is my sick coworker really on vacation, increasing my freelance rates, and more

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

1. I’ve been covering for my sick coworker, but he’s been posting about vacations on social media

One of the employees at the firm I currently work for has been supposedly been “sick” with strep throat/mono for three months now. He has made little effort to contact my bosses, and has told us numerous times that he would return to work. Two months ago, he said he was hoping to make it in for Thursday. Three weeks ago, he promised to be into work “no matter what” on Monday. He has not shown up, nor made contact with us.

We had two major projects due this week for multi-million dollar contracts. Since I am the only other employee who does the same kind of work he does, I have been pulling 60-hour work weeks, working on weekends and neglecting everything else outside of my work schedule. I had a one-week long vacation planned for this week that I had to skip completely to meet these deadlines.

I searched this employee’s name on Facebook and Twitter. It appears he has been on vacation and has been posting pictures of such on social media (my bosses do not have him added, apparently). I am nothing short of infuriated by this, but since I am a new employee (less than a year with the company), and he has been with the firm 10+ years, I am unsure how I should handle this. What should I do?

I’d leave your coworker’s activities out of it and instead focus on setting boundaries about what you can and cannot do. Say this to your boss: “I was glad to help out while Fergus was out sick, but I’ve been working 60-hour weeks for three months now, have canceled vacations, and haven’t had a real weekend — let alone an outside life — in that whole time. I need to scale back to regular hours at this point, so I wanted to go over how you’d like me to prioritize projects. I can do A, B, and C, but not D, E, or F.” (See this post for more language suggestions when you set limits on your workload.)

Beyond that: Do you know for sure that he’s actually on vacation and those aren’t older photos that he’s just posting now? (I realize it’s possible that you do know for sure, like if he’s tagging himself in particular locations or writing about his vacations in the present tense, but sometimes people assume vacation photos are from right now when they’re really from months ago.) If he’s made it clear that these are current, though, there’s no reason you can’t say to your boss, “Is Fergus done with sick leave and now just on regular vacation? He’s been posting on social media about various trips he’s taking.”

2. Am I making too many mistakes in my new job?

When I first started my job I couldn’t seem to do anything right. I have been at my job for almost six months and I’ve greatly improved. I had my 90-day review in May, which was pretty good surprisingly since I thought I sucked. Yet still I seem to make mistakes at least once a week. They’re usually new mistakes and things that I haven’t been taught yet so that’s okay, but when it’s careless and avoidable mistakes like spelling errors, data entry, etc., I hate it. I normally check my work too! I try hard to learn from my mistakes but it seems a new one always pops up.

For example, yesterday I received a long list of people’s COBRA benefits to end since they haven’t been paying. I glanced and saw all them all as 8/31/16 and didn’t even notice the two that had different dates. I usually check my work, but I didn’t cross-reference the list I had and instead cross-referenced it with what I thought was all 8/31/16.

This mistake wasn’t drastic, not really much of a difference, but my supervisor still caught it and I always feel shame and stress over the weekend. I would rather I catch my own mistake than someone else catch it. Are there people who make mistakes here and there because it is human error and that’s normal or do I really need to find another profession?

Most people do make occasional mistakes because they are human, and that is part of being human. The question for you is whether you’re making an unusual high amount of mistakes for your particular role. That’s not something I can answer for you, but your manager can — and this is a very reasonable question to ask her. Say this: “I know that I’m still making occasional mistakes. Can you give me a sense of whether this is about the amount of mistakes you’d expect from someone six months into the role, or whether it’s higher than average?” Given your good performance review, I think you might hear that you’re doing fine and your mistakes aren’t out of the normal range, but it’s worth asking to help you put this in context.

3. Telling freelance clients I’ve increased my rates

I speak fluent Spanish and worked for several years working essentially as an in-house translator for an American company. While I’ve since moved on to other areas in my day job, former work contacts (and family and friends) will occasionally ask me to do freelance translation work, which I’m usually happy to take on.

When I first started freelancing a few years ago, I was not really sure how much I should be charging. After doing some research recently, I realized that I was shortchanging myself by quite a bit and have just about doubled my hourly rate.

How do I approach this rate hike with repeat clients? I think it’s a fair market rate, and my quality and dependability are very strong, but I do think it could be a bit jarring to quote a much higher rate out of the blue. (Especially when occasionally dealing with friends/family/acquaintances, who may think that I’m trying to gouge them, or that they were getting a special rate before but are no longer.)

The next time a client approaches you with a project, say this: “I’d be glad to take this on. I want to let you know that I’ve raised my rates to $X. Does that still work for you?” That’s really all you need to say! But if you’ll feel more comfortable giving more context, you could say, “I realized I was charging below market initially” or “Now that I’ve been doing this for a while, I increased my rates to bring them up to market level.”

Another approach is to do it more gradually — “I want to let you know that I’ve raised my rates to $X, but because you’ve been a customer for a while, I can discount that to $Y for you for the next six months so it’s not quite so sudden” (with Y being somewhere in between your old and your new rates).

4. Explaining I quit my job after an armed robbery

I worked part-time as a teller and was the sole victim of an armed robbery at the bank. It was devastating. I quit because I was an emotional wreck thereafter. The bank had serious security risks. After the robbery, the bank wanted to sweep it under the rug and made zero changes to ensure teller safety — another reason for quitting.

How do I explain to a potential employer that I quit because of this reason without sounding like a “victim” with “emotional problems”?

“I was the sole employee working during an armed robbery, and afterwards I felt I wanted to move on to a new environment.” Everyone will understand that, and there’s no need to go into any further detail (about your response or the company’s non-response). Being freaked out by a terrifying situation won’t make you sound like a victim or like you’re emotionally unstable.

5. Can I reapply from a position I was recently rejected for?

I applied to a company and was granted a phone interview that I thought went really well. The person I spoke with was the manager who I would be working with, and we seemed to have a very good conversation. It ended with him saying they would get back to me within about a week and that he had to let HR know his decision. Within that time, I received a letter from the company saying they were not considering me anymore and signed by the person I spoke with.

I am still looking and noticed the job was just reposted! Is it pathetic to apply again? If I do should I mention in a cover letter that I have already applied? I am truly very interested in the company and the position!

Assuming this happened in the last month or two, you shouldn’t apply again. You were already interviewed and rejected. For whatever reason, they don’t think you’re the person they’re looking for in this role. That can be frustrating when you’re convinced you’re a great candidate, but keep in mind that they know the needs of the job and what they’re looking for with far more detail and nuance than you can have from the outside.

{ 284 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    #5 Oh please don’t do this. I have had people we rejected reapply the next time we posted the role and it is nothing but awkward; if we wanted to hire them, we would be hiring them. Unless they actually said to you ‘we really had a tough time deciding but went with someone with a bit more experience and we hope if we have an opportunity in the future like this you will apply again.’ Being rejected for a position is a message; never re-contact them — on rare occasion they will come back to you.

    1. Anon123*

      But see Artemesia, what if it was down to say me and someone else, or if I was say third on your list. I got rejected (and you never communicated I was competitive enough) so why can’t I re-apply? If it’s like completely inappropriate and the candidate is completely off-base, but if you think you could succeed in the role, why not re-apply? I don’t think being rejected automatically means ‘never contact us again’.

      I don’t know. Perhaps I’m trying to be hopeful as I’m currently job hunting and feeling discouraged. :(

      1. MK*

        Here’s the thing: if you were rejected because, despite the fact that they thought ypu would be great for the job, the just liked someone else better, and then the first choise doesn’t work out for whatever reason, the hiring manager won’t just repost the position; they will reach out to you first, to see if you are still interested. Many companies don’t even send rejections until after they hire someone to avoid this.

        Reposting the job is muc more likely to mean that they didn’t find anyone who thye thought right for the job. And reapplying right after ypu got rejected comes across as you trying to get them to reconsider their decision. That being said, it’s not as if you are forever banned for applying ever again. Just mot immediately for the same position.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          I think it makes a difference if it was the same job, or a similar one.

          If it’s the same job being re-posted, or a posting within a short period of time, like a few weeks, I think it’s pretty safe to say that they would reach out to you if they wanted to (if, say, the top candidate had backed out at the last minute). An immediate reposting could mean that they didn’t hire any of their candidates, and are trying again for a stronger pool.

          If it’s a similar position being posted some time later, and the interview appears to have gone well, there’s be less chance that they would personally contact their previous short list, and a new application is a good idea.

          1. Rye-Ann*

            Yes, I think it depends on the specifics of the situation.

            Here’s how I got my current job. I applied last May, and got interviewed at the beginning of June. A few weeks later, I had a phone interview with the manager of the department, who hadn’t been able to attend my interview due to being out at the time. All in all, everything sounded like it was going well. In July,

            1. Rye-Ann*

              Whoops, managed to post this before I was done typing.

              In July, I was rejected. I wasn’t super surprised by this, because I wasn’t available until mid-August at the earliest (when I would be done with school & moved into the area) and I knew they were looking for a couple people to start soon. Though maybe there were other reasons for my rejection, I never found out.

              Mid-September, I saw the same job re-posted. It seemed like the best match for me out of every posting I’d found so far, so I decided to e-mail the person who had contacted me to schedule the interview (the head of HR). I can’t remember what I said word-for-word, but it was something to the effect of, “Hey, I noticed this job was re-posted. I interviewed for it the last time it was posted but ultimately didn’t get the position. Now that I’m available immediately and have moved into the area, I wanted to let you know that I am still interested in the position. If you’re interested in having me as a candidate again, let me know.” Obviously it was a bit more formal than that, but you get the idea. I sent them an updated copy of my resume.

              I got a reply rather quickly, saying that she would talk to the hiring manager to see what they wanted to do and let me know what was decided. That same day (iirc) I got another e-mail – with an offer letter!

              Now, obviously I wouldn’t expect it to work out so well in every situation. I certainly did not expect them to reply, necessarily. But, since something I knew was an obstacle to my candidacy the first time was removed, I thought it was worth a shot. I also decided just send an e-mail rather than reapply. My thinking was that it hadn’t been that long, so they probably did remember me. Simply reapplying might send the message that I thought I could just “start over,” so to speak, even though that wouldn’t make much since – they already interviewed me for the position. I assumed that they would rather have a follow-up, based on what they already knew, if they were interested at all.

              I didn’t know this at the time, but the reason the job was reposted? They were hiring more people with the same job description. That’s it. If it had been a different reason (say, they didn’t like any of the candidates the first time, including me) I’m sure this would have turned out much differently. It also helped, probably, that I was a better match for the team they were hiring for this time around than the last time. (Though again, I didn’t know that either, I was just lucky.)

              Now, OP #5 doesn’t say how much time has passed between their rejection and the job being reposted, but I agree with the advice that reapplying doesn’t make sense if it’s only been a few months. Contacting them at all probably doesn’t make sense if nothing has changed about your candidacy, unless you know you were a runner-up – then maybe? I would imagine the OP’s chances for success would also depend on why the job was reposted, though obviously they can’t know that from the outside.

              TL;DR: There are cases in which reapplying/trying to get a position you were rejected for can work, depending on the circumstances. But if I were the OP, based on what’s in the letter, I probably wouldn’t get my hopes up. :\

        2. So Very Anonymous*

          Was just about to say all of this. Agree that OP’s situation sounds like the search failed.

          Also, I think it’s OK to reapply after you’ve built up some more relevant experience over time — but not immediately after beng rejected.

        3. Nursey Nurse*

          I think this depends on field, too. In nursing (in my state at least), hiring is usually a two-step process; you fill out an online application which is reviewed by HR, which then forwards the applications of all qualified candidates to the hiring supervisor for the department the job is located in. The hiring supervisor is responsible for interviewing and ultimately choosing candidates. Once that process is completed, it’s extremely uncommon for the hiring supervisor to hold on to applications from people who were not chosen because in most cases they are only allowed to consider candidates for each vacancy from the pool of candidates who are forwarded by HR for that vacancy. So if you want a shot at a subsequent vacancy in a particular area you have to reapply — nobody is going to come to you.

          1. MK*

            But in the OP’s case it’s not a subsequent vacancy, it’s the same one they were already rejected for.

            1. Nursey Nurse*

              Do we know that though? It could be that the employer has several employees who fill the same role (accountants, let’s say) and the OP is talking about two different vacancies for the same role. That’s what I was trying to get at with my post. In some industries staffing is very fluid and multiple openings can occur relatively close to one another. In nursing, you would be expected to reapply for opening #2 even if you’d just applied for opening #1 a month ago. I doubt nursing is the only field where this is the case.

        4. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Yes, what MK said. If there was more than one stellar applicant and you would love to hire them all but you can’t, and your first choice turns you down (or even withdraws after accepting your offer due to a counteroffer/better offer, you call the other top choice(s) and either make them an offer or at least ask if they could come in for another interview. If the job is reposted, chances are that they didn’t see anyone that wowed them.

          Even if it’s an agency that requires that an unfilled position be reposted, I would call the stellar applicants and ask them if they were still interested and available.

        5. Felicia*

          I was actually rejected for a job, and then a week and a half later they called me to see if I was interested, and that’s the job I’m currently doing. Another job, I got rejected and then reapplied to the same job exactly a year later, having since gained some very relevant experience, and I got it. But immediately after i would never reapply, because if they really thought I had a shot, they still have my info and wouldn’t forget me.

          1. Rob Lowe can't read*

            I had a similar experience during my last job search. I felt that I had interviewed really strongly, but the job went to someone else. I was disappointed, of course, but life goes on. Not too long afterwards, they called me back to offer me an only slightly different role. (I had already accepted another job by then, but if that hadn’t been the case I definitely would have accepted the offer.)

            I know that doesn’t help take the sting away if you’re not getting calls like this, but know that it does happen and there are employers who mean it when they say they’ll keep you in consideration!

