I’m being blamed for a coworker dropping the ball while I was out, hijacking a birthday party, and more

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

1. I’m being blamed for a coworker dropping the ball while I was out

I was recently out for three weeks due to scheduled surgery. An important task needed to be completed as quickly as possible during my absence. Since I could not do it before my surgery because I was still missing some key information, I asked my colleague whether she could do it. She said yes and I provided her with all necessary info.

During my recovery, I called her once or twice because of unrelated matters and asked how the task was coming along. Both times, she said she hadn’t gotten around to it yet but she’d do it. I told her to please keep me posted on this, even while I was sick.

The day I came back, she still had not done anything. The client had written an angry email to my boss and cc’d me and complained that I did not get anything done since quite a bit of money was at stake.

This task is usually not my coworker’s responsibility, and she is not obliged to do it for me. It was supposed to be a favor. If she didn’t have the time or simply didn’t want to, that’s fine. But why didn’t she tell me that? Or she could have called me after a week and told me, “Sorry, I realized I don’t have time for this!” Am I in the wrong to expect this?

I told my boss that I had delegated the task to another team member who had not gotten around to it, but I didn’t say who. My coworker has been with the company for 20 years and my boss works very closely with her. I have only been here for one year. I also didn’t want to say anything without talking to her first. Unfortunately, she is now on vacation until the end of September, so I have to wait until she comes back. How should I approach this? Am I in the wrong for expecting she’d at least inform me that she cannot do it?

No, you’re not in the wrong. Your coworker told you she would do the task, and then continued to assure you she was on it when you asked. If she realized she couldn’t do it, she needed to proactively tell you or your boss that.

I don’t think you can adequately defend yourself without telling your boss exactly what happened, which means naming the coworker (and it would look shady not to). It doesn’t need to be accusatory, though; you can allow for the possibility she did the task and emailed it before she left and the message went astray, or who knows what else. But explain to your boss that your colleague agreed to do it and you followed up with her several times and she assured you she was on it, and that you don’t know what happened but will find out once she’s back.

In the future, it makes sense to fill in your boss ahead of time on who will be covering things for you in your absence — not just to ward off situations like this, but also in case questions about it come up while you’re gone. You can tell her that you’ll do that from now on, and also ask if there’s a different way she would have liked you to handle this one.

2. My birthday is being hijacked

I have a question that feels ridiculous to even ask, but it’s bothering me more than I expected. A friend and colleague (we’ve known each other for years before starting at our current company; we were always more “acquaintances” than friends but we’ve never been at odds with each other, and we got closer while working together), “Jane,” and I almost share a birthday. Jane’s birthday is one day after mine. This is something that that Jane definitely knows. This year, Jane invited me to a birthday party for herself, to be held on my actual birthday because of weekends. The invite was online so I could see the guest list, and it is 100% mutual friends and work colleagues and includes all the people I would have invited to a celebration of my birthday.

If this were on any other day, I’d be happy to go and bring Jane a gift, but now I feel like if I go and other people brought Jane a card/gift, it will be awkward when they find out that it’s my actual birthday and they don’t have anything for me. I know this is small potatoes, but I feel really slighted here. The invite was also sent out a few weeks in advance, before I had invited people to celebrate my birthday, and now I feel like I can’t invite my friends to something for me unless I change the day. Even as I write this, I know it’s silly, but do you have advice for what to do? Am I just being ridiculous? I just wish Jane had asked me to do something together.

Why not just say to Jane, “I’d been planning to organize something for my own birthday, which is that day, and would have invited a lot of these same people. Want to make it a joint party for both our birthdays?”

I wouldn’t normally advocate trying to hijack part of someone else’s event for yourself, but when it’s your actual birthday and it’s the same group of friends (that last part is key), it makes a lot of sense.

3. How to get my co-interviewer to share her real opinions about candidates?

I work in a healthcare setting, manage the support staff, and am conducting interviews next week. For our interviews, the head of department always assigns a medical professional to interview with me. Usually this goes well and I have no problems. However, the colleague assigned this time — who I get along with well — has never conducted interviews before and is a real people pleaser. She is good at her job, but she never shares her thoughts in meetings/conversations and just agrees with the majority consensus. My concern is that I need the opposite in an interview process. If she simply agrees with me, even though she may think differently, then it is no different than me interviewing on my own. It is supposed to be a panel for a reason.

My plan was to not state my thoughts and instead push for her to speak first so she cannot simply repeat my opinion. However, I am skeptical this will work as I have tried this in the past with her and she just would not answer and kept deflecting back to my thoughts. Is there anything else I can do? How would you handle this?

Even when you’re not concerned about your co-interviewers being overly influenced by you (or each other), it’s still smart to create an interview rubric form that you each use to assess candidates, listing the key must-have’s and the nice-to-have’s that you’re looking for in candidates, and then each fill the form out on your own before you meet to discuss a candidate post-interview. That kind of assessment tool will ensure that you’re measuring each candidate against the same bar and can help mitigate bias (because you’ll be assessing candidates on clear requirements, not just a gut feeling or personal like/dislike — and has the side benefit of forcing your coworker to put her impressions down on paper before she has the chance to be influenced by you.

4. Taking a maternity leave without destroying my freelance business

I’m a self-employed nonprofit fundraising consultant, currently pregnant and due in spring 2024. I support a handful of organizations and I operate as a team of one (no subcontractors or employees). My business is a dream come true: I work remotely, doing projects I’m passionate about and highly skilled in, and I have tremendous flexibility.

I’d like to take a three-month maternity leave when the baby comes. As I see it, my options are: (1) Give my clients as much notice as possible about my upcoming leave and let them know I’ll be unavailable during that time. In the meantime, I would work with them to get ahead on as many projects as possible. The goal would be to make things relatively turn-key and avoid leaving my clients in the lurch. (2) Hire a subcontractor to work with clients on my behalf while I’m on leave.

I’m less inclined to do #2 because I don’t have anyone in mind to hire as a subcontractor, I don’t want to manage payroll or other issues that might come up while I’m on leave, and I don’t want to be worrying whether they’re delivering the quality of work my clients need. That feels like too much potential stress on top of all the craziness of caring for a newborn and my older child.

However, I’m concerned that a three-month gap may cause some of my clients to walk away. I’ve built up a strong client base over the last couple years and I don’t want to lose the great thing I have. I know my clients trust me and value my work, but I also know they have significant fundraising needs and may struggle to get the work done on their own. My leave also happens to coincide with one of the busiest times of year for nonprofit fundraising!

Option #1 seems far preferable to me for all the reasons you name. If you already had someone in mind who you knew you could rely on, that would change things. It’s not impossible that you could try to find someone before then, but you’d need to work closely enough with them between now and your leave to be comfortable letting them stand in for you while you’re unavailable (presumably with a contract prohibiting them from making a play for the client’s business for themselves), and it’s far from guaranteed that you’d find the right person … and meanwhile you’d be paying for their work with you during that pre-leave period, plus managing them (which is a substantial time investment), at exactly the same time as you want to be doing extra work to get ahead on projects in case the person doesn’t end up being the right one. It’s a lot of additional work without a guaranteed payoff.

If you have strong relationships with your clients, you’re not likely to lose them over a three-month leave with lots of preparation. Good fundraising consultants are hard to find, and if they like your work and you’re very transparent about how you’re arranging things for your absence, you’re likely to be fine. (However, you could always test this with a client or two — have the conversation now and feel out their reaction before you proceed with the others.)

5. Can I refuse to do this extra work?

I have a regular academic job and am getting close to retirement. I also get a very modest annual honorarium for editing a journal for a publisher (think four figures). The amount of work I put into it well exceeds the compensation, and the job has been a lot of effort. The journal was moribund when I took it on, and it is now one of the leaders in the field and turning a profit.

I’m entering the last year of my several years tenure as editor, and the publisher is now asking me to do another large marketing task in addition to editing which involves a lot of coordination and time. A little while ago, I received a very small raise to account for inflation, but it really is a cut as it is nowhere near inflation, and it is clear no more money is forthcoming. Several of the previous perks such as conference travel have also been cut in favour of these cheaper-to-run but much more labor-intensive marketing efforts, and I’m expected to do it all at home with my own IT equipment. It isn’t because the organization has no money; it does rather well.

I’ve done some of the marketing tasks that were asked, but found that unless I run the whole show, it doesn’t come off very well. I’ve said, “Well, I’ve done X amount and if you want more, here is a plan to delegate it to others as I’ll be leaving next year.” The journal is running very well, so the next editor is inheriting a much easier situation than I did. Did I do right here or should I just cheerfully accept more work for the good of the journal? It is a service job and there is no formal employment contract per se, though I pay taxes on the honorarium so I suppose it is sort of a consultancy.

Nope, that’s perfect. In this kind of role, you’re not obligated to take on additional work that you didn’t sign up for and aren’t being paid for just because they asked. Your obligation is to be clear about what you will and won’t do so they  can make other plans. You’ve done that. If they’d like to sweeten the pot to entice you, they’re welcome to try that — but you don’t need to do work you never signed up for simply because they want you to.

That’s of course a much blurrier line to maintain in a traditional employment situation (and often an utterly impractical one if you want to keep the job), but when you’re a consultant or someone being paid via honorarium, you have a ton of leverage and authority to simply explain that won’t work for you/you don’t have the time/it’s not your area of interest/etc. and decline, as you did.

{ 371 comments… read them below }

  1. Lulu*

    For LW #5, I encourage you to think of this as an important boundary to set with this journal. It’s very common for editors to put in more hours than they’re really being paid for, but it’s so frustrating when someone decides to go way above and beyond when they simply can’t expect anyone else to make that same unreasonable sacrifice in the future. It’s good for them to know that this ask may have been too much, so they’ll know to budget for a marketing person, increase the expected hours and pay for the next person, decide not to do xyz, etc. You’ve been reasonable for yourself, and also done them an organizational kindness. Congratulations on a successful tenure!

    1. WellRed*

      Eh, it doesn’t sound like OP did that, really. Good on them for how they graciously passed the job on but I don’t see any mention of asking for additional compensation on top of the marketing tasks (which sound separate from the whole honorium stuff) or suggesting it’s time to hire an actual person. I see the journal turning right around and looking for another soul to take on the burden.

    2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      I was wondering why/how an editor would also do marketing. Is that normal? If they want marketing, shouldn’t they hire a consultant/freelancer who does marketing?

      1. Pippa K*

        I think this varies across journals and publishers. My publisher (I edit an academic journal too – so neat to see this as an AAM question!) is great to work with, and they do some general marketing and website and online submission system maintenance for all their journals. My journal is also sponsored by a professional academic organization, so that org does some marketing-related work itself. And as editor, I have a free hand to cook up whatever I think will benefit the journal (so long as I can fit it in our budget). That usually means through academic networks, at conferences, etc. so it’s not a big commercial marketing campaign or anything like that.

        Also, whether and how editors are paid is also variable. I get a lump sum from the journal sponsor every year “to support the journal,” and an additional sum to support a journal-related event, plus some logistical support from the sponsor. I can either keep it for myself, as compensation for my time, or use it for things like an editorial assistant. I do the latter, so I do not actually get paid at all for this work. It’s professionally useful to me, but there is no remuneration. (Thus is academia generally, of course.) In fact, given how academic publishing works, for an issue of the journal, the article authors, the editor, and the peer reviewers are all unpaid. My editorial assistant and the publisher’s staff are paid. The problems in this model are widely known but it’s unlikely to shift very soon.

      2. Rock Prof*

        I think this is another one of those situations where boundaries are blurred/non-existent because academia. One of my colleagues (a humanities professor) basically runs a non-profit related to get field and the only compensation she gets is a similar-sized honorarium and the chance to list it under ‘service’ on her CV.

      3. Antilles*

        One academia-specific possibility:
        The editors of academic journals are often big-name people in that field with their own reputation and name recognition within the field. So they’re asking OP to do it because the name “Dr. OP” alone carries weight/marketing value that you wouldn’t get from a random marketing consultant.

        1. iglwif*

          I meant to mention this in my comment but forgot! It can work both ways — you can gain reputation by editing a respected journal, and you can lend weight a journal and its marketing efforts for a by having a good reputation.

      4. Beth*

        It’s academia. It’s normal for people to do as many tasks as their higher-ups can convince them to do–and given the profession-wide tendency to feel like you’re never doing quite as much as everyone else, that means most people are doing an insanely wide range of tasks.

      5. iglwif*

        I can answer this one!

        Many journals are quite … niche (for example, Edgar Allan Poe Quarterly is a journal that exists, as are Acadiensis and Arkansas Historical Quarterly and Ultimate Reality and Meaning), and while journal marketing people at publishers do their very, very best to understand all the nuances of the many and varied disciplines of the journals they work with, quite often the input of editors and editorial boards is crucial.

        Editors and editorial board members know people in their field/s and subfield/s. They know what topics are hot, who the up-and-coming scholars are, where researchers in their field hang out, what conferences they go to … they know all that stuff. Marketers try! But a journals department marketing person might be responsible for 20 or 30 or even 40 journal titles in a whole range of disciplines — I’m talking about the humanities and social sciences here, not about, like, the APA or AAAS or IEE, which are a totally different story — and nobody can be a deeply embedded expert in that many things. Take conferences, for example: the marketing person will be responsible for all the logistics around conference attendance, will create the collateral and pack up the journal copies and staff the booth; but before deciding where to spend a very limited conference budget, they will want the journal editor or editorial board to validate which conference/s are actually worth attending for that specific journal.


        Editors get a job description when they agree to be editors, and if that job description changes drastically when they’re almost at the end of their term, it is 100% valid for them to say, you know what? This is a problem for the next editor, and please put it in the job description up front this time.

    3. MigraineMonth*

      That’s a great way of looking at it. I worked for an organization where going far beyond the call of duty was formally discouraged because it threw off all the project planning metrics and prevented cross-training.

  2. zanshin*

    Re letter #1: anytime I needed coverage for a specific thing during a planned absence, it never occurred to me to informally ask a coworker; rather I went to my direct supervisor to ask her who it should be delegated to, as she has the bigger picture. It was then my responsibility to sign it off to the assigned coworker, but a manager’s job to follow through in my absence.

    1. Jonna*

      Yeah, I’m giving LW’s boss the side eye here. LW was off for 3 weeks, so they should have had a discussion beforehand about who was going to cover any urgent things that needed to be done. I think that’s on the manager, as they’re able to check up on whether the task is being done. LW is off for surgery, and shouldn’t have to be trying to oversee this.

      1. Pat*

        As I was reading the letter, I didn’t think of this, but you’re absolutely right – the OP’s manager should have managed this piece of work while the OP was out sick.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Yes, but since the boss didn’t have that discussion, OP should have called the boss while she was off to get boss to follow up with the coworker.

        1. Fikly*

          OP shouldn’t be calling work or in contact with them while on 3 weeks of medical leave, period. It’s medical leave, not do some work while recovering leave.

          Outside of some extremely extenuating circumstances, you do not disturb medical leave. Nothing stated in the letter comes near that, and this company should have plans in place to deal with situations just like this without having to contact employees on leave.

        2. T2*

          No no no. The employee was out sick. It is the Bosses job to oversee the work of employees. What happens if the employee is hit by a bus with no notice?

          That is shifting blame from someone with power to someone without and it is icky.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, the OP shouldn’t have been doing any work (including following up with the coworker) while off. She should have looped her boss in before her leave and then let the coworker handle it.

          2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            OP was already calling the coworker to chase her up. She should have called the boss at that point instead.

          3. Beany*

            Disagree. The employee was *not* out sick when the decisions were being made.

            The letter makes it clear that LW1 got the task earlier, and they had enough information at that time to know they couldn’t handle the task *before* they went on sick leave. If they had time to ask their coworker to cover for the task, they had enough time to let their manager know instead/as well.

            1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

              In some places it is standard that the employee will find coverage for tasks if they are out. The boss probably thought that the task was done or that it was covered. I think the boss should have asked who was covering when the client got angry.

              Looking back, yeah maybe the OP should have let the boss know. But maybe they have a type of work where that is not the SOP so they didnt think of it. Either way this really isn’t the OP’s fault. Their coworker is the one who dropped the ball.

          4. Feckless Rando*

            The idea of being hit by a bus WITH notice is cracking me up this morning.

            “Hi Jane, I see you schedule is full this morning but I have to request that we meet urgently for a hand off discussion. You see, I’ve just received notice that I’ll be hit by a bus this evening so I’ll be on medical leave effective EOD.”

          5. Addison DeWitt*

            Sounds like the boss barely knew it existed and did not know who it was assigned to. That’s their problem, but in the immediate term, on some level LW needed to make sure the boss knew about it at all.

        3. Venus*

          OP shouldn’t have had to call the boss or the coworker.

          Similar to OP’s situation I have responsibility for my own work and if I’m out then I ask coworkers to help. Yet I also send my boss an email outlining any critical deadlines, which coworker has agreed to do the work, a very brief summary of how the boss can do the work themselves if something goes wrong, and ask them to keep an eye on things. I’m really surprised that the OP’s boss knew nothing. Hiding the name of the coworker is also very strange, because the only reason I can think of is to not want to be seen as betraying their coworker to the boss whereas workplaces should be more matter of fact.

          1. Ama*

            Yes, I send a similar document to not just my boss but any of my team members who are handling coverage — everyone gets the same document, not just for my boss to know who should be handling what but that way if someone else needs to pass off something I’ve asked them to do because they are ill or have an emergency work project that needs to take precedence they know who might be able to help.

      3. Champagne Cocktail*

        I also agree. When I read the letter, what went through my mind was, “Where was the boss in this equation?”

      4. iglwif*

        LW’s boss should have requested some kind of update or summary before LW went on leave, and LW should have provided such a summary even if their manager didn’t request it.

        Because LW really should not have to field questions from the office or chase after a co-worker about a project (!!) while on medical leave!

