity to *pick her up* and move her off the dining room table. Thomas focuses more on the “abused kitten who no one feeds” mew, which he breaks out when we walk into the kitchen, regardless of the state of the food bowls.

      2. Anna

        Everyone is on the right track here. My best friend and I usually take a vacation day to finish Christmas shopping and gift wrap together. It’s more fun and we drink wine and trade wrapping paper. The why is unimportant; the consequences of being unprepared are what’s important.

    4. Kate

      This was going to my point as well. Why someone takes a scheduled day shouldn’t matter. I would be annoyed if someone was criticizing my reasons for a day off. The issue here is the work not being done. That is the problem.

      1. Chocolate Teapot

        There was the post from a few weeks back about the person who worked almost the entire weekend, then was made to take a day’s paid leave. I seem to recall mention of a control freak boss who wanted to have exact reasons why people wanted to take a day off.

        I would be very annoyed if somebody plonked a load of files on my desk with an “Oh by the way, I’m not in tomorrow”.* Especially if it transpired there was more to do than just hand documents over.

        * This has happened to me before. Whilst I don’t begrudge anyone their time off, I do begrudge being swamped!

        1. Grace

          Where I part company with you is the co-worker/baker went home to bake cakes for a work event – a thank you party for the firm’s clients! To me, she should have been given that time off with pay, not as a vacation day. That’s work.

    5. FiveNine

      Another +1. I was confused as to why Amy took the day off (and received approval for it as a vacation day) is the focus at all.

    6. Amber

      How does the OP know that Amy didn’t take a vacation day. If she did, the OP wouldn’t be told about it since it’s not their business.

  4. The IT Manager

    I agree that this is annoying, but whoever approves days off (her supervisor) obviously approved Amy taking that day off despite the five closings so that’s not something for you to complain about.

    You can be bothered by Amy dumping you with incomplete work despite saying it was all done. I agree, though, that since this is a one time thing (so far) that you not bring it up yet.

  5. MaryTerry

    Okay, they allowed her a vacation day to bake for the party – better than paying her to bake and not having to take a vacation day. But… why is the staff doing the baking for this party in the first place? And if you’re non-exempt, is this considered working off the clock? What if you’re a bad baker, do you have to go to the bakery to bring in your cake donation for the party?

    1. The Other Dawn

      I would guess that people volunteered to bake. Even when we had something catered at my last job, people volunteered to make desserts. As to whether it’s considered working off the clock, I have no idea.

    2. Jamie

      Thank you – those were my questions.

      They are catering the meal – why not cater the desserts? Don’t they get that a lot of people are more comfortable eating food prepared in a commercial establishment than in the homes of people they don’t know?

      Just me? Probably…

      But my own weird issues aside, what about the non-exempt people? And people who don’t bake?

      And the only thing I bake well (outside of box stuff) are kolachkis and I’d better get the day off (and not burning a vacay day, either) to do it because they are delicate and can’t just be tossed in the oven after work.

      Seriously – I’m sure the caterer can provide desserts or someone could call a bakery. What a silly waste of resources.

        1. A Bug!

          Ditto. I sometimes have serious problems at pot-luck-style gatherings where I don’t know all the participants well enough to trust that they’re mindful of food safety guidelines. There are a lot of really sketchy habits out there, passed down from older generations and never corrected.

          It’s not that commercial kitchens are universally havens of cleanliness – I’m not delusional. But at least commercial kitchens are subject to inspection.

          This goes triple for home canning.

          1. Jamie

            I agree – I’m not giving a free pass on commercial stuff…I’ve seen Kitchen Nightmares – but some inspection is better than nothing.

          2. fposte

            I won’t even do that. I’m willing to risk a little staph or salmonella, but botulism scares the hell out of me.

          3. the gold digger

            I have canned my own jam and tomatoes (after I took a class in how to do it). I just assumed that the friends who gave me some homemade jam had processed it to be shelf stable.