            1. Queen Gertrude*

              Agreed. Also, the people who don’t mean it when they say that they will “Keep you in consideration” are more often then not simply afraid of hurting people’s feelings and hoping to not have to deal with any fallout. They are really nice people, they just really suck at the prospect of telling people no. I am always very frustrated with colleagues that choose to use this method of dealing with people when they don’t really mean it. But I am not the morality police. Honestly, you should be the bigger person in this situation (even though you can’t really know what is really going on behind the scenes at the job you applied for).

              *Actually… I can think of one guy I worked with who was just an a**hole and would ghost everyone he didn’t like. But you should always be the better person when dealing with people like him, you should also take signs like that as a red flag and a sign that you dodged a bullet ;)

        6. Hush42*

          In my limited experience this isn’t true though. I applied for a job in September and interviewed once- the interview went okay and it seemed like a company I would love to work for. I sent a thank you e-mail to my interviewer (the hiring manager) and then never heard anything back . I assumed that they had passed on me. The next February I came across an ad for the same job and decided to reapply. They very quickly called me for another interview and then offered me the job a week later (and 2.5 years later I’m still at the company). If I hadn’t reapplied I know my manager would not have thought about me or reached out. On the other hand it wasn’t exactly the same situation as OPs because they were hiring another person for the same position rather than it being the same hiring round where they just hadn’t found anyone the first time.

          1. KTM*

            I think the timeframe difference matters here though. In your situation it sounds like it was 5 months later that the job was re-posted. It’s not clear from the OP’s post what the timeframe is, but as Alison mentions in her answer, if it was just within the past couple months, the OP probably shouldn’t reapply.

            1. Chalupa Batman*

              I’d agree that the timeframe matters. We recently had a role filled with generalizable but very important skills required, and the person we hired was great. So great, in fact, that she recently accepted a similar but better paying internal position. She’s been on less than a year, but we’re going to be reposting the exact same job. In a week it’s not likely that something like this would happen, but the same job a few months later could very well mean an internal promotion, or someone was hired that didn’t make it through the probation period, and good applicants who were passed on before would be welcome additions to the new pool.

            2. Isabel C.*

              Right: I don’t know exactly how much time makes the difference, but I think if they repost after 4-5 months it’s probably good, not so much after 2 or 3.

      2. neverjaunty*

        It’s totally normal to feel discouraged, but you can’t let that feeling trick you into making decisions that will actually hurt your chances of getting a job.

        “Why not re-apply?” Because if you do, you are signaling that you don’t accept their opinion about your fit for the role, and you can come across as desperate. If they couldn’t fill the job AND they thought you would have been a good choice except that others were better, they will reach out to you.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Yes. They won’t have forgotten about the people they interviewed – if they realize that someone they rejected might be what they want after all, they know how to get in touch.

          It would be reasonable to reapply if the same job gets posted, say, a year later, especially if you can make the case that your skills and experience have grown since then. But if you’re still essentially the same candidate you were when you first applied, then don’t.

          1. Joseph*

            It’s also usually reasonable to apply for a *different* job at the same company. In most companies, departments don’t coordinate their candidate searches much, to the point that one division often doesn’t even know that other divisions are looking at all (much less what the other division wants in an employee). So if you don’t get an offer for the Chocolate Teapot job, you can’t reapply again for that job, but you can apply if there’s an opening in the Teapot R&D division that suits you.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I can’t help but think of the dating analogy here. Sure, something may change in the future, but your best bet is to move on and stop thinking about the person who is just not that into you.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Exactly. “But maybe she’ll break up with her boyfriend and then I better call her so she knows I’m still interested!” If she wants to call, she’ll call.

      3. INTP*

        No one enjoys sifting through stacks of resumes, and recruiters remember their past candidates. Unless it has been a long time, if the position reopens and they’re interested in you, they will contact you.

        If you’re sure that it was down to you and one other person after rounds of interviews, then I think it’s more appropriate reapply (maybe with a heads up email to your recruiter), but even then, most likely pointless, as if they’re interested they will most likely remember and reach out to you. But if you’ve just been rejected after one or two interviews, don’t do it unless they specifically encourage you to.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yeah, it really depends on the organization, I think , but we DO keep the resumes of strong candidates that we like but aren’t a fit with the specific position open on file. For us, if you’ve applied and interviewed within about the past year, and we really liked you but didn’t fit of for the initial position for which you applied, we’ll call you back for a position that may be a fit. I hired someone earlier this year who’d applied for a different position late last year, but, after discussing it with HR, realized she was overqualified and it wasn’t what she was looking for. HR really liked her and, when my position that was a good fit for her opened up, they called her back to see what she was up to. The people with whom she works are thrilled with her, and it cut a ton of time off our recruiting pipe.

      4. Artemesia*

        they know who you are. If they wanted to hire you, they know where to find you. I know several people who were second on the list and were in fact hired when the initial hire fell through. I have also had people i have interviewed who were second in their round but whom we didn’t want to hire and so we didn’t reach out to them when we had the same opportunity open up.

        If you interviewed and were ‘close’ to being chosen, they know who you are and will come back to you if the first choice doesn’t work out.

        If a year has passed, you might contact them and ask if an application would be appropriate but repeatedly applying when rejected will just annoy the hiring manager.

    2. Marcia*

      I am in the process of reapplying for a post which I interviewed for in May this year. In the rejection letter I was given the opportunity to contact one of the panel for a chat if I wanted feedback, and I did this. We met over coffee, and both gave and received feedback over the course of about an hour. I learned that although I was considered to be “excellent” in some aspects, in others I had failed to demonstrate that I had particular skills and experience that were being sought. It was also confirmed that the post had not been filled and would be readvertised in a couple of months time.

      We had a good discussion – we do currently work at a similar level within the same organisation, and have met a few times before – at the end of which I said that I was still interested and would like to reapply for the post. He said that that wasn’t usual practice, but in my case that would be acceptable, and simply to mention our conversation when I made my new application.

      I would not have reapplied without having had that conversation though, or asked whether it would be acceptable.

    3. Audiophile*

      Like others have said, it’s very soon after being rejected, there’s no real point in reapplying.

      This doesn’t mean never re-contact them or reach out to them. I’d say if it’s been six months to a year and you’ve gained additional related experience in the field, you can reapply if you see the job reposted. Before that, it’s way too soon.

    4. Just give people a chance!*

      My issue with this is that every “failed search” I’ve ever witnessed in the workplace was not the fault of the candidates, but the hiring manager or HR rep looking for the wrong things. What if the search is being relaunched because the position was reorganized or the hiring manager/HR rep has been replaced?

      1. Artemesia*

        We had a famously failed search that went on for 8 years before they finally found someone they could agree on. If you were in a search like that, then the most you should do is call once to say you noticed the new ad and are still interested.

        1. Audiophile*

          8 years? That just sounds like TPTB not knowing what they wanted. I’m assuming that this was a pretty high level position though and that there couldn’t have been that much of a rush to fill it since it took 8 years.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        That happens so rarely. I think you’re grasping at straws looking for the exception. In general they would contact you if they reconsidered. If not, their no is the same as before.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s actually far more common for it to be because of the candidates in the pool, not the hiring manager or HR. (And sometimes it’s not a search being relaunched, but just continuing because they haven’t found the right person.)

    5. Susie Carmichael*

      NEVER re-contact them seems a bit harsh.

      Shortly after being rejected is certainly too soon, but later down the line as one increases their skills or builds their resume, if something comes along, applying again shouldn’t be prohibited, especially if you had an otherwise decent interview the first go and just weren’t a match. Or, a different role may come along that you’re better suited for (in which case, if it hasn’t been extremely long since the rejected interview, sending an email asking if throwing your hat in the ring is worth might bear some fruit)

      There are also companies, like the major university in my town that it sometimes takes 100 applications before you’re ever interviewed for very similar (if not same exact role, potentially same or different departments) in the school and the attached teaching hospital. Never is surely too definite.

    6. Anon for this*

      In my admittedly limited experience helping with hiring, if we want someone to reapply if circumstances change/when they get more experience, we will tell them that directly because we really do want them to reapply. If it’s only been a couple of months and nothing has changed substantially on your end, don’t reapply. Repeatedly sending in the same resume is a waste of everyone’s time, and honestly makes me think “not only does this person not have the qualifications we’re looking for, but they don’t know they’re underqualified.” To be fair, the people who’ve made me think that didn’t make it to the phone screen, but that’s really not the kind of impression you want to make.

      Bonus tip: if someone from a company you’ve applied to reaches out as a favour to a fellow grad to tell you your resume isn’t particularly strong and offers to review it and give you advice about it, for the love of god fix what they tell you to fix! Or at least explain why you don’t think that advice is a good fix for you, but do not, *do not* just ignore parts of their advice. You will not get a job as a junior anything if you show people that you can’t take direction. And yes, I’m frustrated about the amount of time I wasted trying to help someone who apparently did not want to be helped.

      To give a concrete example of when you should reapply, at my work we had a really excellent application for a co-op/intern position from a student. Unfortunately, that student only had a couple of months free before they returned to school and that just wasn’t enough time for them to get any useful experience on top of learning our codebase (we build software). Their personal projects and passion for the field were so good that we asked them to come back and reapply when they had at least four months free and I sincerely hope they do that.

  2. Sami*

    O0#2- Checklists are the answer! Make up your own or perhaps a coworker or your boss already have set up some. And then commit to using it every single time you complete a specific task. Good luck!

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      I don’t have a checklist, but I do keep notes in Outlook to remind myself of all the little nuances of the policies I read and interpret and the procedures I go through each day. Yet, I still make mistakes almost seven months into my new position. My job is such that it’s almost impossible not too – there’s just so much to remember, and there’s a lot of gray area in how coverage decisions and risk assessments are made. Hell, I just found out yesterday I’ve been doing something wrong for months and no one caught this during any of my file audits or when reviewing my coverage letters. I was beating myself up pretty bad about it until my division’s Senior VP asked me about applying to another position within our division that’s slightly more complex and told me he thinks I’d be great at it because of my demeanor, intelligence, and attention to detail (ha!). All of that to say, OP – you’re probably being much more critical of yourself than is necessary. A lot of high performers tend to nitpick themselves to death, and it’s not at all helpful for your mental stability. Relax, tell yourself you’ve got this, and then move on (and try to put procedures in place like the checklist idea to help reduce the amount and frequency of your mistakes).

      1. annabel*

        I would rather have someone like you than this guy who just gave his notice who never seemed to care about doing things correctly no matter how many times I (and several others) pointed his mistakes out to him. Good riddance to bad rubbish I say. Someone (like you) who cares about what they are doing is worth investing in

      2. Mabel*

        I have come to realize that attention to detail doesn’t have to be easy for the person who is doing it. It just needs to happen! If you need checklists or whatever to make it happen, no one cares. This realization was quite a relief to me!

        1. Artemesia*

          This. A surprising number of people don’t know how to get organized when it doesn’t come naturally. I have had to actually counsel a new employee who was dropping the ball a lot about making to do lists each morning and making checklists for routine procedures. It seemed obvious to me, but she was new to work and had never been responsible for anything complicated before. She did fine by and by.

          1. Simonthegrey*

            It is the same thing working with students (I’m a professional tutor). So many students don’t know how to get organized. It impacts their ability to turn in work, to take tests, to study, etc. A lot of what I do when asked to teach “study skills” or “textbook reading” is actually showing how to make prioritized lists and how to follow those lists.

    2. Former Invoice Girl*

      I have a number of checklists as well. Any time a problem comes up, I jot down a short note for it – the mistake itself, what should be done instead, etc. I keep the checklist under my keyboard and can read it through whenever I feel like something is wrong. Sometimes I even make master files of all the mistakes I’ve made and review them just in case. I swear it gets better with checklists. :)

        1. JayemGriffin*

          I can hear my dad grumbling at me about how “you can’t improve anything without MEASURING it first. Quantifiable DATA, Jayem. DATA.” I’ve found that to be right more often than not.

          (There’s a time and a place for everything, of course; posting monthly line graphs of the text messages sent by each member of the household was interesting, but did not stop my younger brother from texting like a maniac.)

    3. Nye*

      If mistakes like the date example you gave are a substantial part of what you’re worried about, there may be a technical double-check as well. Minimal command line coding can help tremendously in checking that kind of thing (e.g., are these columns really all the same? Which lines are different?).

      It sounds like the root of your concern is more to get a good system in place and learn not to agonize over occasional mistakes (we all make them!), but I thought I’d mention the first thing that came to mind. I’m absolutely not a computer guru but OH MAN the command line is magical for checking huge repetitive files.

      1. VioletEMT*

        Second the checklist recommendation. If you’re dealing in Excel, there’s also conditional formatting to turn cells various colors of they meet certain conditions (e.g. Anything later than 8/31/16 turns red and earlier than it turns green). I used to use a ton of stuff like this to help prevent stuff like that, and also copy/paste errors, when I was doing lots of repetitive tasks.

    4. Annon Today*

      All of the above comments are spot on (checklists, notebook of mistakes is awesome!!)
      My go to is not to double check but to triple check my work, especially when I am donning my HR/payroll hat. It sounds extreme, but many times when I am in a rush and only double check the boss catches a mistake. When I take another couple minutes and do a 3rd check I feel good, because it is right.
      On another note, bosses are used to catching mistakes. I don’t get upset when I catch someone’s honest mistakes, unless it is obvious sloppy work. I know my boss feels the same way.

