columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues--everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.

Here's a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.

1. Can I refuse to travel overnight for work?

Our company is switching software for our management systems. We have two locations in our area, and the company is telling us that we are to close our offices and all of our staff are required to travel three hours away with two overnight stays to be trained on the new system.

This seems unreasonable to me. We all have families and personal obligations. We will be training with co-workers from this other city who get to go home each night. We do not work in an industry that typically requires business travel, so none of us agreed to travel when we accepted our jobs. I realize to many it may not seem like a big deal but to parents with small children and people with pets, this seems unfair. It does not seem reasonable that we have our lives hijacked for three days and two nights. Can it really be more cost-effective to pay for travel, meals, and hotels for five people? Five people who are angry and disgruntled about having this hardship placed on their lives in order to keep their jobs? It really does not seem fair.

Green responds:

Business travel is...well, it's pretty normal. Even in jobs where it's not a regular thing, it's not uncommon to have it occasionally come up--for training or a conference or a retreat or whatever. Having to spend two nights away once in the course of a job isn't outrageous. It can feel inconvenient, yes, but being angry and disgruntled about it is a reaction that's pretty out of sync with workplace norms.

And it absolutely could be more cost-effective to send five people to training; if the training is being conducted by another company, there can be huge costs associated with bringing them to a new location.

People who don't live with another adult usually handle this by arranging for back-up child care and pet-sitters. If there's a reason that you truly can't do that without significant hardship (for instance, if you were caring for a child with special medical needs), you could talk to your manager about it. But if it's just that it's a hassle to go, there's not really a fight to be fought here. You're very likely to encounter this at any job you go to.

2. I think my manager is trying to push me out of my job.

I'm a recruitment coordinator for a bank, and I have recently had a bad performance review and have been on a recovery plan to get me back up to speed. Due to the volume of work I have to do, I'm doing at least two people's workload, but my workplace seems to think it's not. I'm making avoidable mistakes constantly, and because I'm on a recovery plan, my manager is being very unsupportive and not really advising me on the best things I can do to avoid making mistakes. He's constantly saying that the capability isn't there and the role has outgrown me.

I'm trying my best to work as hard as I can and completing my objectives sent, but I'm constantly receiving negative feedback. How can I try and make them understand that there is physically a lot of work for one person to handle without sounding like I'm not fit for the role?

Green responds:

Well, you may not be able to. Your manager is saying pretty clearly to you that he doesn't think you're equipped to the job as it's currently configured; saying that the job has outgrown you basically means "the role has evolved into something that you're not the right person to handle." That's a pretty clear message that he doesn't think you're the right fit for the role and that he's planning to move you out of it.

I hear you that you're convinced that he's wrong, but ultimately, it's his call. Don't get so focused on why he's wrong that you don't hear what he's saying: He's giving you a warning that you need to be looking for other work. That means that you should use this time to actively job search so that you have a better shot of leaving on your own terms, or at least so that you have a head start on a job hunt if he ends up letting you go. I'm sorry--I know that's tough to hear.

3. Can I stay in my boyfriend's hotel room during his team-building trip?

My boyfriend has a team-building trip coming up where they provide him with a hotel room for four days. He wants me to stay with him in the hotel room. Would his boss care if I stayed in the hotel room while my boyfriend was out training?

Green responds:

This isn't a trip you should go on. If it were a regular business trip, where he was traveling to do work at a client site or something like that, it might be fine to do. But this is a team-building trip, which means that there are probably going to be activities in the evening and the whole point in him being there is to bond with his co-workers. Taking someone else along is going to look tone-deaf and inappropriate and will probably harm his standing with his manager and maybe the rest of his team.

The exception to this is if he's absolutely sure that there are no activities in the evening and that he won't be expected to be hanging out with co-workers then. That would be unusual for a team-building trip though, so he'd want to be 100 percent positive that it was the case.

4. My former employer won't let me back to pick up my belongings.

I was recently told to leave my office and to not come back. I still have personal items and food there, but the boss won't let me in to retrieve them. What should I do?

Green responds:

Call or email your former manager (or HR, if you have them) and say this: "I have personal items remaining in the office that I need to pick up. What's the best time in the next few days for me to do that?" If they tell you not to come by at all, then say, "What arrangements would you prefer to make to return my belongings? Would you prefer to ship them to me?" Be pleasant and calm; that will make it much harder to respond to you with anything ridiculous, like a refusal. (That said, if the items are pretty minor, it might be worth it to your own peace of mind to just let them go.)

5. Can I ask a resigning employee to leave more quickly?

I recently had an employee quit and stated they would work another four weeks. This employee is a very low performer and I no longer want to keep them on my payroll. Can I ask them to leave now or do I need to wait two weeks? Since the employee quit, they forgo unemployment benefits, but I am wondering if this still applies if I ask them to leave before the four weeks are over.

Green responds:

You control when the person's last day is. If you want to move their last day up, you can say something like this: "I really appreciate you offering four weeks' notice, but looking over your projects, I think it makes more sense to set your last day for X." In most states, the person will be eligible for unemployment for the period between whatever X is and the day they'd originally set as their last day.

However, unless the person is causing actual damage to your organization, it's usually smarter to let them work at their notice period--or at least compromise on two weeks. Your primary audience for stuff like this is other employees, and if they see you push someone out after that person gave notice, they're less likely to give you much notice when they themselves leave, because they'll assume they may be pushed out early too.

Plus, if the person was really terrible, you should have been transitioning them out already anyway--and they did you a favor by quitting. A few weeks' pay is a small price to pay to get rid of a bad employee without drama and to keep yourself from looking like a jerk to other employees.

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