            Months later, I discovered that they had not processed it – just poured it hot into a jar and put a lid on it. “But that’s how my grandmother did it,” they said.

            I was horrified and I am not even squeamish about food and handwashing. But I do not want to risk death by eating someone else’s homemade jam. Next time, I will smile politely, but throw the jar in the trash.

      1. the gold digger

        My thought as well – why are employees being asked to contribute to business expenses? It’s not cheap to bake something good – butter and chocolate are not inexpensive. And baking something for my employer’s customers on my own time is not my idea of a nice way to spend my free time or my money.

    3. B

      I always volunteer to bake because it is fun. You get to bring in something new you are wanting to try, to show off, or just have fun with.

      1. The Other Dawn

        Exactly. I don’t think they were being cheap about the catering. I think employees wanted to show off their skills by baking.

        1. some1

          But if they are truly volunteering, I wonder why they are complaining about having to prepare food on their own time, though.

          1. B

            They are not the ones complaining. The OP is the one complaining and thinking the employee did not want to make the potato salad.

      1. fposte

        Some cultures really value the homemade, and some people really like showing their homemade chops. That has its own drawbacks, as we see from here, when people get a little overinvested in the creation of the baked good rather than the work side of it, but it can be nice, too.

    4. Shannon!

      Right?! I think my eyes bulged out of my head to read someone went home and peeled 20lbs of potatos for potato salad. Does everything have to be homemade? I want to know more about this party!

  6. Lauren

    I understand being bothered by the fact that a bunch of work was dumped on you, but why get so upset about the reason she took off? Most employees can use vacation time as they see fit, and that’s their own business.

    1. Rich

      Agreed. Vacation and personal days can really be used however one pleases in most cases. This is a situation to suck it up. Not make a stink/burnt cake.

    2. Anon

      +1
      I completely agree. The boss shouldn’t care, or even have to know, if the employee chooses to take the day off to bake cakes, go skiing or have a spa day.
      I think the real issue here is that Amy left without finishing work needed the next day. Worse yet, she left OP completely unprepared, as she stated there was nothing to be done. Would OP have felt differently if Amy had instead told her the day before what was left unfinished? In any case, I agree that one occurrence isn’t enough to bring up to superiors. Also, OP is only able to control her own actions, so bring proactive and asking to go through each file with Amy first would at least prepare OP for what needs to be done.

  7. B

    Yes, it should not matter the reason she took off. Obviously this is something her supervisor approved of, so let that go.
    As for the work not fully being done like she said. Perhaps she thought it was done enough. I would not pass judgement too quickly or bring this up right away. What I would have done is let her know exactly what you did do on them on the day she left. That would have helped to give you a gauge if this was usual, and perhaps customary at this place of work, or not. Right now, you have not been there long enough to truly know.

  8. KellyK

    I agree with everyone who said the reason isn’t the problem. Dumping work on you is the problem.

    I’m also with Jamie as far as “why are the employees baking the desserts?”

    It sounded to me like it was a required part of the party that everyone made a homemade dessert. If providing the dessert is *expected* and not *voluntary* and it’s treated as a requirement of her job, then I think not only is staying home to do it reasonable, but it shouldn’t even cost her a vacation day.

  9. LeeD

    Leaving out the cake baking issue, the core of the matter is that your coworker took the day off and stuck you with her work. The next time she’s going to be taking time off, can you ask to meet with her the day before she’ll be out? I’d be really casual about this – “Can we have ten minutes to sit down and look over the files, just to be sure we’re on the same page about what needs to be done while you’re out?”

    This is actually a good habit to get into in general, so you know you are on the same page as the person who’s out and so you don’t look like you’re targeting anyone in particular.

    1. Editor

      Meeting before the day off sounds like an excellent strategy.

      The only other thing I would do differently is to find some tactful way to tell the attorney who was complaining about some things being incomplete. Maybe the OP should have said something like “Amy had five closings that day and I was handed the files that morning because she was out. She told me the files were complete, but I had X tasks to do for the five closings. You might want to ask Amy the problems, since she told me the files were ready to go.”

