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. How to coach an employee with anxiety.

I have a talented employee who gets paralyzed trying to do new things. When there is a roadmap and it's something he's comfortable with, he does a great job. He's smart and his ideas are usually great. To move into the next step in his career, he needs to start driving new projects where there isn't a roadmap, and he's starting to struggle.

From watching him, I suspect he is dealing with anxiety. The tipping point to me is the degree of paralysis I'm seeing. If something is in the "new project" box, he has a hard time recognizing the pieces he has done before or is familiar with. When we talked about this, I told him it's fine to not know how to do things, he just has to communicate that with his teams appropriately and make a plan, and he told me that he has a really hard time admitting when he doesn't know something and asking for help (which, as a somewhat anxiety-prone person myself, felt familiar). Is there a good way to be sensitive and supportive while giving feedback?

Green responds:

The best thing that you can do is to give him very clear, specific feedback about what you need to see him doing differently--and of course to be kind in the way you deliver it. Be careful not to be so kind that it obscures the message. Rather, you're going for kind in tone and vibe. Your tone should be, "You're not a horrible person or a failure for struggling with this" and, "Here's what it would look like to approach it differently."

I would not delve into the potential anxiety aspect of it, at least not beyond a one-time mention of, "You know, sometimes when people struggle with this, it's tied up with anxiety issues, and if that resonates with you, it's something you could talk to a doctor about." Beyond that one-time, very brief mention, it's just not your place to diagnose or nudge him on that aspect of things, especially if it's not something he's disclosed to you. Certainly you can use it as a reminder to yourself to be compassionate about what he's struggling with, but as his boss your role is really just to give clear feedback and a reasonable amount of coaching, and then let him take it from there.

2. Declining an interview because of ethical issues with the company.

I'm currently job seeking and a recruiter has contacted me with a role that's perfect for my skills and experience. The company pays well, is growing rapidly, and offers great benefits.

Unfortunately, their line of work is against everything I believe in. Let's say I'm an accountant and this company is a weapons manufacturer, so it's not like my skills are industry-specific.

How can I let this recruiter know why I don't want to be put forward for this role, in the most professional way possible and without coming across as overly picky and judgmental? I don't want to put the recruiter off contacting me about other roles, but I don't want to wind up interviewing with this company either--much less working for it.

Green responds:

This is a pretty normal thing, and a recruiter who represents a company that works on something even a little controversial will be well aware that some candidates will select out because of that. That's not being overly picky; that's just being a normal human who cares about your work. We all have places we wouldn't be comfortable working unless we're complete mercenaries. 

So just be straightforward about it, while stressing that you'd still like to be considered for roles with other companies. For example: "Thanks so much for contacting me about this. A weapons manufacturer isn't the right match for me, but I'd love to be considered for accounting roles at other companies if you have them."

3. My boss redoes my projects after I turn them in.

My boss gives me projects to work on throughout the week, and I present them to him when I'm finished. As I'm presenting, I get feedback on what to change. I make those changes, turn the work back in, and let him know I am willing to make additional changes if necessary. However, whenever I turn the work back in, I find my boss completely redoes all of my work, and I mean complete overhauls. It's making me reconsider this position because I feel incompetent.

While I'm showing my boss the work, he never says that it's completely wrong and needs to be reworked. In fact, he says he likes it. I don't feel like I'm learning anything because the work is being done behind my back and I don't know what I'm doing wrong. What should I do?

Green responds:

It's possible that there's nothing wrong with your work, and that your boss is someone who doesn't fully figure out what he wants from a project until he sits with it himself to finalize it. For most roles, that's not great management; it might happen on occasion, but generally he should be taking the time to figure out what he wants before he assigns it to you. (Although for some roles, the job really is just giving the manager something concrete to work from, even if it gets drastically changed.)

Or it's possible that your boss really isn't satisfied with your work and hasn't figured out how to say that to you directly.

Either way, the best thing to do is to ask him. Say this: "I've noticed that you've redone my last few projects pretty significantly. Was there something I could have done differently on my end to prevent you from having to do that? I'd really like to learn how to do these the way you want them, both to save you time and for my own professional growth."

4. Living so close to work that coworkers could see in my window.

As most people do, I have always despised the time spent commuting to and from work. I'm currently in the market for a new job, and commute time is a significant factor in my search.

There's a position I'm interested in that has the best commute time there is: It's literally next door to my house. Obviously, the practically non-existent commute would be great. But I can also see some possible disadvantages, as well--such as how easily I could become the "go-to guy" when there's an emergency at the office outside of regular business hours. Also there's a privacy and boundary issue at play, not the least of which is that you can actually see into my bedroom window from the front door of the company! There's also a potential of getting unexpected and unwelcome house calls from coworkers during my time off, for either professional or social reasons.

Obviously living close to work has its advantages, but is this too close? Should I try to apply and just weigh the pros and cons, or skip it altogether?

Green responds:

I wouldn't worry too much about unwanted house calls; it probably wouldn't happen, but if it did, you could put a stop to it immediately. What would worry me most is the potential lack of privacy--I wouldn't want coworkers to be able to see right in my window. Even if you kept the curtains closed all the time (which isn't ideal), I'd be concerned about your comings and goings being noticed more than they normally would. For example, if you're out sick, will someone wonder why they see you leaving your building and not returning for hours? It feels a bit too close for comfort.

That said, if you're really interested in the job, you should apply and see what happens. You might end up wanting it enough that it will trump this stuff. (And if you happen to rent, you could always consider moving if you get the job and stay in it long enough for that to start to feel reasonable to do.)

5. Should I give my interviewer a pre-written thank-you note at the end of our interview?

I have an upcoming interview for a position that is, essentially, my dream job. I'm preparing to go above and beyond to nail the interview. The interview is scheduled at the end of the day on Friday, and immediately following I'll be out of pocket until the following Monday, traveling out of town.

Would it be overkill if I prepared a thank-you note ahead of time and gave it to my interviewer at the conclusion of the interview? I plan to send an additional thank-you email/thank-you note the Monday after.

Green responds:

Don't do that.

A big part of the point of a thank-you note is to show that you thought about what was discussed during the interview and decided that you're still enthusiastic about the job--and to build on the conversation you had when you met. If it's clear that you wrote the note before you even came to the interview, it's going to look really perfunctory, like you're just checking off a box. And it will feel pretty strange to your interviewer, since it clearly won't have anything to do with the content of the interview. It would be like if at the end of a first date, your date handed you a sealed envelope with a card inside about what a nice time they had with you, written ahead of the date.

And you also don't want to do two separate thank-you's for the same interview. Just send one, and send it by email on Monday. Good luck.

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