    5. Trixie*

      Checklists and guides are great, but things still slip through. I can double, triple-check my work and still miss things. That’s the worst. Not complicated but lots of data entry so many opportunities for something to go wrong. I was in similar situation on new job six months ago. Learning curve in the beginning, then things started to sink in. Then we had Busy Season, which brought in more mistakes because more work was coming in. Things settled back in again but there is nothing more frustrating to catch an easy mistake after you’ve reviewed (slowly) multiple times. At the end of the day, I do the best I can and move forward. The other frustrating part is my data entry is based on what I’ve been given so if others give me wrong information, it has to be corrected. And when it comes up I will make sure my boss understands we make corrections for others as well. (Meaning they’re not all my mistakes.)

  3. ECB~*

    #1 Your co-worker has three months sick leave? Had they never taken any time in the ten years they worked there? Maybe they are burning up their leave before they resign from a company that makes such outrageous demands on employees time and energy. Your problem isn’t what your co-worker is doing, it is what your Bosses are not doing, i.e. providing you with support to accomplish your work tasks with reasonable expectations.

    1. lbw1000*

      Depending on what sickness they have, a relaxing vacation could actually be a treatment. The key is that if you do say anything about social media pictures to management, it should totally be non-accusatory.

      1. Clewgarnet*

        Yes, when my sister had mono, the doctor strongly suggested that she go on a relaxing holiday for a couple of weeks, once she was at the point of recovery where she just needed to build up her energy again. It sounds a bit Victorian but a ‘rest cure’ can be exactly what you need!

          1. nonegiven*

            I was slowly getting better and my blood counts were slowly improving every week. I got really bored and wanted to go back to school. At the end of the first week my blood count had stagnated and I felt exhausted so I stayed home a couple more weeks.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Except that this guy is not giving a real date when his “treatment” will be over, as one would with an actual vacation.

        This is 100% on the LW’s bosses – why the hell aren’t they following up when Fergus is out of contact or doesn’t appear on the day he says he’ll return?

        1. Erin*

          They may be following up, but OP isn’t privy to these conversations. If it is mono, you just never know how you’re going to be feeling. You get on an upswing, but then you push yourself just too far and lose all your energy again. Allison was right to focus on the issue of being overworked, because regardless of what Fergus is doing (even if they fire him!) that’s going to be the real issue that needs solving.

          1. neverjaunty*

            So the best-case scenario is that the bosses aren’t communicating to the LW when he can expect his co-worker to show up again, or to let LW know that Fergus will be out indefinitely, so LW has no way of knowing whether it’s time to push for a temp or whether he needs to cancel his next weekend plans.

            I get that mono sucks and a lot of people want to give LW’s co-worker the benefit of the doubt, but it doesn’t matter – even if Fergus is 100% truthful about being sick this situation is being managed badly.

      3. Tequila Mockingbird*

        I’d send Fergus a cheery Facebook message along the lines of “Wow! Looks like you’re having a great time in Fiji!” Totally innocent and non-accusatory–but letting him know he’s busted if he’s playing hooky.

    2. John Smith*

      Hey, I’m the writer of the first question.

      He has used up all and any remaining PTO for sick time, and this entire time he has been on unpaid leave. We are a small office of around 8, and projects deadlines get scheduled months in advance. When a coworker is gone for three months, the amount of time allocated for him to complete certainly piles up (and it’s something none of us ever thought we would have to account for). My bosses as well have been working 60 hour+ weeks to meet deadlines. It’s the cross we all bear.

      I think I get paid fairly well for the position I hold, and I think the difficulties of working in a small office where problems such as this face harder alleviation may be the reason for this. But you are right, I should set my boundaries and I hope my bosses are planning long term for what the next step will be. If another project deadline occurs with said employee still gone, there shouldn’t be an excuse.

      1. Joseph*

        Just a comment from a manager’s perspective:
        1.) In something like this, a reasonable manager errs on the side of “let the sick employee deal with his health”. Particularly for a long-term employee that you know and trust. Even more so if it’s on unpaid leave.
        2.) It’s probably just as frustrating to them as it is to you. While you can’t blame an employee for being sick, losing an employee for a long time without a specific timeline is incredibly difficult. All the things that you’d normally do to address being down a staff member are off the table. You can’t hire a new permanent employee. You can’t hire a temp/outside contractor. You can’t scale back your sales/marketing efforts.
        So combining #1 and #2, the boss is in a really tough spot. You don’t want to be an ass to a sick employee, but you also can’t let this continue. I’ll bet part of the reason it’s drifted without resolution so long is just that the boss has been expecting that sick employee would resolve this situation either by coming back in or by resigning. Sadly, it seems like the employee is content to let things drift.
        But if you bring it up (calmly and professionally, of course) and make clear the impact it’s having on you and other staff, that will push them to take initiative and address the issue somehow.

        1. John Smith*

          Your comment really hits the nail in the coffin.

          He’s certainly conflicted about the situation. Which is why I think the social media becomes a bigger issue. Yes, of course, your bosses should schedule appropriately, but I don’t necessarily think the blame falls entirely on them for this issue.

          My bosses want sick employee to get better, and they have a good relationship with him. To me, it bothers me that the sick employee has not only put us up shits creek with these project deadlines but is also taking advantage of our bosses empathy for him. This issue could potentially be solved very quickly if this came to light.

          1. Jenny*

            How do you know he’s taking advantage of it? You can be well enough to go on holiday, where you can immediately go back to the hotel and sleep if you realise you’ve overdone it energy wise, but not well enough to work 8 hours straight at a desk. Let alone come back to a company where you know you’ll immediately be working 60 hours a week to meet a deadline – that’s not a phased return to work after illness! We call it glandular fever rather than mono over here, and our health service says “While the symptoms of glandular fever can be very unpleasant, most of them should pass within two to three weeks. Fatigue, however, can occasionally last several months.”

            Even if the employee has approaching deadlines, that isn’t going to make him recover from his medical problem any faster than his own health allows. Additionally, unpaid leave is extremely expensive, since all your costs pile up the same way they would if you had an income – do you really think he’d be doing that for months if he was completely well?

            1. CMT*

              I had mono in high school and honestly, it took a few years before I felt like my energy levels were back to normal.

            2. Retail HR Guy*

              Oh, you sweet summer child…

              Maybe my experiences are skewed working in retail instead of a more white collar environment, but employees wanting unpaid leave to the point of being willing to lie about it is very common. There is a subsection of people who really only want to work as little as they can get away with, and are financially supported by family members. But few employers offer “just show up and work whenever you need the money, or don’t, whatever” schedules. So they lie to get time off.

              1. Jenny*

                Thanks for the patronising intro, I really appreciate that. There is a huge difference between “works intermittently” and “takes several unpaid months off in a row”. A survey came out in my country the other day which said that 37% of households only have enough money to pay for a single month of rent/mortgage if they lost their job and 23% have none at all. So the majority of people cannot afford months of unpaid leave.

                Of course, I also live in a country where all workers are entitled to 28 days’ holiday per year, pro-rata, which might solve your attendance problem.

                1. Retail HR Guy*

                  Sorry, it was meant to be a good-natured Game of Thrones reference which are common in these parts. I did not intend to make you feel patronized.

              2. Jaguar*

                I think it really could be more of a retail thing. I was working retail while I was looking after a sick relative a few year ago just in order to pay for basic stuff. Before and after I worked in office jobs where I specifically would not have accepted part-time. At the retail job, I was just there for the time being and it didn’t factor into my long-term plans at all, and I suspect that’ the case for most people. So I only wanted the hours I needed to cover my expenses (about 15-20 hours a week). Nevertheless, they would constantly schedule me in for as many hours as they could, and I would make it clear to them that it’s beyond what I want to work and would aggressively try to offload work to colleagues. I never lied or just didn’t show up (something the people I worked with would often do), but I’m sure it came across like I wanted to work “as little as possible” and that I wasn’t invested in my work, when every other job I’ve had has been full-time and I make up time I miss for whatever reason, almost never take sick time, and honestly use very little vacation time.

                A retail job is very rarely anyone’s long-term plan. It barely helps them now and rarely helps them in the future. It’s reasonable to expect people not to lie on the basis of integrity, but you probably shouldn’t expect them to be seriously invested in the job. And when there’s no incentive to the work if they don’t need the extra money, you probably shouldn’t be surprised when people do wind up lying to get out of something that doesn’t benefit them.

                1. Retail HR Guy*

                  Absolutely it’s more of a retail thing. But the retail business also hires managers, truck drivers, pharmacists, buyers, maintenance workers, IT specialists, secretaries, accountants, and HR folk like me. Plenty of people have legitimate careers in retail. And while this phenomenon is certainly more common amongst cashiers and salesclerks (especially young ones), it can happen anywhere in the company.

                  So I totally buy someone in pretty much any position wanting an unpaid vacation and lying to get it. I was just trying to stress to Jenny that this certainly does happen.

            3. Stranger than fiction*

              But it’s odd they would have the energy to take and post pictures to social media.

              1. Susie Carmichael*

                I don’t think so, that doesn’t take that much effort. I’ve done it while in the ER myself. lol. Just for reference.

                1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

                  I think sending an email and taking a selfie for FB require about the same amount of effort. If you can post to FB you can send an email that says you are still ill and not gonna make it Monday like you said you definitely would.

                  That said, it is possible that the FB posting was happening the same days the emails were going out and he was too ill on subsequent days to reach out. Often with long term illness you have ups and downs.

                  If he was posting on days he should have been updating them (for example, the Monday he said he’d be in) then I think there is a definite issue.

              2. Lora*

                Some months ago, I was in the ER waiting for an Xray on a stretcher in the middle of the hallway, waiting for my turn in Radiology. I’d already texted colleagues because my boss wasn’t in, but hadn’t been able to get in touch with boss because I didn’t have his cell number. Grandboss got my home email from HR and emailed me, very angry that I hadn’t called the cell number I didn’t have, how dare I play hooky, etc. I replied to the email with a picture of the ER signage and my hospital bracelet. Got back and Boss said, “I TOLD him not to freak out, I TOLD him, ‘what if something horrible happened, you would feel bad, wait until we found out what happened,’ but he didn’t listen…”

          2. Caroline*

            I don’t know where your coworker sits on the between “genuinely ill” and “taking the piss”. It certainly seems like he’s not super keen to come back, but that could just be bad optics combined with your understandable frustration at the situation that you’re now in.

            But either way, the blame still falls very squarely on you bosses. Yes, it’s a very difficult situation, probably one of the most difficult to manage. But that’s why they’re the managers! It’s their job to work out this situation in a way which doesn’t leave you working mega overtime for months on end to the point where you’re cancelling vacations! If there are compromises to be made in order to accommodate your coworker’s sick leave, then your bosses (and the company as a whole) should be making the majority of those (either by taking the financial hit of hiring extra short term staff or scaling back on workload). They absolutely should not be pushing it all onto the one other employee who can handle those projects and then leaving you to it.

            I totally get your frustration at this situation, and your irritation at your coworker for creating it. But your boss is the one allowing it to continue.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Also, what if Op or another person gets sick? Then everyone works 70+ hours? There’s got to be a better plan.

          3. Elizabeth West*

            I’m sorry, but I think you should leave the social media stuff out of it entirely. It only makes you look like a tattletale. Yes, Fergus may be a big fat liar, but there may also be information you don’t have and management does.

            You absolutely have a legitimate reason to talk to your bosses about the workload and the overtime. But I think you need to keep the focus on how the absence is impacting your work, not on the reason for said absence.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Can we please stop this idea that speaking to bosses about a workplace issue is “tattling”. We’re not in kindergarten and we’re not part of a street gang. Whether a complaint is petty or unfair is one thing. But “tattling”?

              1. Just give people a chance!*

                The issue is that a lot of “old school” bosses only care about social politics. They would genuinely rather you drop dead from covering for someone else than “bring them bad news.”

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  That’s really not typically the situation though. It certainly happens, but it’s not something you need to be concerned about with a reasonably reasonable boss who hasn’t shown you they act that way.

              2. sunny-dee*

                This is actually closer to tattling, because the social media posts *aren’t* related to the work issue, it’s a personal thing. Tattling is a petty word for a petty situation.

                It also risks minimizing the OPs actual position. The problem is the workload and the lack of a timeframe — if you tie that to the (irrelevant) social media posts, a boss could easily dismiss the whole thing as a poor attitude rather than a legitimate complaint.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s not tattling because if it’s correct, it’s a huge work-related issue (someone causing major strain on the organization that’s trying to accommodate him for sick leave is actually not sick and is out vacationing). That’s relevant information and it impacts people’s jobs.

              But the OP can’t know for sure that it’s true, which is why if he raises it, it has to be with the type of neutral language I used in the post, which doesn’t accuse the coworker of anything.

            3. John Smith*

              Reliability is a huge issue for my type of work. Why be a “tattletale”? Because when projects and deadlines get set in stone, there isn’t room for renegotiation. These are million dollar contracts. If the work needs to get done, it will get done. Even if that means i have to skip a vacation – though i won’t be happy about it.

              Why might it be important to let my boss know that he’s potentially lying about his whereabouts? Because if he pulls this sorta thing again (when he does come back) who knows how this may affect the next project? What if – even with overtime – none of us are able to submit a project on time? That means we could all be out of work.

              Sorry, but I think the “tattletale” logic is really just lazy and unhelpful.

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        Keep in mind the prescription for some illnesses, like depression, might be to get out and do stuff. I have a client that was on medical leave for depression. His coworkers just knew he was on medical leave. They started complaining because they saw him at the gym and the grocery store “looking healthy.” If he can run and play golf, surely he can work, right? Nothing is worse for depression than being imprisoned in your house. He wasn’t going to be able to get back to work until he started getting out and doing some stuff first. Same with anxiety. You don’t go from afraid to leave your house directly back to teaching or practicing law. You start by re-entering the real world socially.

        1. Reverend(ish)*

          +1000. This. Illnesses do not occur in just a vacuum. Mono, if not mild, can be pretty socially isolating. Illnesses often co-occur, and as someone who has worked as a counselor/chaplain on interdisplinary medical teams the psycho social health takes a pretty big hit. That and I have really come to dislike Facebook. It gives me WAAAAY too much business.