      Maybe someone else who works in an attorney’s office can come up with more tactful wording. While I agree a vacation day is a vacation day, I don’t think a new employee should get a black mark because an experienced employee let stuff go.

      1. NutellaNutterson

        I agree – this is one of those times where being new (and being inexperienced, maybe?) is really the issue for the OP. It takes a while to learn the conventions of when it’s okay to push back, move things up the chain, and advocate for yourself.

        The hard lesson for me was that managers don’t psychically know what’s going on with each employee’s workload. If things are going to take way longer, someone didn’t get their part done, or any other surprises – let someone know! It’s not being whiny or complainy to say “this file isn’t ready and I don’t have the resources to complete it.”

  10. AdAgencyChick

    OP, if you’re going to be upset, be upset that she didn’t wrap up her tasks better before she went on vacation — not because she took vacation for a purpose you consider unimportant, AND not because she took a vacation day during a busy period. As my old boss says, even though the company brass would LOVE it if people took vacation only during slow periods, sometimes it is incredibly refreshing and recharging to know that the office is plugging away at a fast pace and that you don’t have to deal with it!

    I know I’ve chosen vacation days well in advance of whether I knew it was going to be a busy time at work or not — and I would be pretty annoyed if, all of a sudden, we got busy and my boss told me “no, your taking a week off to catch up on your sleep is no longer as important as getting the XYZ project done, so you have to come in and get it done.” (That being said, if the boss *asked* “could you shift your staycation to next week?” I’d be more willing to talk.) Similarly, it doesn’t matter that she was baking cakes while you were slaving away — but, if she could have done more while she was in the office to make it easier for you to pick up her load, that *does* matter. And if you get word that Amy is going to be taking off in the future, I’d be proactive about sitting down with her and asking what you’ll need to pick up and what she can accomplish before she leaves.

  11. Interviewer

    If any work needs to handed off to you in future when someone is going to be out, I would suggest you schedule a short sit down ahead of time to go through the file, so both of you can see that you have everything you need or what still needs to be done. And I would make this a habit with everyone who goes on vacation and shuffles work your way, not just Amy. That way, as the newbie you’re well prepared instead of trying to manage angry lawyers in their absence.

    Clearly she was excited about her upcoming cake vacation day and didn’t bother to actually check her files before handing them off. If her work was that unprepared for her vacation day, I can picture her habitually spending her day flying by the seat of her pants on getting things done at the last minute. That may be an unfair assumption, but consider it a lesson learned – you may need to CYA when working with this one.

    Good luck.

  12. DEJ

    I was about to be completely horrified that this was about me because I took a day off a few weeks ago to bake, and my situation was sort of like the ‘maybe the boss loves her red velvet cake and she said she didn’t have time to make it so the boss gave her a day off’ example Allison listed above. HOWEVER I did not leave a ton of work for anyone to do! I definitely agree with others that leaving work is at the root of this problem.

  13. Kou

    I wonder if this is a misunderstanding some how. If Amy told me her work was mostly done and I went to it and saw it wildly incomplete, I’d first assume I was missing something and try to clear it up with her. Like that there’s newer versions of those files, or whathaveyou.

    I also wonder if perhaps it was worse for the OP because she’s new and everyone else (Amy and the others who said they were too busy) underestimated how much more work it would be for her since she has less experience. Maybe it would indeed have been a simple wrap up for the person Amy expected would handle it?

    Anyway OP, you need to settle this with Amy, not try to escalate it immediately.

    1. Jamie

      This is what I am wondering. I understand how the OP felt overwhelmed, but in being new it is possible Amy underestimated the time involved for the OP.

      I totally agree with the comment upthread that suggested that a quick meeting before Amy left the day before to go over what needed to be done would have alleviated a lot of this.