    2. Emmy Noether*

      In my experience, how it’s handled depends on a lot of variables – length of absence, importance of task, culture of workplace. In my last job, coverage of my tasklist (there was a software and whole process to manage tasks) had to be assigned to a specific person, managers notified who that person was. If necessary, I would brief just my replacement on tasks needing an explanation, maybe a heads-up to my manager if it was really out of the ordinary.

      Current job, for “normal” absences of up to two or three weeks, we don’t usually have formal coverage discussions with our manager. For things that have to be covered, but aren’t important, we can absolutely ask a colleague informally for a favor. It may or may not get mentioned during weekly standup, depending how much time it will take. If I think there’s a possibility that manager will think “wait, who’s covering X project?” during my absence, I’ll make sure to tell him before. If it’s really important, I’ll also brief on the details so there’s backup if colleague-doing-favor gets sick or whatever.

      My read on the situation in the letter is that it was important and urgent enough that the manager should really have been looped in. Whether that’s before or after asking the coworker depends on workplace culture, but manager should have known what was going on either way.

      1. Miss Muffet*

        A two or three week absence isn’t “normal” — in the US, anyway. A week maybe but more than that? Especially since it was a scheduled surgery – not “I was in a bad car accident and am hospitalized for 3 weeks”, the employee should have outlined what needed covering and who was covering it. Not only for the boss, but also for the person/people covering! Especially if you’re on a medical leave of some sort, I wouldn’t expect to have to follow up while you were out (and in some types of leave, it could have really been against the rules).

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        This is where I land, too. Basically, none of the folks involved behaved optimally. In an ideal world:
        • OP would have let Manager and Client know Coworker was handling this project while she was out.
        • Coworker would have looped Manager in immediately when the deadline was in danger.
        • Manager would have been proactive checking in with someone handling a not-usually-their-job big deal project when OP was unavailable.

        Peripherally, asking a coworker to be your backup when you’re out of the office isn’t a favor — it’s part of working in an office.

        Last week I wasn’t in my normal office and needed to quickly print something before a presentation but couldn’t get connected to a printer, so I IM’d a former colleague who normally works there and asked if he could print it for me: that was a favor.

        Also last week, I answered several emails and moved a project forward for a coworker who was on vacation: that was doing my job.

        1. The Rules are Made Up*

          Yeah, asking your coworker to water your plants for you is a favor. Asking them to cover an important project while you’re on medical leave is a a work task. It’s odd that the manager didn’t think to find out who was doing that project while OP was out for almost a month so I still put most of the blame on them because it seems they have no idea what their employees are or aren’t doing. They’re managing themselves.

      3. Mr. Shark*

        Right, with a shorter absence, I think it absolutely makes sense that it was just co-worker to co-worker.
        With 3 months off, this is a bigger issue and the manager should’ve probably been brought in, especially if it was due while the OP was out of the office. Certainly the manager should’ve been asking that question once the client was wondering when the deliverable would be complete.
        The OP also should just say matter-of-factly who was responsible. “I asked Clarice to handle this while I was out because I didn’t have the necessary information to complete the task before I went on leave.”

          1. Mr. Shark*

            oops, yeah. I still think 3 weeks is enough time off to warrant notifying your manager if they need to cover an important project.

    3. Allonge*

      I agree – of course there are different ways to do this, but manager should be made aware of basically all such arrangements.

      We normally talk to each other (we have a fairly obvious who-backs-up-who system so usually no need to check with boss) but we also send a handover email to the whole team. This is only bullet points, not the whole story, but it makes it clear to everyone, including boss, what we expect to happen and who needs to do what.

      1. Magenta*

        I came here to raise the importance of a handover emails.
        Whenever we are going to be out for more than a few days we agree who will cover and then send an email to anyone who might possibly need to know who is covering.
        I’m away until x date and will pick up x and y then, but in the mean time these people are covering:
        A and B Jane
        C and D Fergus
        L Wakeen
        Everything else Sansa

        1. ferrina*

          This is how I always operate- if I’m out for more than a couple days, I email my boss with what the coverage plan is (even if that plan is “nothing is due this week- here’s the things coming up after I get back”).

          I like this for a couple reasons:
          1) My boss doesn’t need to memorize my workload to ensure things are moving smoothly- if anything comes up, they can refer back to my email (for example, if their boss asks “where are we on X?”, they know that X is not due for a couple weeks and I’m on top of it)
          2) My boss knows I have it covered and are not nervous about me being out. My current boss is pretty relaxed about this anyways, but I’ve had a couple (mostly new) managers that got antsy when I was out. This helped reassure them that the world turned without me.
          3) It’s a CYA to avoid situations like LW’s. This way it’s clear that I did my due diligence. If someone tries to blame me for not working while under medical care, I can point out that I did my part to ensure everything would go smoothly before I left.

          And seconding Radioactive Cyborg Llama that there should be an OOO message on the email- the client should be in the know that LW will be out for a few weeks and know who they can contact in the meantime.

        2. iglwif*


          And also what my team calls them “Infodump emails”, which are the emails you send to at least one of your team members ahead of any OOO time longer than a few days, with updates on whatever you are working on in case they are needed while you’re out.

      2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        Thirding the handover email! It helps keep tasks from getting dropped, but the real value is in CYA. I was out recently for a planned, unavoidable reason during what we knew was going to be a busy time. I sent a very thorough handover email before I left, which included a minor task that had popped up just before I left. As it turned out, nobody got around to doing it before I got back and I ended up doing it anyway – but nobody blamed me for the task being more than a week past the deadline, because it was clearly called out in the handover email.

        1. HonorBox*

          As I was reading the handover email comments, I got to thinking that perhaps in certain cases (the one in the letter, maybe, because materials were still being sent), an email to the client would be in order, as well. “Hey, I’m going to be out of the office and Billie is going to handle this project in my absence. Please send the remaining materials for the project to her, as I won’t be checking my emails regularly while I’m away.”

      3. Chelle*

        Totally agree on handover email — I work somewhere where we have a ton of autonomy over client work and asking a coworker to cover as a favor is 100% the norm; you’d only bring your boss into it if you’re having trouble finding coverage, because they don’t work on the same clients you do so they wouldn’t typically be involved. But handover emails are very common for this, and we usually send a slimmed-down version to our client too if they’re covering any major tasks, e.g. “I wanted to connect you to Wakeen; he’ll be covering X while I’m out for the next three weeks. Please keep me cced on things so I can catch up when I’m back.” In this case, I am most surprised OP didn’t communicate their outage to their client.

      4. Smithy*

        Absolutely this – as the OP/person who will be out, there’s a more cautious/CYA reason to do this – just to make sure that you’re covered before you go out. However, without having that mentality going into this, different jobs, different teams, different employers all have different methods of coverage and management.

        So anyone assuming it’s obviously going to be done Way A could miss that while yes, it is obviously done Way A, it also includes a layer of XYZ that wouldn’t be obvious. Think something like a coverage for a period longer than three weeks requiring signing off by a grand boss. Maybe not necessary, maybe not the worst thing – but I’d never assume that and also wouldn’t be surprised by it. And that’s not to mention the possible variations on a theme that can always happen.

    4. T2*

      LW1, if you are out sick, you are out. The proper thing to do, if possible, is to inform your boss of what needs doing and when. And then it is up to them to delegate that task.

      Take it from someone with 30 years experience in the workforce, and who is pretty advanced. The general rule is that you will not be rewarded for worrying about work when you are out sick or on vacation. I have seen too many managers who use illusion of some reward that always remains just out of reach as a carrot to motivate employees to go the extra mile.

      The thing is that it almost never works both ways. Take your time off, be on vacation without worrying about it. This is your managers fault for not dealing with needed tasks while you were out.

    5. Laura*

      I usually go the whole hog on this: List my current projects, their priority, timeline, and who agreed to take them over. Then mail the list to the whole team including the team manager.

      So everyone knows, and everyone knows that everyone knows.

      Still, I did not know in my first year on the job that this was the team’s way to handle it, and no one told me until I got back to a very miffed team after a long vacation. I was lucky, no ball had been dropped.

      LW#1, someone should have said something (probably the co-worker with 20 years of experience, if not the manager), but they didn’t, so, what Alison says: Be open, do not assign blame, find out how this should have been done.

    6. Lea*

      Yes for a long absence I type up major tasks and send the message to my team including boss. With some group conversations about who will take care of what. Other coworkers tend to do the same

      Much cleaner

      1. MissMeghan*

        I do this too, whether or not the boss asks for it. If I’m out for over a week, I make an out of office memo with the current status of key tasks and responsible parties, and I give it to my boss and his secretary at minimum. You never know when something will suddenly become urgent when you’re out, and the last thing I want is for a client to call and ask for a status and my boss has no idea what’s going on.

        Plus, the reality is if your coworker’s plate fills up your project likely won’t be their priority, and they may not appreciate all the consequences of delay like you and your boss do.

    7. CheesePlease*

      I also know my manage checks in with me before any scheduled time-off (greater than 1-2 days) to make sure all my tasks are completed or if I need help delegating.

      Given that this was scheduled surgery, the manager or supervisor should have made a plan beforehand and then OP should have looped them in on any other open tasks that needed to be completed.

      It’s good to show initiative and delegate tasks yourself, and making efforts to follow up probably came from a place of commitment. But you shouldn’t have to follow up when you’re out for medical reasons, and a good boss will want to step in and help delegate tasks in your absence.

    8. The Person from the Resume*

      IMO both the LW and the manager (and the coworker) dropped the ball. If a task is that important, you need to loop your boss in that you couldn’t complete it before your sick time starts because of missing information and that you delegated to your coworker – and name that coworker!

      Now, yes, you could certainly have asked your boss whom to delegate tasks to before you left, but you can also find the logical coworker yourself. She agreed to do it.

      There is not need to be cagey about who failed to get the assigned task done. Accepting the work might (and I stress the word might because filling in for OOO coworkers is part of a job) be a favor but completing the important task you agreed to do for a sick coworker is not a **favor**. It is a responsibility. It is her respsonsibility once she agrees to it and if she unexpectedly can’t complete it, she is responsible to go to the boss and tell him that and ask him to assign someone else.

      The reason your boss is blaming you is probably because you’re being so odd about it and not saying who was respsonsible for completing the work in your abscense. It probably seems like your lying about asking someone to complete it for you since you refuse to name the person you asked. You’re making it sound like you dropped the ball instead of her.

      1. a clockwork lemon*

        I was looking for a comment like this! I hope this is just a communication lapse but I’m a little concerned by the degree to which LW let this spiral when it could have been managed at a few different places in the timeline outlined in the letter. I understand that anxiety and stress can give people all sorts of brain worms, but LW is falling on their sword for no real reason when “Oh shoot, Seniority Susan said she’d handle it for me. I followed up with her directly but next time I’ll make sure to CC you” will clear this all up neatly.

    9. Gerri’s Jaunty Hat*

      Agree, your manager needs to delegate and to approve whoever is working on your absence- and you need to stop calling coworkers and working during medical recovery periods! When you’re off, be off.

    10. Artemesia*

      This. NOW the OP needs to sit down with her boss and review what happened and how she proceeded including naming whom she asked. And then discuss how to handle this next time. This time if there was an important task that needed coverage, the BOSS needed to know it, know how it was being handled and be monitoring it. This was a newbie mistake. But correcting it involves a ‘lessons learned framework and plans for future events like this.’ Usually managers are impressed with people trying to learn from disaster. If the focus is on future behavior the issue won’t be ‘telling on’ the person who dropped the ball.

    11. Student*

      This is really field, industry, and probably organization-dependent.

      If I asked my manager to delegate my work for me while I was on a planned leave, they’d probably refuse to do so, might make fun of me for asking, and probably have no idea who on the team was suited to do the work. There’s a good chance they wouldn’t even know what I was working on, who it was for, or what general fields of expertise it needed.

      I realize some workplaces are very different and the manager manages workload and has a grasp on all the different projects going on under them. In other fields, managers are essentially co-workers who get paid a slight premium to rubber-stamp time cards and take on some mild level of blame/liability for the business.

  3. Zarniwoop*

    Is this journal a for-profit organization? You shouldn’t sacrifice yourself to line Elsevier’s pockets.

      1. Data Bear*

        Exactly this. It’s different if it’s a journal put out by an academic society, but if it’s a for-profit publisher, they can and should be paying you a lot more for what you already do, and you absolutely should not do anything extra for free.

    1. Jen*

      Bingo! As a librarian working in acquisitions/scholarly communication, I’m tired of these massive for-profit companies making loads of money off of the backs of academics that are either not or barely compensated. Then they turn around and charge crazy amounts that make no sense for the content. Stick it to them!

  4. HA2*

    Huh. I feel like I’m a bit more harsh on LW#1 than Alison is. Yes, the colleague should have given you a heads-up if she couldn’t get it done in time, but… IMO LW1 should have also communicated more clearly with their manager.

    If this task was this important, it probably shouldn’t have been handled as an undocumented favor. It should have been transferred to someone else – but that means your manager should know you’re not responsible for it, that person’s manager (if that’s a different person) should know and agree that they’re responsible for it. This doesn’t have to be super formal, but at the very least an email to the manager(s?) involved “hey, I’ll be away for three weeks, Project X needs to be done during that time; I’ve handed it off to Colleague who said she will be able to get it done by Y date.” The fact that the manager was blindsided by the angry client email I think indicates that there was a lack of communication on your part as well as your colleague’s.

    In addition, I note that in their letter, LW1 did not mention an actual due date assigned for the task. Just “as quickly as possible”. I suspect that in their mind, that is pretty clear; but I don’t know how clear that was for Colleague. I know that in my job, I’m constantly asked for things “ASAP” and “can we have this yesterday”, and it’s the job of management and/or project management to convert a dozen different “please do this ASAP!” tasks to “drop everything else and do task X NOW, task Y can be done anytime before the first of next month but must be done by then, task Z should be done when there aren’t any more pressing matters (preferably this month or next, but if it doesn’t happen by then we’ll reprioritize and see)”. It’s quite possible that where you meant to say “this must be done within 1 week if possible”, and what your colleague heard was “if you happen to have free time, do this task, and if not that’s ok too…”

    Overall, while yes the colleague probably should have done the task or communicated better about it, so should have the LW.

    And I entirely agree with Alison’s advice that the next step is to immediately talk to your manager about what happened.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I agree with you. This was a big-ticket item, and LW didn’t hand this off formally. Her manager should have been looped in, and possibly the client as well. The timeline should have been more concrete.

      The coworker may have dropped the ball, but it was a bad toss from LW.

    2. bamcheeks*

      I don’t think I’d characterise it as being “harsh” on LW but there is something a bit — miscalibrated about their actions here. It’s like they’re prioritising “not bothering their manager” and “not getting co-worker into trouble” over actually making sure the task is done and the client is happy, which is really the outcome that everyone wants.

      LW, you need to be open with your manager so they can assess what the problem is and figure out what needs to happen differently next time. Did Co-worker drop the ball? Did you fail to communicate how urgent and time-sensitive the task was? Was there some other reason why Co-worker didn’t do it? Your manager needs to figure out what happened and why.

      You may work in a role where managers aren’t usually involved in these kind of discussions and you wouldn’t normally let them know in advance, but that system failed, so your manager is involved now and needs a clear picture of what happened. Given that you are still relatively new in post, all the more reason for them to have a full picture.

      You don’t have to blame Co-worker: “I asked Co-worker to take care of it and followed up with them, I don’t know they didn’t but I guess I may not have made it clear how urgent it was” is a reasonable line that doesn’t assign blame. It’s not tattling, it’s realising that something went wrong and that you need to figure out what to do differently next time so the work gets done.

      1. londonedit*

        I agree, and I don’t think it’s being harsh on the OP. There are definitely some lessons to be learned here. It doesn’t sound like this was a case where the task was low-level and the sort of thing you could casually ask a colleague to sort out if they had time – this was a big deal involving external clients and a large sum of money. The boss definitely should have been kept abreast of who would be responsible in the OP’s absence, what the timeline was meant to be, what the deadlines were, etc.

        Where I am it’s common for people to be off on holiday for a couple of weeks at a stretch, at least once a year, and while you try to make sure as much as possible is done before you go, there are always things coming through that will need to move forward while you’re away. So what you do is write up a brief set of holiday notes, detailing where each project is and what needs to be done in your absence, and you agree with your colleague(s) that they will sort out X and Y while you’re off. And then you send those notes to your colleague(s) and your immediate boss, so that if anyone asks they can say ‘Londonedit is off this week, but her notes say we’re expecting first proofs on the 12th, and she’s asked us to send them to you when they come in’.

        I know hindsight is a wonderful thing, but there’s no way OP’s colleague should have been left in charge of what sounds like a major project without their boss knowing a) that they are in charge of it and b) what needs to be done and when. I guess the OP might have thought they’d be putting extra work on the boss’s plate, but when someone’s away from the office (which is a normal thing that happens!) it’s the boss’s job to know what’s going on in their absence. And there’ absolutely no way the OP should carry on taking the blame – Alison is right that there’s no need to throw blame around, but the boss needs to know. All you need to say is ‘Before I left, I asked Jane to handle the Warbleworth deal and make sure the final agreement was signed and filed by the 25th. I followed up on the 10th and the 18th, and she assured me she’d get round to it, so I was surprised when I came back on the 30th and it hadn’t been done. I’ll follow up with Jane again and try to get to the bottom of this, and in the meantime I’ll call the client and explain that I was recovering from surgery and apologise that this wasn’t sorted out in my absence’.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first, but it seems to me OP has acted like a manager rather than like a peer and colleague – only as a non manager, she doesn’t have the authority to ‘order’ the colleague to do the task. Probably the colleague was thinking “why is OP chasing me up and checking up on me” when OP called her (especially since the letter states that OP called her about other things and then mentioned that task as a “oh by the way”… a move that would seem fairly transparently chasing up if I were the colleague). OP seems to have cut the boss out of the whole “allocating resources” piece.

