Inc.com 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.

Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to alison@askamanager.org.

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

How late can I call employees at home?

Is there a cut-off time that I as an employer can call an employee's home or cell phone?

Green responds:

There's a general expectation -- in life, not just in the context of work -- that you don't call people after 9 p.m. unless it's an emergency (and the bar for a work emergency call late at night is very high) or they've given you permission in the past.

But I'd try hard to avoid calling people outside of work hours, even if it's earlier in the evening than that. There are jobs where it's necessary, yes, but even in those you should keep it to a minimum. People tend to respect and appreciate managers who make an effort to keep work from intruding into their off hours, and they tend to really resent managers who violate that boundary except when it's truly necessary.

2. New hire told me about punching out a neighbor

I am a project manager with 10+ years experience. Last week, a recently hired, recently graduated, young staff member shared the following story with me (for brevity, I am paraphrasing): "I was doing laundry in my building's common laundry room. Someone else took my clothes out of the dryer and dried their clothes on my money. I waited for him and then confronted him. He said something I didn't like so I pushed him. We fought. I punched him three times in the face and knocked him out. I called the police. They came, I explained what happened, the guy guy woke up and went back to his apartment, police left. The guy's girlfriend called the police back and told building management. No charges pressed, but building evicted me the next day. Took off of work Thursday and Friday last week to find a new apartment."

I didn't know what to say, but told him this is serious and he should consult a lawyer. I believe I'm the only person in the office he told. I want to advise him further, but don't know what to say. Also, do I let upper management know? I will be conducting this employee's year-end review with a senior associate. I wish he never told me.

Green responds:

Whoa. Yeah, it would be alarming to hear you're working with someone who assaults someone who said something he didn't like, and who cavalierly shares it at his new job.

You'd be doing him a favor if you talked to him about why this reflects badly on him, and why it's the kind of thing that will stick to him forever if people hear about it in a work setting. And yes, I'd err on the side of telling someone above you, framed as, "I thought this was an alarming story and I feel uncomfortable keeping it to myself in case it fits part of a larger pattern."

3. Company wants us to leave quarterly reviews on Glassdoor

I've been informed by my team lead that we are expected to leave quarterly reviews of our company on Glassdoor. This is justified by the reviews "being used in our proposals" and to "maintain ratings." I am very uncomfortable with this process, and find it morally objectionable as a whole. I am afraid if I leave a review and honestly report the problems I have with the company, I will be retaliated against. Would consulting HR about the reservations I have be appropriate?

Green responds:

What would happen if you just didn't do it? Or started the review with "my company asked me to leave this review"? Or, yes, if you're willing to speak up to your management, I'd love it if you'd say, "This is outside the spirit of Glassdoor. Most people think it's pretty obvious when an employer has tried to drum up positive reviews, and it ends up making the company look bad, like it's covering something up or engaging in a Big-Brother-ish PR campaign with workers. I'd recommend that we encourage people to do this if they'd like to, but not require it and definitely not push people to do it quarterly, since these reviews are typically a one-time thing."

Of course, the reaction to this may depend on your standing in the company and the way they handle dissent

4. Do I owe my employer a chance to try to keep me?

Two months ago, I put my notice in that I'd be leaving my job. The job had far more travel than was originally discussed, and my life as a remote worker was very difficult (communication difficulties, consensus-based workplace culture, and indecisive bosses added to the frustration). I offered to stick around for a month or two to train a replacement. I named excessive travel as my main reason for leaving, and did not touch on the workplace culture or communication difficulties (I've mentioned those before with poor results). 

They didn't want to see me go and offered to change my position to make it more workable. I told them I didn't see how my job could work with reduced travel, but I'd hear them out. They said they'd put together a plan soon. That was two months ago. They've dragged their feet on the plan. Then a month ago, they said they wanted me to meet with an outside consultant and they'd put me in contact with them. I haven't heard anything.

I've done all that I should do, right? I've been trying to do the right thing by them, but now they're having me set up new projects that I won't be around to manage. I've kept asking about their plan, but haven't heard anything back and I'm ready to move on. Should I just finally put my foot down, give them a last date, and leave?

Green responds:

Yes. You didn't renew marriage vows with them; you just offered to hear them out, and they haven't bothered to make that happen. You were entitled to say "no, my decision is final, but thank you" two months ago, and you're entitled to say it now.

If they act aggrieved that you're leaving without hearing their proposal, you can just say, "I've given it a lot of thought and realized this is the right decision for me." If you want to be more pointed, you could say, "I hadn't heard anything concrete in the last two months, and have decided it makes the most sense to move on."

5. Job candidate got our company name wrong in a presentation

My company is conducting interviews for an upper-level management position. As part of the process, candidates give a presentation to staff. Recently, a candidate got the name of our organization wrong on his opening slide - using instead the similar name of another company. Of course all took note of this, but nothing was said, at least at the time.

The person in this role would frequently be representing our company by giving presentations at industry events and professional conferences. Should this be considered a serious mark against him? Or if he is otherwise a strong candidate, should it be forgiven/overlooked? Also, should the person on the hiring committee who helped him get set up on the computer beforehand have pointed out the mistake so he could have fixed it before everyone else showed up, or was it better to let everyone see?

Green responds:

Oooh, that's not good. Of course everyone makes mistakes at times; we are human, after all. But when a job candidate makes an error of sloppiness, you have to take it seriously because you don't have many data points about the person (unlike with, say, a colleague who you've worked with for a while and where you know if it's an aberration for them or not).

If he were otherwise a stellar candidate, I wouldn't let this alone be the reason you don't hire him -- but take it as a flag to more closely examine his attention to detail, because you want to make sure it was truly a fluke and not indicative of a pattern of sloppiness. I'd slow down and make a point of looking at other materials he's provided during your hiring process. And depending on the context, you might point the mistake out to him and see how he responds (mortified? cavalier?).

I definitely wouldn't have wanted the person who helped him set up to have tipped him off so he could fix it before anyone else saw it. That would be prioritizing helping him save face over the hiring committee's ability to see and assess his work unfiltered.

Published on: Jan 13, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.