I’ve been covering for a friend’s work mistakes

A reader writes:

I have a friend, “Meg,” and we both work at the same company but in different departments.

Meg is one of my closest friends, and we hang out all the time. She’s a lot of fun to be around, and she’s also been there for me through some difficult times. She’s an awesome friend but kind of a difficult coworker. As our work has evolved, we’ve had the occasion to collaborate more, and I’m starting to realize that she’s mistake-prone and often causes issues with my clients by being rude or inflexible with them. Things like ignoring them for long periods with no follow-up, forgetting to submit work on time, sending things last-minute with copy that’s factually inaccurate because she didn’t double-check and now there’s no time to fix it, telling clients their ideas are silly or pointless, disparaging the contributions of people we serve, being unwilling to compromise to the point of being unkind, etc.

No one’s perfect, and I certainly have made my share of mistakes/foot in mouth moments, but it’s starting to proliferate beyond what I’d consider typical. I’ve lost several key clients who have dealt with Meg, and they’ve been pretty explicit that their bad experiences with her were a major reason they left.

I’d prefer to let this shake out with her supervisors and not get involved, but I am more directly responsible for these accounts, whereas she’s only serving in a consulting role for them. While losing them doesn’t really affect her, it has a big impact on me and my review. Also, the only way they would really find out that she’s losing us business is if I tell them, because I can be a gatekeeper of sorts for client feedback.

When my supervisors ask me what happened, I’m always hesitant to really point the finger at her, but I also need to answer for the issue. In most cases, I’ve offered some vague platitudes in the vein of “I think we all could have done better,” or “I’m not sure we were the right fit,” but it’s becoming obvious that I’m basically covering for her at my own expense. I know the right thing for a friend to do is probably to go to her and discuss this feedback instead of burying it, but a couple things:

1. I am not her supervisor, and I’m sure in her shoes I’d be sorta miffed if one of my peers came to me to discuss my work. It’s not my place, and I don’t think she’d understand that I’d be doing it as a sort-of “hey — heads up, I need to start being more honest about these things when they happen.” That is, I’m telling you as a courtesy because if I don’t tell you I need to start telling some higher-ups.

2. She is an anxious person already, and she has a lot of trouble with criticism. She’s often tearful and so genuinely hurt when she does receive negative feedback from her supervisors, and I think in most cases it doesn’t really penetrate her Cloud of Defensiveness.

3. I don’t know how much she can actually improve — her manner tends toward brevity, she gets overwhelmed easily, and I don’t think her job is a fit for her. I know everyone can build skill sets, and I’m not writing her off, but I don’t think this is so much a lack of care as it is she’s in over her head and probably isn’t going to fix this overnight.

How do I do right by her friendship while still honoring my responsibility to my clients, my job, and myself? I don’t think continuing to enable her is the answer, but I don’t want to backstab her, either, or let her be blindsided. I know on some level I’ve created this dynamic, and it doesn’t seem like I’m owning my choices if I go from 100% covering for her to 100% not. I would so appreciate some perspective.

Oh my goodness, you have to stop covering from her — your company is losing clients directly because of her, and when your managers ask you about it, you’re covering up the reason. That’s really serious. Like, really serious — to the point that it could have a significant impact on you professionally if they figure out what’s going on themselves and realize that you knew but didn’t tell them. That’s the kind of thing that will deeply shake your manager’s confidence in you, make people wary of giving you more responsibility, and affect your credibility for a long time to come.

So yes, you have an obligation to speak up, and that obligation is to your company and to yourself.

As for your obligation toward Meg: The friendship warrants you giving her a heads-up along the lines of “Hey, I’ve heard from several clients now that they’ve left because of X, Y, and Z. Jane has been asking me what’s happened, and I’m feeling pretty awkward about not relaying that. I want to be up-front with you that I need to start talking to her about what’s been going on. I really wish that weren’t the case, but I’m in a tough position here, and I can’t hide this stuff from Jane and others.”

If she gets miffed by that, that’s on her, not you. You’re doing the kind thing by being open with her, rather than not giving her any warning.