        1. bamcheeks*

          LW says they asked rather than “ordered”, and I don’t think that’s unreasonable! I have had plenty of roles where I and my colleagues managed our own caseloads and were experts on our own projects/clients and would organise cover between ourselves before we’d go to a manager, so none of that seems particularly weird to me. But if something wasn’t done, we’d also have no problem telling our manager what we’d agreed and with whom, and assuming that it was a case of miscommunication that could be rectified rather than Getting Someone Into Trouble.

        2. Allonge*

          This is possible, but I would question coworker’s professionalism in this case – if I am asked to do something where my manager should decide if I do that or not, it’s on me to say ‘please talk to [or let’s talk to] Rose about this, in prinicple I am ok to do it but it’s her call’.

          Especially if I have been at a place for ages and this is a newish team member asking. I cannot just say, uh, sure, sure and then be surprised that I am actually expected to do the thing.

          I do agree that the process OP used is not the best, but that does not mean others get to be uncooperative to this level.

          1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

            Where I am, co-workers arrange coverage for absences among themselves, I (manager) don’t do it. I don’t think it’s unusual. They do let me know and put it on their email responses that they are OOO and who to contact–I think LW1 should have done that. But no one would consider a request to cover as being told what to do or usurping my authority.

            1. Allonge*

              Of course, but than that is a different case from what I am describing. We are also fairly self-governing in this, mostly because there are a limited number of people who can replace any particular person.

              But my point was: if OP’s coworker felt that this delegation was inappropriate / needed their boss’s approval (as Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd suggested) then it’s still on coworker to say that out loud, instead of wondering why they are expected to do the task.

            2. I'm just here for the cats!!*

              Yes! I’ve worked in different places where it is up to the employee to find coverage if they are out, especially if there is something that will be due while they are out.

              I’m more concerned with the boss who 1. presumably knew this task would be due when the OP was out and didn’t check in about it before the scheduled time off and 2. Didn’t ask the OP who was responsible for the task when things blew up with the client.
              I kind of wondered why OP didn’t let the client know they were going to be out at this time and to contact the coworker. But maybe thats not something they are supposed to do in their job.

    3. Punk*

      I agree. It’s correct that the LW was still responsible for her own project, and it’s unclear if she even had the authority to delegate tasks to a coworker. Was the LW going to let management think that she did the project?

    4. Mimsie*

      This was my first reaction.
      The only potential mitigating factor is if LW is very early in their career, like this is their first job. Then there is a bit more responsibility on the manager to have reviewed the status of their projects before their absence.
      But I think the LW does need to take more ownership of this situation. I don’t understand the secrecy or lack of communication exhibited here. Especially since it was an important project AND the boss had a planned holiday right after LW returns. Lots of balls dropped and lack of communication here.

    5. Zzzzzz*

      This is on the company, the manager, and their processes, not the LW. I don’t understand why they, as a team (even if just manager and employee), didn’t have a discussion about all projects LW had on their plate before leaving for a known 3 week leave: a written list of project(s) name, status, expectations, due dates, where to find files on shared server, etc etc, distribute as needed to colleagues to make sure all covered. We do this when ppl go on just a few days vacation leave let alone medical leave when someone might not be reachable so that no balls are dropped. Then it is on the staff in office to make sure all work gets done and LW can stay home/vacation/heal/whatever as planned.

      1. connie*

        LW has to assume some proactivity here above what they reportedly did, both before and after, period. If I didn’t pass along to my manager that something was potentially a hot potato before taking a 3-week leave, that is on me. Managers can’t know what they are not told. LW is also an essential cog in the wheel of processes. This is all the more true when you are talking about something a client is paying big money for.

        1. Pretty as a Princess*

          I agree that there was proactivity necessary on LW1’s part. I am a director and when I have someone go out on an extended leave like this, I make sure they talk with their team lead about handoffs for specific pieces of client work (though I generally staff them so no one is flying solo, which I realize is a luxury not available in other kinds of work). I will generally rely on the team member’s assessment & reporting of what key milestones/deliverables are during the time they are away and we make sure there is a plan in place to coordinate those and that the client knows who their POC is in the interim. Our projects are all unique – you might be working against lots of different deadlines since there’s no cut & paste kind of engagement.

          Really, it seems the ball got dropped all around. LW did not inform the client of who would be handling their responsibilities. LW did not communicate with the boss about this important task. Boss seemingly did not ensure that there was a clear plan for delegating/handing off LW’s responsibility. Coworker didn’t do The Thing and apparently didn’t reach out to Boss about The Thing.

          There’s plenty of reflection to go around on this one, and at the very least it’s time for the team to establish some actual process around coverage for planned absences.

      2. Smithy*

        I think this is more of an “and” situation than a case of who is more in the right and more in the wrong.

        If this account was truly that important, and the submission that vital, and missing it that catastrophic – then having not only a junior colleague entirely responsible for it, but also just having only one person entirely responsible for it – that is an institutional, senior decision-making error that gets compounded by individual lapses in judgement.

        However, my take is that this is an error that can be fixed but also an unhappy client and it’s costing the OP and their boss capital that the OP would rather not take all of the heat for. This is not a career ending error, but rather one where it would be nice to not be at fault. And that’s where I do think it’s helpful to recalibrate some of the thinking to “and” (i.e. the supervisor did this poorly AND the OP did that poorly), to make room for future situations where the supervisor or systems in place allow for these errors. Cause so often weaker systems allow for good faith errors in judgement by newer hires or junior colleagues to lead to bad results, as opposed to intentionally efforts or bad work.

        Sure, the supervisor should have done this differently. But the OP can only rely on that so much. They can rely more on themselves doing things differently the next time.

    6. AthenaC*

      Yes, this reflects my thoughts. LW1 seems to be viewing this through the lens of “solving my own problems” and “not tattling” but that’s not how this works. At work you communicate information that the team needs to do the work tasks effectively; that’s not punitive, that’s just a fact.

      I think it’s good that LW1 viewed their task as primarily their responsibility to do or make other arrangements, but that should have also been accompanied by a “while I’m out” email to their manager so the manager could follow up with the coworker. LW1 shouldn’t have had to follow up with their coworker while they were out; that would have been their manager’s job if the manager were brought into the loop. But if you don’t tell your manager things, they don’t know!

      1. Gerri’s Jaunty Hat*

        Agree, framing it in your mind just more as “working together toward this goal” would not only have made it clear that OP should have looped in the boss, but also that OP should not have declined to name the coworker. It’s not some fraught “tattling” issue. Just be open about everything that happened.

    7. Slant Six Mind*

      Even presuming OP did not specify the exact deadline the project needed to be done by, OP was handing off the work because OP was going to be gone for 3 weeks. So clearly, the work needed to be done at the outside before 3 weeks passed. OP had a plan to cover the work. Coworker dropped the ball. OP should explain clearly to Boss that OP believed they had the work covered by named Coworker. OP should also clearly state to Coworker that Coworker’s failure to do the work put Client/OP in a bind.

  5. LifeBeforeCorona*

    LW5 You are actually making things more difficult for any possible successor. The next editor may be told that LW did all of this for very little pay. They may be seen as pricing themselves out of a job when in fact they just want fair compensation.

    1. Aquamarine*

      I wouldn’t think it would make things more difficult. As the response says, when it’s not the person’s regular job, they have more freedom to say what they will or won’t do for the honorarium. If the publication can’t find anyone at that price, they’ll have to offer more.

    2. Nonanon*

      That’s not quite how academic journal editing works? Depending on the field and journal, it can be effectively “voluntary” work (as LW said, honorariums are paid but by nature they are often not large); journal editors are often tenure-track professors and seldom only edit journals. Unfortunately, by nature of how academia is, the journal is unlikely to “offer more,” but rather bounce to the next professor they can find who will accept the editor position.

      If editor were the sole title/position, I would agree wholeheartedly, but it’s similar to being on a committee at an institution; something that you’re “expected” to do in addition to your ongoing career.

      1. Nonanon*

        (And of course, if anyone here is more versed in academic journals than I am, they may feel free to correct the details; I’m familiar with the broad picture but not the nitty gritty and I’ve been wrong before)

      2. Rock Prof*

        This is what I was thinking. I’ve heard of some journals (and not just predatory ones but more mainstream too) where they’ve specifically recruited tenure-track professors for high-workload editor roles based on them needing the service and not wanting to say no. It feels very similar to asking someone to do their work ‘for exposure.’

        1. Pippa K*

          At least in my field it would be unusual to have someone serve as a journal editor pre-tenure, because the pressures are to produce enough published work of your own during that period, publications being much, much more important than service. Mostly editors are associate and full professors who have tenure and can afford to reallocate their time a bit. (Again, at least in my field.) The professional and reputational benefits are still a draw to some degree, but the substance of the work itself is the real appeal. And of course, that’s what sustains this model – authors have professional pressures to publish so “needn’t” be paid, editors and peer reviewers want to be of service to their disciplines, etc.

    3. WorkingRachel*

      That’s not really how it works for most scholarly journals. There’s often a managing editor who is a paid employee of the association or publisher, but doesn’t have subject matter expertise (I do this currently). The editor in chief or similar positions are filled by academics who usually don’t get paid at all or have a small honorarium. It’s a prestige position or a resume builder. They may do more or less work depending on the journal, and I wholeheartedly agree with the comment above that a for-profit company like Elsevier *shouldn’t* be benefitting from this. But for a lot of nonprofit society/associations, it’s just a very normal part of volunteering and contributing to the profession, with a fair number of people who are interested it in over other types of committee work.

  6. AnneMoliviaColemuff*

    #2 Personally I would just change my party to the weekend before or after, if possible. That way there’s no awkwardness and you can decide on how you want to celebrate. Either way I think your friend is in the clear here.

    1. Tau*

      Maybe I’m just sensitive like this, but if I did this I would be stewing in resentment the entire time – this is my day, today is my birthday, she should know this, why did she decided to take mine when she could have taken any other day and then invite me like a regular guest instead of offering to make it a joint party?? Not a fun way to spend a birthday, drips poison into a relationship for what is fairly likely to have been a genuine oversight without Jane having any idea what’s happening, and high chance of wider social awkwardness in the group: what if someone doesn’t want to go to two birthday parties in a short time period and has to pick, what happens when people ask you when your birthday is and you say “oh, yeah, on $DAY” and they put it together…

      If it was a genuine oversight on Jane’s part, alerting her to it the way Alison suggests allows her to fix it with a minimum of drama. If it was some passive-aggressive attempt at stirring up drama, Alison’s script forces her to either get actually aggressive about it by refusing or grit her teeth and go with acknowledging OP’s birthday too. Either way, at least it doesn’t leave OP feeling hurt and excluded and unable to show either of these things.

      1. WellRed*

        Or OP could grow up. It doesn’t sound like they are even close! Why can’t OP take another day. No one owns the day their birthday falls on.

        1. cindylouwho*

          I was thinking the same. I’ve never been particularly crazy about celebrating my birthday with anything other than a nice dinner with a friend or partner, but getting mad about someone else doing something on your birthday seems slightly immature to me.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          I think OP’s main concern was that 100% of OP’s guest list is a subset of coworker’s guest list. So the closeness of the two people isn’t really what matters, but mutual friend group.
          I do think it’d be reasonable for OP to just pick another day for their own thing. But I also think this is what’s got them hung up on it. It’s hitting them like “I can’t invite anyone to a thing on my birthday because they’ve all been already invited to this other thing”, which isn’t true, but I think they’re getting stuck in their head about it.

          1. ADidgeridooForYou*

            I think this is the kind of thing that would be awkward no matter what, and which has no real solution. If OP had scheduled her party first, then Jane would be up against the same question (is it awkward for me to invite the same exact list of people to a party one day later). Either way, if they want to avoid back-to-back parties with the same people, one of them is going to have to choose a more distant date. It just depends on who gets to scheduling it first. Just seems like one of those slightly awkward facts of life.

      2. Maggie*

        To be quite honest I think approaching it with that attitude is what would “drip poison into the relationship”. It isn’t actually a big deal. Jane is having her birthday on the closest weekend day to her actual birthday and that’s normal and ok. You would really stew in resentment because a co worker had a birthday party on your birthday? I’d just go and have fun with my friends and colleagues on my birthday. Sounds like a good way to spend the day and I’d just be thinking I’m blessed to have people to spend my birthday with, when so many people don’t. And then I’d do a dinner for my birthday either before her party or on another night. Why make it so contentious when no one’s doing anything wrong?

      3. RagingADHD*

        This is a bizarre escalation. These are grown up people who presumably have had several dozen birthdays already and will have several dozen more to come. Celebrating on a day other than your literal birth anniversary is not an emergency or major imposition.

      4. ADidgeridooForYou*

        This seems a bit extreme. Their birthdays are 1 day apart, not a month apart – it’s likely that there will be overlap in celebrations no matter what. Plus, they’re not very close; it’s not like a sibling scheduling their party on your day. It could be that Jane had something going on her actual birthday and this was the only time that worked for her. I say this as someone who enjoys celebrating their birthday – you don’t own the day. You can’t really request that people hold off on scheduling anything because they need to take your birthday into account. It’s awkward, sure, but I would NOT let it “poison our relationship.”

    2. Bagpuss*

      I agree. Friend has arranged a party for her own birthday, it has nothing to do with OP other than that she is a guest. LW accepts that Jane’s choice of date is likely due to when the weekend falls.

      I don’t think it would be awkward if people realise on the day – either they know LW well enough that they would be giving her a card or gift anyway, in which case they still can, or they wouldn’t be doing so and there’s no reason for them to be awkward simply because another guest at Jane’s party happens to have a birthday – they’ll just wish her a happy birthday in passing ad move on.

      I disagree with Alison’s suggestion to propose it’s a joint event, I think that if Jane knows LWs birthday is the day of the party, and wanted a joint event, she would have suggested that herself, and it puts her in an awkward position if she would prefer not to share her celebration (especially as she’s presumably already done all the leg work of organizing it)

      If it was a work event it would be fine for LW to speak to the organizer about including anyone with a birthday around that time but it sounds like it’s a purely social event and it would be crass for LW to hijack Jane’s party.

      As you say, if LW wants her own party she can pick a different date.

      1. Ole Pammy's Getting What She Wants*

        agreed here. it’s a pretty uncomfortable place to put Jane in to ask this, and the party will never truly “feel” like OP’s. OP acknowledged herself that Jane is an acquaintance more than a friend, so this is just a case of awkward timing. have your own celebration whenever you feel like it!

      2. Firm Believer*

        Agree with everything you said here. I would be so annoyed if someone asked me to share their party just because my birthday was also on that day.

      3. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        Yeah, once you’re an adult, you have to stop being as invested in having a birthday party on your actual birthday, or at least realize that other people with nearby birthdays have as much right to have a party on a weekend as you do, even if your birthday falls on the actual weekend. Jane did nothing wrong here; of course she would send out invites with some advance notice. Unless OP specifically already told Jane she was planning a party on that day, OP has no reason to be upset, since most adults *don’t* have parties for their birthday unless it’s a milestone (30,40,50). No one is hijacking OP’s birthday. There are only 365 days in the year(366 every 4 years, but that’s a whole other letter, LOL), and literally billions of people. There’s gonna be some overlap, and we don’t own specific days.

        Now, a joint party can be fun, but both people need to be on board for it–in college, a friend of mine’s birthday was the day before mine, and we had a joint birthday party, but we planned it that way from the start. It was really just an excuse for everyone to get together and eat cake. I wouldn’t ask Jane to share the party. And I don’t think people would feel awkward to find out the OP’s bday is the same day–like everyone else here is posting, I think they’d say Happy Birthday and move on.

        Jane isn’t having this party AT you, OP.

    3. MsSolo (UK)*

      Yes, I think that’s the normal thing, especially with an overlap in guest list – if they know you’re also having a party, that the other party is on your actual birthday will be less awkward. This is just a thing that happens when your birthday falls on a desirable date sometimes; there’s a decent chance that at some point over the next few years the optimal date for your party would be her birthday.

    4. Bagpuss*

      Yes, that’s the obvious solution (assuming LW2 wants a party)

      I disagree with the suggestion that OP should suggest a joint party – If Jane knows that her party falls on OPs birthday, she could have suggested that herself – it would be pretty pushy for the LW to propose it.

      Also – I don’t think it will be awkward if people realize. Either they are close enough to LW that they will be getting her a card or gift regardless of meeting at someone else’s social event, or they aren’t, in which case a brief ‘Happy Birthday’ if it happens to be mentioned at the part is all that would be needed or that LW could reasonably expect.

      I don’t think Jane has done anything wrong – she’s picked a convenient time for her party and invited a bunch of people, which is how social events normally work. If they were close friends then LW might have a reason to feel upset or to suggest a joint event but it sounds as though they are just friendly coworkers

      1. Jen Erik*

        I disagree too: this happened with my daughter’s 18th – on a Saturday, but after midnight it became one of the other in the friends group 18th, so he suggested sharing the party.
        Now, they were young, and it was in her home, so slightly different situation, but even so there were all the little things we didn’t really think about – he offered to bring the pizzas, but didn’t bring enough – because the invitation had originally been to her party, everyone brought her a present, but not everyone brought him one, and he was annoyed. He invited a few friends that weren’t mutual acquaintances – which was fine, but some sponsorship money in a jar on the dresser went missing – my fault for not putting it away securely, but the majority of attendees were people that were in the house all the time, so I hadn’t thought. And – again, he was just 18 – but he didn’t offer to pay back half. (I would have refused, because my fault, but I was annoyed that his line was just ‘None of my friends would do that.’)
        Nothing major, but it left me feeling that I wouldn’t do that again – if they’d been closer friends it would have probably been easier, but just as members of the same friendship group, it was a mistake, and meant neither of them had the best time.