    2. Anonymous

      I think it might also be possible that since the OP is new she might not know that x things didn’t need to be done for y and did more work than was necessary. (Part of the time/experience issue.)

    3. tcookson

      I wondered about this, too. I went on vacation once and left a file of work for a fairly new admin to complete for me while I was gone.

      To my mind, it was all very simple, straightforward stuff and I left very clear, ordered instructions for doing it. However, this person was very overwhelmed by it and escalated it to another high-drama, high-maintenance employee who was also very overwhelmed and freaked out by it. The two of them together escalated it to the dean, who called me into his office for an explanation when I returned.

      When I showed him the work I had left, along with the accompanying simple instructions, he could not understand what they were so upset about. It ended up reflecting worse on them than it did on me.

  14. Not So NewReader

    “At the end of the day before she was to be absent, Amy insisted all of her files were complete and ready to go and that I wouldn’t even really have to bother with them. ”

    OP: “That’s great, Amy. So, if you just deliver the files as completed work to the next person then that will all be taken care of.”

    There is no such thing as work that is “kind of” complete. It is either done or not. My suggestion to you, OP, is that if the files are complete Amy can go ahead and give them to the next person before she goes home that day.
    I assume once you press this envelop the truth will come out “Oh the files only need A and B.” This is your moment to invite Amy to sit down and look over the files with you and list the tasks to be done. Yes, pencil to paper, make a list. She protests all you say is the last time the work was not complete and the higher ups were upset. So you must talk with her about the files so the two of you do not get into trouble over it. Say it like you are trying to keep this from reflecting on the BOTH of you.
    She fooled you once, but she won’t the second time!

    I agree with the others who say the cake stuff is beside the point. She could suddenly have a day off any number of reasons and assure OP that “yes, the files are complete” when the files are far from complete. And that is the behavior that OP needs to prevent from happening again.

    The cake vacation is a management issue. OP, it could be that her files are incomplete most of the time and they are happy to have her stay home for a day. If any company I worked for gave me time off to bake cakes I would read that as, “We can function well with out you.” I’d worry.

    1. Anonymous

      I HOPE and PLAN for my company to be able to function well without me. If I am deliberately sabotaging work so that things break when I leave I would be a horrible employee. When I leave ideally no one notices and everything gets picked back up without an issue when I get back. And if you aren’t planning well enough that outside of a fire things will work ok when you aren’t there you aren’t doing your job. (Yes fires happen, but you shouldn’t be the only firefighter at your company. Even when my org was 2 people, if anything went horribly wrong my boss could have picked up the pieces and vice versa.)

      And I do not feel like they want to get rid of me. At all.

  15. T

    It looks like she used her vacation time for the day off; she was not just given an extra day for cake baking that the other employees did not receive. Everyone earns vacation time, and they have a right to use it for something that they enjoy. It is not up to others to judge if their recreational activities are “important” enough to use their vacation time. Occasionally the boss may need to deny requests for time off, and then it may become necessary for the boss to know why the vacation day was requested. That should be an exception not the rule, after all what good is earning vacation time if you can’t use it.
    I do have to say Amy is not good at scheduling. She should not have scheduled so many tasks on a day she planned to take off unless it was absolutely necessary. One thing that people often forget is that it is not “Amy’s work” that needs to get done in her absence, it is the companies work. As an employee of that company, and part of that team, it is your job to help complete work that was assigned to others in their absence. Sure maybe Amy is not good at scheduling, or at handing off work to someone else. Those are things than need to be worked on by both her and the person she hands it off to. But why she took the day off and even if she had a right to is between her and her boss, not her co-workers.

    1. Anonagain

      Agreed ; the issue is not why Amy took a day off. Also agreed that all the work is the company’s work, and that why she took the vacation day is between her and the boss. And there’s the rub.