How she reacts is up to her, but it’s not an option for you to continue to cover for her, and most people would rather know that than be blindsided by it. (And really, she’s already benefited greatly from your friendship; you presumably wouldn’t have provided this kind of cover for a co-worker who wasn’t a friend. If she feels entitled to have you do that long-term, even if it means jeopardizing your professional standing and success … that’s pretty horribly selfish.)

The fact that she may not be able to actually fix her performance problems definitely sucks, but it doesn’t change how you should handle this. I mean, you can certainly be sympathetic if she talks to you about struggling with this stuff, and you can encourage her to think about whether the job is the right fit for her, or whether she should be actively looking elsewhere … but you still need what you need from the person in her job, and you still can’t hide what’s happening from your employer.

Some friends do not work out well as co-workers, unfortunately.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 75 comments… read them below }

      1. Bethlam*

        Hey, I still use a Daytimer! In fact, it’s open on my desk right now. But then, I’m pretty old school. While I am very comfortable with my desktop computer and programs (I even designed the personalized pages I use for my Daytimer!), I’ve had the same (flip phone) cell for 10 years, don’t do any social media or apps stuff, and still use notebooks, pens, my Daytimer, and other paper organizing items.

        1. Nanc*

          You may have my flip phone when you pry it from my cold, dead hand or if you’re my honorary niece and want to use it as a Star Trek communicator for your Halloween costume.

  1. Technical Editor & Resume Reviewer*


    Should the letter writer tell her boss about the clients they’ve lost because of Meg, effectively coming clean? Or should she start being honest going forward and forget about the past incidents?

    1. hayling*

      Yeah I am curious about that too. Alison addresses the friendship part but not the communication-with-supervisors part.

    2. Catbert is my hero*

      I would recommend coming completely clean. Once OP starts divulging the true reasons for the losses, her company will rapidly realize what has been happening, and will ask why she did not disclose it originally.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        The OP may be able soften the blow by saying she just started putting the pieces together and only now realizes what a big problem it is.

        1. Captain Radish*

          CYA is your friend from this point on.

          “I was trying to figure it out myself. I wasn’t really aware of just how bad it had become until recently.”

          The OP may have to decide whether to keep the job or the friendship.

        2. ellis55*

          OP here – I like this way of putting it, and it’s not totally untrue. Until recently, I wasn’t totally sure it was so heavily her – lots of variables influence clients. But the feedback in the last several weeks has gotten more and more specific. Now that I’m realizing what’s been happening, I agree I need to be more forthcoming.

          1. Captain Radish*

            You may simply be able to get away with simply NOT covering and let nature take its course. If your friend is a reasonable human she’ll realize that either she needs to make a change or she shouldn’t expect you to cover. If she is willing to kill the friendship over you not covering it’s not a good friendship to keep going IMO.

            1. ellis55*

              That was my original plan – figuring everyone has supervisors and it’s their job to manage their team. I have in the past tried to encourage clients with concerns about her specifically to talk to her manager rather than to me because I’m not best positioned to deal with it. I agree I should have followed up even if they didn’t, but I don’t think a passive approach will work here.

              1. animaniactoo*

                I think you also need to figure out ways to speak truthfully to your supervisors while defending a co-worker who you think is being blamed inaccurately. Something along the lines of:

                “Andersen said he was upset with the lack of communication from Meg, but I’m not sure that’s really the sole reason, I think we all could have been better and that’s an easy target for him”

                “Ryan said he wasn’t happy with Meg’s evaluation of his plan, and I think we just weren’t the right fit for him.”

              2. Annonymouse*

                I think it’s getting to the point where you have to pick:
                This one friendship
                Your entire career.

                She is costing your business clients. Not only that but you can bet they will badmouth your company to their contacts which is future business down the drain too.

                She isn’t succeeding in this role and she knows it. Wouldn’t be better for everyone if she could move onto a position that suits her better?

                Also you aren’t getting her fired. You are simply no longer shielding her from the consequences of her actions.

