Cancelling on friends because of work. There’s no feeling more shitty than that.
Sitting alone in a bar after your friend has decided to update Power Point slides instead.
This is by far the most tricky plans friends can make with me. Especially the first few years I worked. I never knew when I would be able to leave the office.
If one of your bosses decide that you need to go through something for tomorrow morning, and it’s 9pm, it doesn’t matter if you’re halfway through the door.
There are actually days when juniors are able to leave the office early. The only problem is that you never know which day that is. Not until the minute you’re actually standing outside your office building.
Solving the problem
The solution to this problem is easy. Never make weekday plans. If you quit early one day – great. Then call up some friends and ask if they want to do something. But before you start controlling your hours more, weekday plans are just too risky.
Oh, did you think you were free when you had left the office? There’s always a chance that an e-mail from your boss will be ticking in later, and you have to go back again. At least if that happens, you have already seen your friends in person and can explain it to them.
Planned trips are by far the most tricky to cancel. It makes my insides churn, and I want to vomit. Cancelling a planned trip because of work sucks. At least your employer will cover the costs of tickets, but it doesn’t really help. That trip will not be waiting for you next week instead.
How far in advance you cancel of course has a lot to say. Are you bailing on someone when they’re on their way to the airport, they may not want to talk to you for a while. The problem is that you never know.
If you’re staffed on a big project, and you know deadlines are coming up, it may be better to just cancel straight away, even though it sucks. And we all hope until the last second that we might be able to go.
Cancelling on friends is never easy, but I would say this is by far the worst.
Can you save the trip?
Is there any way you can bring your computer and get the work done while you’re traveling? It’s not optimal for either of you. Your friends probably don’t love to lie next to someone who are on their computer by the pool.
It’s not optimal for you either. How can you possibly work with only one screen? And your laptop always crashes when you’re in the middle of a complex round of linking up cells.
But it may be better than cancelling altogether. At least you get to physically be there.
Are your friends in the same position?
If you’re working as a banker, consultant, lawyer or anything else that make you put in crazy hours at the office, chances are you have friends in the same position.
It’s a sad but true fact. When you’re stuck in your bubble of work, it’s easier to just hang out with the friends that are going through the exact same thing.
They will understand when you text them two minutes after your appointment and tell them that you will be formatting slides instead. They will even give you a hint of compassion. And chances are, cancelled plans for them only means they will go back and put in some extra hours on a project anyway.
The only problem is: they will do the exact same to you. Getting a group of people together will be almost impossible, because someone always cancels. Oh well, such is the lonely banker life.
When is it okay to cancel
It’s always much easier to cancel plans if you’re a group doing something together. If you’re a big group going away together, the others will still have a great time if you can’t go.
The worst-case scenario is cancelling plans on just one person. Then they won’t be able to go through with the trip, dinner or movie at all. It sucks to be that person. So for important events, try to always go as a group.
The best way to cancel
Just be honest. And be honest as soon as possible. Tell your friends when you make the plans, that you may have to cancel at the last minute. After a while, they will learn this the hard way, but always be upfront about it.
When you see a project deadline looming. Update the people you have plans with and say you might not be able to go.
If you’re really lucky, and your plans are really important, you can always start priming your boss and your colleagues early. Chances are, if you have told them about an important wedding you need to go to for months, they may put in a little extra effort to at least let you be gone for a few hours.
Making it up to them
Always try to make it up to friends after you have cancelled on them. And actually follow through. Or else, you will probably see yourself with a much smaller group of friends each year.
Actually, that is bound to happen anyway, but at least you will minimize the damage.
Be sincere and apologize if you’re cancelling something that’s important to them. It sucks to be the person left behind, never feeling important enough. It doesn’t feel great for the other person either. Try telling that to your friends, just don’t expect to get too much sympathy. After all, they may have been stuck alone in a bar for 30 minutes before they had to go back home and watch Netflix instead.
It’s difficult to have a social life when your hours are so unpredictable. That is, in my opinion, the biggest cost of having a job like this. Your social life will suffer because of lack of work life balance, and you may come to regret it later. Always consider if this is what you really want to do in life.