        1. Magpie*

          I’m confused about why you think it’s his responsibility to pay back half of the money. It doesn’t sound like you know for sure who took it so it might very well not have been any of his friends. Just because you know your daughter’s friends better than the people he invited doesn’t mean none of them are capable of pocketing cash they find lying around given the opportunity.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          Yeah, I would feel very strange about sharing a party unless we were super close and this seems rife for the very misunderstanding OP wants to avoid; that people will think it’s just Jane’s party and not bring a gift for the second person added on to the party.

          1. Olive*

            Yes and as a guest, I’d feel a little put out to learn that I was suddenly expected to bring two gifts if the second person wasn’t someone I was super close to and wasn’t the person I’d accepted an invitation from in the first place. As an adult, I don’t expect to be giving other adults “birthday presents” unless we’re very close, but I’d bring a party host a host gift and would make it a little nicer if it were their birthday.

          2. Ole Pammy's Getting What She Wants*

            yep! I had a joint party once with a casual friend/acquaintance who I shared a lot of mutual friends with. It was held at the house of someone the other birthdayer was closer with, so many assumed it was only her party and after a couple hours it was quite clear “my” friends and i were simply allowed to exist in someone else’s space that night, so we left. nothing the other person did wrong, maybe we could have told people more clearly about it, but i wouldnt do it again,

            In fact, I knew my partner was “the one” after only a couple months of dating because he was the one to come up to me at the party and say something to the effect of “no one is here for you, let’s leave and go do what YOU want to do”. not as easy thing to say to a drunk freshly 21 year old, and we have been together ever since (and i am far from 21 now, lol).

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I don’t think it will be awkward if people realize.
        This very much. If everyone was six, then I would get deeply hurt feelings about how someone else is having a party on the day of your actual birthday, and why didn’t the universe clear the surrounding weeks. If everyone is old enough to drive, they should have figured out how birthdays work. In any group of, say, 10 people, it would be unremarkable if two people have birthdays within a few days of each other.

        1. Be Gneiss*

          This exactly.
          My daughter and her friend have birthdays a day apart. They sort this out every year – and have since they were 8 years old.
          The only time it was ever a “thing” was when they turned 16 and her friend’s party was on my daughter’s birthday. The friend’s mom bought them matching sweet 16 sashes and took some cute photos of them together. We did a party the following weekend. All the same friends had cake 2 weekends in a row and the world kept turning.

          The only way people will think it’s odd is if LW is going around the party telling everyone that BTW it’s *actually* her birthday…and then LW is the one making it awkward.

          1. BookDragon*

            But I think part of the issue not necessarily paid attention to is that with such a mutual friend group, the friends know it is her actual birthday. Are they expected to totally ignore that fact and not say Happy Birthday to LW if they wish to do so? I’m really curious how the friend group should handle it as I don’t think it is a huge deal for them to say HBD to LW also. I don’t think it is so much about LW telling people it is her birthday (which I agree would be awkward), and if Jane is upset about friends telling LW happy birthday I think Jane is making it awkward at that point (since it is NBD right?).

    5. Lilo*

      Yes, she’s already invited people, just pick another date. I mentioned below but my best friend growing up and I had birthdays that were 4 days apart and this happened when we were kids. it wasn’t remotely a big deal and hijacking the other’s event would be rude.

    6. londonedit*

      I agree – I’d privately be a bit miffed, because I’d prefer to be able to have my own party on my birthday, but I’d just choose another date. I have done joint birthday drinks with a couple of friends before – one of them shares my birthday and the other has her birthday two days before, and we all know the same people, so it makes sense. But that’s not a birthday party as such, it’s just birthday drinks in the pub, and we made it clear it was for all of our birthdays. If OP wants a party-party then they should do it on another date (and maybe try to get in first next year, or have a chat with Jane about it in advance).

      1. Office Lobster DJ*

        Grabbing a casual birthday drink at the local bar is a good example of where suggesting sharing the party could work. In that scenario, the planner hasn’t put in more effort than spreading the word. More planning takes it into party-party territory, and I’d say OP should just plan on another weekend.

        I do understand being a little peeved, especially if it means some of the guests wouldn’t be able to attend a second event. But hey, at least everyone will have a chance to hang out, no matter whose name is on that particular cake.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      There are friend groups where suggesting that the party be shared would land as a fun solution.

      But I think the chance is greater that it lands as “Hey, I noticed you have done all the planning and logistics for this fun gathering of people close to me, and that it could celebrate me as well! Cameras over here!” Like the rule about not proposing at someone else’s wedding, or using your sister’s baby shower as the ideal moment to announce your pregnancy to the family–when a gathering is explicitly to celebrate someone else’s happy news, then you don’t try to commandeer it to celebrate your own surprise happy news.

      1. Willis*

        Yeah, I have a friend who has a birthday the day before me, and we did joint parties for years. But all our friends knew it was both of our birthdays, we mutually agreed on the parties and planned them together. I don’t think OP should ask to join an acquaintance’s already-scheduled party, but if she does, she should offer to split any costs and set-up/clean-up with Jane.

    8. Sloanicota*

      I’m not a birthday person but didn’t think asking Jane if you can basically make her pre-planned party, which she’s been working on for long enough to send out invites, also about you was going to go terribly well. And it puts Jane in a pretty bad spot to have to say no. If you don’t want to pick a different date, *maybe* you could join forces IF you were offering to bring something awesome that would make the party more fun, like, “how about I hire a DJ and we do a joint party?” or “what if I cover the first round at the bar” or something? Right now it seems like you’re just hoping to get the advantage of her planning, unfortunately.

      1. Sloanicota*

        This scenario amuses me, because this is a workplace blog, and yes, the most time-efficient and cost-effective process here would be to combine events, which is why we got that advice … but it’s not a relationship blog, and I think Jane would be pretty irked if OP bogarts her party for, ya know, silly human reasons.

      2. Katy*

        I tried that last year. I have a former housemate who has a birthday close to mine, and who always schedules her party on my birthday weekend so that she can leave town on her birthday weekend, sends the invitations out months in advance, and invites all my friends. It makes it difficult because I don’t want to ask people to attend two almost identical parties on the same weekend. So I asked if she’d be willing to make it a joint party and got an “Okay, but we should change the venue if it’s going to be bigger,” and as I didn’t feel like explaining that it wasn’t going to be bigger and I didn’t want to change anything about the party, I just wanted to change what we called it, I backed down and had my party in the middle of the week. In any case, the idea of a joint party didn’t get what I’d call an enthusiastic reception, and this is from someone who I actually had joint parties with when we shared a house.

        I’m approaching a milestone birthday this year, and my actual birthday falls on a Saturday, and I know she’ll try to invite people to it months in advance. It shouldn’t bother me at my age, but it does. I’m actually finding myself considering inviting people a good four or five months in advance, just to make sure I can have a party on my birthday for once.

        1. BookDragon*

          That really sucks. Honestly I might schedule that far in advance if it has occurred repeatedly under the circumstances. Good luck and happy early birthday (I’ve got a milestone coming up as well on a Saturday and I think I’d be annoyed like LW if I couldn’t celebrate on the day. If it was the first time I’d get over it, like you did, but for you this isn’t the first time and you are just pre-empting her by planning earlier than her. Since planning and getting the invitations seem to be the basis for saying LW should just pick a different day, it should be NBD for your former housemate as well.

    9. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      Presumably the people being invited that are both OP and the other person’s friends realize that its OP’s birthday too.

  7. Rhymetime*

    #5, I work in fundraising, not as a consultant but as someone who uses consultant services when we have overflow work. Both of our consultants reduced their hours substantially for three months over the summer because they have young children who were out of school. They each let us know they would be back in the fall at their usual capacity.

    It never occurred to our full-time team to find someone else. Our consultants set us up as well as they could in advance. They also offered to respond to by email if we ended up having a question about something they had worked on. We did that a couple times and a brief email exchange provided what we needed to move forward on our own. The whole thing worked out well.

    Starting over with a new fundraising consultant is something I anticipate other nonprofits like mine would like to avoid if it’s short-term. I concur with Alison that good fundraisers are tough to find. If your clients are happy with your work, they’ll want to continue contracting with you. Additionally, I can anticipate a scenario where it would take a while to get someone new up to speed, and you’ll be back by then.

    The key is taking the time to set your clients up as best you can before you are away for maternity leave, even if your busy season is coming up. Acknowledging that timing upfront will strengthen their trust in you. I hope all goes smoothly for you both professionally and personally.

    1. nonprofit writer*

      I agree with this 100%. As a fundraising consultant, this is what I would do. Ultimately, this work belongs to the client and most likely they will want & be able to manage it while you are off. Sometimes I can feel my clients depending too much on me and/or not keeping track of things themselves, and I gently steer them toward shared docs/schedules. If I got hit by a bus, they would need to have ownership of this stuff.

    1. Educator*

      Oddly enough, something adjacent happened to me once. My friend’s wedding date happened to be my birthday. I went early and helped out with little things like finishing and setting out the centerpieces and hanging up the decor on the aisle since the bridal party was occupied with pictures and wedding stuff. Then, completely by surprise, after they exchange vows and kissed she called me up to the aisle and told everyone it was my birthday, that I had helped out a ton with the wedding, and gave me a sweet little gift. It was a kind gesture overall but felt awkward. I feel like the awkwardness wouldn’t be there for a joint known birthday party and surprise party, though.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Eiii that’s so well-intentioned but ick, I wouldn’t want to stand in the aisle on someone else’s wedding day either!!

        1. Wry*

          Yeah I agree, that sounds super awkward! My wedding was on my bridesmaid’s birthday, and we handled it by having one of the cakes be a birthday cake for her (we did four smaller cakes from a local bakery rather than a traditional wedding cake) and we sang happy birthday with the cake and candles at the reception. It was a surprise and she seemed happy with it. Taking a moment out of the reception to recognise my friend felt like a good mix of special and casual, whereas interrupting the actual ceremony to recognise a birthday seems like it would be really strange!

    2. Ali + Nino*

      Plot twist! I’d think the one organizing the surprise party wouldn’t send OP a decoy invite and then manage all the logistics and communicate with guests via another invite. But as you said, poorly disguised!

      1. danmei kid*

        Oh sure they would, that’s how I’ve done surprise parties, and how a surprise party thrown for me was handled. I thought I was going to one thing and showed up at my own party lol. There were two separate Facebook groups and everything.

  8. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    #3, would it be mentally comforting if you planned to devote a couple hours per week during maternity leave to checking email/ sending a newsletter that keeps your business on the minds of your clients? I understand if you want to focus completely on your baby too, but just keeping connections warm might help you enjoy your leave better with fewer worries. a newsletter could include industry headlines, tips, or even blog posts and there are several cheap or free generators online.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      I’ve seen freelancers do this and even prepare/schedule the newsletters, social media posts, etc. in advance, so that they are sent automatically. It’s presumably a lot of work, on top of trying to get ahead on all the other tasks (and I wouldn’t have been able to do it – barely got through my normal workload during pregnancy as I was feeling so crappy and tired), but if one can manage it, it can work well.

      I have an easy baby that sleeps a lot, so I’d probably be able to do a bit during mat leave (and I’m not averse to keeping my head in the game a bit), but ability to do that will also vary a lot and be unpredictable. I wouldn’t make any promises to anyone, including oneself, as that has a lot of potential for stress and disappointment.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Thank you! He’s just a week old now. Let’s hope he continues being a good sleeper and I didn’t speak too soon, hah!

          1. Hotdog not dog*

            congratulations! Mine was a good sleeper from birth onward. (He’s in college now.) I hope you get one like that too!

    2. Boof*

      My rec would be to build the expectation that NOTHING may happen while on the desired leave, but if possible set yourself up with some fun/easy to do while stuck in a chair with a sleeping baby tasks to work on. Checking emails is usually pretty doable I think!
      It’s a huge change but if you have a dream job it can be pretty jarring to go from doing that full time to caring for a little human 24/7 for months and not doing that at all. I’ve had 3 kids and was always a little relieved to sneak in a little work, my brain missed it. Not enough to stress over just clearing out email, maybe a small paper or lecture, etc.
      Also consider prepping a “light” load for the next few months coming back, and expect/forgive yourself for not being at the same productivity level for the next year or two. I don’t know if your freelance gig would tolerate it but it’d definitely be a good time to shut down any clients you didn’t like that much anyway, pick your highest priority tasks and consider shutting down any you don’t love and don’t need, etc.

  9. Matt*

    #1: I wouldn’t see “the ball” on LW at all to find a replacement for their absence because of a *surgery*. In an ideal world, this shouldn’t even be the case for a vacation, but even more so for a health-related absence.
    Tell boss about that important task beforehand and don’t further worry about it, that should be it.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I’m with you. OP shouldn’t have felt obliged to check in once during their sick leave, let alone to retain responsibility for the status of a task they couldn’t complete before being out.

    2. bamcheeks*

      I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule for this– I’ve had jobs where my manager would already know about an important task like this and cover it; jobs where I’d let them know that this task needed to be covered and let them figure it out; jobs where I’d arrange for a colleague to cover it and let my manager know, and jobs where I’d just arrange cover without letting my manager know unless there was a problem. The level of autonomy and whether you’re manager is involved in this kind of thing varies a lot.

      Agree that LW shouldn’t have been chasing it up whilst they were on leave, however.

    3. Buglet*

      That is what I was thinking. If organisations are so lean that they can’t accommodate someone undergoing surgery without balls being dropped, that is a real managerial problem.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        It sounds like miscommunication more than a systemic problem, at least based on this alone. Balls do get dropped even at the best run orgs.

        I think it’s a great chance to lock in some better processes for next time.

    1. Pink Candyfloss*

      Unclear expectations in writing are still unclear expectations. If LW wasn’t clear, having things in writing will not save their skin here.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I think the point there is when OP tells the boss “I asked so-and-so to do it and so-and-so said yes” they have something to back that up. Esp if so-and-so for some reason says “no they didn’t” . You’re right it doesn’t help if OP initially said “can you do the thing?” and so-and-so said “yes” and nowhere is there mention of deadline or timing and so-and-so tells boss “well I didn’t know!” Then they’re at an impasse. But if boss’s current ire is “why’d you leave this hanging” the answer to that is they thought they’d got it covered.
        Although really boss should’ve been the one to make sure it was covered anyway.

    2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      There really isn’t any indication that the Boss is angry or OP is about to be fired though. The OP states that the client is angry and wrote a complaint to the boss, and I’m sure the boss does want to know what happened to prevent it in the future. The OP shouldn’t tell the CLIENT, “not it, so-and-so dropped the ball!” so pulling up emails to prove blame, still wouldn’t solve the problem. Functional offices aren’t usually interested in blame-game — they’re focused on proper processes and results. So next time, loop in the boss.

  10. Jade*

    OP 1: if you are ever out on medical leave again inform your BOSS of what needs to be done in your absence. It’s their job to make sure it’s done. Don’t trust a coworker to do it.

    1. Miette*

      Exactly. And if you do it a few days before your leave, you can be there to handle any questions/onboard the person who’s going to be taking on your work while you’re gone. Then set up your out of office reply to explain exactly who to contact for what until you are back. If balls get dropped, you’re in the clear.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      This. It’s not on the coworker (necessarily) to do your thing that you know is important. Maybe the coworker has 3 other deadlines before your thing. Maybe something bigger for them came up. It’s entirely possible that they didn’t realize just HOW important this task is, esp if OP1 didn’t tell them. In the future if you are asking a coworker to take on an important task, I’d email them and cc the boss just to say “Thanks for agreeing to help with X, Colleague! The deadline for this is a pretty strict one on [date]. If you need anything for X or find you can’t make the deadline, please let Boss (copied here) know so they can help make alternate arrangements!”. This lets your coworker know how important this task is in the scheme of things, and that if something urgent comes up for them they shouldn’t just push it out, but they know who to contact with an issue.

    3. Ellie*

      Yes in my field, they’re very big on saying you can delegate a task, but not the responsibility. I.e. its still on you if the person you delegate to flakes. In this case though, you were in the hospital. Your boss should have been chasing it.

  11. Quake*

    At first I accidentally read the titles together like “Coworker dropped the ball while I was out hijacking a birthday party” and thought we were in for a real doozy of a story! lol

    1. Educator*

      There are people who comment over at Slate that will conflate an advice article’s letters together into one mega advice letter. It can be entertaining sometimes but also a bit mean spirited towards the letter writers. I don’t think that’s what your requesting here – but I do agree, I’d like to read that letter.

  12. GrumpyZena*

    2: I would encourage you to reframe this, because I believe you about your emotional reaction and I encourage you to try to unpack it. The word “hijack” feels like you believe it’s something Jane is doing as an act of aggression (apologies if I have read that wrong!).

    Let’s look at the key points:
    * Jane’s birthday is the day after yours.
    * Your social circles have a large amount of overlap.
    * Because of how the weekend falls, it makes sense for Jane to have a party on the day of your birthday.

    None of this is Jane’s fault, or necessarily something she is doing *at* you. Would it have been nice of her to offer this up as a joint celebration, given that you are pretty sure she knows it falls on your birthday? Sure! But you said it yourself, you are more acquaintances than friends. Maybe it didn’t occur to her, maybe she thought you weren’t close enough to host a gathering together, maybe something else entirely!

    Now, please understand that I am *not* saying it’s petty or unnatural to feel aggrieved. But what would be driving that feeling? Have you been historically overlooked in other ways? Were your birthdays brushed aside when you were little? Is there a history with Jane and this is just “one more thing”? I don’t know and I’m not going to try to guess but it is worth exploring.

    1. GrumpyZena*

      Like, maybe she just thought you aren’t that big on celebrating your birthday because you hadn’t organised anything, and so she felt free to grab the date! Who knows?

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Jane sent the invitations WEEKS in advance. I don’t think its fair to say OP hadn’t organized anything. More like OP hadn’t organized anything yet – because its too early.