              3. Dot Warner*

                If they ask why you took so long to bring it up, you could frame it as something like, “Claiming that an employee is the reason we lost even one client – nevermind multiple clients – is a really serious accusation, and I wanted to be sure I could prove before I brought it to your attention.” It’s the truth (because you weren’t 100% sure what was going on) and it makes you look conscientious (because it shows that you don’t want to trash someone’s reputation for no reason).

    3. BRR*

      I was wondering that as well. It’s easy for me to say yes because I don’t have any emotion attached to this situation. I’m just not sure how to say you’ve been covering for her because I don’t feel like that reflects well on the LW.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh! (I think my answers have suffered somewhat from me being sick the past two weeks; sorry.)

      I do think she needs to come clean. She could frame it as “I’ve been really unsure how to handle this, but I think I need to loop you in.”

      1. Charlie*

        This, yes. Frankly. if I were Jane, it wouldn’t only be Meg’s job on the line – OP’s would be too. She needs to come clean, but this is likely to harm her pretty badly too.

  2. Captain Radish*

    I agree with Allison’s advice pretty much fully. I’m just very glad I’ve never gotten myself in that kind of situation; although I am a bit of a sociopath, so I don’t think it would bother me all that much honestly.

  3. Steve*

    I work in a business that is client facing as well. If she is losing accounts, that is incredibly serious. She needs to be put on a PIP or taken away from the client facing aspect.

    1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

      Agreed – I’m in Client Services and retaining accounts is vital to my company’s business. If I was involved with covering up something that was causing us to lose us clients, I’m pretty sure my employer would view it as a fireable offense. If these clients are telling you that Meg is the reason they’re leaving, it’s very possible they could be telling others, and I feel like it’s only a matter of time before it hits the ear of someone in management.

      If you think it’s plausible you could take the “I didn’t speak up before because I wan’t sure of the magnitude of the problem” track you could cross your fingers and go that route. But if this has been going on for a while and you’ve lost multiple clients. plausible deniability might be off the table. In that case, I think you best bet would be to come completely clean, and as Alison said, admit that it was a terrible judgement call that you regret deeply.

  4. BRR*

    It sounds like you’re seriously harming your reputation by covering for her. I don’t have enough information but often times losing several key clients could cost someone their job. While you don’t want to get involved (I don’t blame you), it sounds like you have to due to the information you have. With regards to how she takes criticism, nobody should be skipping constructive feedback in the workplace because someone doesn’t take it well (there are a lot of letters on that). If you are going to be friends with a coworker, you have to be able to balance them.

    Rereading the letter, this job seems like a horrible fit for her. I hate when people say things like this but if she was a real friend, she wouldn’t want you to risk your job for her’s.

    1. ellis55*

      I understand that for sure; I feel a little awkward because she used to be in my department and we restructured. Her old job was a good fit for her – this new one is much more deadline-driven and covers a broader range of topics and I doubt it’s one she would have chosen for herself, if that makes sense. I agree that I should be more forthcoming, but I suppose I’ve felt like her floundering is less her fault because she was reassigned with no option to continue her previous role. I suppose part of me felt that if she had some time to figure it out, she might settle in. It’s not happening. It does need to stop.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t so much about whose “fault” it is; it’s about a serious business problem that needs to be dealt with.

        1. Cat steals keyboard*

          I was more referring to the idea that OP feels it not being Meg’s ‘fault’ means needing to cover for her.

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        It’s not her fault that she was reassigned to a position that’s unsuited to her, but it’s absolutely her fault that she’s choosing to do it badly, rather than seek a more suitable job somewhere else. Even if she made that decision solely for her own good, as it’s always best to move on before you are fired!

        You might be able to use that spin when you warn her that you can’t cover for her anymore. Encourage her to look to see what’s available in your field!

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes. And it’s also her fault that she’s choosing to take her frustration out on other people.

          OP, I get that she’s your friend, but making excuses for her behavior enables it.

    2. AMG*

      Agreed, BRR. To the point where I would distance myself from her at work–if she even manages to keep her job. Your friendship with Meg will reflect poorly on you.


