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.

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

1. How to handle an employee's complaints about a co-worker

One of my employees has made many complaints against another employee. She claims that our clients have felt written off or discouraged by this person but the clients do not want to come forward. The employee who's being accused doesn't seem to be doing these things, but I am not fully sure now that I've heard these  complaints. How should I move forward with this employee bringing up issues that are not her own?

Green responds:

Ask the employee for more details about exactly how she knows this and weigh it against what you know of all parties (including her credibility). You can also talk with clients yourself (saying that you're checking in to see how things are going and in order to get feedback that will help your team do their jobs better), and you can observe things more closely yourself for a while, or some combination of these things.

You asked about how you should handle the employee "bringing up issues that are not her own." I don't think you should tackle it from that angle. If she routinely raises issues without merit, then yes, that's something you'd need to address. But you want an environment where people feel safe talking to you when they have legitimate (to them) concerns, including worries about how clients are being treated. There's certainly a point where that can become disruptive (such as when it's constant or they keep bringing it up after you've told them you'll handle it or the complaints are about things that don't impact anyone). But imagine if it turned out that an employee was being rude to clients, and no one mentioned it to you because they thought they didn't have standing to. You don't want that.

Of course, if you don't think she's operating in good faith, that's a very different issue.

2. Should I have a goodbye party for a hostile employee who's leaving?

An employee of mine resigned today by walking into my office and saying, "I am leaving. My last day is Friday." When I asked her to explain, she initially refused, saying she was busy with clinical work. When I insisted and asked why she wasn't giving the standard two weeks' notice, she seemed surprised that I was asking and then swore under her breath before storming out.

She has been a challenging employee for me from day one (the rest of the team is very respectful). She is defiant when it comes to any type of authority and extremely defensive when given any type of constructive criticism, even when I try to present it as gently as possible. Her previous manager had similar issues with her. She is very good with patients, however, which is why I haven't terminated her (I've come close).

In the past, when employees have left, we have done a goodbye party and purchased a small gift. I think this act of goodwill is beneficial for everyone. However, this employee did not give the courtesy of two weeks' notice and was very disrespectful when talking to me. Should I still do something to acknowledge her departure? I'm thinking we could do a card signed by everyone on the team and a goodbye cupcake.

Green responds:

She gave you less than a professional amount of notice, and then swore at you under her breath and stormed out of your office. I'd be seriously considering having her leave now rather than letting her work out the rest of the week. But if you don't, the most I'd do would be to circulate a card, and that would only be because of the optics with the rest of your staff if you do nothing.

This is someone who was openly hostile to you. Don't give gifts to people who are giving you the finger.

3. Applying to a company for a third time

There's a company I interviewed with twice and ultimately did not get the job, both times. The first time was last year, and the second time was a few months ago. I just saw another posting for the company. Would it be weird to apply to them a third time? I got the feeling they liked me from the last interview. I don't have the sense I left them with a bad impression of me or anything, just that I wasn't a great match for the position for whatever reason.

If I do apply, should I say anything about the past applications to the recruiter or as a note with my résumé (they don't ask for a cover letter)? And is there anything I can do to figure out how to have a better chance than I did the last two times?

Green responds:

It's fine to apply a third time -- but be particularly careful about making sure that you're a strong match with the position. If it's more like "I could do that job" as opposed to "I am a really solid match with what they're looking for," I'd wait until something closer to that second category comes along. Otherwise you risk seeming like you're being pretty scattershot with your approach.

I'd also send a cover letter even though they haven't requested one, and in that you can mention having met with them previously. And after you apply, send a quick note to the person you interviewed with last time, letting them know you applied for this one. If they remember you and think you might be a good prospect for this, that may nudge them to move you forward in this process -- but even if that doesn't happen, it's a generally smart thing to do and will help convey that you're treating them like prospective colleagues and don't think this is all some faceless process where no one will even remember you.

4. Weight-loss surgery and work

I am in the process of getting insurance approval for weight-loss surgery. Once the insurance approval is given, the surgery date can come pretty quickly thereafter (two to three weeks). I don't really want to alert my co-workers or my boss to the fact that I'm contemplating such a surgery in case I decide not to go through with it or insurance doesn't cover it for some reason.

I work in a small office where someone's absence is very noticeable, and we do a lot of shuffling to cover tasks when someone is out. Is two to three weeks enough notice that I will be out of the office for 10 to 15 days for surgery? Do you think a reasonable employer would be upset if they found out that I had been planning this procedure for months without alerting him to the fact earlier?

Also, I'm not keen on letting my co-workers know why I will be getting surgery (they're typically pretty nosy) -- could you give me some guidance on how to explain my absence and my subsequent weight loss?

Green responds:

You have solid reasons for not wanting to announce the surgery before it's a definite thing, and two to three weeks isn't unreasonable when it's for a medical reason. Plus, it's not like you know the date and just aren't telling them yet; there's no date to share yet. I think your plan is fine. Also, when you tell your boss, you don't need to specify what the surgery is or that you've been contemplating it for months. It's fine to just say, "I'll be out for surgery on (dates). It's nothing life-threatening, but it's something I need to get taken care of."

You can use that same answer with nosy co-workers. If you don't want to discuss it and anyone pries for more details, say, "I'd rather not get into it" or "Nothing I want to discuss at the office" and then change the subject. As for the subsequent weight loss, that's your call too. Share if you want to, but if you don't, you can say, "Oh, I'm trying to avoid weight-loss talk -- it's so easy to obsess."

5. If I'm told to leave after I resigned, was I fired?

If you go to your manager to turn in your letter of resignation and she tells you to just leave, is that considered being fired?

Green responds:

Nope. You resigned. They gave you a different last day than you were intending, but that doesn't make your resignation a firing.
 

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