Dear Hobie & Monk,
I have a colleague who promised to bake me a pound cake after I did a really big favor for her. She told me how happy she was to bake it because she so appreciated the favor. She even asked me what kind of icing I wanted. I was really looking forward to it.
Well, she never baked it, and when I asked about it, she blew me off. Then she came to me and told me this big story about how she baked one but it burned, so she would bake another one as soon as she returned from her vacation. Now she’s back and acts like she never heard the words “pound cake.” I have developed some bad feelings over this, and I have to work with this person every day. I don’t know what to do: Should I say nothing or remind her?
– Broken Promises
Monk: This is serious. As a fellow pound cake lover — OK, dessert lover — I totally empathize with your sense of dessert expectation and loss. (Did you specify lemon icing?) Even more disappointing than the big cake bake fake is that after supporting your colleague, she let you down. Favors and gestures of appreciation are time-honored currencies of friendship, and you have been short-changed.
Your first decision: Is this a colleague or a friend? The distinction is important, because if you see your work associate as a colleague (and no real friend potential), this is about a cake. If you consider her a friend, this is about a relationship and a cake.
Let’s assume you value the relationship at least as much as the cake. In this case, it’s important to note that your colleague gets the connection between “really big favor” and “expression of appreciation” because she promised the (frosted!) pound cake. What appears to be lacking is conviction and the ability to follow through. Good intentions do not equal results.
You also know that in response to your rather direct reminder, she blew you off with stories of burnt offerings. Remediation efforts equal smoky story.
Do you want to continue to invest in the relationship? If the answer is yes, you might consider a friendly chat with your colleague about your relationship, maybe over coffee and cake, emphasizing your wish to be rid of the bad feelings. If the answer is no, cut your losses, reconsider the next favor and make yourself a cake.
P.S. Beware the insincere dessert gift. Have you seen “The Help”?
Hobie: I agree with Monk. If she’s just a colleague, you now know she’s an “over-promiser” at best, so forget about it and get back to business as usual. If she’s also a friend, how about a direct and humorous “Charlene, I know you’re never going to bake me that cake, so let’s go to lunch next Friday, and I’ll let you buy me a slice of cheesecake?”