    This is something I would have addressed directly with her the first time I heard she was the reason. “Meg, Client X said you were a but dismissive and rude when dealing with them. I understand that client facing duties aren’t your norm, and perhaps you didn’t mean to be that way and didn’t realize you were doing it, but going forward I really need you to bear your tone and language in mind when dealing with my clients. I’d really appreciate it since it is a reflection of me as well, and they’ve come to expect a certain level of service from us based on my interactions with them.”

    Since that ship has sailed, you need to talk to your managers immediately. Perhaps address the vagueness of your past responses “I had heard directly that Meg was the issue, but was wondering if it was because she was new to the accounts. I didn’t want to call her out until it was clear the issue was not going to be corrected. I apologize that I didn’t let you know immediately what the issue causing these accounts to leave was. If there is anything I can do to correct this, please let me know.”

    You are gonna have to eat a lot of crow because you did a major disservice to your company by not being upfront about the reason clients left. Your reputation will likely be damaged and you’ll need to work on rebuilding it.

    I think it is fair to give Meg a head’s up, but you absolutely have to go from 100% covering her to 100% not because you shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place. You need to own that is was a poor decision and do an immediate correction, not a gradual one.

  6. AndersonDarling*

    This situation sounds like what goes on in the small, dysfunctional family businesses. Daughter and Son haven’t been returning phone calls, but Cousin says business is dropping because the clients are dumb. Cousin has been rude to clients, so Daughter tells dad that their competitor is making better deals and they can’t compete and that is why they are loosing business. Dad doesn’t want to investigate so he takes everyone at their word. Three years later, the business closes and he never knows the real reason.
    It’s OK to cover for someone when they are having a bad day. But doing it on a regular basis crosses a line.

  7. NK*

    This is tangential to the issue, but on point #1 , I’d like to challenge the idea that it’s not your place to offer feedback to a peer, and that most people would be miffed about that. No one likes criticism of course, but I think many people would appreciate getting feedback from the person who it most directly affects and a peer rather than having it relayed to a boss first. This gives them the opportunity to correct the issue before it’s escalated. Some things are serious enough that they need to be immediately escalated, but most are not. Also, when it’s impacting your work directly, I’d argue that you do have standing to bring it up, even if you don’t have standing to implement consequences. If the issue doesn’t get addressed, that’s when you’d need to get their boss involved.

    1. Marisol*

      I agree. It’s not taking on the role of supervisor when you are having a dialogue about how *your* work is impacted.

  8. Marisol*

    Regarding your concerns about your friend not being able to handle your feedback, you can attempt to mitigate her upset by being as transparent as possible about your feelings, motivation for talking to her, and desired outcome. Something like, “I have to talk to you about something, and truthfully, I dread saying this, because you’re a dear friend to me and I am afraid of hurting your or, frankly, of seeing you freak out. But I need to come clean about some things and I think it’s in everyone’s best interest–yours, mine, and the company’s that I do so. I’m not your supervisor; I’m speaking to you as a peer. What I want you to do, if you can, is listen with an open mind and know that my intentions are good.” Then start in with the “meat” of the issue: “over the past several months you’ve made a series of mistakes, I’ve made the huge mistake of covering for you. I can’t do that anymore…” etc.

    That language was a bit formal so it’s not meant to be an actual script, just an example of a way to address some of the concerns you’ve expressed. I see no reason why you can’t be both frank and vulnerable in a conversation like this. Indeed, since you aren’t her supervisor, I think vulnerability is the only way to go.

  9. Long Time Consultant, First Time Commenter*

    Wow! My eyes nearly popped out of my head reading the list of “mistakes,” which are more like mortal sins (or the client services equivalent). you’ve been an amazing friend already because Meg should have been fired long ago. The kind of mistakes you describe are crazy to me, I don’t know how someone in client services (even just consulting with clients occasionally) can get away with all those mistakes. Well I guess we know in this case — they have friends covering for them :(

    Maybe one of those mistakes is okay, and might warrant some cover and forgiveness (after blunt feedback), but ALL of them seems like a pattern warranting the employee being fired or at least put on a PIP.

