I am sick of covering for a slacker co-worker

Dear Aunty B,

I do not want to launch an attack on my colleague as maybe I am not being reasonable, so I really would like your opinion.


I have worked with the same business as an administrator for 12 years. I am married with two children, and when I began working it was on part-time basis, for five mornings. My boss is a lovely understanding man who has a family, so it was great that he understood the need for me to work part-time. My colleague has worked full time in the practice for the past three years. She has no other commitments or children.


Recently it became vital for me to be at home more, as the children, girl and boy, are 16 and 13 respectively. I found school holiday time difficult as I had to travel to the office and I was unhappy to leave them at home without supervision, so I decided to stay at home and gave notice to my employer.


Thankfully he asked me to work from home – I could not have been more surprised at this offer and delighted. With me not being in the office, this meant that my colleague would have a promotion and a lot more responsibility, which she seemed to be thrilled about. I am in constant contact with the office and come to the office one day a week to go over the week’s happenings etc.


It was agreed that I would come to the office in the event of my colleague taking holidays, and this would only be 20 days in the year. I have no problem with this and have covered many times whenever she has asked for a day off or has been ill.


I notice, more frequently now, every second or third week, she will ask for Friday and Monday off together, sometimes with little notice, but I have always agreed to cover these. Holidays are never taken in block, like one or two weeks together – she chooses to take days throughout the year.


As an example of what’s happening, she asked for Wednesday and Thursday off last week as her dog was going to be re-homed. I explained that I could not cover those days (the first time I said I couldn’t) as my daughter is doing exams and I have such a lot to do with the children it was not possible for me.


She basically told me (by text message) “well I will be too upset because the dog is leaving us and I may not be able to work”. I was quite annoyed as it sounded like she was saying “well if I don’t get the time off then I won’t be able to work anyway”. I explained that I had always allowed her to take holidays and it simply was not possible for me to cover on those two days. I thought that was the end of the matter until she SMSed me to say she would like to take the Tuesday off to spend the day with her dog. I could have predicted that she was going to do this; I knew she would get a day off no matter what.


I am finding there are more and more ridiculous excuses for days off – I know she does not have to tell me why she is taking a day off. She had a day booked recently but I got a short notice call to go to meeting for my son (re dyslexia) and I asked her to swap so I could go to the meeting, and she said “no sorry, I’m going to a party the night before and taking my friend to the airport on my day off” so I had to reschedule the meeting as I had already said I would cover for her.


These are important things I have to tend to as a parent, and feel I can’t rely on her to help me with these matters. Lately I do not feel she is committed to the position in the office. With me not being there she is solely responsible for the day-to-day running of the office, and do not feel that I can rely on her very much.


I have received text messages late at night or the middle of the night that she is ill and will not be in, meaning I have to go at short notice.


Am I being unreasonable? I have always worked outside of the home when my children were small, never took time off without good reason, but now I need to be at home for my teenagers. I know this should not be all about me and I hope it does not sound like it is all about me; I just feel my life has had to change with the children’s ages now. I work at home over the hours I would if I were actually in the office, because I can, I am at home… I need to be at home more, but I don’t think she sees it that way. I honestly respect her as a colleague who has holiday entitlements; am I right to feel she is abusing this right?


I would be grateful for your opinion and advise on this matter.





Dear Cath,

Reality check here. You work from home, you have a lovely boss, you work the hours you want and you are grizzling about covering for a work colleague? You are actually a great example about why bosses worry about staff working from home.


You have become isolated and have completely lost perspective. It is totally irrelevant why your colleague has holidays. You have agreed to cover for that person when they have holidays, and so cover you will.

And one more thing – it’s not some kind of competition as to which is more important – her dog or your children. Everyone is entitled to take their holidays for any reason they want as long as it suits the business. Other employees just have to work around that, trying to be as helpful as possible and hoping that courtesy will be returned when they want holidays or urgent days off.


One point you could raise with your boss is that it would be helpful if your colleague gives you some reasonable notice for holidays wherever possible to better enable you to plan. But keep your request mature and pragmatic.


Lastly, you appear quite stressed by teenage children. We all have teenage children and dogs and cats and jobs. So we understand it can be hard. But take a day at a time and keep a focus on the big picture.


And be grateful for your job. There are people being sacked across the globe and suffering great hardship. This is a time to pull together and be generous!!


Good luck,


Your Aunty B.


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