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. I can't fire my awful assistant

I'm a nurse and I work with several nursing assistants. I have no authority to hire them, fire them, or implement any kind of substantive rewards or consequences, but I am responsible for their work.

Most of them are great. One, however, is extremely unpleasant to deal with. If I ask her to do something, she will scowl and mutter darkly about how busy she is and how unreasonable I am. Sometimes she yells at me and sometimes she outright refuses simple requests. I do a lot of work that should be hers because it's easier than having a fight every time. She also bullies the other nursing assistants, talks inappropriately to patients about her personal problems and weird conspiracy theories, and the entire atmosphere of the unit is tense and miserable when she's around.

I am at my wit's end. Every time I try to initiate a conversation about her attitude, she scowls and mutters and walks away. I have talked about this issue with my manager and the director of nursing, but all they ever do is talk to her, and it doesn't change anything. I would fire this woman in a heartbeat if it were my decision, but it's not, and I don't know what to do. Do you have any ideas?

Green responds:

Talk again with your manager. Say this: "I know that you've spoken with Jane multiple times about issues like X, Y, and Z. But it's continuing. We're at the point where we need to escalate this -- putting her on a formal improvement plan with a clear warning that her job will be in jeopardy if this continues."

If your manager refuses, ask this: "I'm at the point where I simply can't get what I need from her, and she's resisted everything that I can think of to change the situation. Since I'm responsible for her work, I need something to change.What do you suggest?" You might also ask, "If you don't think it's at the point of a formal improvement plan and warning, can you tell me what would bring it to that point for you?"

If this gets you nowhere, you're dealing with horrible management, and they're actually more the problem than your nursing assistant is.

2. Am I being a doormat?

I've been in my job for about two years now and I really do love it. I finally have found a fulfilling job with great managers and an excellent work environment. There's only one problem: my compensation. I am paid a salary way below market value for my work. Worse, I've taken on a few extra projects over the years and expanded my workload well beyond what I've started with. And I haven't seen a raise yet, just vague promises of "some day."

My boss is aware of that I'd like one and I've had a conversation with him at every quarterly meeting. He says he'd like to give me one, but it's not in the budget. Meanwhile, other members of the company have indeed received plenty of raises and rewards. The company also has grown by leaps and bounds over the years I've been here.

At this point, I can't tell if I'm being a doormat or patient. I know my work is valued and I'm praised pretty often .I'm also treated pretty well. However, my compensation is just very low and I'm concerned that "some day" may never come. Should I start searching for new jobs? Or try having a candid conversation with my boss? I think they want me to be happy and I would really rather stay here than leave.

Green responds:

There's no harm in having one more raise conversation with your boss (framing it as, "We've discussed this many times before and at this point I'd like a firm timeline for getting my salary up to market rates"), but I wouldn't count on any promises of "some day." At this point, your boss's promises about a raise can only be considered credible when you actually see a raise in your paycheck.

Until/unless you actually see that money, assume that you're never getting a raise no matter what promises you hear -- because that's what all the evidence says -- and proceed accordingly.

3. My company just hired back the person I replaced

At a recent staff meeting, my boss announced that our organization is rehiring the woman who I was hired to replace. From my boss's remarks, it seems that this was not her decision, but that the former employee went directly to the CEO, with whom she is on good terms. Although my boss assured us this was not going to have any effect on our positions (they are giving her the promotion that she turned down last summer), I'm still nervous about how this is going to affect my job.

My first instinct is to begin looking for another job, but I've only been here for five months and most of my previous professional experience has been temp work with gaps in my employment history. When I was hired for this position, I was given the impression that the organization was interested in nurturing my professional development. Is there a way for me to bring my concerns up with my boss? And if it does seem like I should start looking for a new job, how do I explain why I was here for such a short time?

Green responds:

They're hired her back, but not to replace you -- she's not being hired back into her old role/your current role but into a totally different one. Unless you have reason to believe that she's going to meddle in your work, I don't see any cause for alarm here and job-searching isn't warranted. Hiring former employees into higher level roles isn't unusual or bad practice; in fact, it's actually often a good sign that former employees want to return.

That said, if you're concerned, you can certainly ask your boss about it. I'd say something like this: "Will Jane's return impact my role in any way? Do you expect her to become involved again in the projects that used to be hers but have since moved to me?"

4. My boss was about to promote me, and then he got fired

My boss has promised me a promotion throughout the last seven months. He emailed the proposal to me that he gave to HR. While he was figuring out details, they ended up terminating him. He is the dean of the school. Every day for the last seven months, all I have heard is "when you get promoted into the new position..." And now he is gone! I'm not sure if I should bother going to HR or not. They have known about his plan to promote me into the new position. Am I out of luck?

Green responds:

It's totally reasonable to talk to HR -- or your boss's boss -- about what this means for your planned promotion. Say something like this: "Percival had put together a plan to promote me to ___, and I know he'd been discussing a formal proposal with HR. While I realize that things may be up in the air right now, I wonder if you can tell me what's likely to happen with that. Is it something that will still move forward?"

You might hear that they want to wait to hire a replacement for your boss first, or you might hear that they're moving forward with it regardless, or you might hear that everything is in the air right now and they just don't know. But it's very reasonable to ask.

5. Should I be paid for my whole resignation period if my employer has me leave earlier?

If you submit a written resignation letter with a last date included and your manager lets you go before that date, are you supposed to be paid through the date on resignation letter?

Green responds:

It's up to the employer. The law only requires that you be paid through the date you actually worked. However, in many states, you can apply for unemployment benefits for the time between when they had you leave and the date you intended to leave (since in the unemployment agency's eyes, you were involuntarily separated from employment for that period, even if it's just a couple of weeks).

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