  10. neverjaunty*

    OP, it’s too late to “not get involved”. Meg has gotten you involved. She is trashing your career and your company, and is not able to listen to your friend-to-friend attempts to get her to stop. Defending yourself from her behavior is not “backstabbing”. It is acting professionally and letting her experience the consequences of her own actions – and how is she ever going to change if she doesn’t?

  11. AnonAcademic*

    OP, I just want to sympathize how hard it is to mentally separate loyalty to a friend from adherence to the norms of professionalism. I let a colleague I was friendly with get away with WAY too much nonsense on a joint project we ran. I tried to talk to her about it directly multiple times, but she was like teflon to criticism – would yes me to death and not change. I eventually went over her head, using the excuse of her most recent mistake being something our manager needed to know about for budgetary reasons (mostly true) but in retrospect, I don’t know why I felt the need to be so sneaky/subtle about it! I guess I knew that being bluntly honest would probably end our friendship and at that point I still thought we could remain friends as long as we didn’t work projects together. But, our friendship is effectively over anyhow because I lost so much respect for her due to how she acted. I also realized that it was in my best interest professionally to not be closely associated with her in any way, extracurricular or otherwise. I’ve learned to be much more cautious about mixing my work and personal life now.

    1. TootsNYC*

      “But, our friendship is effectively over anyhow because I lost so much respect for her due to how she acted.”

      I have found that how much I like someone is directly related to whether they are good at their jobs, or good at whatever thing we are doing together.
      I like people who are engaged and competent.
      People who aren’t, well, I can enjoy their company in small doses, but I don’t truly stay close to them.

  12. Tia*

    Honestly, I think at this point your job is on the line. You’ve been hiding the reason your company has lost multiple clients. If your bosses find the real reason from anyone but you I suspect you’ll be dismissed immediately.

    You may just be able to salvage things by saying you’ve just put things together but you will have to hope that no one senior to you speaks to an earlier lost client because if they do and are told you knew exactly why the client left and it comes out you lied to cover up the reason (which is what you’ve done) your job may not be salvageable.

    You need to speak to your managers now and start fixing this.

    Sorry, I know this sounds harsh but you still seem more worried about upsetting Meg rather than the consequences to your career which makes me think you may not realise how bad this could get for you.

    1. Anon for this*

      Yeah, the whole tone of the letter makes me wonder how much the OP cares about her job… I don’t mean that harshly, but I’m client facing, and would take the loss of even one client very seriously—especially if it was caused by a coworker’s mistakes! It’s not like my job would be on the line if I lost one client… but if I lost several important ones because of an issue I could have addressed and didn’t, it sure as heck would. And that would matter to me because I really like my job & I’d hate to lose it.

      I don’t think the OP should lie, though. Too high a likelihood someone will find out, and then she’ll be in even worse trouble…

      1. ellis55*

        I don’t want to give away too much identifying information about where I work, but for some useful perspective – I’m using the word “client” loosely. We’re a non-profit and my work is with volunteers. It’s not uncommon for us to have a lot of attrition and volunteers tend to be in and out a lot for varying reasons. My retention is usually well above average – however, when I work with her it’s not (and that’s a problem – no denying). Losing business is always bad, but I thought it might help to understand that we aren’t talking major accounts that individually affect our bottom line very much and we aren’t talking something that happens rarely.

        1. Anon for this*

          Ah, I see—thanks for clarifying, OP. Losing several major clients could affect my company financially—which is why my comment had a fairly grave tone to it! I think that’s the perspective a lot of other commenters are coming from as well.

          FWIW, even with the added context, I think Alison’s advice is good.

        2. Observer*

          That helps. But it’s still a hugely significant problem. And you really have no choice, I think, but to give her a heads up and start coming clean.