          But definitely bring up this to management OP. Flu season is coming……

        2. John Smith*

          This would be fine – if he was keeping in touch with our bosses. He has promised to come in many times, and has told us he would have answers for us but has kept us all in the dark.

          There is speculation among commenters here that it might be due to our boss keeping the office in the dark (assuming my boss knows what is really wrong and where Fergus really is) about the real situation. However, I don’t believe my boss would be expressing the amount of worry/confusion/anger over his absence. Almost on a weekly basis I hear him say something along the lines of “I wish Fergus would at least respond to my damn texts”.

      3. Artemesia*

        Long before 2 mos and right after the first ‘I’ll be right back’ I would have been pushing hard for a temp to do routine work to assist or even looking for a potential temp to hire in case the guy doesn’t come back. I can’t imagine saying nothing and doing overtime month after month on this. If it is unpaid leave the boss should have resources to hire some help.

        1. John Smith*

          It would be hard to find useful temp workers – even from other offices – that would prove valuable. These projects are large and complex, and to get someone up to speed on a project could take more or less a few weeks to a month. We actually did pull someone from another office to help with minor things, but in the grand scope his help was minimal.

      4. Kobayashi*

        I would recommend bringing it to HR’s attention. They can figure out if it’s legitimate or not, but if someone is abusing the leave, then that’s an issue. It makes it harder for others who really need leave. That being said, it may very well be legitimate. You don’t need to say “he’s faking.” Go with Alison’s wording. If your HR dept is any good, they’ll realize that maybe these photos are older or maybe he can take a day trip here and there. The point is, they might at least make some inquiries to the employee and find out more about what’s going on — is the employee still on sick leave? planning to return to work? etc. If it turns out it’s all legitimate, no worries. If it turns out your coworker is abusing the leave process, that’s something the company will want to know, I’m sure.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          OP1 said it is an 8 person company. I doubt they have an HR department. A boss probably handles HR duties but isn’t a trained HR person. And this isn’t really an HR issue, it’s a project management issue that need to be addressed directly with the bosses. Unless OP knows 100% that the person is lying, then it would be an HR issue for the abuse. But he doesn’t, so it’s an issue to be handled with his bosses

            1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

              Well, then if you find out he is lying that MIGHT be an HR issue. But the outstanding scheduling/time management issue is solely on your bosses and that’s who it needs to be addressed with. BEFORE the next big project starts. You need to know NOW how work is going to be handled going forward, with the assumption he won’t be back.

            2. Serenyty*

              Would it be possible to have people help remotely while the coworker is out if training a temp would take too long? I’m not sure what your job duties are like (i.e if your office is doing completely different work from the rest of the company) but unless there’s a major in-person requirement this seems like it could be a solution. Right now, if you’re all working 60+ hours, that seems like a very precarious situation if someone else got sick or leaves for another job. It also seems precarious if, instead of going on sick leave, the coworker gave his two week notice – job searches take time, onboarding a new coworker takes time. There need to be solutions in place for absences, as they will happen.

              1. John Smith*

                These projects span years, so while we can pull temp workers from other offices (we pulled an intern to help us with this project) these projects are often too complex to just hire a temp, as getting them up to speed with where we are, what we need, client standards, specs, etc would take a few weeks to a month.

    3. MarCom Professional*

      I don’t know why it is such a hard concept for people to mind their own business! I had a colleague who was on sick leave for about 3 or 4 months. She tried to work from home a couple of times, went on vacation, and DIED a couple of days after she planned to return to work. See, it turns out that whole time, she had a terminal illness and the company was showing this thing called “compassion” and allowing her to maintain her “dignity.” She had earned a ton of vacation time in her previous years of service, which she had never used. Just deal with your workload on its own merits and leave your coworker’s business alone.

      1. Peter the Bubblehead*

        Are you saying, if I read your response correctly, that the OP should keep his mouth shut and just continue to do the work of two people for an indeterminate amount of time (could be another three months, could be another six months, could be another YEAR!) not having any time off to himself – no weekends, no relaxing evenings, no vacation – just because his co-worker MIGHT be dying and the company he works for is nilling to let their employees know what the situation is?!? In such a case, they will e missing even more big deadlines as other employees start to quit in frustration!

        1. Jess*

          No, I think MarCom is saying that when bringing it up with the bosses, just focus on the workload on its own without bringing in the social media posts. Like AAM often says, frame the discussion in terms of its impact on the business and your workload without speculating on the causes. Just tell the bosses what the effects are.

      2. I'm Not Phyllis*

        That’s awful. My mom died back in 2011 but because there was no diagnosis for her illness (just a lot of head-scratching from medical professionals all over the city) it was incredibly difficult for her coworkers, bosses and – above all – her insurance company to understand why she couldn’t be at work. She did try to go back a few times but … well.

        OP, I know it’s difficult especially when you’re the one picking up the slack at work, but there are cases where someone may be travelling, no matter how sick they are. One of them, in fact, may be to get treatment that isn’t available in your home town. I would give the guy the benefit of the doubt because it’s really an issue between him and his bosses. However, I think you’re perfectly within your rights at this point to tell your manager that you can’t sustain the hours you’ve been putting in, in the long term, and that they need to come up with a different solution. If you’ve been working 60-hour weeks for months this really shouldn’t come as a surprise to them. With no telling when (or if) this employee will be returning, they need to come up with a long term solution. And yes they can hire someone temporarily to cover his leave on a contract … it may be that salaries overlap once he returns, but at this point they’re going to need to accept that risk because you can’t keep going the way you’ve been going.

      3. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        While I agree that OP1 needs to address the workload with his bosses, your coworkers’ business becomes yours when you are forced to do their work because they aren’t showing up – I am not saying he needs to know everything going on his Sick Employee’s life, but it’s fair to want to have some ball park of time out, or at least more frequent and reliable communication if a time frame isn’t possible. It sounds like your coworker had a planned extended leave the bosses knew about in advance – that isn’t the situation here. His coworker is continuously extending the leave without notice. Which could 100% be valid, but don’t jump down his throat about normal human curiosity about what is going on since Sick Employee is being a bit of a flake about coming back. Again, the flakiness could be 100% justified based on actual illness, but as his lack of saying “hey, I am gonna be out at least the next 4 weeks, then maybe we can revisit” but instead saying “I’ll come back” and then not communicating that he won’t actually be back is a problem that is affecting OP1 and it is normal that he has some curiosity about the lack of professionalism.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          The issue here is 100% addressing it with his bosses, and I am not convinced he should bring up the social media aspect at all. However, I understand his doing some research. Again, I don’t think he should do anything with it, and I would likely have a different attitude towards him had he done the research and emailed the pictures to his bosses with a a message that said WTF GUYS!!!! But he didn’t do that. Investigating coworkers might not be a solution I would take, but I understand the desire to do so when you are run to the ground consistently for 3 months

      4. People who have enough to eat do not look in other people's bowls*

        I think the issue is that many companies no longer feel the obligation to bring in temporary hires to cover things like this. I assure you, if the company had adequately staffed the position, the LW would not be checking Facebook. One of the ways that companies are able to engage in flagrant wage theft and abuse of employees via overworking is by creating the myth that they cannot pay someone to reduce the workload or provide an adequate raise to justify the increase in responsibilities. This turns your staff into the Hunger Games and they all turn on each other, instead of merely shuffling some responsibilities around.

        1. Isabel C.*

          Seconded. Situations like this are why temp agencies exist: your company needs to use them. (Even if a lot of the work is specialized, surely there are some elements that a temp could take off people’s hands.)

        2. designbot*

          Your name is so appropriate for this topic. Should OP be looking in someone else’s bowl? Maybe not, but hers sure is looking empty…

      5. Artemesia*

        Her dignity should not have come at the expense of her co-workers family and personal life. A company can be compassionate and keep the worker on the payroll or on leave and STILL take care of the needs of co-workers to have the help they need to get the job done.

        There is no excuse to take this out of the hides of other workers for a such a long time period.

      6. John Smith*

        I’m not mad about the work load, I’m mad about the circumstances. If he was exceptionally sick, or god forbid, dying – then calling the office to let us know that he’ll be out for another month or two wouldn’t be an unreasonable expectation. He’s promised to give us calls back, respond to us with basic questions and come back – multiple times. It’s hard to hear anything from him unless we call constantly, and even then he will not call back. Usually when we do hear back, its through text message.

        Why is this my business? Because if this happens again, with the expectation that he will log a certain number of hours on a project for a submission, and he disappears again? What if we can’t meet our dead line? If we default on a project, we risk losing work. This could put us out of a job.

        This isn’t about me being upset because i missed my vacation. This has to do with the context as to why. My company losing work because a coworker lacks professionalism is – indeed – my damn business. Not a hard concept to understand.

  4. LadyCop*

    #1 Now, I realize my brush with mono was probably the most minor case ever…but I can’t say I’ve ever heard of it affecting someone for three months…even my recent hearing loss from a double ear infection didn’t add up to a week of work missed, let alone 3 months… and yeah my hearing is important for my job…

    Also blown away that poor OP has been slaving away and everyone else seems totally cool with being down half of a group…which is crazy…sick or not…

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Mono can knock people out for a while. I had a friend in high school who had to repeat third grade when she was a kid because she missed so much school from having mono. However, it does seem ridiculous that the bosses are apparently blind to the OP working so much, and seem to feel like this is an acceptable situation.

        1. OldAdmin*

          FWIW, I had mono as an adult, was in the hospital for seven weeks, and was pretty knocked out afterwards.

      1. AMT*

        Right, regardless of whether the coworker’s illness is legit, this calls for hiring a temp/pulling people in from other departments/de-prioritizing certain tasks.

    2. Talvi*

      And strep definitely isn’t going to take you out for three months* – you stop being contagious 24 hours after you start antibiotics.

      *Unless you are very, very unlucky and it develops into rheumatic fever. That can put you in bed for months. But rheumatic fever is an extraordinarily rare complication of strep throat (and that risk is basically eliminated if you start antibiotics promptly).

      1. Random Lurker*

        I had a roommate in college who had a rare throat infection which took her out of action for a better part of a year. She always described it as strep. I’ve observed first hand someone who has been impacted for longer than 24 hours.

        What the coworker is out for is between him and his management. OP doesn’t really know what’s going on with him, and doesn’t really know what was discussed with management behind closed doors. OP’s anger is misplaced. OP should be upset, but not at him. Be mad at your management who has expected you to work an unsubstainable workload with no relief.

        1. Talvi*

          Oh, I wasn’t saying you’re not impacted for more than 24 hours. Your throat will certainly still be in pain at the very least. You just won’t be contagious anymore (and therefore it would be safe for you to go back to work without passing it on to your coworkers if you felt up to it).

          In any case, you’re absolutely right that it’s not really OP’s business exactly what the coworker is out with.

          1. FiveWheels*

            Being infectious isn’t the only issue – you can be too ill to work even if you’re no longer a threat to anyone else’s health.

      2. mskyle*

        I mean, even with rheumatic fever… I had that as a teen, and I still make fun of my parents for making me climb Mt. Washington and play JV soccer while I had it! I definitely felt less bad when I had rheumatic fever than I did when I had the flu, and my symptoms went away immediately when I started antibiotics.

        But everyone’s different and has different reactions to diseases. Plus, the OP might not have the full story… for all we know the guy’s got mono secondary to terminal cancer or something, and the managers/HR are protecting his privacy as they should.

        Regardless, whether the guy is “really” sick doesn’t need to matter to OP – she just needs to get her workload manageable, regardless of when/whether this guy is coming back.

    3. Reverend(ish)*

      Mono can be brutal. Especially as an adult. And it can come back too, which I learned the hard way. First time I had it, out for a month. Reoccurrence? Out for 6 months and it hit my liver and thyroid causing autoimmune conditions and temporary peripheral vision loss. So who knows with the coworker. Not worth guessing or assuming details. But the fact is coworker is out is causing massive strain on OP.

      That’s the big focus. OP, AAM is spot on ( no surprise there). You need support, so what’s the best way for you to attain that and rest for yourself? Because that schedule is crazy, and if they know your coworker is out sick for that long they need to have a better plan in place.

    4. Nursey Nurse*

      Mono can be extremely debilitating. It can cause hepatitis and rupture of the spleen, in addition to other serious complications. This is pretty rare, though, and a case of mono requiring a three-month absence from work is definitely an outlier.

    5. Caledonia*

      As others have said, mono can be an awful illness. Several top athletes – specifically tennis players – have had to end their careers due to mono and it’s after effects lead them unable to compete.

    6. Beezus*

      Just wanted to chime in and say that I had a super mild case of mono, too, in my freshman year at college. I had the throat infection and the swollen glands for several days, but the utter exhaustion that I’ve heard other people describe never materialized for me.

      1. blackcat*

        When my BFF got mono in high school, I MUST have been exposed. We shared food & drinks ALL the time. There’s just no way I didn’t get it from her. And her case was pretty mild–I think she was out of school for ~ 1 week and under the weather for like 3 weeks total. Another friend in high school missed 4 or 5 months of school.

        My mom did ask the doctor about why I didn’t get sick. He basically said that people have a huge range of natural immunity to mono. Basically everyone is exposed by age 30 or so. If you’ve never “gotten mono” and you’re well into adulthood, you are most likely immune to it. And it’s my understanding that it’s not immunity in the way that a vaccine makes you immune–those mean you develop antibodies without ever getting sick. Instead, it’s that some of us, genetically, aren’t susceptible to the virus.

        So some of us are just lucky!

        1. FiveWheels*

          I was investigated for a serious illness a few years ago, as a result of which I was almost totally debilitated for over a year. Mono was suspected, but I didn’t have any antibodies or signs of the bacteria.