        I take the other tack. Jane knew when OP’s birthday was. They are not friends, but more acquitances. Jane is laying claim to the friends. Jane did this on purpose knowing it was OP’s birthday and intending to make sure she got the attention not OP.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Do you really think like this? It seems like an incredibly adversarial and exhausting way to view the world.

        2. Shoes*

          “Laying claim to friends.” No. Nope. No! I am not a fan of this type of language.

          You may be using hyperbole. I hope you are, but no one can claim people. People are not property. Anyone who used that wording in connecting to knowing me would be informed they do not get to “claim” me.

          I also agree that this an incredibly adversarial and exhausting way to view the world.

        3. Lilo*

          That’s a really aggressive read on a super normal thing to do (having a party on the next convenient day). I do a decent amount of party planning and sending out invites weeks in advance really isn’t unusual because you often need to give people a heads up.

          1. doreen*

            Yes, if you don’t invite me weeks in advance chances are good that I won’t be there. Not even if you’re my best friend because if you wait until a week before , I probably made plans that I’m not going to break because “something better” came up.

        4. Catgirl*

          Can’t agree with that. Sounds to me like Jane is just living her life. What is so sinister about throwing a birthday party?
          I also don’t believe that a suggestion that they turn it into a joint birthday party would go over well, given their relationship it’s presumptuous. Just pick another day, OP. We’re all adults here.

        5. I edit everything*

          If you send out invitations only 7-10 days in advance, people will already have plans. You say WEEKS like you mean MONTHS.

          1. ADidgeridooForYou*

            Yup. One of my friends is a fan of hosting spontaneous parties (ie letting people know 1 week in advance), and she usually gets about a quarter of the people she invites. She doesn’t mind so it’s not a big deal, but if she actually wanted to make sure that as many of her friends were there as possible, she’d need to let people know much farther ahead of time.

        6. Ahnon4Thisss*

          … what even???

          Or maybe, Jane wanted a birthday party and LW’s birthday happens to fall on the best day to have a party? Sending invitations weeks in advance is normal. We sent out invitations for my Grandma’s 95th a month and a half early. It gives people time to answer and us time to plan. Also “lay claim” to friends and attention? These are adults. They can share friends and attention.

          This is an exhausting way to think and so fanfictiony.

        7. Nancy*

          No, this isn’t middle school. Weeks in advance is necessary when trying to get busy adults together for a party.

        8. Nope.*

          I truly don’t understanding approaching this situation assuming such ill intent right off the bat. That’s a terribly pessimistic way to approach life in general, really, and so unfair to people.

        9. lunchtime caller*

          that’s the type of thing I would say to make it clear to a good friend that they were being crazy about a situation by spinning out the implication to the obviously silly conclusion! “ah yes, this must have been her devious plan to steal your birthday, and all your friends, and eventually your life–“

        10. The Person from the Resume*

          Nope, nope, no.

          Very likely Jane is a planner. She likes to know what her plans are and make plans in advance. She may also have a full calendar or have friends who have full calendars for whom if you don’t block their calendar a month or more in advance they’ll have other committments a week out.

          Jane knows when her birthday is and once she figured out when and where she was holding her party, she sent the invites out instead of sitting on them. There is nothing adversarial or mean about that.

          Pastor Petty Labelle’s comment seems very off-base to me.

          FYI: I went to two birthday parties last weekend that I was invited to about a month in advance.

        11. Gerri’s Jaunty Hat*

          Weeks in advance is a normal amount of time to schedule a party!! Who would expect friends to have the weekend unbooked only a week or two hence? People have lives!

        12. a clockwork lemon*

          Or Jane is an adult who decided to host herself a birthday party and planned something in advance because she wanted to host a party and those things require planning.

          Jane and OP aren’t friends–what obligation does Jane have to factor her work acquaintance into her own birthday planning, beyond what she did (invite someone she knows casually to a big party she is throwing)?

        13. Maggie*

          Unless there’s a metric ton of context missing, there’s literally no reason to believe this or suspect it. There’s room for everyone to have fun and celebrate their birthday. Their birthdays are close together. It’s not that deep.

        14. ADidgeridooForYou*

          Eh, when I host parties I send the invites out weeks in advance just because everyone I know gets really busy really fast. My birthday is at the end of May, and this year I think I sent out invites in March (seems far ahead, but people book up REALLY quickly for summer). We’re blaming Jane because OP was the one who wrote in, but if the situation were reversed (OP planned a birthday party one day before Jane’s and invited the entire guest list), would we also say that OP was “laying claim” to the friends? This just seems like one of those awkward little happenstances of life with no real solution.

        15. Hiring Mgr*

          I think you’re on to something.. In fact Jane may have been plotting all this years in advance by getting a false identity with a similar bday as OP, and then make sure she was in the same field as OP, so she could work at the same company. Then for years work as acquaintences/sort of friends/not at odds. Then, for the coup de grace, the birthday party where she officially claims all the friends.

        16. biobotb*

          Wow. We don’t even know for sure that Jane remembers exactly when LW’s birthday is. She may remember that it’s near her birthday, but not which day exactly, or have forgotten entirely. (Per the LW, they’re acquaintances. I personally don’t keep track of my acquaintances’ birthdays.)

          And if the LW wasn’t willing to give her friends a few weeks’ heads-up about her birthday plans, it doesn’t sound like she was really that serious about throwing a party. Adults generally need advance notice.

        17. MCMonkeyBean*

          This is *wildly* unreasonable. Sending out invitations to a party weeks in advance is… super normal. Jane is allowed to celebrate her own birthday and she’s allowed to invite her friends to her party.

        18. Velociraptor Attack*

          You’re acting like weeks is insane. We only gave 3 weeks’ notice for my kid’s 5th birthday party because we had a delay in confirming some final details and that gave us a lot of stress.

          If Jane sent out invitations two months in advance, that’s a reason for some side eye but “WEEKS” is… a normal amount of time that allows you to be respectful of the fact that people need to plan their lives.

      2. abca*

        I find that really inconsiderate though. I acknowledge this is probably cultural, because so many people say it’s clearly no big deal at all, but where I live this would be rude on Jane’s part. The least she should have done is asking “I’m planning this but I know it’s also your birthday, is that okay by you”. Especially with shared friends. It would be really strange to not acknowledge at all.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          No one needs to get permission to host a party just because it falls on the same date as something else.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            Yes, I have a not-close fried who’s birthday is exactly one day before mine. We have some overlapping friends.
            She and husband host a board game party on the most convenient Saturday closest to her birthday. She never asks me because it’s her party. We are not that close, I don’t expect her to remember my birthday until she sees it on Facebook. I wouldn’t remember hers if not for her party. I don’t care, because I am not going to have a party for myself.
            So I go to her party, she gets me an extra mini cheesecake, everyone is happy.
            Basically, once you are older than say, 25, you are not required to remember and keep in mind all various birthdays.
            Also, the closest Saturday to my birthday is very often the weekend of The Big Game anyway, and everyone is having The Big Game parties.

    2. Jo Beth Ersonton*

      Am I the only one who forgets everyone’s exact birthdays, apart from immediate family? I know my sister-in-law’s is in the last week of May, but not which day. Ditto for most of my friends (except that two of them have Halloween birthdays, of which I am jealous.)

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I’m terrible at remembering dates, so unless you are my immediate family, or it’s written in my calendar, I will not remember your birthday. I’d probably know if it’s just one day off from mine, though (but possibly forget whether it’s the day before of after).

        1. Educator*

          I think this might be a clear case of “don’t assume malice when it can be explained by ignorance.” The coworker that’s in their general friend group but not their bff just probably forgot their birthday.

        2. bamcheeks*

          I will remember your birthday if a) I learned it before I was 16; b) I gave birth to you c) it’s the same as mine or d) I’ve been married to you for 10 years. Anyone else, no.

          Jane and LW miiight just sneak in under the “same as mine” rule, but equally might not.

        3. AngryOctopus*

          This! I know the birthdays of the people in my work group, but 1 shares a day with my niece and one shares a day with a very close friend. So basically I’m only remembering one extra date. Outside of that…I’m unlikely to recall when the day is. People just aren’t really thinking about you as much as you might think they are, even if you’re work ‘buddies’.

      2. L-squared*

        Same. I know the general time of the month for most people’s birthdays, but couldn’t tell you the actual day

      3. I don't know when anyone's birthday is*

        I agree that it’s not clear that Jane is really thinking about the OP’s birthday. I’m sure at some point, she was told when OP’s birthday is, so I guess in that sense she “knows,” but OP points out that they aren’t really friends. I’ve gone to a million work birthday celebrations, so I guess my work colleagues could claim that I “should” know when all of their birthdays are, but I wouldn’t be thinking about that at all when I’m thinking about my own birthday celebration.

        OP is aware that they are overreacting in a way I think a lot of us would in this scenario, because of course we are all The Main Character in our own lives, but I’m guessing that if the OP said to Jane, “hey, your party’s on my birthday,” Jane would say, “oh yeah, that’s right! I totally missed that.”

      4. The Person from the Resume*

        The absolutely only reason I know my family and best friends’ birthdays are that they are on my calendar.

        But I will accept the LW’s assertion that Jane knows their birthday because it would be fairly easy to realize you and a friend nearly have the same birthday and remember that.

      5. biobotb*

        Same! Despite the fact that LW remembers Jane’s exact birthday, Jane may not remember LW’s exact birthday. And they’re not close, so there’s no reason she should.

    3. LifeBeforeCorona*

      At an old workplace a co-worker had a birthday party that included cake, gifts, balloons etc. While I was eating piece of birthday cake that was not a generic grocery store cake, someone asked me when was my birthday, it’s the same day was my response. It was a bit awkward because the party have been organized by the office admin who had access to birthdates and played favourites. They changed the system after that.

    4. lunchtime caller*

      Agreed, I got a whiff of “it’s unfair that she invited everyone I would have wanted to invite before I got around to it,” but there was no unfair friend scooping going on, she was just a better planner than OP in this case.

    5. Lilo*

      Yeah one of the realities of being an adult is no one really cares about your birthday other than maybe immediate family. It’s on you to plan stuff in advance.

    6. HonorBox*

      I don’t think it is wrong to feel feelings about the situation. That said, the LW said it is a few weeks out. If Jane wanted to have a party, a few weeks isn’t so far in advance I’d be thinking she was doing anything but throwing herself a party. You know the calendar too, and could just as easily have sent out a save the date to friends a few weeks in advance too.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      Have you been historically overlooked in other ways?
      OP, this letter does sound like you have some deeper pattern going on emotionally, and this is just the latest mild above-ground context to trigger the feeling of hurt.

      I would advise:
      1) Plan your own party for another weekend.
      2) Pay attention to all the people here who were like “oooh, I would not ask her to share the party with you”–that is not guaranteed to land okay.
      3) Look at the pattern of when you feel this way.

      1. Pink Candyfloss*

        I cringed at “ask her to have a joint party” as well. Maybe some people would be OK with that but I would never be able to.

    8. Olive*

      I feel that the question at the root of this is about having someone in your friend group who only sees you as an acquaintance. It doesn’t seem like Jane being a coworker even factors in that heavily, which is actually a really good thing – I’d highly encourage LW2 to not let feeling about this spill into work.

    9. Phony Genius*

      Nowhere in the letter does the LW use the word “hijack.” Alison put it in the title herself, and repeated it in her answer. I think that’s causing some of us to read it with bias.

    10. Daisy-dog*

      I can fully imagine someone thinking, “Oooh, LW2 might not want to come to the party because it’s her birthday, but I’ll invite her anyway just to make sure she isn’t excluded.”

      A close friend of mine has another close friend with the same birthday. They have had a joint birthday party before, but this year my friend had a party and his other friend still came as a normal guest. Maybe some people gave him gifts, but they didn’t draw focus away from my friend. (My friend has had parties for his “0” and “5” birthdays, not every year. His friend is a couple years older.)

      There are so many reasons that this decision could have been made. Maybe that weekend is the only one that works for Jane’s partner/best friend/chosen location/out-of-town guest.

      If I were a guest and knew that LW2 would also be there, I’d probably bring a card for her too. (I don’t generally give gifts to friends. I’d probably bring Jane a bottle of wine as a party host.) But I would assume that LW2 did something special for her birthday and then came to the party.

    11. Katydid*

      This is a thoughtful response, GrumpyZena! Reminds me of Brene Brown’s advice: get curious about your feelings! I agree with you both. OP#2, digging into your feelings about this situation could be illuminating, and might prove useful to you in the long run.

      You mentioned the following words denoting emotions: ridiculous, awkward, small potatoes, really slighted, silly, and ridiculous (a second time). What’s behind these feelings? It strikes me that you’re belittling your own emotions, which is never a fun thing, and not something therapists recommend. It’s okay to feel the way you do (whatever that is); it’s important to give yourself permission to feel what you feel, even when —or especially when— you don’t much like those feelings. It’s when we accept and understand our emotions (esp. the ones we don’t want to have!) that it’s easiest to choose how we will act, be content with our choices, and experience closure.

  13. NoName*

    Or maybe since they aren’t close friends she literally didn’t think of LW2 at all, and just organized her celebration for her birthday on the date the is convenient to her. LW2 can *feel* annoyed, but she’s likely to look childish and petty is she acts on those feelings, because Jane has, objectively, done absolutely nothing wrong or unusual and LW2 hasn’t been ‘slighted’ in an way whatsoever

    1. Blue*

      Yes, the adage “no one is thinking about you nearly as much as you are thinking about you” has saved me a lot of heartache in situations like this.

  14. cabbagepants*

    #1 I really wish you had looped in your boss before you delegated this task! it still might have not gotten done but at least it would be harder to blame you.

    When I go out of office, maybe a quarter of my work gets done by the person I passed it down to. let your boss explicitly be in the loop to make sure it’s the right stuff.

  15. FashionablyEvil*

    #3–in addition to a scoring rubric, you can also ask her to share her thoughts first in the conversation and/or ask her to comment specifically on the candidates’ skills that she’d be in the strongest to assess. (“Jane, what did you think of Fergus’s answer about dealing it’s difficult patients?” or “What’s your sense of his clinical background? Does he have the right skill set for working with our patient population?” type questions.)

    Also, if you have a chance, I might ask that she not be placed on an interview panel in the future. Some people just aren’t good at it and it’s not really fair to the company, the candidate, or the employee to stick them in that role.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      In a past job where I was involved in a lot of hiring, we used a stair step hiring chart that each interviewer filled out independently, but we didn’t discuss with each other until all the interviews were finished, and it was a great tool to kickstart the conversation. I tried to find an image online, but I couldn’t, so I’ll try my best to describe it.

      The first column had one square at the bottom of the page. After you finish the first interview, you write that candidate’s name in the box. The second interview has two boxes, one on top of the other. After the second interview, you decide which of the candidates you feel is stronger and you write their name in the top box, and the other candidate’s name in the remaining box. The third column has three boxes, so after the third interview you decide where that candidate falls in the ranking order and you put your candidates names in the boxes in order of strength. And so on until the interviews are complete. Then, after the last interview, you compare charts and discuss why you selected the top candidates the way you did.

      I found the process really helpful in getting co-interviewers to share their thoughts on why one candidate is stronger than another and what makes them a good fit for the position.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yes, good point. OP is the experienced interviewer, OP’s colleague is not. So OP should be prompting the colleague to supply observations and opinions where she’s most qualified.

      In addition to the form, OP probably ought to be spending 30 minutes briefing colleagues – not just this one, but all of them – before the interview process. What is the practice looking for, what is the job market doing, etc. so that they are going into this with eyes open. Interviewing a potential future colleague is a very different thing than drawing blood, running an xray machine, whatever, and they need to adopt a different mindset.

    3. Artemesia*

      Rubrics are really magic and that was a great suggestion. when I graded complex student work the thing that made the process fair and also helped students improve was use of very clear rubrics and then feedback using rubric sheets. I needed to be able to access critical thinking, the ability to interpret situations in the context of theory etc etc and it is a lot easier to develop a clear rubric reflecting this than to try to just explain a grade to students.

      By using a rubric and then debriefing her using it, you are also teaching her to be more analytic and less people pleasing (with any luck)

      1. OP3*

        Thanks all. I didn’t manage to read Alisons answer before I started. But I did spend time briefing my colleague beforehand. The conversation actually took over an hour as she was nervous and wanted advice down to minute details such as how to introduce herself. We do use rubrics anyway which are supplied by HR but I think they were too vague to be useful to my colleague. For example it explains to score from 1-4 for each question. With 1 being ‘weak’, 2 being ‘needs improvement’ ie an example given but did not fully meet criteria, 3 being ‘competent’ and 4 being ‘strong’. I wrote down positive and negative indicators for each question. When we got to end of each interview she kept saying ‘how do I know if their answer is good, they mentioned X and Y but not Z’. At the end of the day I asked my head of department to join the final decision meeting which I wouldn’t usually do but in this case thought would be helpful. HoD asked my colleague to give her opinion first. This lead to rambling with no opinion given, she just summarised what each candidate said in the interview. At this point I asked her directly who her top 3 candidates were, in order, and why. After a bit of probing we got an answer and it turns out that I actually agreed wit her assessment. I am planning on discussing with my HoD tomorrow how challenging I found this interview process and recommend that this particular colleague not be selected to interview in future. I understand wanting to allocate clinicians in turn to ensure fairness but interviewing is difficult and not everyone is suited to it.

    4. Junior Assistant Peon*

      The way we did it at a past job was to have the interviewing panel comment in reverse order of seniority. The junior people would give their honest opinions and not try to agree with the boss. I think this worked well.

  16. Hiring Mgr*

    #1: Sounds like all three of you dropped the ball a little here. I’d use this to try and nail the process better for next time someone’s out for an extended period.