  13. Anon for this*

    Whoof, I am client facing, and if someone who worked with me caused me to lose even one of my clients this way… I’d never let them near another one, and you can be darn sure my superiors would hear about it! One of my coworkers, whose job plays a supporting role to mine, is prone to mistakes and quick to anger, and I’ve been super clear with him that he’s never to interact w/ my clients, he always has to go through me—because I’m so worried about this exact scenario.

  14. Interviewer*

    I used to work with someone like this, who treated her internal clients this way. She was smart, but very cynical and curt, and truly hated people asking a million questions. Constructive feedback on her soft skills sent her into a tailspin. She got defensive, hostile, and even yelled – a real “shoot the messenger” type. Everyone worked around her as much as possible. She had an incredibly skilled manager who tried for 2 years, then basically threw in the towel and coached her into leaving. She moved out of town, and we lost touch. Several years later, I discovered she had moved back and got a consulting job, the same expertise for external clients. It kind of surprised me, because that client service piece was totally lacking when we worked together, but she had 2 other jobs while she was away, so I figured maybe she learned her lesson.

    I ran into her coworker a year later. When I asked how she was doing, he told me she is now consulting for another company in a related field. And ended the conversation quickly.

    Fifth job in 5 years. Constructive feedback is critical, but some people will never accept it. Good luck, OP.

  15. Jesmlet*

    OP, if I was a manager at your company, I would fire you both. Not only did you cover this up, but you essentially allowed it to continue happening, resulting in further losses. Maybe your friend would be better off at a job she was actually good at rather than staying somewhere where she clearly won’t succeed. You definitely need to come clean and pray that your bosses are more forgiving because this is just not okay.

  16. Billy*

    I don’t think you understand that your job is in jeopardy.

    If your manager is capable, he or she will be investigating why “several key clients” — meaning more than 1-2 — have left. It is likely that part of that investigation will involve calling them and saying “Hi! I’m the vice president of teapots Inc, and I was sorry to learn you won’t be working with us anymore. Would you be willing to talk with me for a few minutes about your experiences?”. The very best possible outcome from such a conversation will be management learning that you lied to them about client departures. What is at least as likely is that management will get a garbled story about unanswered email, failed commitments, and mistake-prone quotes, causing you to be blamed for your co-workers errors.

    1. AMG*

      Yes. All the more reason to come clean now. You want your company to hear it from you, not the volunteers/clients left. Good Luck, and please give us an update!

  17. Cat steals keyboard*

    I feel OP is taking way too much responsibility for Meg’s actions, feelings and reputation when what you need to do is tell the truth and compel Meg to take responsibility for herself. If she can’t, that is not your problem – she’s an adult and you’ve got sucked into a codependent dynamic with her. You’re bending over backwards to be her friend and not upset her. It’s ALL about her! OP, I think you need to ask yourself why you think it’s your job to protect her from the natural consequences of her mistakes and from ever having to have any negative feelings. I’m sorry but this isn’t a healthy friendship and isn’t worth risking your job over. So she’s fun, you say. But evidently you walk on eggshells around her. It’s time to stop.

      1. Cat steals keyboard*

        You’re welcome. Good luck – this is the kind of situation that can unfortunately sneak up on you gradually.

    1. AMG*

      Right–and the ironic thing is that now OP DOES bear some responsibility in this since she has omitted the real reason for the clients/volunteers leaving.

  18. RKD2*

    If you gave Meg a head’s up would she rush to speak with your supervisors before you could speak with them? She seems like a person who would not be willing to be held accountable and would instead rather try to pre-emptively throw you under the bus. Be careful that more than your fair share of the blame doesn’t blow back on to you!

  19. Michelle*

    I covered for a coworker. She was in her 70’s, still working and commuting about an hour each day. She tried really, really hard but she just couldn’t keep up her job. She was taking stuff home to complete off the clock because she wasn’t getting it done during the day. The biggest issue was mail merge lists and invitations. So I started doing those things for her (we were at the same level but different supervisors and departments so our tasks differed a bit) and few reports when I had time.