          Apparently the majority of people host the bacteria but it doesn’t cause any ill effects, a minority of people actually get sick, and another different minority just don’t have it in their systems at all.

          1. fposte*

            Mono is viral, though. Maybe you’re thinking of the latency of the virus in the body following an infection?

            1. FiveWheels*

              Nope, I was just trying to remember if it was viral or bacterial, too lazy to Google, and guessed wrong :-D

      2. Badlands*

        +1 to mild mono – I was sick for about a week. I was working a summer job, so cut back a little on hours for a week and then basically slept the rest of time. My eyelids got puffy and one of my lymph nodes got swollen (neck looked lopsided). And…that was it.

        Until two months later when my lower legs got swollen and came up with welts. Basically, it looked like I had been beaten by a cane from the knees down, but didn’t hurt. Doc said it was a not-uncommon reaction in young women to a viral infection.

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          Yes, I was diagnosed with mono and strep throat in high school and I felt bad for probably 3 weeks total. (I didn’t actually get diagnosed until I’d felt bad for about 2 weeks.) I expected to be in bed for months but surprisingly I felt better quickly. But yeah, I think people’s immunity really varies.

      3. Hornswoggler*

        I had a super-mild case of mono at the age of 13, and I have suffered ever since, on and off, with what we call ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). My entire life, my career, my leisure have all been very badly affected. I loathe and resent this illness for preventing me from achieving things.

        I have periods when I’m feeling OK – sometimes really quite well. I’ve even learnt to play sports. But then I overdo it and the bloody thing comes back, knocking me sideways. I’ve never been bedridden with it as some people have, but I have missed months of work and play. Also, it’s very easy to relapse while you are in recovery. I have a maxim: the minute you feel better, go and lie down.

        Sorry to rant, but this guy may be malingering, or he may be struggling with an awful affliction. (Or quite possibly a mixture of both.) We can’t diagnose him from here.

        On another note, there are a few horrible throat viruses going round at the moment where I live, and friends have been low-level ill/fatigued for literally months with them.

      4. Lemon Zinger*

        My sophomore year of college, I came down with something that knocked me out for a little over two weeks– NOT a good thing in the middle of the semester! I failed strep and mono tests, but I have to think that I had mono in some way, because I had all the symptoms. It was absolutely miserable!

    7. VioletEMT*

      One of the other things about my know is that it weakens your immune system, so you were prone to other infections. A coworker got mono and then on top of it she got strep, which multiple rounds of antibiotics didn’t knock out. She told me she couldn’t even climb the stairs to her second-floor apartment without getting winded and feeling like she was going to pass out. She was out for two months.

    8. TheCupcakeCounter*

      It probably has to do with the coworker sending messages like “i’ll be in Monday” or “definitely sometime next week”. If you know up front that someone is going to be gone for several months (like maternity leave) you can bring in an intern or temp for that time period but when someone says they will be in repeatedly it gets harder for mgt to cover that since getting the fill-in up to speed takes a bit.

      1. neverjaunty*

        This is true, but management seems to be doing zero about following up with this guy. He says he’ll be back or probably back on a given day, then he ghosts until the next “Monday this time for realsies you guys”. Hoping this is actually the time he comes back isn’t difficult planning, it’s just careless management.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yes, but how does the OP know he’s ghosting? What if he did call or email someone?

          What they need to focus on is how the absence is impacting their work. The reason for it is irrelevant.

          1. neverjaunty*

            And that’s exactly the problem – OP doesn’t know. All he knows is that he’s on a job death march with no fixed endpoint and no attempt by his bosses to fix the situation. That’s a management failure.

            1. Lemon Zinger*

              Right. The missing employee’s continued absence is DIRECTLY affecting OP’s work and ability to have a normal life. He/she needs to be in the loop about when Fergus is expected back.

            2. doreen*

              OP doesn’t even really know that there’s been no attempt to fix the situation – because there may not be any way to fix the situation. Someone in my office went out on sick leave very early in her pregnancy. She intended to come back to work when her doctor allowed her to (which I think was wishful thinking, but I do believe that was her intention). And every time she had a medical appointment, there was a new note saying she couldn’t return until her next evaluation. There was little that could have been done differently if it had been known from the beginning that she wouldn’t return until after she gave birth , as her job cannot be done by a temp. Her cases would be distributed among her coworkers either way , there would be no temp or intern either way, there would be no replacement coming in from another office either way. Literally the only difference would have been that people would have known that she wouldn’t be back for at least eight months.

    9. TL -*

      I had a mild case of mono that knocked me out for most of a summer and kept me exhausted but function for the following semester. 6 months in total before I fully recovered. (My bf and brothers all got a sore throat for a week and were fine.)

    10. BritCred*

      I know Mono is one of the things that can snowball in to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (which I have although not through mono myself) which can be a complication. Often CFS and similar illnesses are very hard to diagnose or know when you are going to feel better. And a vacation is different from work – fewer strict deadlines, more flexibility on times and can rest when you need to.

      However when I had my onset – although it wasn’t diagnosed until 2 years later – I was trying as best as I could to keep work informed, get *long* sick notes rather than being too optimistic and only getting a week if I wasn’t sure I was going to be up to it. That enabled them to plan a lot better and get a temp in to cover the work in the meantime on a medium term basis rather than time to time. I’d have never considered just not updating the bosses at all whilst posting stuff that would make others wonder. And my bosses wouldn’t have allowed the lack of contact and other suitable arrangements either.

    11. Tequila Mockingbird*

      Also, mononucleosis strikes almost exclusively people under the age of 24. OP says this guy has been with the company 10+ years, so he’s gotta be (at the very least) in his 30s.

      That, right there, should be enough for the bosses to question the veracity of his medical excuses. He might as well be taking time off due to morning sickness.

    12. Photoshop Til I Drop*

      I assumed the mono/strep excuse was a lie to protect the employee’s privacy. Maybe he’s in rehab or inpatient therapy of some kind.

  5. annabel*

    ok, but what if you responded to a craigslist posting where you thought you were sending your resume to HR or a hiring manager and you found out later it was a staffing agency? And what if you went on vacation and they left a message on your landline and you didn’t get back to them for over a week? And when you called this guy’s number IT DID NOT HAVE VOICEMAIL? And when despite several efforts on your part every time you actually spoke or set up a time it was not a good time to talk or there was no answer.

    Now, the same posting is up on craigslist, they still want to move forward quickly, etc, etc, so you forward your original email, hi we tried to talk before yada yada yada, still interested. There is a message when you get home timestamped very shortly after. What is the deal here?

    I haven’t been rejected, we haven’t even talked about the job. I actually wrote to Allison about this, wondering if staffing agencies were all bogus, since only once I have ever had one set me up with the job I was interested in and that was over 20 years and many agencies ago.

    Should I bother to call this guy? The job as it is described sounds great and is right up my alley.

    1. Panda Bandit*

      At this point I think it’s better not to go through this specific staffing agency. If they are legit they sound amazingly incompetent. Do you know what company the job listing is for?

    2. Elizabeth West*


      A legitimate staffing agency would have at the least a general mailbox, or someone answering the phone regularly during business hours. Sure the job sounds great–that’s how the scammer suckers you in.

      Move along; nothing to see here.

      1. annabel*

        OK, I will probably not call him back. But what exactly would the scam be? what would he be trying to get out of me?

        1. Artemesia*

          Recruit you for an MLM scheme or for one of the nefarious commission only sales positions out there.

  6. Another freelance translator*

    #3 It is very rare to charge by the hour as a freelance translator. We generally charge by the word, although there has been some talk about trying to start charging by the hour. You should consider joining the American Translators Association and join the listserv for your language pair as well as the Business Practices listserv. I think you’ll be amazed at the breadth of knowledge there that can help you.

    1. OP3*

      Thanks! I will check it out and do more research.

      When I was a full-time translator it was very early in my career (like, first year out of college) so I had no idea how much knowledge was out there, and having moved on from translation in my day job fairly quickly, I never really developed this professional knowledge. (When I freelance for my day job, I know the industry norms for freelancers, what to charge, I’m pursuing certification, etc.)

    2. Nanani*

      Chiming in, charging by the hour only really makes sense if there is a considerable editing or DTP component to the job, or something like that. The actual translation should be by word (or page, or character, depending on language), like Another says.

      Also look for associations relating to your field, not just translation, and look beyond your country. Translation is global. So, a fellow translator on another continent might not be able to help you with advice on filing taxes as a freelancer where you live, but they can definitely help you on content, rare specialized vocabulary, and so on.

    3. Yet another fellow translator/interpreter*

      Your comments are exactly what I was going to say! For translation jobs, I charge a small, flat ‘document fee’ to cover general formatting time, and then charge by the word on top of that. For jobs that require heavier editing or formatting, I may add an hourly fee, but this is uncommon. Transcriptions/translations are typically on an hourly rate, but that takes into account the very different nature of this kind of work.

      LW#3, when you said you charge hourly, it made me wonder if the work is in fact interpretation. Community level interpretation is often paid hourly (with a guaranteed minimum), and court and conference work is usually paid by the day and half day.

      I would second the suggestion that the LW join the ATA to be better able to learn the practices of the profession and meet other colleagues. It can also be a great way to get more work. NAJIT (National Association of Judicial Interpreters and Translators) is a great one if you do any legal work.

      1. OP3*

        No, indeed translation. As I said above, I just don’t even know what I don’t know and this is very enlightening. Freelance translation work has been pretty sporadic and informal for me. Part of the thinking of charging hourly was the fact that there’s sometimes other work apart from direct translation (formatting, etc.) so I like the idea of a flat document fee when transitioning to a per-word model.

        I appreciate the input and will do more research.

    4. Mephyle*

      From another another freelance translator: A lot of the business/social interaction for freelance translators has moved from mailing lists to Facebook. There are numerous Facebook translator groups (some better than others). Let me also recommend joining Proz-dot-com and/or translatorscafe-dot-com.

      Another approach that people take for raising rates is to actively cultivate new clients and quote them your new rates, but grandfather your existing rates for existing clients. (At some future point, though, you may not be able to afford working the older clients at the older rates if you have enough new clients, and then you still have to break the news to the older ones that you can only accept the work at a higher rate.)

  7. JM in England*

    Re #2

    I’ve experienced in the past something of a paradox. It seems the more vigilant you are about avoiding mistakes, the more you seem to make…………….

    1. Caledonia*

      Yup! It’s like when your boss is around, suddenly you forget how to human and everything goes skew-whiff.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I used to have this problem, then I realized I was making mistakes because I was looking for what I thought a mistake could be instead of just reviewing.
      Using the letter as an example, instead of re-reading the document with fresh eyes, I would assume a mistake would be an incorrect date and that was all I would look for. So then I would miss any other kind of error.
      I would also have the problem of looking for errors, but all I was really doing was worrying about making mistakes and not really reading what I was looking at. The more I would stress, the more mistakes I would miss.
      And if you read to fast, you’ll rely on your memory instead of reading what is actually in front of you.
      I learned to just step back, and look at documents as if it was the first time I was reading it. Once I calmed down and stopped worrying about making errors, my accuracy increased.

      1. LBK*

        I think you hit the nail on the head – you get so obsessed with not making the exact same mistakes you did before that instead of just reviewing your work like you normally would, you switch to a checklist mentality where you’re only looking for errors you’ve made before and miss any new errors you may have made.

    3. Purest Green*

      Yes! I was going to say the same thing. It might help OP minimize some mistakes if he/she could relax and be less stressed about it. Personally I make way more mistakes when I’m stressed.

  8. Myrin*

    Something re: #1 I haven’t seen anyone mention yet (and I actually feel like both Alison’s answer and the comments up until now are a bit too focused on the social media part of that question when that only seems to be the tip of the iceberg for the OP) is this part:

    He has made little effort to contact my bosses, and has told us numerous times that he would return to work. Two months ago, he said he was hoping to make it in for Thursday. Three weeks ago, he promised to be into work “no matter what” on Monday. He has not shown up, nor made contact with us.

    What the heck is up with that? Either OP has all of the facts and coworker has indeed promised to return to work twice and then promptly not done so without any explanatory or apologetic contact whatsoever (and the bosses just accepted that for whatever reason?), or OP doesn’t have the full picture and coworker did contact the bosses in which case it would have been reasonable for them to approach OP and tell her that the situation is sadly going to last for a bit longer still.

    No matter what, management doesn’t seem to be acting overly professionally at that place and I hope OP takes Alison’s wording and manages to create stronger boundaries.

    1. Colette*

      That’s weird, but not the OP’s problem (and it’s possible she doesn’t know the full story). It’s possible the coworker is keeping her manager in the loop and the OP just doesn’t know about it.

      And it’s normal for sick people to be optimistic about when they’ll get better and for reality to disagree.

      1. Myrin*

        I agree and I hope your first paragraph is what came across in my comment because that’s exactly what I tried to say. I still think, seeing how the OP is the one doing the coworker’s work, her bosses, upon learning that coworker won’t return as promised, could have told her about it and not just leave her hanging and wondering whether coworker will return anytime soon or not.

        1. Colette*

          Here’s how I read it.

          Coworker says “I’ll be in Monday for sure”.
          Manager tells the OP “coworker will be in on Monday”
          Monday morning the coworker calls the manager and says “sorry, still sick”. Manager either tells the OP “keep working like the coworker won’t be in” or “coworker won’t be in today” without providing details.

          When you’re recovering from an illness, sometimes you don’t know what you can do until you try. I mean, maybe the coworker is not showing up without talking to her manager – which would not be the OP’s concern – or maybe the manager is not sharing everything with the OP, which she’s not obligated to do. The only part of this that’s the OP’s is her workload, which she should talk with her manager about.