    #2: Like others have said, if you want to have a bday get together, can’t you just do it another weekend? Nobody will care – as you said it’s small potatoes

    #3: Is this person necessary for the interview? Alison’s suggestions are good, but it sounds like being an interviewer just might not be her strong suit

  17. Lilo*

    i had a friend growing up whose birthday was in the same week as mine and so on one occasion she had her birthday sleepover on my actual birthday. I’m just saying, if this wasn’t a big deal for a 13 year old girl, an adult can throw a part on another day. She’s already sent invites, plan your party for next week. Sending out an invite afterwards is rude, next time if it’s important to you plan your party further in advance.

    1. Educator*

      In junior high school, I met twin boys that had the same birthday as me. One of them joked when they found out and said “damn, I have to share my birthday with another person?”

      But, really, everyday is someones birthday. Just pick another day to celebrate if celebrating is important to you.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Seriously, the LW might put a tickler in their calendar 6 or 7 weeks in advance of their own birthday next year to pick a date for their party and send out invitations.

      I dunno, I learned a few months ago that I’m in the same birthday boat as the LW with one of my co-workers, and both of our birthdays happened mid-week. It would not have been “hijacking” for us to pick the same Saturday to invite people over for cake; it simply would have been a calendar conflict. I can’t say that I would have read in the malicious intent that “hijacking” implies.

    3. WellRed*

      My birthday is Christmas Eve. Not a big party day or night in my circles throughout life. Maybe that’s why I’m having trouble sympathizing here.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, same. Mine is the day after Christmas, so I’ve hardly ever had a birthday party beyond family, even as a child. I really don’t get adults who make a big deal about birthdays, especially off-year birthdays. (Like, 21, 25, 30? Sure. 27? 32? No.)

        1. Bagpuss*

          o.ne of my cousins is in a similar position. when they were in primary school they had an ‘official birthday ‘ 6 months from their actual birthday, in June, so they could have a party etc which wasn’t overshadowed by Christmas- buy this was when they were aged 5-10.

      2. Lilo*

        My Dad sometimes had to work on Christmas (he’s a pediatrician with a subspecialty that means he treats/assesses head injuries, kids actually get injured on Christmas a lot). We’d often do Christmas stuff on other days. It taught me not to focus on calendar days.

      3. ferrina*

        My birthday is on a different holiday. It’s mildly annoying, but I adjust my birthday party to a couple weeks before or after. It’s really not a big deal. You don’t get to have an annual blackout date for your birthday.

      4. biobotb*

        I’m a twin *and* my birthday often falls on a holiday, so the idea that people can call dibs on their birthdays is amusing to me.

    4. Applesauced*

      Yeah, pick another day.
      Or wait 6 months and have a half birthday party (because, more parties) like the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Alice in Wonderland. You can do half a cake, black and white cookies, half-and-half pizzas, Arnold Palmers, Black and Tans…..

    5. Firm Believer*

      Agreed. I find it weird for adults to be planning birthday parties unless it’s a milestone birthday like 40 or 50 or 60.

      1. Filosofickle*

        Eh, some people just like birthdays! I’ve thrown a number for myself as an adult, more on the 5s and 10s but not limited to that — it’s a good reason to gather my friends and it’s probably the only party I’ll throw for quite a while. (And, IME, birthdays produce much better turnouts. People prioritize showing up for solid date like that.)

    6. Daisy-dog*

      I don’t know if LW2 even wants to have a party. She primarily feels awkward with the idea of being an attendee to someone else’s birthday party…when it’s not actually Jane’s birthday and it is LW2’s. From an attendee standpoint, it’s really not that awkward.

      Me: “Have you seen *cool new exhibit or show in our town*?”
      LW2: “Yes, I actually went today/last night for my birthday?”
      Me: “Oh wow, happy birthday. When’s the special day?”
      LW2: “Today actually!”
      Me: “Happy birthday!!! That’s nice of you to make time to celebrate Jane today, too.”

      Now, I am not much of a gifter, so I wouldn’t feel obligated to give LW2 anything regardless. I would have brought something for Jane as more of a hostess gift.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I was also unclear from the letter whether OP was actually planning on having a party, or whether she just got the invitation and suddenly felt like “oh no now I can’t have a party on my birthday” even though that wasn’t necessarily something that would have happened anyway.

        I am big on birthdays but this really should not be A Big Deal. I would be a little bummed, but no one has done anything wrong here. So either go to her party and use it as an opportunity to have a fun night out on your birthday without having to do any work to plan it, or just ask a couple of your closest friends to go get drinks with you or something. And if you *do* want to have a party, just have it the weekend before or after.

    7. Daisy-dog*

      Also, LW2 did say this was a ridiculous question. Yet another instance of: “Let me write into an advice column to get another perspective before I act in a way that I think I may regret later.”

  18. L-squared*

    #2. How old are you? I’m not saying this to be rude. But this is something that I could have seen bothering me in my 20s, and now that I’m in my 40s, I really wouldn’t care.

    The thing is, she isn’t hijaking your birthday. She made actual plans for her birthday that fell on your birthday. That type of thing happens.

    Also, I will say, stop trying to be a martyr here. You aren’t really worried that people will feel bad about not bringing you a gift when they find out its your birthday. You want all the attention on you. And that is fine, but just be honest about it.

    While Alison’s advice is fine, I don’t think I’d do it. If it was an idea that came up before the party was planned, I’d say it would be ok. But to ask to make it a joint party once all the legwork of planning it has been done, just would come off kind of annoying to me if I was in your friends situation.

    Can you maybe do something else a week earlier or later? No one will care that it isn’t your real brithday.

  19. Glomarization, Esq.*

    I think it would be extremely, extremely awkward if I organized a birthday party for myself, and then a co-worker asked if they could make it a “co-party” for both themself and me.

    And I mean spectacularly awkward. My birthday occurs when it occurs. I like to bake a cake for myself and invite people over on the nearest possible weekend. I also have some half-dozen relatives and friends whose birthdays happen around the same two weeks. I’ll ask my parent who nearly shares a birthday with me to coordinate our calendars — but lordy, everybody else (since there are no children involved) is on their own.

    1. Bluejay*

      Agreed. I’m really surprised by the response about asking to make it a joint party. That seems incredibly rude to me. Who’s the hijacker now?

      1. Firm Believer*

        Seriously. How is she supposed to answer a question like that if she doesn’t want to share her party?

    2. Lilo*

      Especially since she has already done some party planning so LW would be asking to basically coopt the work she has already done. Definitely don’t do this LW. Just pick another day.

      1. Willis*

        Yeah, a joint party works if you’re friends enough to know you have the same bday weekend and plan ahead of time for something you both like. Neither Jane nor the OP opted to do that. Maybe OP can remember this and ask ahead of time next year, but I wouldn’t ask to be added to an acquaintance’s already planned party.

      2. ferrina*

        Yes! Once I’ve already started planning and organizing the party is not a time to say “Can I get in on this?” If LW had that kind of relationship with Jane, they wouldn’t need to ask Alison for advice.

        Just organize something else for the next week, make a joke about how cool it is to be able to do back-to-back birthday celebrations, and take it with grace and humor.

    3. bamcheeks*

      I’m not clear on whether this is an Actual Party, or a quick get-together at work. I was assuming the latter since it would be weird to write to Alison otherwise.

      If it’s an Actual Party, I agree it would be weird to ask to share. If it’s, “please hold 12-12:30 on 12th sept, it’s my birthday and I’m bringing cake! :D ” I think asking to make it joint would be pretty fine.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        I think it’s an Actual Party – it’s on a weekend, friends (not just colleagues) are invited, LW2 feels much more slighted, etc. It’s still a work advice related issue because it is a co-worker.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I read the weekend bit the other way around— Jane’s birthday is on Saturday, LW’s is on Friday, so the party fell on LW’s birthday because it had to be on a weekday. I don’t think there’s anything contradicting that reading!

          1. Dahlia*

            Or LW’s birthday is on a Sunday and Jane’s birthday is on a Monday, so she’s doing her party on the Sunday because weekend.

          2. Daisy-dog*

            If it is a party at the workplace, then I would absolutely say to share the event. Though it is a little bit odd to worry about the gift etiquette – who gives gifts to their co-workers, even if they throw a workplace party?

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Right. Jane has a right to her own party.

      I also have one of those birthdays that falls within a period of time when it’s EVERYBODY’S birthday. Drinks for mine, brunch for another, cake for another… we celebrate each other, but we organize what we want and if it overlaps, well, that’s just more party.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        My close friend group has 3 birthdays in February, so we just do one joint get-together. 3 events in a month is way more bandwidth than we all have and harder to coordinate.

    5. Change name for today*

      I agree but as a guest at a party, I’d feel very awkward and uncomfortable ignoring (even by accident) it’s someone’s birthday while at someone else’s birthday party. Probably best solution is OP to plan their own party either before or after and for Jane to somehow acknowledge its OP’s birthday st her party. But that is up to Jane and not OP.

      1. Office Lobster DJ*

        That’s a very good point. OP planning their own party for another time will also help smooth things out for any guests who notice and feel awkward or worried about whether or not to acknowledge the OP’s birthday. This helps keep the focus on Jane at Jane’s party.

      2. Daisy-dog*

        I suppose that I would assume LW2 did something special for herself if I found out it was her birthday and I wasn’t invited to a party. Maybe she had brunch with her sister and got a massage or had dinner & a show the day before. A party that happens 8-11 on her birthday isn’t ideal, but it’s not a huge time commitment.

      3. Cordelia*

        I wouldn’t. It’s always somebody’s birthday. If I found out, I would say “oh happy birthday!” but I wouldn’t feel bad at all, why should I? Am I missing something?

    6. wordswords*

      I think it depends hugely on the dynamics involved.

      With some people, it would be a hugely awkward misstep. With others, it’d be fine. My friends group often does birthday gatherings as “hey, anybody who feels like, let’s go out to dinner / go for a hike / come over and hang out!” without any expectation of gifts or a big cake or whatever, and making one of those into a joint party would normally be completely fine. And if someone was like “actually this year I’d like to make it a bit more of a thing, so I was kind of planning on doing my own solo party,” that’d be fine and understood, but it’s not my default assumption for an adult birthday party. “Sending out invitations” could be anything from real individual invitations to a mass email.

      LW clearly has a lot of feelings going on about this situation (in which Jane has done nothing wrong, other than maybe forget that her coworker-friend has a birthday the day before hers, but the timing still worked out to awkwardness), but should also have a sense of how much the party is the kind of thing involving a ton of planning versus the kind of thing that can pretty easily and painlessly be shifted to a double party. Much better of a sense than we the commenters do, anyway. So that’s a question, LW — picture yourself in Jane’s shoes, based on what’s in the invitation about the shape and mood of the party, and be honest with yourself about how the request would land. I don’t have an answer to that, but it’s something to consider carefully before you make the request. But I don’t think it’s an inherently wrong or unreasonable one, depending on the friends group and the vibe.

  20. Nancy*

    LW2: no one hijacked your birthday. No, do not ask to make it a joint party. It’s her party, not yours. You don’t own dates, pick another one for your party.

    1. Jessica*

      I agree. Asking Jane to make it a joint party feels like a request she can’t gracefully say No to, and therefore very awkward.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Why can’t Jane pick another date? Her party isn’t on her birthdate.

      Some people feel its really important to celebrate on your birthday. And some people believe its bad luck to celebrate before your actual birthdate.

      1. Thistle Pie*

        Because most people don’t want their birthday party on a weekday and clearly this person does not find it important to celebrate on their actual birthday and doesn’t think it’s bad luck. LW is the one with the issue here and it’s on her to solve it, not her friend who hasn’t done anything wrong.

      2. I should really pick a name*

        Jane’s party is already planned, invitations have been sent out. Asking her to change sounds pretty unreasonable.

        Even though the LW says Jane knows when her birthday is, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not at the top of her mind and she isn’t even aware of the conflict.

        Some people might feel it’s important to celebrate on their actual birthdate, but that doesn’t obligate others to accommodate them.

      3. Hiring Mgr*

        I think you misunderstood – Jane is the one who’s already planned the party, not OP.

        If OP wants to celebrate, she can easily pick another date on another weekend. That way it wouldn’t be bad luck since her bday already happened.

      4. AnonInCanada*

        Considering that Jane picked that day weeks in advance and already sent invitations, it would be rather unfair on Jane to have to switch dates simply because OP#1’s birthday happens to be on that day. Considering Jane’s relationship to OP, she likely didn’t give it second thought when she organized the party that OP’s birthday just coincidentally landed on that day.

        It would be obtuse to suggest Jane switch dates, and awkward for OP to suggest Jane’s party also celebrates her birthday. OP#1 can pick another weekend to have her own party.

      5. Nancy*

        Because weekends are easier to get people together, most people don’t remember the birthdays of an acquaintance, and Jane already planned her party.

      6. Oryx*

        Because Jane already picked that date, planned the party, and sent out invitations.

        Besides, there is more than one way to celebrate a birthday so if it’s that important to the OP she can still acknowledge her birthday on the date in other ways and just have a party later.

      7. RussianInTexas*

        Because I will go to a birthday party on a Saturday, maaaay be on a Sunday in the day time, maaaaybe a Friday evening dinner, but absolutely not during any other time of the week.
        Because I am an adult person with a job, and and weekends are the only time for parties.
        And yes, I need weeks in advance warning.

      8. Jennifer Strange*

        Some people feel its really important to celebrate on your birthday. And some people believe its bad luck to celebrate before your actual birthdate.

        Clearly Jane is not one of those people, and that’s okay.

    3. Artemesia*

      And if you don’t feel like you can enjoy Jane’s party then go out that night with an other friend or two and tell her you can’t come.

  21. Llama Llama*

    Anytime I take of a week or more, I have a chat with my manager about about coverage while I am gone. Not because she doesn’t trust me but she too can know about the big stuff and who to go if needed.

  22. Lily Potter*

    Maternity Leave question – this is a hard question to answer generically, because it’s so industry dependent. If you’re providing a hard to replicate service or if it’s something that you can front load work ahead of your leave, go ahead and take the three months, no problem. However, most sole proprietors can’t leave their clients in the lurch for three months without providing some kind of backup service. I work with lots of sole props, and if they told me that they were essentially shutting down for three months, I’d have no choice but to take my business elsewhere. Whether or not I’d come back after three months would depend on the service I’d gotten from the competition. Unfortunately for moms, the world continues to turn when babies come. As a sole proprietor, you’ll have a job to come back to; only you can assess the risk of walking away for three months.

    1. WellRed*

      Providing notice isn’t leaving them in the “lurch.” Yes, she may lose some clients but she needs to do what’s best for and if a client needs to dramatically flounce off, that’s their right. She’ll find new ones or possibly, eventually rethink her business model and whether it will continue to work for her in the long run.

      1. Lily Potter*

        If I had a sole proprietor vendor who, even with notice, said to me “I’m going to be closing down for three months of maternity leave at the busiest time of your year” and said SP didn’t have some kind of suggestion for how I should handle that – yes, I would consider that putting me in a lurch. If said SP said “I’m closing down for three months of maternity leave but I have X, Y and Z as suggestions for how to handle that”, I’d be much more impressed.

        I struggle with what the LW is asking here – she wants to close down shop without putting people in place to replace her and still retain business after she opens up again. And she wants to do this during the industry’s busy season. I don’t know how you do that. If you want to keep the business, you subcontract OR you refer your customers to someone else and hope that they come back to you. LW doesn’t want to do either – I get it, but I also don’t see responsible alternatives.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I agree–the point of notice seems like it would be to give them time to find alternatives. If you don’t want them to find any alternatives… what are they supposed to do?

  23. Lilo*

    I think the maternity leave LW needs to find some backup coverage for projects in progress. All other work she could decline to take on, but it will cause a slowdown. Instead of hiring someone could you subcontract with someone else in the field? it would be sending work to a competitor but if you have someone you have a good relationship with, it could work.

    1. nonprofit writer*

      The thing is, she said she doesn’t know anyone she’d want to subcontract with.

      I do the same kind of work as a freelancer and honestly, I would not hire someone or even subcontract–that would be a huge amount of oversight and a big change from the sole proprietor business model. Just thinking about having to figure that out on my taxes gives me a headache, and I don’t have a newborn! Also, like the LW, I don’t know anyone I’d recommend… all the other grant writers I know have full time jobs and are not freelancing.

      LW, if I were you, I’d tell your clients about your leave and ask how they’d like to handle it. I don’t know exactly what kind of fundraising you do, but if it’s grant writing, could you write some templates for them that someone on staff can adapt as needed? With direct mail, can you write appeals in advance (to be tweaked by staff if anything changes)? If you are involved with donor relationships, I know that could be a bit more challenging, but hopefully all/most of your clients have a development director who can handle this in your absence?

      Or, they can choose to find someone else to help during your leave, which I realize sounds scary because they may not hire you back, but it also means you are not responsible for what that person is doing (and you really don’t want that responsibility while on maternity leave).

      If you have a good relationship with them, chances are many of your clients will want you back after your leave. A reliable and talented fundraising consultant can be hard to find.

      Good luck and enjoy your baby!

  24. HonorBox*

    For people in the same situation as LW1, I’d advise talking to your boss about work that is time sensitive during an extended absence before going directly to a coworker. First, because you have cover in the event that something like this happens. When the client emails and boss knows nothing other than it was your project, you’re going to get a nasty phone call probably. Second, because there may be reason(s) that they’d want to assign it to someone specifically, or not. You may not know all the information you need to hand it off appropriately – for instance, did that coworker have a falling out with the client? Is that coworker facing deadlines and feels compelled to say yes to you to be kind?

    That said, LW isn’t in the wrong. The coworker did say she’d be able to complete the task and straight up lied multiple times when LW checked in. If I were your boss, LW, I’d like to know the full story. Not in a dramatic pointing fingers way, but in a factual, Readers Digest way. And I’d love the opportunity to provide a suggestion for how to handle something like this in the future…as in, bring me the info on the front end and allow me to assist in finding the right person to accomplish it.

