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. I'm assigned all the worst holidays to work

I work as a pharmacist in a federal hospital with a group of 13 other pharmacists. We are open 24/7 and that requires people to work shifts and weekends and holidays that no one likes. It is a shared burden. However, for the last two years, management has assigned holidays to people. The manager has assigned me Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day (evening hours), Christmas Eve (evening hours until 10 pm), and New Year's Eve (evening hours until 10 pm).

Most employees work three holidays a year. I am technically working three since Christmas Eve and New Years Eve are not holidays. Other employees are working three holidays but working Presidents' Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans' Day.

My boss states that a holiday is a holiday and that working one is the same as working another. I feel that working Thanksgiving is different than working Columbus Day, even though both are holidays, and that working the less desirable holidays should be a shared burden. I also feel that the EVE of Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve are kinda special and should "count" for something.

Green responds:

I agree with you -- not all holidays are created equal, and most people would see working the holidays you've been assigned as a significantly greater burden than working Columbus Day. I would say this to your boss: "Would it be possible to swap some of my assigned holidays for other holidays? I've somehow ended up with three that are especially big family celebration days, and I'd really appreciate the chance to swap one or two of them for holidays that aren't associated with big celebrations." Ultimately, it's his call -- but you're certainly justified in being bothered by it.

2. Can I give my family's personal holiday card to my employees?

I manage a staff of about 8-10 people and every year I get them a modest but decent holiday gift .I put it in generic cheerful wrapping paper and usually use a holiday neutral card with it (such as a snowman). I make it clear that I do not want or expect gifts in return. However, as I was wrapping them this year, I was sitting by a pile of extra personal holiday cards my family sends out. They feature photos of my spouse and children and a simple "Happy New Year" (we stay away from religious messages in our annual card). Would it ever be appropriate to use that card in the work gifts? We work in a public facility, talk about our families, and see each other's families when they pop in for a visit sporadically.

Green responds:

I would not. Those are social cards, and work is a different sphere. There are loads of good reasons for preserving the boundaries between work life and non-work life, especially as a manager, and sending your family's personal holiday card blurs those boundaries. Stick with a more neutral holiday card if you use one at all. (Frankly, I'd also say to stop with the gifts, which I also think blurs the boundaries in an unhelpful way. Stick with some sort of food gift for the group, or -- better -- additional time off or letting people leave early without charging their PTO. Or cold hard cash -- from the company, not you.)

3. I took a lower-level job than I'm qualified for and want to move up

A few months ago, I was offered and accepted a position. When I was applying for this position, I clearly stated that I had four years of work experience, including a master's degree in an adjacent field (admittedly not directly related).My work experience was in event planning and promotion (two years) and communications (two years). The position I was applying for was purely for communications (though a good portion is in event promotion, which I didn't know at the time). The recruiter, however, saw Communications in my job title for only two years, so she said she was going to submit my application instead for a lower level position, a rung below the one I originally applied. I agreed only because I was in need of a job.

Fast forward to now, I am in more of a support role alongside recent graduates with only two years of work under their belts. I feel in some ways I'm still getting acquainted with the way things work at this employer and thus learning to a degree, but in other ways the nature of my work is much less responsibility than I was accustomed to having. I have had weekly check-ins with my new supervisor and have clearly stated I have enjoyed A, B, and C work (where I've had more autonomy, more difficult projects) and would like more of that. Things are not changing much, I'm guessing because I'm new (understandable).

In a month, I have a new-employee review, more of a check-in with HR to express how I'm feeling in the position. I would love to say in some way it's my fault for not sticking up for my past experience, but I need to be promoted to more responsibilities in line with my level of experience and education. I still remember my days of unemployment and am worried they would just worry this job was not the right fit. I really enjoy the projects I get where I have more autonomy, yet I also am feeling unhappy and unfulfilled most of the time, because those opportunities are more rare.

Green responds:

You can't typically request to be promoted after only a few months on the job. Even if you're qualified for a higher-level role, you accepted a lower-level one. That's the job they hired you for, they have lower-level work that needs to be done, and you're the person who they've hired to do it. You can certainly express interest in moving into a higher-level role over time, but if you accept a lower-level job and only a few months later are agitating to be moved out of it for something more senior, you risk coming across as unrealistic about the job you took on.

It's possible that the recruiter was off-base in pushing you toward this role, but it's also possible that the company wouldn't have hired you for the more senior one. Either way, though, this current job is the one you accepted. I'd focus on being awesome at it for a year and proving yourself, and then ask about growth possibilities after a year.

4. Attending a former coworker's baby shower after I was fired

I was recently invited to an ex-coworker's baby shower. We were friends outside of work, and I definitely want to attend. The problem is, most of the people there will be from my old job. This wouldn't be a big deal, except that I was essentially fired/forced to leave with no warning. It ended up being a blessing in disguise, as I didn't realize how toxic management was until I left, and I'm happily employed at a much better place now! However, my sudden departure caused quite a stir, and it's likely that the people at the party will want to ask me about it. How do I handle the questions about why I left?

Green responds:

It's really up to you and how much you want to get into what happened. Personally, I'd go for either totally concise and matter-of-fact ("They fired me because X, but I've moved on to Y, where I'm incredibly happy") or declining to discuss it at all ("It's a bit of a story and today's not the day for it, but I'm doing X now and really loving it"). I think with either of these, you come out looking good without getting sucked back into drama that you want to keep behind you.

5. Working on holidays without extra pay

I work in Texas. I am a salaried employee working for a private company. My company has scheduled me to work on New Year's Day - a company-recognized paid holiday. They do not give extra pay or provide a comp day. Is this legal?

Green responds:

Yes. No federal law requires extra compensation for working on holidays. However, since it's normally a holiday for your company, you might ask about taking the holiday on a different day instead.

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

Published on: Dec 27, 2018