              1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

                I think Colette is saying OP likely doesn’t have the whole story and neverjaunty is saying he says he does have the whole story so lets take him at his word?

                1. neverjaunty*

                  What OP literally said: “Three weeks ago, he promised to be into work “no matter what” on Monday. He has not shown up, nor made contact with us.”

                  Maybe I’m missing something, but that seems not to match up with speculating that Fergus called again on Monday and said ‘whoops still sick’?

                2. Colette*

                  @neverjaunty – it’s possible he hasn’t made contact at all. It’s also possible that the OP doesn’t know that he has made contact, or that he has made contact without providing an updated date to return to work. But none of that is the OP’s problem. Her situation is the same whether the manager is getting no updates or updates six times an hour.

                3. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

                  @collette – but the OP is presenting it as he knows there has been no contact from Sick Employee, so that’s why nj is saying we should take him at his word. That he knows there has been no contact from Sick Employee.

      2. TGIF*

        Here we have a short term disability administrator who asks for medical updates periodically and then reports back to HR who informs the employee’s manager about the return status. Not sure if this in happening in this case, but usually the employee knows for sure when he/she will be released back to work by the doctor. The social media thing is curious though.

    2. FiveWheels*

      When I was seriously ill several years ago, I was literally too unwell to let my boss know I was still alive. If you saw me out and about for a minute or two you might have thought I was okay, but I literally didn’t know who my parents were.

      It doesn’t sound like that’s the case with OP, but the dude ghosting, reappearing and ghosting again doesn’t sound too outlandish to me.

    3. John Smith*

      It’s actually been more costly for us since he’s been gone. Everybody has been pulling extra weight and working extra hours, and having my bosses log hours to complete work for said sick employee is wasteful, considering they are over qualified for his (or my) line of work.

      My bosses aren’t bad people, and they’re not out to screw the bottom line. It’s more important for them to keep me happy, because the dangers of me jumping ship would be very impactful on them. We are an office of around 8, so even one employee being gone is a huge loss in productivity and impacts scheduling. Needless to say, I don’t think the better option here is to ignore the problem.

      I think a more likely scenario is that they have a good relationship with sick employee, and they themselves too are unsure how to act when an employee you’ve had working for you for 10+ years disappears and screws the whole office.

    4. John Smith*

      To clarify, it works out like this – My bosses will call/text/whatever said employee. We won’t hear any response until *maybe* Friday (usually in text message form, he hasn’t called I believe). The past few times he has reached out and has promised to come back in, but still hasn’t.

      It’s hard to speculate what my bosses are thinking, but they’ve worked with him for a long time (10+ years) and I don’t think they believe that he would lie about something like this. Furthermore, I think they are actually afraid his sickness might be something a lot more serious. But you are correct – they have not done enough work into figuring out where he is, what is wrong, and what our plans for the future are. Now that these projects are done and over with, if this happens again in our schedule I will be very upset with my bosses lack of action on the situation.

      1. Formerly invisible*

        They may know they need to replace him, but they cannot unless he quits or they fire him (assuming a temp hire isn’t really possible for this role). And a termination either way probably affects his health insurance. Very tricky for your bosses, but maybe they need to hear you say this is not sustainable in order to move forward on having some tough conversations.

        We had an employee out once for an extended period. He would call in and cheerily give health updates but would never ask about anyone else or thank anyone for covering for him. His return date kept getting postponed, and the small company eventually replaced him. It was hard.

      2. neverjaunty*

        LW, I’m going to nudge you a little here to talk to your bosses *now*, and not avoid the difficult talk by putting it off to next time. First, because if the rush is over, it’s the perfect time; when you’re all crazy busy is not a great time to debrief (and if your bosses are conflict-avoidant gives them an excuse to put it off). Second, because it allows you to have a plan in place should this happen again, which it very well could regardless of whether Fergus is or isn’t on vacation. And also because it should be crystal clear to your bosses that this is not a situation you are willing to tolerate over and over again.

        1. Dot Warner*

          Yes, I agree. Don’t wait until everyone is running around with their hair on fire again; ask them for a plan now, while they’re calm and have time to figure something out.

      3. Artemesia*

        You work for people who don’t look out for you. They are apparently perfectly willing for you to pull extra work indefinitely. I’d be looking for a place to take your good skills that will not treat you like this.

  9. Myrin*

    OP 4, I’m really sorry this happened to you and glad that you came out of the situation more or less okay. I really like Alison’s wording and think any reasonable hiring manager will be understanding of your reason for wanting a new job. Good luck!

    1. VioletEMT*

      Hopping on here to say the same thing. So glad you survived. IMO, no reasonable human would raise an eyebrow over you deciding that you couldn’t continue teller-ing after that. If a potential employer was going to hold that against you, consider that a red flag and question whether they were someone you’d want to work for.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Same. OP, a robbery is a perfectly legitimate reason to quit. The restaurant I worked at in CA would routinely leave the back door open at night while employees were closing, because there was no AC and the kitchen could get unbearably hot and steamy. One night, they were robbed at gunpoint. At least one employee quit after that, because of course he did. Corporate said, “Well you should have shut the door.”

      Several regular customers asked me about it, but fortunately, I wasn’t there that night. They still didn’t install AC until it happened again (after I left). It was too hot back there. That solved the problem because they could close and lock the door without risking heat exhaustion.

      I hope you’re feeling better now. That’s so scary. What a horrible bank to not even care about the safety of its workers. >:(

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Same thing happened at a restaurant I used to work at here in Ca! It was shortly after I stopped working there, but the manager and chef that were closing were tied up and held at gunpoint while they robbed the place. I heard the manager quit shortly thereafter, don’t know about the chef.

    3. OP4*

      Hi, I’m the writer of OP4.

      Thank you for your kind words. Alison, thank you for your feedback. It’s perfect.

      I was a stay at home mom for 7+ years when I decided to return to the workplace. I worked for a large national bank. I called my job the trifecta of luck; great coworkers, part time, and an easy job that I didn’t have to take home with me. My career prior to staying home with my son was in the legal field. In any case, I loved having one foot in both the working and stay at home mom worlds, if you will. I’d been there less than a year, then the robbery happened – to me and no one else in the bank – a coworker was in the bathroom, a coworker was in the vault and one was in their office with the door closed. No customers in the bank except for the criminal.

      After the robbery, I stayed at the bank for a month and then had had it. There were blatant security issues that weren’t addressed and frankly, I was on edge every time I worked. This very big national bank wanted it to just go away. When I realized nothing was going to change, I quit.

      1. GeekMissy*

        #4, I left my teller job for the same reason–after I was robbed at my bank, nothing changed. I was still the only teller on the floor at times, while everyone else was on break, and the manager and assistant manager liked to go hang out in a back room where they couldn’t see the lobby. I definitely felt like they didn’t care at all about my safety.

        Every single person I’ve told about it in the 15 years since, all I have to say is, “After I was robbed, I decided bank teller wasn’t the job for me.” And every single response has been a variation of “OMG, of course!”

        Nobody will give you any attitude about leaving the job. And on the plus side, you have a “keeping cool under pressure” story in your pocket for interviews for the rest of your career. :)

  10. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

    Hi OP #2!

    I think I know you. We’re in a super detailed, high volume business and you’re the conscientious new employee who busts her butt to learn everything and do everything correctly straight out of the gate. We’ve told you that you’re doing a good job and that this is a detailed business and mistakes are going to happen no matter how hard you try and you’re still traumatized and upset when you make any mistake because that’s not like you.

    You, OP #2 are our future superstar (provided you don’t crumble in a heap first because you can’t hack that mistakes are going to happen.)

    Seriously. Bell weather of a great employee.

    Do your best. Teach yourself how to not make the same mistake twice but don’t crumble in a heap when you make the same mistake the third time. Ask your boss for feedback. Believe her if she tells you that you are doing a great job. Persevere!

    I hate making mistakes. Hate it. Still make them. Sometimes want to bash my head against a concrete wall when I do. I get upset for x seconds, fix my mistake, fix any things that happen from my mistake, apologize to anybody I need to and move on. I am very, very good at my job. I make mistakes.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Best recent mistake. Running a super complicated google ad campaign, so many moving pieces, data bits and words I can’t even say.

      I went to negative keyword the word “glass” and instead I positive keyworded it.

      Which meant, for 3/4 of a day, I bought advertising on anybody in All of Google who searched for anything with the word “glass” in it.

      This was a lot of people. O.o


      1. misspiggy*

        Nasty. But you were set up by a nuke/nurse situation – would you be able to report that to Google or whoever, to encourage verification so that someone else doesn’t end up in the same trouble?

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          Agh, no, that’s the game that’s being played. I had a safety budget on that campaign so it only sucked a thousand bucks before I caught it.

          I was running 145 ad groups under the relatively new campaign and doing my negative keywording from the yesterdays results way early in the morning, on only 1 cup of coffee. String of negative keywords I needed to input, and I needed to negative “glass” on 7 of the ad groups.

          I got it right on 6 of them! :-)

      2. Gaia*

        My best recent mistake on my team.

        Customer had an issue with a product. Great Employee wanted to send 150microlitre replacement. Accidentally sent 150 milliliters. Luckily our shipment team caught the issue (because we sell nothing in milliliters). But that would have been a lot of product. O.o

        Like Wakeen, Great Employee isalso very good at their job – and they still make mistakes. Not a lot of mistakes (for this role) and not often the same mistake multiple times (but sometimes) but still…mistakes. Because we aren’t robots. The key is to know what an acceptable error level is and where you fall in comparison.

    2. Jinx*

      Wakeen, I feel like you get this all the time but you sound like a great boss to work for! :D

      Seriously though, OP#2, everything in this post is good advice. When I mess up my natural inclination is to turn into a puddle of malaise and kick myself for several days. It doesn’t matter whether anyone even saw the mistake before I fixed it, I Hate. Making. Mistakes. At All.

      I’ve messed up now and then in my current job. Some of those mess-ups required extra work to fix, or led to an outage, or were very visible. Every time I felt like my life was over, but honestly the world never came crashing down. My boss is very cool, and doesn’t expect perfection out of us 100% of the time; he just wants us to learn from our mistakes and try to avoid making the same ones. So go easier on yourself, OP.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        I remember when I was only three months into my last position (same company, different division) and I issued a payment to the wrong person. Well, the person who was supposed to get it didn’t realize it until months later, so the check had already been cashed and I had to reissue the payment to the correct person. Worse, the money had to come out of my division’s expense fund instead of out of the client’s account, and my division’s VP and Senior VP had to sign off on the transaction, which meant my mistake could not just stay between me and my manager. I was horrified, and no matter how many times my VP told me it was okay, it was only $500, I was new and didn’t know it, but I know it now and will correct it going forward, I still beat myself up about it for months (and stayed hyper vigilant about this particular account so I wouldn’t make any more mistakes with them). These things happen, and I’m trying to be better about it, so I agree – go easier on yourself.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        And you know who else makes mistakes Op? Your boss. My boss even made one today and I had to undo about a half hours worth of work. Oh well, not the end of the world. When I make mistakes she’s always been cool about it. Says to fix it and sometimes redistribute the report or sometimes tells me not to bother. I did, however, have one job where I was fired for a mistake, but that boss was a complete a-hole. She had been looking for a reason to get rid of someone. So I truly believe that was an exception to what the normal, reasonable working world would do.

    3. NonProfit Nancy*

      To put it in context, I have a Young Colleague now and when I point out extremely serious mistakes to him, his attitude is always “whoops” (shrug). And no, I didn’t hire him, and wouldn’t have. You actually care a lot and that means you will improve and be valued for your conscientiousness someday. You are probably being hard on yourself.

    4. Tammy*

      So much this – mistakes happen, to all of us, because we’re all human. The key is to not give up, and to learn from your mistakes so you don’t keep repeating them.

      I remember in my second month at my current company (I’m a manager now, but was in an Engineering/DBA role then) I was asked to complete a pretty straightforward task. I knew how to do the task. But unfortunately for me, I didn’t understand the implications of when to do the thing, and I also didn’t understand back then some of our change management processes around peer reviewing stuff that impacts our Production systems. Making a long story short and less technical, I took down my company’s entire software platform for about 45 minutes, until my boss realized what had happened and we fixed it. I felt terrible, but my boss just told me “we’ve all been there, and that’s why we have those processes. Next time, remember to do that peer review.” And that was that.

      We’re all human, and none of us is perfect. All we can do is learn and grow from our mistakes, and try not to beat ourselves up too much.

      Also, Wakeen, thank you – I always learn something about how to be the kind of boss I want/strive to be from your comments!

    5. Kyrielle*

      So so very much this. If you make a mistake and you (clearly) *don’t* care, I’m worried, and I bet my boss is worried. If you make a mistake and you care, possibly more than the mistake even calls for? We might want to reassure you, we might be concerned *for* you, but we won’t be concerned *about* you.

    6. CM*

      Yes, 100% this. Being conscientious is important; not everybody is. Listen to others and believe them when they praise your work. If they think you’re doing a good job, that means that they are not dwelling on your mistakes. The best manager I had would tell me about similar mistakes that he made when he was at my level. I felt so much better when I heard that, because he was awesome and if he could move past these mistakes, then so could I. (Also, the specific mistake you mentioned, missing the dates and then failing to check? I have made basically the exact same mistake on several different occasions, and it always feels terrible — in fact, I got a little pit in my stomach just reading your questions — but people will not remember the 3 times you made mistakes if your reputation is for knocking it out of the park.)

    7. Calacademic*

      Yeah, my recent big mistake was resulted in flooding a $500k piece of equipment. I felt REALLY stupid until I talked to the equipment engineer who admitted to same (several times). Still a huge mistake, but: fix it and learn from it.