    Then she made 2 big mistakes that I couldn’t cover. She needed to print 200 invitations to an event. She set the invite up, put in the “special” invite paper and hit print. Twice. Nothing happened. So I had her send the invites to me and I started working on them. Later that day, we get a call from the capital office, more than an hour away, asking if someone printed over 400 invites to their printer. When she printed the invites, she had selected the wrong printer. It was an honest mistake, but they had been on her about this because she had printed things to capital before and they had to trash them because no one was going to drive an hour to bring the materials. Our MIS dept had even renamed the capital printer “DO NOT USE THIS PRINTER” for her and it still happened. I don’t know why they just didn’t delete it as an option.

    A few weeks later her department needed to do another invite print/mail. I printed both the invites and the mailing labels and gave them to her to stuff, address, seal and mail. I was going to be out a few days having my wisdom teeth removed. 5 weeks later, a week before the event, her supervisor asked about RSVP’s for the event. She said she hadn’t received any. He called one of the invitees on the West Coast (we are on the East Coast) and they said they hadn’t received an invitation. He called a few more invitees and they had not gotten an invite either. I think she was at lunch and he started searching her desk and found the invites, labels and envelopes in a desk drawer. She had apparently put the away and FORGOT to mail them. She was allowed to resign and left 2 weeks later.

    I heard later that she blamed me for that last mistake because I should have asked her if everything got sent ok when I returned from surgery. She also hates me now.

    1. ArtK*

      No good deed goes unpunished! Unfortunately, this is a side-effect of covering for people. They develop the expectation that you’ll do it and get upset when you finally stop.

    2. Mookie*

      That last line is a gutpunch. I’m so sorry. I think you behaved admirably; it’s really hard to look out for and balance everyone’s interests, including your own, in situations like this.

  20. pigbitinmad*

    Under no circumstances allow yourself be be bamboozled into regarding a co-worker as anything but a competitor. She’s gettting credit for your work and will probably get promoted over you (or she will throw you under the bus before she gets the axe).

    I learned the hard way never ever help your coworkers to look as good or better than you.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      I’m not sure I can agree with your thinking.

      If you constantly think your coworkers as constant opponents instead of teammates, the entire group is not going to get anything done. Obviously, you can’t do the work for your coworkers, but you still have to work WITH your coworkers to get the job done.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Seriously. Of course you want to ALSO make yourself look good. But seeing co-workers as the enemy is a great way to make sure nobody ever has your back.

    2. Mookie*

      She’s gettting credit for your work and will probably get promoted over you (or she will throw you under the bus before she gets the axe).

      They’re literally in different departments–not competing for one another’s jobs–and it doesn’t sound like the work is stellar enough to be a credit to anyone. Clearly something bad happened to you along these lines, but what you describe isn’t what’s happening here.

  21. Lady Phoenix*

    You’re going to have to tell the boss about this mistake and your involvement. Pretty much all of these behaviors are inexcusable, and the effects are now rippling through the entire business. Whatever happens, you need to fess up on YOUR part of all of this and confess that your friend has been making mistakes.

    Then you need to go to your friend and have a serious discussion with her. Discuss that you will not do her work for her anymore. I wouldn’t suggest telling her she should find a new job (I feel that is a superior would be in better position to make this recommendation), but I would tell her that her mistakes have affected you in a big way and that you can not help her anymore.

    I would also consider job searching, because while there might be a chance you won’t be fired for this, there’s no guarantee that you won’t come out of this with your reputation intact. You might be better off taking your leave on a good term, requesting that your superiors give you a positive recommendation in your new job.

  22. Resident Martian*

    OP, I laughed out loud at “Cloud of Defensiveness”. I picture the light white and breezy cloud surrounding her head turning dark with thunder and small lightning bolts, threatening to pour rain on the carpet whenever mild criticism approaches.

  23. Dust Bunny*

    If you’ve been covering for her, you’re already involved. At this point, you’re complicit, actually. You’ve made WAY too many friendship allowances on this one: You should have called her on it or gone to her supervisor a long time ago. Come clean now before it gets worse, and learn to separate your feelings for her as a friend from your interaction with her as a coworker.

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