      I would advise caution. It is possible that Amy is untouchable. Where I work, we have one person who is terrible about scheduling. They are gone each and every week for some portion of their assigned shift – often with zero notice to the person who will have to cover for them, and often with a lot of time-sensitive tasks left undone. But they are the boss’s friend. Anyone who complains about having to cover at the drop of a hat will find themselves required not only to do the tasks left undone, but to prioritize those tasks ahead of their own workload, and then try to complete their own tasks on an emergent basis when the person returns. Oh, and overtime will be denied. Been there, done that.

      Much better to address it with Amy directly, especially as she does seem to at least give advance notice of when she is planning to be gone. Not So New Reader’s advice is perfect.

  16. Musereader

    The problem I’m seeing that almost nobody else seems to have picked up on is that the OP got reprimanded for mistakes in one file that were there prior to the OP receiving them. I have case files at work and we regularly hand them off to others to contact the client to advise if we are not in the next day. If I was handed the case and told just to advise, and then noticed that they had missed something, especially something the client might ask about I would not be happy. If a manager reprimanded me for not doing tasks I wasn’t supposed to do I would totally say that. Especially tasks that take a long time. There’s is something to be said about owning the work that you are given and making sure it is correct but what if this is not correctable in a day?

  17. Anonymous

    If what Amy told the OP was true ….. (Amy insisted all of her files were complete and ready to go and that I wouldn’t even really have to bother with them) then Amy didn’t even need to leave them with the OP. She obviously knew they were unfinished and dumped her work on the OP. I don’t like the taking advantage of.

    What goes around comes around.

  18. Cookies

    OP/LW here! I want to say thanks to Alison and everyone for some really thoughtful, insightful comments and for offering me some suggestions. It’s very true that Amy’s reason for taking a vacation day shouldn’t matter, and I see that now – after all, I wouldn’t want my co-workers complaining that I took a vacation day to have a spa day, or just spend all day watching Netflix and ordering take-out. I was shocked at how Amy left her files because she seems to be an institution at my office and my co-workers say that she is meticulous. I would be willing to say that perhaps it was just a one time thing, but when Amy took a vacation day earlier this summer, I noticed another co-worker clearly telling Amy to complete X and Y tasks before she left. Now I know why! As the newbie I dont want to be stuck in this situation every time a co-worker is absent so I like the idea that NotSoNewReader gave of meeting with Amy the day before and going over exactly what has been done and what needs to be done. And if she insists the files are complete then I’ll tell her to leave them on our senior attorney’s desk (and I’d probably frame it as doing a kindness to the attorney, so they dont have to go searching for the file come closing time).

    For now I’m just going to keep a wary eye on the situation – it’s possible it was just a one time thing and that she doesnt usually leave this much work incomplete. But I *can* say that when other co-workers are absent, Amy doesnt lift a finger to help unless she is flat-out told to, and that rubs me the wrong way.

    And FYI – not one of her 3 cakes was fully eaten by the end of the party. They were basic yellow, white, and chocolate cakes with frosting. I personally didnt have any because the table was so full of delicious desserts I couldnt possibly try them all. I get the feeling that no one has ever requested Amy to make these cakes, they just allow her to because she enjoys it. When we had planning meetings for this even, it was made clear that no one *had* to bake or participate. Plenty of my co-workers went to the grocery store and bought pre-made brownies and cookies, and we were allowed to give our expense receipts to our HR manager to be reimbursed. And yes, all of the food with the exception of the famous co-worker’s potato salad and desserts was catered.

  19. Chocolate Teapot

    So it sounds like over-catering then? Did anyone else you know have a piece from Amy’s cakes, and can say what they tasted like?

    My team does the short-meeting-to-check-outstanding-items and it’s usually fairly clear. There is a huge difference between “Here’s the Chocolate Teapot file. When you get the signed documents, can you please send a copy to the Marzipan Coffee Pot Head Honcho?”

    And “Oh by the way, you need to get the Caramel Sauciere contract signed. See you in a week!” (as they sweep out of the office without a backwards glance.