  11. misspiggy*

    For OP2, as you get more experience you learn to check your assumptions, not just your typos. ‘Great, finished that list. Now, have I assumed anything that might not be true? That list is all the same date, right? Did I check every entry? Darn, no. Is there an efficient way to check? Let’s try that. Phew, I caught two mistakes.’ Of course, when you’re still learning you don’t know which assumptions would be most rewarding to check – you can’t check absolutely everything or you’d be there all day. It’s only experience with your own and others’ mistakes that let you know which areas are likely to need careful review next time.

    So if you’re making the same types of mistakes again and again, think about how you could reduce those. But if it’s different things each time, don’t worry too much: the only thing you can do is stop at the end of a big task and ask yourself what might have gone wrong. This means building error-checking and correction time into most tasks. Which is why newbies often appear to get things done faster than old hands – they haven’t included the checking and fixing time that the oldies know will be needed.

    1. VioletEMT*

      Yes. Other thoughts I’ve had:

      1) If there are more senior employees who do or have done what you do, consider approaching them for tips and tricks about avoiding mistakes. “What gotchas have you come across? What things do you always make certain to double-check?” They probably have an informal checklist, at least.

      2) Formalize a checklist for yourself. Compile all those tips and tricks you collect from others and add a few of your own. Write it down in a document. Then see if there’s any way you can automate or bake some of those checks into the work you’re doing (Excel macros, conditional formatting, etc.). Then you can take that to your boss and say, “When double-checking before finalizing the work, I found that it was really easy to miss one mocha teapot in a report full of macha teapots. I set up my own spreadsheet with conditional formatting to highlight the macha ones so I don’t miss them.” The boss might well ask you to share your spreadsheet with others or make it a new standard.

      Bottom line, when you make mistakes, what people want to see is that you’ve recognized it and are working to keep from doing it next time. You have the opportunity to show yourself to be a real rockstar in the making here. Good luck.

      1. LQ*

        Checklists! They are so helpful. So very helpful. They are good enough for going to space and brain surgery they are good enough for everyone! Checklists! (Running down my Friday pre-episode checklist now.)

    2. amysee*

      “check your assumptions, not just your typos”

      Such a smart way of putting it! I am saving this for the future.

      To echo what many are saying, so much better to have an employee who makes mistakes but cares about fixing them, than one who shrugs it off and appears not to care.

      1. Artemesia*

        Great advice. My worst mistakes have always been because I was just wrong headed about something. One of the downsides of having a productive, focused process is that you occasionally effectively and efficiently get things done the wrong way or take things in the wrong direction because you have framed the situation poorly.

  12. misspiggy*

    It suddenly occurred to me re OP1 that the bosses are waiting until somebody says something before they make any moves to cover the sick person’s responsibilities. Why incur extra costs/delays when other employees appear able to take up the slack?

    This is, of course, dreadful behaviour, particularly as they know that at less than a year in, the OP isn’t likely to jump ship. But it’s worth starting from the assumption that bosses will be dreadful: then you’re prepared with counter-strategies, and if they’re decent you can be pleasantly surprised. If this comes up another time, it might be good to raise the need for cover or rescheduling at around the two-week mark.

      1. Rat in the Sugar*

        It doesn’t have to be “deliberately dreadful”, it could just be “lazy”. The work’s getting done, right? OP has not complained, right? From a very lazy managers point of view, everything is hunky-dory.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          This. If OP doesn’t speak up, management’s going to continue to work her into the ground because why not?

        2. Sunshine*

          Yes and no. I can certainly see that the “sick” employee is making it impossible for the manager’s to plan any alternative coverage – if he says he’ll be back on Monday, they think he’ll be back on Monday and OP will be okay until then. Monday comes around, he calls again and is out another week…. what do we do? Well, that’s not enough time to pull someone off another project and train them, so we’ll wait another week. And so on. They’re kind of stuck, too.

          BUT. A good manager would make a push to correct it. At least after the 2ND or 3RD time the guy’s plans changed. Get a back up in placevery, cross train, pitch in and help out herself…. they’re in a bad spot, but there’s no excuse for the OP to take the brunt of it.

          1. Artemesia*

            They are 3 mos in; they should have been handled no later than 6 weeks in and preferably by about 2 weeks in.

    1. Rob Lowe can't read*

      I agree with Colette that it’s far better to not assume malice on the part of the employer/bosses. Assuming that people are terrible takes a lot of energy!

      I will say, though, that I have seen the “Why have full coverage when we could not have full coverage and thus save money?” argument play out many, many times. Such is the nature of my field, unfortunately.

    2. John Smith*

      It’s actually been more costly for us since he’s been gone. Everybody has been pulling extra weight and working extra hours, and having my bosses log hours to complete work for said sick employee is wasteful, considering they are over qualified for his (or my) line of work.

      My bosses aren’t bad people, and they’re not out to screw the bottom line. It’s more important for them to keep me happy, because the dangers of me jumping ship would be very impactful on them. We are an office of around 8, so even one employee being gone is a huge loss in productivity and impacts scheduling. Needless to say, I don’t think the better option here is to ignore the problem.

      I think a more likely scenario is that they have a good relationship with sick employee, and they themselves too are unsure how to act when an employee you’ve had working for you for 10+ years disappears and screws the whole office.

  13. Former Invoice Girl*

    “I know that I’m still making occasional mistakes. Can you give me a sense of whether this is about the amount of mistakes you’d expect from someone six months into the role, or whether it’s higher than average?”

    Oooh, this is such a good advice. I’ll most definitely use it the next time I’m asking for feedback.

  14. Menacia*

    OP2, have you asked your supervisor for tips and tricks so that you aren’t missing things? Do you have a good grasp on the tools you are using and how you can set them up to catch certain errors? I’m wondering if you being flustered about making a mistake is not contributing to the mistakes being made? When you are working on something, do you focus or are you distracted? Do you tend to make mistakes at specific times during the day (the afternoon versus the morning)? Do you like this type of work?

  15. Oryx*

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. OP #1 — you had to give up your own vacation to make sure these deadlines were met?

    You don’t have a co-worker problem, you have a manager problem. Clearly your company needs more employees to help cover this work and the fact that your manager is blind to that and thinks it’s acceptable to have you give up a vacation is the real issue — not whether or not your co-worker is sick or not.

    1. Colette*

      Did management ask the OP to give up her vacation, or did she decided she couldn’t take it? She absolutely should be able to take vacation, but getting to that point starts with figuring out where the pressure is coming from.

      1. VioletEMT*

        Agreed. In my line of work, it’d be, “Well, X and Y tasks are still outstanding, plus Z, which I was covering for Fergus, who’s still out. I leave on vacation in three days. Manager, can you help me pass this stuff off so no balls are dropped while I’m out?” Nobody just cancels their vacation. It’s simply not done. But that’s our company culture.

      2. LQ*

        I agree this is a big difference. Is your work pressuring you or are you giving it up? I know I’ve passed on vacations because of work that was completely my choice (and once I later told my boss and he was VERY clear that I should not do that again, that there is a way to make it work and vacations are important to keep doing good work). If you aren’t speaking up or it isn’t clear to your manager that there is a workload problem tell them today!

    2. John Smith*

      We are a small office of around 8, so when one person is gone for a long time (which has never happened until now) work piles up. It’s hard to blame my managers on this unexpected obstacle when they are generally very good at scheduling projects.

      They didn’t ask me to, I chose to understanding the work that had to be done. My bosses have also been pulling 60+ hour weeks as well, so I’m not alone. My bosses and I have a good relationship, and I know they’re not out to screw the bottom line.

      1. hbc*

        Honestly, they don’t sound great at scheduling. You’re down by one guy, and everyone in the office has to pull more than 10 hours overtime a week? If they’re actually doing 60 hours a week themselves, that alone should cover for your coworker being out. Then there’s the normal slack they should have built into the schedule to accommodate things like this, and then there’s always some other option besides continuing on with the same projects while you’re down a man. Is there literally no one in the world who can do any of the tasks the eight of you are doing on a temporary basis?

        They might be very nice people and very hard workers, but it doesn’t sound like they are actually good managers.

        1. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*


          People should generally be working a 40 hour week. If you’re making up for one person being out, that’s 40 hours to make up. Spread across eight people, that’s an extra FIVE hours a week each. And presumably every single hour should not need to be accounted for — some of that must be staff meetings or other situations where there is already coverage.

          Three months of sixty hour work weeks? You are being taken advantage of. Even if they are nice people.

          1. CMT*

            I think that’s an important point — it’s possible to be taken advantage of, even if they are nice people and don’t really mean to take advantage of you.

      2. Naomi*

        It’s good that your bosses are pitching in to help and aren’t asking more of you than they’re asking of themselves… but it’s not so good that they haven’t dealt with the situation even when they’re feeling the same impact that you are. They need to stop dragging their feet and make a new plan.

        I would say talk to them, but don’t make it about whether Fergus is or is not really sick. Instead, ask your bosses what the plan is in the (apparently very likely) scenario that Fergus isn’t coming back anytime soon. Reducing the scope of your projects, extending deadlines, or hiring a replacement for Fergus are sustainable solutions. Continuing with the status quo, or blithely insisting that Fergus will be back any day now, are not.

      3. nonegiven*

        Even if this guy comes back tomorrow, you’re not suddenly going back to a normal workweek, whatever that looks like. It’s time to start pushing back before you end up in his shoes. Cut back, take time off, the bosses need to find a way to cover. What would they do if you ended up in the hospital, traffic accident, serious illness, whatever? They need to do that now.

  16. Temperance*

    Re: LW#1:

    Earlier this year, I caught a very serious infection in my throat and was in the ICU for 5 days (regular hospital for an additional 5). I was out of work for 5 weeks. I didn’t have strep. Strep is NBD. Mono is also not a 3-month illness.

    I’m calling BS on your coworker for being able to travel and do all these fun things while being incredibly ill (allegedly), and also for setting a start date and then just not coming back. I’m also side-eyeing management for just being okay with this.

    1. LabTech*

      Mono is also not a 3-month illness

      Mono easily can last several months. I only had it for two weeks, but it’s really a crapshoot how long you have it for, and 3 months is not outside that range.

      1. ThatGirl*

        When I got mono as a teenager, I had strep/the lingering effects thereof for maybe a week, and *then* the exhaustion set in – and I spent the next month or so sleeping 18 hours a day. And I was a healthy teenager.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Yeah, I had it in high school. I slept and studied (homework brought home) for three weeks because it was the end of the school year. Then I hauled myself in to take my exams, even though I was exhausted and not thinking clearly (actually, that may explain why I went in!). I mostly pulled C’s, but I completely bombed one class’s essay test.

          They offered to let me retake it over the summer, but I wasn’t feeling well and my grade would survive it; I took the D- rather than retake it. I still think I made the right call. It was mid-July (over two months after I got sick) before I was sleeping less than 12 hours a day and could think well.

          It wasn’t just “being sick” but a form of exhausted sick in which I Could Not Brain.

          I submit that an employee in a hectic project environment who is exhausted and Cannot Brain is going to (a) produce little to no useful work if you are lucky, and negative amounts of work (by creating more) otherwise, and (b) take longer to get better.

      2. Callietwo*


        Son was in 5th grade when he caught it when sharing a tent with infected cousins unknowingly.. the boy lost 15 lbs in a few short months, ended up in a wheel chair for god sake.. and needed a tutor as he missed almost 5 months of school.

    2. NotASalesperson*

      Also a side note that step is not always NBD. I had complications from strep as a child that knocked me out of commission for 6 months.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          We’re pretty sure my dad’s kidney disease was caused by a case of untreated strep.

        2. Artemesia*

          This was septicemia from an untreated strep infection. By the time he sought medical care it was too late. If he had gotten hellp a few days earlier, he would have been fine with antibiotics. Strep can cause rheumatic fever which is life threatening and can cause long term damage but it isn’t something that generally results in a long illness once antibiotics are given.

    3. Bend & Snap*

      I caught mono right before my freshman year of college and it was MONTHS before I was back to normal. The acute illness lasted 2 months and it was close to 8 before I was functioning at 100%. Mono can be really serious.

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        I got mono the summer before my junior year of college, in 2000. I ended up taking one semester off and only 6 credit hours the next semester. Took me 3 years to graduate instead of 4, and I only managed that because my major required a fairly small amount of credit hours (I had .5 more than the minimum to graduate). And I also haven’t felt properly awake since. I am always, always tired. I know it has affected my performance in the past 16 years. The last few months have been even worse than usual. Working with my doctor to try to figure out why.

        Current medical thinking is that the virus actually stays active and affects you for years.

    4. Dot Warner*

      Mono can be a 3-month illness, but I agree that the OP’s coworker might be pulling a con here, and that management is screwing up. They need to do a better job of investigating what’s going on with the coworker and if possible, hire a temp or a part-timer to cover his workload while he’s out.

  17. Mental Health Day*

    OP, I hate to break it to you, but your bosses don’t give a shit about you (or their own business, it would seem). Start looking for another job now. Any company that allows people to just go AWOL for months (and still draw a full salary, I presume) is not worth working for. Sounds like they just don’t want to deal with the issue.

      1. Mental Health Day*

        Because it wasn’t addressed in the letter and I don’t see any reason to assume otherwise.

        1. LQ*

          It’s very interesting because for those exact same reasons I assumed he wasn’t getting paid. I figured if he was getting paid for 3 months of time off it would be mentioned since it seems so unusual to me. (I work at a government, pretty generous sick time, and some policies to give people extra time like donation are available here but not unlimited PTO or anything.)

          1. Mental Health Day*

            Sure, that makes sense. As you just demonstrated, we all make assumptions based on our own experiences to fill in knowledge gaps about these letters. That said, whether the guy was still getting paid or not was such a minor aspect of my comment (and my general thoughts about the matter) that I’m really not sure why anyone would feel the need to make an issue out of it. Clearly, the primary issue is that the guy is AWOL and it is having a major impact on the workload of other employees and the OP specifically.

