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 four questions from readers.

1. How can I tell a job applicant we rejected them for being rude?

I work in retail and accept applications in person. It's a great vetting tool to see how applicants introduce themselves to the sales staff. When an applicant looks down on sales staff or is otherwise pushy or rude to them, we treat that as a signal to not proceed to the interview stage, even if the person has the experience and skills on paper for the job.

We send form rejection emails to those applicants. When they reply and ask for feedback as to why they were rejected, how can I politely tell them we do not interview candidates who are rude to our staff?

Green responds:

I'd recommend against it. First, this is exactly the kind of feedback that's most likely to result in a rude response in return. Second, you're not obligated to provide feedback at all (although it's a kindness if/when you're willing to do it), and there's especially no obligation when someone has already been rude to you. Third, this isn't the kind of thing someone should need to be told. It's one thing to say, "we're looking for candidates with more experience in sales" or "having your mom call on your behalf didn't come across well," but people shouldn't need to be told "don't be rude to other people."

That said, if you want to do it anyway, you could say, "We care a lot about how applicants interact with our staff when turning in their applications, and are looking for candidates who are warm and polite." (You're almost definitely going to get rude responses back though, because that's how this tends to go.)

2. My vendor laid off my mother

I own a small business that is experiencing significant growth and had been shopping around for accountants in our field. My mom recently started working for an outsourcing bookkeeping/admin company with exactly the specialty I was looking for. She stressed that I was in no way obligated to hire them, but after comparing their quote with others and speaking with them at length, I decided to hire them. I began the lengthy (and expensive) process of syncing systems and getting them up to speed on our business. While my mom could have been assigned to help with specific aspects of our accounting, they assigned my company to a different team. I thought this was a wise and professional decision.

About two months after I hired this company, they laid off my mother, explaining that they had recently lost three clients and had over-hired. Given the timing of the layoff, that seems entirely plausible. Nevertheless, it leaves me in an awkward position. I think the team they have assigned me to is knowledgeable and has been helpful in this short amount of time. However, the company is small and my mom's former manager is one of the people on the team that supports my company. Should they address this issue with me? Should I address it with them? What is the professional response from me?

Green responds:

No, they shouldn't address it with you, nor you with them.

Your mom did the right thing when she stressed that you didn't have an obligation to hire them because of her, and they did the right thing when they assigned you to a team that she wasn't on. Both of those were about preserving appropriate professional boundaries and not letting family blur the lines of your work. You should continue to keep those boundaries in place, which means that you shouldn't be talking to them about your mom, since her layoff is a private issue between her and her employer.

You certainly don't have to continue working with them if you feel weird about it, and it's also OK to decide you do want to continue working with them. But you should make that decision on your own, without expecting to have a conversation with them about the situation.

3. Asking a co-worker not to joke about suicide

My colleague, a nice guy, makes jokes about "you'll want to kill yourself if you do this or that" and I'm not sure how to tell him that it bothers me. I'm an attempt survivor and I lost my brother to suicide.

Green responds:

Be direct! "Please don't joke about suicide." That's really all you need to say! A polite person will immediately stop, but if he pushes back in any way, you can say, "It's a difficult topic for a lot of families, as I'm sure you can understand."

4. How honest should I be with a recruiter about our concerns about a candidate?

I am wondering how honest to be with a recruiter who has a candidate, Ann, who wants to work at my company. Ann looks great on paper and I expressed enthusiasm and thanks for approaching us, and I said we would discuss potentially setting up a meeting.

As it happens, we snapped up an amazing employee, Sara, who jumped ship from Ann's current company in favor of working with us not that long ago. So we asked Sara what she thought of Ann. Her reaction was visceral. She said that Ann was combative and not team-focused at all in her role, and often caused trouble for Sara's team with her lack of cooperation. As soon as Ann won a sale, she would withdraw all effort for the rest of the process of delivering the project. That firsthand feedback has meant we are now 100 percent not interested in considering Ann for a role here. I'm also not willing to take the risk of a personality clash that large in a team this small.

How much of this do I say to the recruiter? Would it be helpful for the recruiter know this? Do I just give the standard "we have decided not to move forward with interviewing Ann" even though this would seem like a 180-degree about-face from how I was speaking about the situation just days ago?

Green responds:

What kind of relationship do you have with the recruiter? If this is an ongoing relationship, yes, let the recruiter know that you got feedback about Ann from someone who used to work with her that made you not want to consider her further. It's helpful for her to understand what happened so that she's not mystified by your change of mind (since in order to do her job well, she needs to get feedback from you on the candidates she sends you). On the other hand, if this isn't a recruiter you generally work with and she just approached you out of the blue to pitch Ann, there's not the same need to fill her in. Those recruiters are functioning more like salespeople, and it's more acceptable to just say, "After discussing it with my team, we don't think she's what we're looking for."

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