  25. Ellis Bell*

    OP – I never celebrate my birthday on the actual day because my birthday is Valentine’s Day and everyone always has other plans. So I learned really young how to be flexible with dates, (as did my parents with their Valentine’s Day celebrations)! and I honestly think everyone who sticks rigidly to day-of-birth celebrations is kind of missing a trick. Think about it; you are already going to a party with people you like to hang out on your birthday! Then you get to have a second, much-anticipated event. I highly doubt the guests at Jane’s birthday are going to feel awkward about not bringing a gift for you when it’s someone else’s party; because that isn’t a thing. What they may do, is ask you about your upcoming event or about how your day went. Speaking of which, there are many things you can do on your birthday which are not having a party! It’ll be fine.

    1. londonedit*

      I usually do something for my birthday on the nearest weekend, if the actual day isn’t a weekend day. I enjoy the excuse to get people together for a few drinks, and people are much more likely to want to come out on a Friday or Saturday night than on a random Tuesday (the exception being my 40th, which was on a Monday, and I totally milked the ‘it’s my 40th birthday and I am absolutely going to persuade some friends to come out for dinner with me on the actual day, even if it is a Monday’ thing. Then I went to visit my family and had another dinner, and then the following weekend I did the usual drinks-in-the-pub thing, because I am a person who likes to pack as much into celebrating my birthday as I can).

      Point is, though it’s nice to celebrate your birthday on the day, the OP already has something nice to go to on the day, and then they can easily pick a different weekend for their own birthday do. If they’re feeling like their birthday will be overshadowed by Jane’s party, why not have a particularly nice lunch, or a spa treatment, or something else during the day itself before Jane’s party in the evening.

      1. Jackalope*

        Yes to this. If it’s important to you to do something on the exact day of, then come up with something you can do earlier in the day that you enjoy. Especially if it’s a treat you don’t usually allow yourself, it’s a good way to make the day feel special and feel like you did get to have something ON your birthday.

        1. Lilo*

          Oh man that letter made me so annoyed. I hadn’t encountered an attitude like that since I was like 8.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      I did set a boundary for this year. My birthday happens to be a Saturday and falls during my state fair (and I live near the fair’s location). My SIL likes to bring her kids to the fair every year, so we go with them. But I decided that I’m not going if they choose to go on my birthday. It’s too hectic of an activity and means that most of the day is outside of my control. So if LW2 also feels the same about this – the party would feel awkward and she wouldn’t like being at an event that she’s not involved in, then skip it.

      But the party itself is not something LW2 can change unless there’s more to the relationship with Jane than what we know.

    3. The OG Sleepless*

      My birthday is right before Labor Day and my son’s is right after Thanksgiving. We’ve always had to be a bit flexible with birthday celebrations.

  26. Cj*

    LW1 tell your boss exactly what happened, and tell them now.

    I was in a similar situation, except my boss is was looped in, and they are the ones that assigned the work to my colleagues. I ended up getting fired over it.

    I don’t want to go into identifiable details, but my new-ish boss (he was new, not me) retaliated against me in other ways for taking medical leave. I sued. I won.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      So sorry that happened. But yes, OP tell your boss the details, including the name. This isn’t tattling or throwing your coworker under the bus. This is work related information that your boss must know in order to deal with the situation.

  27. Sharks are Cool*

    LW2: This happened to me, except I was the party-haver. My social group holds a themed event most weekends, and I had claimed the day after my birthday to do a sparkles-and-glitter birthday themed event. One of my friends showed up and mentioned it was his actual birthday–oops! I’ve included him and another birthday-neighbor friend in planning a joint event in the years following. And this was a good friend, not an acquaintance, and it’s just a thing that happens? I totally understand feeling slighted but I very much doubt it was intentional on the part of your colleague.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I think it’s very normal to just not even know or remember when your adult friends’ birthdays are. I still remember the birthdays of all my best friends in middle school… but I know my current closest friend’s birthday is in April and then when it approaches I have to look it up on Facebook to double check exactly when!

  28. insert pun here*

    OP 5, just say no to these additional tasks. The main benefit to editing a journal for a nonprofit society/publisher (which based on “modest honorarium” it sounds like this is) is reputational. If you’re already looking at retirement, that means a lot less, you know?

    I work for a publisher (not journals) and people tell us no all the time. I assure you, we’re very used to hearing it.

    If this were a medical journal and you were getting paid in the mid six figures to edit it, I’d advise differently, but it sounds like that’s not the case.

      1. I edit everything*

        It can go both ways, and it sounds like that might have happened in this case. If a struggling journal gets a scholar with a good reputation as their editor, it boosts the reputation of the journal and can make it a more successful journal.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      I doubt the journal is non-profit. Most academic journals pay peanuts but are very much for profit. They will charge exorbitant fees for subscriptions, but only pay an honorarium because the payment is reputation as stated below.

      Except HOGWASH. Reputation don’t pay the rent. The publishers have been getting away with this for years because of that mindset. It needs to change. You exchange labor for money. Not exposure, not reputation. Cold hard cash. If the publisher can’t afford to pay people maybe they shouldn’t exist.

      If we say this for other businesses why not academic publishing — which is very much a business.

      1. insert pun here*

        Without knowing the OP’s field it’s tough to say for certain, but many humanities and social sciences journals are published by non-profit publishers and their parent societies are also non-profits. Academic publishing is not a monolith.

        Elsevier (et al) are absolutely exploitative in the way you note here, but they are not the entirety of the academic publishing sector.

  29. Somewhere in Texas*

    LW #4- An additional step might be to have a virtual assistant on your emails while you are out. Think 5-10 hours a week to scan through emails and make sure nothing urgent comes up. They can be the go between for you so you can unplug from your work, but also send out reminders to your NGOs about event timelines/information. They can also “tend the fires” so to speak to schedule meetings and events for after your leave.

    Still investing in training someone, but not actually as a fundraiser.

  30. Keymaster of Gozer*

    3. Checklists and a pre-interview meeting with your fellow interviewers about what they are looking for.

    The first ever interview where I was sat on the ‘hiring’ side of the desk I was nervous as all heck and wouldn’t ask questions and went along with what the other people said. Inexperience, basically.

    My former awesome boss who I’ve mentioned recently (and who is now my mentor) helped me to go through the set things he was always looking for and the importance of making NOTES while interviewing so you know who said what. Things like technical skills can be easily tested for, but he always said ‘look for people you can actually work with pleasantly’ and we came up with a list of things to look out for.

    Some were obvious: a candidate who lies, stares at my huge tracts of land and picks his nose isn’t going to work out. The others less so: has the candidate ever encountered a disagreement at work and how did they resolve it? That’s an answer which can be multiple shades of grey.

    These days I’ve done (quick mental maths) over 50 interviews and think I’m pretty comfortable now but I still remember new manager Keymaster who was afraid to speak up.

  31. Pink Candyfloss*

    LW #1 your mistake was in trying to personally delegate work to a peer. When something like this happens, your BOSS is the one who should be delegating a critical project you cannot cover during an absence. You loop the boss in ahead of time, you discuss options, you let them assign the work and negotiate the accountability. There was zero pressure on your co-worker to get this done and your company is now paying the price. That’s why a more senior person needs to be involved to monitor and step in to make sure the project is delivered on time. By trying to do this yourself you kept all the accountability on yourself.

    This is a good lesson although I’m sorry you had to learn it at a time when you are unwell and have other things on your mind.

  32. danmei kid*

    LW #1 you were not asking your coworker for “a favor” you were asking for them to cover an important business deliverable for a client in order to maintain business continuity while you were out of office on planned absence. There is a BIG difference.

    By framing this as “a favor” you are showing that you don’t yourself understand the importance of making sure someone is accountable to cover while you are out. This should be the responsibility of your management quite honestly. If you had been unexpectedly in an accident and been out, or quit one day without notice, who would have made sure your projects were transitioned and handled? Probably your boss. In the future when a planned absence is coming, get your boss involved – a debrief on all projects and let your boss figure out how to get them covered or maybe even negotiate some more time with the client. Not you! You aren’t supposed to work when on medical leave either so following up when you were out wasn’t the right step either. Your boss would have been there to drive the project and do the follow up, as is the job of a manager. Your co-worker doesn’t report to you or have any responsibility or accountability to you. Covering a critical project for another employee is not “a favor” it is business continuity! The work has to get done! Hopefully this is how you can think of it from now on.

  33. Olive*

    LW2 reversal: What is the best way to decline having a joint party if you’ve already planned a party and invited people and a coworker asks you to share the party?

    1. HonorBox*

      Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. I’d be super pissed. Especially if I’d sent invites out a few weeks out. And if I was a friend who was invited, I’d be side-eyeing the add on person hard. Not to be callous, but if you’re dead set on a day for your party, get your invites out sooner.

    2. I edit everything*

      “I’m sorry–that won’t work for me this year. But maybe we could do something together next year if we start planning early.”

      Second sentence is optional.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      If they’re asking because your date is literally their birthday “Sorry, I forgot that was your birthday. I’d prefer not to make it a joint thing, but understand if you aren’t available.”
      If they’re asking because it’s just close by or was the date they’d intended to have their own thing but hadn’t invited anyone yet “I’d prefer not to make it a joint thing, but understand if you aren’t available.”

    4. Ellis Bell*

      I would probably go with: “Oh I think that would be too confusing at this point, so I’ll probably just stick to the original plan. Let me know what you plan to do for your celebration though!”

  34. ijustworkhere*

    re: Birthday. You’re allowed to have whatever feelings you have–you don’t need to feel guilty about them. BUT…… You also don’t have to base your behavior on them. I can almost 100% assure you that your friend wasn’t thinking “Oh I know it’s Sally’s birthday as well, but I am going to pre-empt her potential celebrations (that she hasn’t planned yet) with my own party and hope she feels slighted.” I bet your birthday was not even on your friend’s radar when they made their plans.

    Be gracious, enjoy her birthday party if you decide to go, and for god’s sake, don’t tell people it’s also your birthday–we don’t get to hijack other people’s celebrations just because we feel slighted. Plan your own event for another time if you want one.

    1. DaisyDuke*

      Absolutely this. I have friends who are two sisters that have birthdays in the days immediately following mine (think mine is Feb 1, Jen’s is Feb 2, and Jill’s is Feb 3). These sisters were big on celebrating their birthdays every year and at least three times scheduled their celebrations on my birthday in the six years I lived nearby. I would have loved to celebrate my birthday with friends, but they were always much more forward about scheduling events for themselves then I was so I spent many birthdays attending their events. They knew when my birthday was but it wasn’t on their radar when they scheduled parties. They never meant it as “hijacking” my day… even though it felt that way. The best thing to do is schedule something else that you will be excited about (earlier in the day or the previous day if you want to invite some of the same people!) and avoid the party if you can’t attend without feeling upset.

  35. Bonkerballs*

    Wait, 4 figures for being a journal editor?!? That is crazy low (assuming you mean EIC, which is what it sounds like). Absolutely decline to do further work.

    1. Pippa K*

      I mentioned above (but my comment seems to have been eaten) that I’m an academic journal editor (EIC) too and I don’t actually get paid at all. I get a lump sum yearly to support the journal, and the sponsor doesn’t care if I keep it all for myself, but I need to use it to pay my editorial assistant. So my university actually receives the money and disburses it, but not to me, and this is super common. Academic publishing is a weird world, but the general practice is that authors aren’t paid for articles, editors aren’t paid for editing, and peer reviewers aren’t paid for their assessments. I wish we could pay peer reviewers – it would make it much easier to find them!

      (Caveat, my journal is in the social sciences, and other fields like business and natural sciences have some differences.)

    2. iglwif*

      It’s pretty typical in a lot of disciplines. (Many journal editors don’t get an honorarium at all.) Also, “journal” can mean anything from a humanities quarterly whose submission numbers are in the hundreds per year to a semi-monthly STEM journal that gets thousands of submissions a month, and those are not the same editor / EIC job.

      That doesn’t mean LW can’t decline to do further work, and in this case I would decline if I were them.

      Also, editing a journal is service work so if your university isn’t a jerk, you can usually get a course release in exchange.

      1. soontoretire*

        OP here, Oh, I wish I got a course release. It just doesn’t count for much at my university to edit journals. All about grant revenue, unfortunately.

    1. Beany*

      LW2 and Jane share work colleagues, so it’s partly a work question. The work connection would explain how they have so many “friends” in common without being particularly close themselves, and probably the invitations/advertisement of the party is through work channels.

      That said, I agree that it’s not a particularly work-related, and a similar scenario could arise in any acquaintance grouping.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      Alison gets to pick which question she answers. This site is free to read and even freer to ignore!

    3. Peanut Hamper*

      Maintaining good working relationships with our colleagues, especially when we feel that they have slighted us in some way (whether intentionally or not) is definitely work-related. As we’ve seen many times in the past, small things have a habit of becoming big things that get in the way of work if they are not handled properly. This is definitely a work question.

      Also, Alison has a right to decide which questions she is going to answer or not answer.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      Any sticky situation with a colleague you have to work with for the foreseeable future is a work question.

  36. HonorBox*

    Been thinking about this for a bit and I strongly disagree with the idea of asking Jane to share a birthday party (re: letter 2). Like DO NOT DO THIS. Just because the LW didn’t have enough forethought to make plans farther in advance (presumably Jane’s birthday being the next day was not a secret) doesn’t mean Jane has to give up her plans. I’d be pretty pissed off if someone who I was friendly with, but not good friends with, asked me to join in my party. If I’ve sent out invitations and if I already had RSVPs, I already have plans made for what I want to do. Again, we assume Jane knows that LW has a birthday nearby hers and if she wanted to have a joint party, she would have asked.

    Also, I’ve been wondering how I’d feel as a guest and I think it would be weird to find out that a second person being celebrated was added. Especially if not everyone is joint friends. Do I have to give a gift to both, even though I know one of them more/better?

    Jane happened to plan on a day that was adjacent to her birthday that worked for her. If celebrating on a specific day is super important, you make plans farther in advance.

    1. I edit everything*

      Agree. If LW2 does ask anyway, she should be very clear that it’s totally OK and maybe even expected if Jane doesn’t want to suddenly make it a shared party.

      The weekend party for a birthday is a real consideration. Jane did what worked for her. She’s not obligated to think about your birthday when planning her own (though maybe she did and couldn’t or didn’t want to do a different day).

  37. I edit everything*

    One of my editing clients is a publisher, and while I like working with them–they pay adequately and quickly, provide a steady flow of work, and are easy to work with–they also like to add small tasks to editors’ plates. I get paid by the word, so these tasks don’t increase my paycheck at all. I always push back when they add something new, and they’re usually decent about it. I haven’t heard yet on the most recent additions, which they just announced last week. I’m not a fast editor and I’m terrible at tracking time, so I’d rather not switch to hourly pay, but I will if it means getting paid for all the things I do.

    LW5: Please draw a line about the amount of work and lack of compensation. Editors often find ourselves in this position, and we have to stand up not only for ourselves, but others doing this work.

  38. GarlicMicrowaver*

    Yeesh. I disagree with the bulk of the response to #1 and definitely #2 (birthday).

    Some of this story is missing. Why did you not approach your boss about this before your leave? Why did you keep this coverage plan a weird secret? Was this plan communicated to the client? Clearly?

    No one owns rights to any day. Birthdays fall when they fall. Why not plan your own party shortly after?

    1. ina*

      I’m with you on both of these.

      #1: The manager should have been proactive, looks like they’re not, but it doesn’t explain why LW didn’t go to the manager to get actual coverage planned. People making hoopla about LW calling in while recovering from surgery and to me, that doesn’t ring as dedication or “poor LW,” it’s just as symptom of the poor planning around this. What else could LW do? She left a huge, important project to be done of a favor-basis.

      #2: I really don’t see the drama. Sounds like the other person planned well in advance and was more organized about securing people’s availability for that weekend. Why can’t LW celebrate the weekend beforehand? That saves the awkwardness (which I am hard pressed to see?) of everyone knowing it’s your actual b-day since you had the party already. I also don’t think it’s awkward if LW has something on the books for later — they will get celebrated, so no drama or weirdness at all.

  39. Stoney Lonesome*

    RE Letter 3: Does anyone have an example of a good interview rubric? I am in the midst of hiring right now and a rubric seems like a handy thing to have, but I am having trouble visualizing what an effective one would look like.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Ours are based on the person specification which is published for the role (ideally around 6-10 criteria, although the badly-written ones get up to 15), and then we agree questions which will enable the candidate to speak to each criterion. So “Significant experience of booking interstellar travel and organising travel permits and passes across multiple jurisdictions” — the question might be as broad as, “Can you tell us about your previous experience?” or it might be, “Can you talk us through a time you had difficulty with a client’s proposed route or itinerary, and what you did to resolve that?” We’d usually score each question on 1-5, with 1 being “criteria not met”, 3 being “criteria partially met”, 4 being “criteria met” and 5 being “criteria exceeded”.

  40. CommanderBanana*

    LW#1 – one of my biggest pet peeves is someone telling me they’re going to do something, then not doing it AND not telling me they won’t do it, thereby also preventing me from doing the thing. I’d rather not having the (*$%(ing “help” at all.

    1. Pink Candyfloss*

      As a manager one of my pet peeves is my direct reports not telling me when they need help or have arranged for someone else to cover something important but not looped me in so I can follow up and manage or support as needed. Then if someone tells me, the manager, they’re going to do something and then doesn’t do it, I can take steps to address that appropriately.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

        As a manager shouldn’t you know when someone has a large project and the deadline falls during the time they are out on scheduled sick leave? Wouldn’t you have met with them before they left to see where things are. Especially in this case when the OP had surgery. You never know when a simple surgery with 3 weeks recovery = 3 3-month recovery because something goes wrong.