            1. LQ*

              Totally agree. I do think it is super interesting that based on the same facts and the same assumptions even we came to opposite conclusions. It is a good reminder that we all come to the world with different information and that impacts a lot of stuff!

    1. John Smith*

      He’s not getting paid time off. The problem is that we’re a small office and that when one person is gone, it’s a fairly large percentage of the workforce gone. When said employee is gone for a longtime, shit adds up at the bottom.

      Even my bosses have been working 60+ hour work weeks, and even helping out in my area of work (which is a waste of money, because they are over qualified). They understand how shitty it is, and I don’t want to draw them out like their bad guys. But the sad truth is that when our clients come knocking for us to submit a project, we *cannot* default.

      Down the road I expect to be compensated in some way. But the idea of finding a new job hasn’t escaped me – especially if this happens again. Thanks for the advice.

      1. Mental Health Day*

        Well, that is good that he’s not getting paid for it. And, I hope that you are compensated down the road. It has just been my experience, in a similar situation, that if management isn’t willing to address this rather glaring issue head on, they probably have other very large failings that will not translate into fair compensation or career growth for you. Very best of luck to you.

      2. Bend & Snap*

        I’m interested to hear the long-term plan…even FMLA runs out at some point…surely they can’t plan on this workload indefinitely.

        1. Retail HR Guy*

          No FMLA for an office of 8 people. In fact, even the ADA doesn’t apply here since it’s under 15. Unless there is a contract stating otherwise, the boss is free to toss this guy to the curb whenever they want.

          1. MinB*

            There may be additional state laws that cover smaller employers than the federal-level laws do.

    2. Murphy*

      Wow, that’s harsh. I was off work for 4 months at full-salary after a car accident and I have to say, an employer that does allow someone to get better on the timelines they need without endangering their job or income is exactly the kind of employer I want to work for.

  18. Nanani*

    #3: As a freelancer who has raised my rates, I agree that the script provided is pretty good.
    You might also want to tell your clients that the higher rate will enable you to focus more on the work they are hiring you for (but only if it’s true!) since often, a client will compensate in their budget by hiring you for a lower volume of work at the higher rate, giving your more time to work on what’s left.

    Note that you don’t need to raise your rates across the board, for everyone, all at once. You can raise the rate on jobs you like less or are more time consuming while continuing to charge the same amount for the stuff you like doing more. That will produce a mix of work tilted more toward the kind of work you prefer.
    You could also raise your rates on clients you don’t like working with as much while leaving them the same for nicer clients. Same effect. For your friend/family clients, who are more likely to talk to each other, this works less well, but you can raise rates on them uniformly while being more variable with the corporate clients.

    So, for a concrete example, say your Aunt Lisa asks you to translate her insurance papers once a year. Your expertise is in technical manuals for dragon training tools, and you enjoy dragon-related work more. So, you could raise your rates for Aunt Lisa while charging the dragon pit the same rate as before. You can even explain to Aunt Lisa that you need to make up for the extra research you need to do or something along those lines, if you think it will help. Explanations aren’t generally necessary, but when the client is a close relative or friend, it’s fine to provide.

    Talking about money and asking for MORE money is often weird, but it’s less weird the more you do it and as a freelancer you will to get used to it!

    1. Wheezy Weasel*

      Ditto for adjusting the rates for jobs that are less pleasant or more complex. I ‘ve seen this in the contracting world of audiovisual installation, where the summer and winter break tend to be the busiest times to install equipment in high schools and colleges. If a school asked me to give them a price quote to do work during my busiest times, the rate was likely 1.5 to 2.25x the regular rate If they can pay it, it’s worth my time to pay OT and run around like crazy on the weekends. If they can’t, I’m not having to take people off other jobs to do more work for the same amount of money.

  19. Mabel*

    Regarding #3: I wish I had used wording like Alison suggests when I almost doubled my hourly rate for tutoring. Like you, after I had been doing it for a while, I realized that I was pricing my services way too low. But when I increased them, I felt defensive and offered too much explanation and ended up saying things that didn’t come out right, and I lost a client. I would have felt less defensive if I had done a gradual increase for my existing clients, as Alison also mentioned. The next time something like this comes up, I’ll keep this in mind!

  20. Episkey*

    OP #1, can you possibly broach the topic with your bosses about hiring a temp to help with the workload? It seems as though no one knows how long Fergus will be out at this point, so something should be done to reduce the hours worked by everyone else in your small office. If a temp can be hired on, that could help alleviate some of the issues.

    1. John Smith*

      We actually pulled an intern from another office to help with some work. But our line of work is rather complex, and pulling any employee (intern or fulltime) into a project that is near completion that we are up to our necks in would be difficult, and it could be a frivolous effort to catch them up to speed. The intern we pulled helped with little things, but nothing substantial.

  21. John Smith*

    (OP #1 here!)

    Thank you Alison for responding to my question! I think it’s hard to blame my bosses currently for project deadlines becoming and issue, since these dates were set long before said employee became absent. That being said, if my do not change their approach for the next dead line submission, this will be an issue I confront them with. Now that these projects are over with and I’m back to normal hours, I expect that my boss the next step, and how we can avoid the catastrophe that was the last two weeks.

    But to answer your second question – No, I am not 100% certain he is on vacation. That is what I am afraid of being wrong about. They could be old pictures no doubt, but considering the time lines of his social media, I believe he is on vacation.

    Its time for me to plan ahead as well though, and set my boundaries for the next time this happens.

    thanks again!

    1. LQ*

      Thanks so much for coming in and responding to comments and giving more information!

      Based on what you’ve said here I don’t think you should wait to have conversations with your boss about this, something to talk to them about, even as you plan future projects are you building in time for things like this to happen? Do you account for it?

      It is also worth thinking about what tasks are pass-off-able. It sounds like pretty specialized work, which I get, but there should be some things you can find ways to pass off to others, it might be an admin person you could bring in and knowing how to hand off those tasks, or having someone who knows enough to be able to step in for parts of it at different steps along the way. I know it can take a lot of work to do that, but it is worth it if you are so small that one person out has a big impact and you have someone out like this.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep — don’t wait. Have the conversation now, because if you wait until the next time it comes up, it may be too difficult for them to take care of it in time. Tell them now that you can’t continue to work the hours you’ve been working and that you’re giving them a heads-up now so that they can plan for that.

    2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      I agree with LQ – don’t wait to have this conversation. IT’s not like you don’t still have clients. Sit down with your boss and ask what the game plan is for the next upcoming project with the assumption Sick Employee is still going to be out? Unfortunately at this point you have to ignore that he’s screwing you and focus on the issue of getting the work covered.

      Since it will be a new project, will the deadline be further out than normal to compensate for him being gone? Will you hire a skilled temp? Contract the extra work out? You need to be working with your bosses for a set game plan NOW before the issue comes up again.

      Also, it is possible Sick Employee has a severe illness he is hoping to come back from and doesn’t want to scare anyone. It is also possible he just needed a break and has the resources to take unpaid time and isn’t being considerate of what that means to his coworkers. There are many likely scenarios. As much as it sucks that his situation is screwing you, you have to remove his reasons from the equation (for now). For now, making sure you aren’t working 60+ hours each week on the next project because he is out is the focus. (I get why you are hung up on it though – it’s human nature. If I was busting my hump and found out an employee was claiming sick while taking an extended vacation that screwed over the whole team with his absence, and he waltzed in months later like it was NBD and with no consequences, I’d be LIVID. However, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt that he is sick until you know 100% FOR SURE that he’s not ill and just gallivanting.)

  22. Re: #1*

    It could be the opposite of what most people are assuming. He could have a more serious illness, is saying it’s mono in order not to scare people, and is travelling for treatment. The photos could be his way of putting a positive spin on it.

    You really don’t know what’s going on with other people’s situations. I would stay out of it and look at it as a management issue.

    1. Susie Carmichael*

      Didn’t think of this specifically. It certainly could be something more grave and they could be traveling for treatment or because they’ve learned that they need to make the last moment count (maybe they haven’t update specifically yet, but plan to)

      I think most important here is that you haven’t spoken to your boss yet about the impact and so maybe boss doesn’t think there is a problem for you? I’ve read in comments that your company or department is small and so this loss does affect you, but perhaps since it’s being handled your boss isn’t as concerned as you think he ought to be and he wont know if you don’t speak up!

      Perhaps boss knows more about employee’s situation than he cares to reveal because it is personal in nature and not anyone else’s business.

      Honestly, if the employee is on FMLA or unpaid leave, I don’t really think its your business what they are doing or why. They’re not being paid for it. I think your business is to discuss with boss how this is affecting you and what plans they have to fix those problems.

      Health wise employee could have suffered an emotional or nervous breakdown, and is on the other side of it now and is taking some personal time to heal. You just never know so I don’t think that is where your focus should be. It should be on how to make sure your work life is working for you!

    2. John Smith*

      That’s why I haven’t done anything – I’m afraid it could be worse then what it appears. I didn’t want my emotions to get the best of me.

  23. DNDL*

    Re: #5
    I applied for a job, made it through a phone screening and an interview. I honestly thought I had gotten the job. They told me to expect to hear back within a week. Three weeks later, I’ve mentally moved on and I get the call that I was rejected. But I was strongly encouraged to apply for future positions.

    A month later a new position was posted, and it was very similar to the first position. However, they were different enough to make me think they were different roles. I applied, went through a phone screening and two interviews, and was ultimately offered the job. It wasn’t until after I was hired that realized that it was the same position, just retooled after the finalists the first time around all said the pay was too little for the job described.

    So part of me disagrees with Allison. I would reach out again, especially if you had a good rapport with the hiring manager or person who would be your boss.

    1. Artemesia*

      You were encouraged to apply again. I would not tell a failed candidate that if I didn’t want to hear from them in the future.

  24. TootsNYC*

    #4–former bank teller.

    As an interviewer, I wouldn’t really want you to tell me that at the very outset, as your first reference. it just derails the conversation somehow. And I don’t really want to suddenly be worrying about your emotional and mental health. Mostly bcs I just don’t want to invest that emotion, but also bcs I want to hear that you’re in control, and not buffeted by events. Also, the “she was held up at gunpoint!” will become a big part of your new identity at the job, and you don’t want that, for your own emotional peace.

    I would rather you say: “There was a robbery at the bank, and I wasn’t happy with the security measures they put in place later. So I decided to leave right away instead of making a more gradual transition to another field.”

    That leaves the intimacy of your own emotional reaction OUT of the conversation. If the interviewer pursues it a bit, my vote would be to stick w/ the passive or the general, as well as the forward-looking: “Yes, it was pretty upsetting.” “Fortunately no one was hurt, but it made things very clear for me–I don’t want to face those risks.”

    1. OP4*

      OP 4 here. I like your response, too. You’re exactly right (and I never conveyed this in my question, as I should have), I don’t want to look like the victim or have the label that I was robbed. However, that was the main reason I quit, coupled with the security problems. Thank you for your feedback!

  25. Laura*

    #2 – What type of person is your boss? I’ve had managers that expected 1 typo or less every 6 months. Another felt she wasn’t doing her job, if she didn’t find something to tweak to make us all stronger. How you deal with both can vary. Randomly, one of my friends always triple checks her work and has the lowest error rate in her department. However, she has been passed over for projects because she’s so much slower than everyone else. Make sure of what is prized in your current situation.

  26. Susie Carmichael*

    #2 – Remember you are human. Even the most accomplished writers still have editors. Sometimes when you’ve been looking at something for a while, you will miss something that you would consider a glaring mistake. That’s also why it’s always suggested to have one or two additional people look at your resume after you’ve been editing it. It’s okay to be human, and it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s also okay for those to be noticed and corrected by another person. This isn’t a reflection on you. Your concern for this shows that you are an employee who cares about their work and wants to do well and I would think (or hope) that your manager notices this in you.

    Remind yourself you had a good review! Remind yourself that they havent come with torches to your desk to escort you out or hang you. Then, as others have suggested try writing things out, creating check lists, or reminder alerts or something of the sort. And then lastly, check in with your manager! Then believe what she tells you. If she says you are on target and she is happy with your work, believe her and give yourself a break.

    I think you are probably being harder on yourself than you need to be!

  27. Susie Carmichael*

    #3 – You could send out a blind cc email to your freelance contacts to let everyone know in advance what your new rates are – I’ve received these kinds of emails before and always take it in stride. Things change, and you deserve to pay yourself what you are worth and that’s normal in all industries. Don’t feel bad about needing to do this and don’t apologize! Just be matter of fact about it, I think MOST people understand that.

    I also like the idea of meeting past long term clients in the middle for their next assignment but after that raising them to your current market rate.

  28. Marisol*

    OP #2 – I do these two things to check for/avoid errors. First, I try never to process *and* check on the same day, in order to see the work with fresh eyes. So if I have an expense report to do, I input everything on one day, then proofread it the next day, before submitting it. If I try to proofread immediately after processing, I am too engaged with the data to actually see it objectively. Second, when there is a lot at stake, I don’t mind asking a coworker to proofread my work. This might not work for everyone, but in my case, I don’t think it reflects poorly on me to seek help like that; in fact I think it makes me look more conscientious, as everyone can benefit from a second pair of eyes.

  29. The Kurgan*

    OP4, I feel for you in that situation. You might be dealing with post-traumatic stress after that horrible incident. I, too, was robbed at gunpoint once while closing the store where I worked. I was fortunate to be with another employee and unhurt except emotionally. And as in your story, my company had no security measures and refused to put any in place. It helped talking about it afterwards and eventually, I moved on to a better position literally and figuratively. You will, too. Keep your chin up!

Comments are closed.