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 think my employee is overpaid

I have an employee who is overpaid for her position. I inherited this employee from a former manager who hired her two years ago. Our business revenue has declined dramatically in the past 12 months, and I know I could hire someone to do the same job for about $20,000 less per year. Saving $20,000 would really help toward our budget.

Should I ask her if she would be willing to take this much less in order to keep her job or just go ahead and let her go for financial reasons? If she chooses to keep her job, she will no doubt look for another job and be very unhappy about this change and could possibly sabotage our work because she is in charge of billing and accounts receivable. (I don't have any particular reason to suspect she would do that; I'm just worrying that a disgruntled employee with this type of job might mess things up. Just my paranoia.) However, I feel guilty about letting her go just because she is overpaid and we need the money. Can you help me decide what to do that is best for her and best for us?

Green responds:

If you're sure that you can hire someone good enough for what you need for much less money (which is something you should research carefully before taking any action), and you're committed to paying less for the work, the best thing to do is be upfront with her about the situation. You could offer her two options to choose from: (1) staying in the job with the lower salary, and acknowledging that you know this would be a blow and you understand completely if that doesn't work for her, or (2) laying her off with X months' severance pay at her current salary. This gives her some control over the situation rather than you deciding for her. (And offering severance makes it easier for her to choose the second option if she really doesn't want the first.)

If you know her to be responsible and trustworthy, I wouldn't worry about sabotage; that's not a common response to this type of situation, especially when people feel they've been treated with respect and dignity. If you did have a specific worry about her in particular, then I wouldn't recommend the first option, but it doesn't sound like that's the case.

For what it's worth, though, there might be a bigger-picture question here for you: Saving $20,000 is about $1,666 a month. Will that make a big enough difference in your budget once you factor in the costs of recruiting and training a new hire and waiting for them to master the job, as well as any costs to morale for the rest of your team?

2. Should I be suspicious of this reference situation?

I manage an independent café with several locations. We have a promising applicant for a full-time position. He's demonstrated technical proficiency and enthusiasm, and hiring him would save us a lot of time we'd otherwise use training someone without his skills.

He did not list his last two employers as references, saying that he did part-time work for both and that he'd prefer we contact his last full-time employer who is also one of his best friends. He says he left the last two jobs on good terms. The listed reference spoke well of him. Am I wrong to be suspicious of his explanation? And is it legally or ethically wrong for me to call his former employers?

Green responds:

I would be suspicious too! The reference he gave you really doesn't count if the person is a good friend -- it's possible that there could be some value in talking to him or her (although I probably wouldn't even bother if it's a "best" friend), but you definitely wouldn't want that to be your main or only reference. There's no legal problem with calling other references without the candidate's explicit permission, but in this case, I'd just tell the candidate directly that you'd like to speak with his managers from the last two jobs and ask to be put in touch with them. If he resists, ask why and see what he says.

3. Getting my office to stop with all the reply-alls

Any ideas for how to delicately encourage my company to stop with the reply-alls?

I work for a small company of about 15. All work remotely; there is no central office. We communicate primarily via chat, but there are occasional emails. These are mainly informational messages with updates to processes or announcements, etc. For some reason, the company hive mind has made it OK that everyone on these emails needs to reply all. So one email will then result in a bunch of reply-all messages that are nothing more than "Thanks!" or "Great, got it!" messages, and it makes me batty!

Do you have any suggestions for how I can encourage the company as a whole to knock this off? My thinking is always that if you want to thank the sender or let them know you got the message, you can reply to them directly, not clutter up everyone's inbox with these messages. Am I just being a grinch?

Green responds:

If you're in an at-least-somewhat senior position there with some authority, you probably have the standing to send an email to everyone (since there are only 15 of you) saying something like, "I know we're all struggling with overloaded inboxes, so I want to ask that as a group we change our norms around reply-all and save them for messages that truly need to go to everyone (so not for replies like 'thanks' or 'OK'). I know I'd really appreciate it, and I bet others would too."

That could cut down on it. But it probably won't stamp it out altogether; this is the kind of thing that some people are always going to do to some extent unless there's either (a) sustained effort to combat it by someone with authority (and that's probably not what you want to put your capital into beyond just the single email I suggest above) or (b) enough of a shift in group norms that it starts to feel really weird to anyone left still doing it.

4. Company put hiring process on hold

I went on a fantastic interview. I was told at the interview that I had a "really great shot" and was an awesome fit. I was asked about my schedule for a final interview and responded the same day but never heard back. It's now six weeks later, and that final interview has not been scheduled -- but I have received emails stating they are so sorry the process is taking so long, that they're still very interested in me, but the hiring process has been delayed.

I am extremely disappointed with my current company and salary, which makes this opportunity even more desirable than when I first interviewed and wasn't really looking to leave. How should I respond to this email sent telling me things are on hold? Should I let them know I am eager to leave and was waiting on them but will now have to explore other companies and positions? I really liked the company, location, potential to grow, and salary they offered, so letting this one go would be difficult.

Green responds:

Do not tell them that. They are assuming that you're exploring other options, so it would be odd to state that -- it would sound like you were relying too much on this job panning out and that you were trying to make that their problem to deal with.

Even people who are told they're a great fit end up getting rejected, and hiring processes get put on hold or stopped altogether. You definitely don't want to rely on this job, and you even more definitely don't want to tell them you've been doing that since that will look naive. Moreover, they have reasons for having things on hold, and those won't change just because they hear that you're disappointed. (In fact, you want them to take whatever time they need to figure everything out before they offer you a job; otherwise you risk major changes to the job or team after you've already accepted it.)

So just thank them for updating you and tell them that you'll be interested in talking whenever they're ready to move forward. Then, the best thing you can do is assume that it's not going to happen (not because it won't, but because it's better for you if you're not waiting around for it), put it out of your head, and proceed the way you would have if they'd rejected you -- meaning, presumably, that you start applying for other jobs.

5. Who owns a checklist I created at work to do my job better?

I have been working for a real estate brokerage for the past three years. When I was first hired, I was given a checklist of items required to complete a real estate transaction. It was vague and did not include much information about how to get the information required. Over the past three years, I have created a streamlined, detailed checklist that has grown from one page to over six pages. It includes compliance notes and reminders, as well as lines for dates, etc.

My broker and I have decided to hire a software designer to create an online process management tool (using my checklist). We wanted to create it originally for our own use, but it will definitely be marketable in the future to other brokerage firms.

Who owns the checklist? Is it my checklist, as it was something I created to keep myself on track per transaction? Is it the broker's checklist, because I created it to complete work for the company and do my job well?

Green responds:

Your employer owns it. You created it on the job, during work time, as part of doing your job -- as part of the "scope of your employment," as the law puts it. There are lots of things that people take the initiative to do as part of their work (i.e., no one specifically told them to do it), but if it's part of the work you're doing for your employer as part of your job for them, it's work that they own.

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