    At which point you realise that the only person who can sign the Caramel Sauciere contract is on another continent and unavailable for a few days.

  20. sai

    hmmm. … just touching upon something that rest of you didnt bother with –isnt the other coworker who OP spoke with acting funny – I mean OP is new to the place and checking with her, while this person I assume has been here for ages, if taking off for baking is an issue, then she could have spoken to Amy/ her boss right?

    I mean my office is full of such people – people who dont want to confront problems but are happy bitching about it and making the atmosphere sick… this sort of backbiting seriously gets to me…

    OP – I know you trust this co worker but my advice is that always be wary of statements like áll of us feel that way’etc etc..the point is those people can do something as well and they chose not to!

  21. Working Girl

    It sounds like Amy knew about the cakes for the party and the closings all well in advance. I would not say anything about the cakes or her time off and I assume it was booked ahead vacation time. She should not have left you as a newbie with closings that were not ready unless she left you with a list of what was left to be done and not at the last minute. She should have asked for help before the bake off so you both could have prepared. That way you would have been familiar with the closings before go time. Sounds like she was afraid the vacation day and cake bake off would be taken from her if she confessed about not being ready with her work. Next time, ask to help her a few weeks in advance so you know what’s on her plate (sorry for the pun) before cake day. Maybe she has dreams of being a baker! I hope the cakes were delicious, she should have baked you your own cake as a thank you.

  22. Another Emily

    It seems like the two problems are #1 bosses approving a vacation day when there is too much work for that person to take time off and #2 (not so much of a problem) the enthusiastic make way too much deserts. (As per your update OP.)

    It seems like Amy’s cakes were just fine or so much of them wouldn’t have been eaten. They were probably unfinished because of the huge amount of tasty deserts on the table. (Personally I don’t have a piece of cake at a party like that if it means avoiding it will let me have room for a butter tart, a chocolate dipped strawberry and a Nanaimo bar.)

    The real problem is #1, but I’m not sure what you can do about it as a new employee. Double checking what needs to be done by you on any of Amy’s vacation days in advance (and following up on their status before she leaves) is probably the best plan.

  23. testbp

    Good for her that she took a day off. I mean c’mon. Everyone should be able to do that once in a while. At least she didn’t hide the reason why she was taking the day off. Learn to say No about taking her work on when she takes the day off.

  24. Sara

    I wonder what was left incomplete or if instead work came up that had to be done. I had a coworker go on leave and left me a file he had been working on that was due for follow-up. What he hadn’t expected was that the follow-up would include 3 days worth of edits to be done. It’s govt work and if a Minister wants items changed you change it, it’s not something he would have known in advance. In any case, he left that for me to sort out, I don’t think that means he “left me all his work” to do. I say this because of the 3 days he was gone, I was going to be away on my approved leave the 3rd day, which meant the work that came out of his project, I had to hand off to someone else, let’s say Matt. And when I returned to work on the Monday, I heard Matt told everyone how I did nothing but leave him work to do! I approached him directly to ask him how things went on the day I had off (Friday) and he said “fine” so I asked about “all the work I left him” and he was mortified, and sat there back tracking that he didn’t mean it like that he was just complaining because he didn’t think he’d have that much work to do. All of this because someone left me their file that still required follow-up. It can happen and not necessarily be someone just “leaving all their work”. Work is work.

  25. Lisa Petrenko

    Why are you so stuck on the cake part? It is irrelevant. She used a vacation day, she can do that for any reason she wants, it is none of your business. The problem is she left work incomplete and lied about it. THAT alone is the issue to focus on. I might politely trey to discuss with her how much it inconvenienced you. But you seem to be suggesting you’d like to complain to the boss that she used one of her vacation days. Completely inappropriate and quick path to having everyone hate you. She has every right to ask to use a vacation day and the reasons are none of your business. She can just take the day to catch up on her soap operas if she chose. Address ONLY the work she stuck you with. Or you will soon have no one at work who will even speak to you.

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