        And when you find out that another coworker was supposed to do something, wouldn’t you ask who that is and why?

        yes OP should have followed up with the manager saying that XYZ was being taken care of. But maybe that is not the norm for this office?

        1. Matt*

          It isn’t said anywhere that it was about the deadline of a big project. There are small tasks that are important and time-critical, but not all of them on the manager’s radar (unlike the deadline of current Big Project). Recently I had a similar situation – there is one large data export (not very complex, just large in volume) that we have to run twice a year, on exact days as defined by law. As it became clearer that my vacation this year would contain this date, I checked with my coworkers who would perform this export instead of me AND, as I always do, left a handover email to my boss, CCing all my potentially concerned coworkers, stating, in addition to all other information I deemed potentially relevant, this exact point and which coworker had agreed to do it.

          1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

            Even if it wasn’t a deadline for the project, time critical tasks that will upset the client should be on the manger’s radar. Especially if the person who handles those tasks are going to be out for 3 weeks. Heck the manager is lucky that the OP was able to check in. Sometimes you don’t have the mental ability to do anything when you’ve had surgery.

      2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        As a manager, when you know a direct report is going to be out for 3 weeks, it’s on you to set a meeting with your direct report and ask what projects are open and what the status will be while they are out (can it be worked on? who do you recommend to work on it? is there a hard deadline? what is needed for it to be worked on? etc.)

        Orgs that have the mentality of “it is their work, they are responsible for finding coverage and coming to me with their plans” are, frankly, poorly managed orgs. Part of being a manager is *managing* the workload of your reports, especially when one is out.

        LW 1, from your letter, it seems like no conversation was had with your boss before you were out. IMO, that’s on your boss. But next time, making sure you have a coverage doc that your boss is aware of – even if you’re just going out for a week vacation – should help mitigate a situation like this. It shouldn’t be on you to initiate the convo and find coverage, but if your boss/org doesn’t operate that way, doing it yourself and documenting it to your boss is a CYA move you have to do just in case a ball is dropped.

    2. Industry Behemoth*

      Along this line, at other jobs I hated it when I delegated or assigned a task to someone else, they hit a snag, and didn’t tell me until I asked them how the task was going.

      Example of the latter was the time I gave our process server a subpoena to serve in another city some distance away. Their local contact discovered that my boss gave me an incomplete street address number. But they didn’t tell me that till I asked for an update.

  41. Barry*

    On question 5: it looks to me like the OP was doing a certain amount of work for a nominal amount of money, for an organization which likely did not have much money. Now, the organization has a lot of money, but would of course like to keep paying nominal sums of money for profitable work. It’s no longer charity.

  42. LB33*

    One thing on the first question – did the client realize your colleague was covering for you during your time off? That could have saved alot of this headache – note for the future to let the client know you’ll be out and copy the coverer, your boss, etc..

  43. TG*

    LW2 – I actually kind of disagree with the advice here; I’d just schedule a separate time to celebrate your bday and not make it joint. Just my opinion.
    I think people will love having multiple excuses to go out and have fun!

    1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      I think it would be awkward that the people who are joint friends would know that its OP’s birthday.

      1. Ccbcc*

        it wouldn’t be awkward if everyone is an adult about it! there are not enough days in the year for everyone to have their own individual birthday and, when scheduling parties on weekends, there are even fewer days. the thing for op to do (if they want to have their own bday party) is to schedule it for a different day/time since this one was scheduled first and, if asked about their bday at Jane’s party, say something like and breezy like “oh, I’m celebrating my bday with friends and family tomorrow! today’s all about Jane”.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        I’m really struggling to picture this awkwardness that’s being predicted about this situation. If I’m at Thelma’s party on the day that it’s Louise’s birthday, I’m going to simply say “Happy birthday!” or “Did you have a good day?” If I have a gift giving relationship with Louise, then she’s already had my gift, or I’ll say something like “you’ll never guess what I got for you”. If I don’t have a gift relationship then it’s simply a matter of wishing happy birthday and being pleasant. I’m not sure what awkward behaviours people would rather do than simply say they’re glad it’s her birthday and that she’s with them.

      3. Cordelia*

        I am quite sure that I have been to birthday parties where someone else there was also having a birthday around that time, because no-one owns their birthday date, and most people prefer to celebrate at weekends so statistically it is likely to be the case. If I knew of the other birthday I would wish them a happy birthday, if I didn’t and I then found out I would still just wish them a happy birthday. I genuinely can’t imagine feeling awkward at all.

  44. Clymene*

    OP5: I really like the phrase “That’s outside of my scope” or “outside the scope of my contract” for situations like this. It puts the blame squarely on the paperwork and it’s not personal. If you wanted to do that work you could add “if you’d like to amend the contract/create a new contract for that project I’d be happy to draft something up” but it sounds like you’re ready to be done. Good luck!

  45. Clymene*

    LW1: I think you aren’t giving yourself enough credit. You tried to accomplish the task before a planned surgery and when that couldn’t happen for reasons beyond your control you delegated.
    You have a paper trail of giving her all the information. You called her more than once WHILE OUT AFTER SURGERY to check up on this issue.

    You said it wasn’t her obligation but a favor. I disagree. Filling in for colleagues when they are out is part of any job on a team and completing tasks on deadline is certainly part of the job. Your boss also dropped the ball by not checking on this and knowing who would be filling in for you during this absence.

    Please don’t hesitate to factually give your boss all the info. It’s not necessary to wait until she comes back – you have all the info you need.

    1. Tesuji*

      > Your boss also dropped the ball by not checking on this and knowing who would be filling in for you during this absence.

      Sorry, the boss seems in the clear to me.

      OP comes across as being weirdly squirrelly about the fact that she was passing this off to a co-worker, to the point that she’s literally *still* trying to hide who the co-worker was from the boss.

      Nothing in the story indicates that the boss was even aware the job hadn’t been completed before OP went on sick leave. It reads to me like this was a task that could and should have been done before then, but there was a snag somewhere in someone getting information to OP… and nothing indicates that OP ever told the boss about that.

      I can imagine scenarios where the client wasn’t cc’ed on the handoff, but it’s hard to think of reasonable scenarios in which it made sense not to cc the boss and keep them in the loop as to what was going on. Unless, I guess, this was a messy situation for some reason and OP was just hoping to keep it all under the table and not open a can of worms as to what went wrong that the job couldn’t be completed before she left; if so, eh, this kind of failure is the risk you take if you do it that way.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Yeah, this is where I am. You can’t blame a manager when he didn’t know LW had asked her colleague to do the work.

        We rightly dislike micromanaging, but a lot of the time people pass the buck on the assumption that management is omniscient. In my case, management is absolutely making a mess of stuff, but it’s not for lack of me being the squeaky wheel. They’re responsible for a number of sites depending on how high you go, and so it’s our job to communicate things upward.

        I was told off for not passing on an important message to my supervisor when she would have rearranged her WFH schedule to be there when the particular utilities service technician turned up. It was absolutely not her fault for not being psychic and knowing that the water company was coming on a particular day and as the facilities supervisor on site, she should have been able to be there but didn’t know in time to rearrange other things she had. I know I have to remind her of different things and she reminds me of stuff because we’re human and don’t have eidetic memories. It was a blip in an otherwise solid relationship, but I redoubled my efforts not to let things like that slip and have been better in the year that has passed since the ball-drop.

        There’s a lack of responsibility here and an assumption managers should be omniscient. LW1 needs to own her part in this and be more communicative and talk to her boss.

        Also, in this case it’s not like OP had no warning of sick leave. If she’s taking off for surgery and it’s planned, that’s the time when you can proactively sort out coverage and have things clearly delineated. It’s in her own interest to avoid another similar situation — because she wasn’t hit by a bus and had a chance to plan.

  46. Gerri’s Jaunty Hat*

    Just want to say that the headline “I’m being blamed for a coworker dropping the ball while I was out, hijacking a birthday party, and more” makes it sound like that one coworker had the wildest ride ever! Lol.

    1. LB33*

      “Boss, I can either finish the project while i’m out on medical leave, or hijack a birthday party, but not both. Which would you like me to prioritize?”

  47. LB33*

    Not sure if it’s an age thing or not, but for me these days birthdays are more an excuse to get together with people or go out for a night, not really about the bday itself.

    If someone said, “hey a few of us are getting together for Jim’s birthday next week, want to come?” it would be totally normal if other people’s bdays were also around that time. Jim’s just the one who planned it first. OP you have nothing to be concerned about!

  48. Saberise*

    I totally disagree when it comes to letter #2. They are only acquaintances. And LW said the guest lists INCLUDES everyone she would have invited. Not that the guest list was only those she would have invited. There may be many people being invited that don’t even know LW. So not only is this going to be awkward if Jane doesn’t want it to be a joint party but it’s going to be very awkward for the guest that don’t even know LW. And honestly I would hate if co-workers had a joint party. I’m close with co-worker Jenny so would attend her party and buy her a gift. I am not close with co-worker Mary so would not attend her party (nor buy her a gift since I am not going to the party). Make it a joint party and now I’m expected to buy them both gifts.

    1. Saberise*

      Actually rereading it I do see she said the online invites only were all mutual friends and co-workers. But I still stick with what I said at the end. She’s putting all those mutual friends/acquaintances/co-workers of having to buy her a gift as well when it’s possible they wouldn’t have been invited or attended if it was just a party for LW.

      1. Satan’s Panties*

        Re: gifts. Maybe it’s just my friend group, but we never bring gifts to parties. We don’t necessarily give birthday gifts at all, only if two people are very close and/or someone saw the one thing that would be perfect for the birthday person. If gifts were mandatory at bday parties, we’d never have them.

  49. Been there*

    LW1: Is it really a “favor” to have someone cover your work responsibilities while you are recovering from surgery? I think part of the problem here is that the LW framed it to the colleague as “Can you do me a favor?,” and the colleague is thinking of it as a personal favor that it would be nice to do at some point but not something the colleague is obliged to do if she has other things on her plate. And we all have other things on our plate, so I’m not surprised that the colleague never got around to it.

    If I’m out, I informally ask people to cover rather than working with my boss on a formal plan, but I don’t think of it as a “favor.” These are work colleagues, they aren’t personal friends. They are covering because I will cover for them when they are out, or I will pay them back in some other fashion. They aren’t doing me a favor.

  50. Best Job Ever*

    I had a friend in high school whose birthday was near mine. Our mutual friend invited me to a surprise party for him and I kept asking if I could help with anything. It turned out that she told each of us that it was a party for the other one, when it was for both of us. He was bummed that his was being ignored so she had to end up telling him and ruined his surprise.

  51. Jack McCullough*

    Re: coworker dropping the ball

    In a situation like this I would want to see not only that someone else had taken responsibility for the project, but that the OP’s supervisor was aware and approved of this arrangement. The OP is not in a position to assign work to the coworker, and the supervisor may be in a better position to know whether the coworker has the capacity to do it.

    Meanwhile, the supervisor needs to know what’s going on if something gets missed, the client calls looking for an update, etc.

  52. Mmm.*

    I’m in charge of freelancers at my full time job as well as a freelancer myself. One thing I’ve learned between the two roles is that you shouldn’t bother with clients who forget you’re a person.

    Were this LW to tell me they were going to have a baby and needed three months off or at a lower workload, I’d be thrilled to accommodate that! Historically, when possible, I’ve loaded my freelancers with upcoming health absences with extra assignments beforehand (if desired) to help them earn some extra cash first. I want them to *want* to stay with us!

    Congrats on the baby! Any place that makes you feel like an inconvenience isn’t a place to worry about much.

  53. soontoretire*

    OP here for question 5. To answer queries/address speculations. Nope, the organisation has always done well. For others, it is not Elsevier. They do have a marketing team; this was about having my face on things and generating content. And, yes, the poor boundaries and endless demands of academe are alive and well. I appreciate the reminder from a commenter that the ‘payment’ is reputational, and as I am retiring, this is not so valuable to me. Also, in my field, you never, ever take on a journal until tenured. Publications first, service next. Thanks to all for commenting, for the reminders to maintain boundaries, and to Alison for her response which was a very good one.

  54. Yes And*

    LW5: A project that is “turning a profit” through vast amounts of unpaid labor is not actually turning a profit at all. It’s masking a deficit that will be endanger the project when they stop finding people willing to do unpaid (or underpaid) labor.

    1. Student*

      You underestimate the amount of money they are pulling in, and the vast amount of unpaid or underpaid labor they have to call on.

      Academic performance metrics are called publish-or-perish for a reason. If anything endangers an academic’s ability to get published, such as a journal “struggling,” they will intervene to make it right to keep up their metrics to retain their job.

      Academics have a vast army of underpaid labor that they have near-total control over called post-docs and grad students, often including control of their job prospects, job location, their prospective salaries, and sometimes their visas to stay in the country. Higher level academics also hold power over the careers and salaries of lower-level academics.

      It’s fairly simple for a higher-level academic to essentially force these other people under their academic fiefdom to step in to prop up a journal they like publishing in with underpaid or unpaid labor. I’ve seen them torpedo other people’s careers for far, far less.

      These journals get so much support from academics who hope to tilt the publishing metrics in their favor that they pull in enormous profit.

      1. soontoretire*

        well sometimes this happens, but not in this case. This is in humanities, I took on the job because I was asked by the publishing house, not by another academic, and I did it to be of service towards the end of my career. To be fair, I’ve spent a long time helping early career researchers to get published fairly and reasonably quickly because of the power imbalances in academe, and I’m pretty religious about making peer review as fair as I possibly can. I’ve resisted senior academics attempts to manipulate me, and I’ve been able to because…again, retirement is nigh. Your point though about underpaid labour is correct in this case, which is why I set some boundaries on it.

    2. soontoretire*

      the publishing house does well, and I suspect they will find another editor to do underpaid labor due to the career progress/prestige/reputation that position offers. It is a service job, as others have said. But it felt a line was being crossed which was why I said no.

  55. Jo*

    #2 I disagree with Alison on this one. These are adults who are long-standing acquaintances, not children trying to coordinate a party among the same small set of classmates. Sometimes dates and plans don’t work out optimally. There’s no reason someone who has already planned a party should be asked to repurpose her event.

    I’m sorry there’s a conflict but you can easily celebrate another day. Go or don’t go to the other party as you choose. But it’s HER party, not yours. If you think it will be too award, then make one-on-one plans with that day with someone not a mutual friend.

  56. Nnt*

    So to be clear LW2, Jane’s birthday is the day before yours, say on Thursday, while yours is Friday. Do you think she’s supposed to have her party on Thursday instead of having it on the closest weekend? If your grievance is that you think she should have picked the weekend before or after to celebrate instead, then you have your answer- you can just do what you think she should do, and pick the weekend before or after to celebrate your birthday. But don’t ask her to share the party if you’re not close and she’s already done all the legwork to organize it- that would make you the hijacker, not her.

    I’m not a birthday person, to be fair, but I am close friends with someone who is. She always felt ignored on special occasions in her childhood, and that has manifested in her having some big emotions and outbursts when her birthday is not acknowledged in precisely the way she would prefer (she is otherwise a great person, so we try to understand this about her and work around it). Frankly, its difficult to be around her at all during her birthday month so I just send her a nice gift and avoid her until a few weeks have passed and the coast is clear. I would urge you to consider if there is something from your past that is giving you such strong emotions over something as innocuous as this. You are no less valued or loved by the people around you if they don’t put the same weight on your birthday as you do. Please try to remember that.

  57. Sally Rhubarb*

    LW 2, I am sympathetic but I think you also need to look at this from a more removed standpoint. It’s entirely possible she picked that date not realizing it’s your actual birthday. Or that day was more convenient. Or her 90yr old grandma will be in town for that day alone. Or a hundred other things that don’t have anything to do with you.

    Does it suck? Yes. Should you say anything? Probably not, unless you can do so calmly and think anything constructive will happen as a result of the conversation. You can always throw a party for yourself!

    But then I share my birthday with the wee baby Jesus & that dude is alwayyyys stealing my thunder! ;)

  58. nnn*

    I’m wondering about the etiquette for the guests in the situation in #2. You’re invited to one friend’s birthday party on a day that is the actual birthday of another friend who is also in attendance. What is the appropriate amount of acknowledgement/attention to the fact that it’s the birthday person’s actual birthday, compared with acknowledgement/attention to the guest of honour’s birthday?

    I’d love to see Miss Manners’s take, although I suspect it’s not good form to send fanfiction about one advice column to another advice columnist

  59. Raida*

    3. How to get my co-interviewer to share her real opinions about candidates?

    You don’t discuss until after everyone has finished making their individual notes, scoring, etc.
    Then you can see if A) they are positive about everything and everyone – so aren’t a useful interview panel member or B) they have points that don’t line up with your opinion so that you can discuss – in which case put emphasis on how their perspective and experience and skillsets are so valuable to this because you certainly can’t pick up on such things with your experience, etc.

  60. Raktajino*

    #2 happened to me in high school, sorta. My classmate, someone I’d call a friend but not a good or close one, inadventently had his birthday party on my actual birthday, and invited our whole small class. I wasn’t good friends with anyone there so it wasn’t like my real birthday would have been a strong overlap. In any case I was happy to go hang out with everyone, and not say anything. But his mom did find out it was my birthday and felt SO BAD. She wrapped a gift (some sort of trinket she already owned) and the cake and song became a joint thing.

    It was….pretty awkward. I appreciated that my classmates readily included me in the celebration but I wish nobody had found out in the middle. Saying something ahead of time is a much better idea.

  61. Sarah*

    For writer of number 4:

    Hi! I’m also a fundraising consultant with a shop of one. Since moving to full time consulting in 2020, I’ve had two babies and taken two 3-month maternity leaves. It was absolutely no problem for my clients. I let them know when I was about 12 weeks along and we proactively kept in touch about projects they’d have going on in that three month period and, where I could, I helped set them up for that time. Didn’t lose any clients! You got this!

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