Q: How do I navigate covering shifts with my coworkers?
A tricky social situation in which so many parts are at play, for this column we’ll be discussing the general issue of trading/covering shifts and owing coworkers.
Trading shifts is like paying for a friend’s lunch. It seems straight forward, you pay for your friend this time, they pay for you next time. But rarely is it that simple. One-time lunch may be $12.65 and then next time it is $26.37. And one of the times you are supposed to pay your friend might say he is really craving Taco Bell and not only do you dislike Taco Bell but now you are also going to pay for it. Similar issues are found in covering and trading shifts with coworkers. Here are a couple things to keep in mind that can help as you navigate this situation.
#1 Be Direct- When asking a coworker to cover your shift, be sure to specifically ask if they can cover that specific shift and give your reason for needing it covered if that is appropriate. When being asked to cover a shift, directly answer that yes you will take the shift, no you cannot or do not want to take the shift. If you need time to think about it (and you mean it) then say you’d like some time to check your schedule but you will get back to your coworker. And then get back to your coworker with an answer in an appropriate amount of time.
#2 Own Yourself- That may sound a little strange but let me explain, if you forgot to ask for a day off or forgot about your shift but you bought tickets to a concert with your friends, that is on you. When asking other people to cover the shift so you can keep your plans, own yourself and do not blame other people for not taking the shift. Alternatively, if a coworker needs a shift covered to go to a concert with their friends, that is on them. If you can take the shift or want to in order to help your coworker out great, but if not then own yourself and say that you can’t/don’t want to take the shift. You are responsible for you and helping others out is a choice. #3 Don’t Keep a Tab- This is not a hard and fast rule but more often than not, this is the better way. Do not expect coworkers to owe you when you cover their shift. Likewise, clarify with your coworker if they expect you to cover a shift for them in return. You can’t control if others keep a tab, but not keeping one yourself will help avoid some Taco Bell situations.