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. Is it OK to be Facebook friends with people I manage?

I'm the manager of a team where everyone gets along well and works effectively with one another. I've known most of the people on the team since before they worked for me, as professional contacts in other contexts. One of the people had friended me on Facebook before we worked together. Now I'm this person's manager. I don't post any work-related items on Facebook, but I can see how this could be problematic. I want to avoid an appearance of favoritism, so should I unfriend him and find a way to gracefully deflect the question of why? Or do I just continue as-is, seeing as it hasn't caused any problems yet?

Green responds:

Unfriend him and explain why. It's important to do this not only to avoid the appearance of favoritism (why are you connected to him and not others?) but also because it can be genuinely problematic to be connected to people you manage on Facebook. For example, you might see things about his politics, health, or family that he wouldn't particularly want his boss to know, or you might see things that will just cause you uneasiness, like that he was out at a club the night before he called in sick. It's better to just avoid all those complications and keep some boundaries.

Before unfriending him, you could send him a Facebook message that says, "Hey, now that our work relationship has changed, I'm going to disconnect from you on Facebook, since I think it's usually better for everyone not to be connected to their boss like that. If either of us ever moves on to a different role, I'd be glad to resume the connection! Just wanted to give you a heads-up since I didn't want you to notice and wonder why." 

2. Can I give more feedback to someone I recently fired?

I recently fired a member of my staff. She was chronically late, frequently wanted to leave early, often called out very close to her scheduled start time (this is a job where coverage at the desk is important), and--towards the end--she was very distracted and her attitude was poor. We'd had a couple meetings about these concerns and I was going to put her on a PIP before she called out again and I'd had enough, so the firing wasn't completely a surprise, but hadn't had as much preparation as I'd have liked.

We had something of an exit interview and discussed why she was being fired. She wasn't rude but it was pretty clear that she wasn't hearing what I had to say. I really want to wait a couple weeks until she's cooled off and email her a little feedback, not as a former manager, but just as a person who worked with her to help her improve. All her issues aside, I really liked her and want to see her succeed, but I felt like she got in her own way a lot. I have no idea how she would take this, and I don't want to start any drama with her, but I saw a lot of my younger self in her and just wish I could help her do better in the future.

Is this crazy? I feel like it is, but the impulse is also really strong.

Green responds:

Don't do it.

While she was still working for you, you had standing to talk to her as much as you wanted about why this stuff was a problem. But you're no longer in a position to do that; she no longer works for you, and it's highly unlikely that she's interested in having a postmortem with the person who fired her about what happened. While I know you're thinking this could be genuinely helpful to her, it's not going to come across that way to her--it's going be "why on earth is the person who fired me and who I no longer work for emailing me weeks later to continue to talk about what I've done wrong?"

3. Employee returned from vacation a day early

One of my employees requested a week off for a vacation. It was approved, but she returned back to work a day early unannounced because her vacation plans were cut short so she decided returned to work. We are in the health care field so we adjusted our clinic operations to accommodate her vacation. Can we require her to take her full vacation since work was modified based on the request for time off?

Green responds:

Sure. It would have been perfectly reasonable to have said to her when she showed up a day early, "Since we were planning on you being off today, we scheduled someone else [or booked fewer appointments, or whatever the case was]. Let's stick with you taking today off, and we'll see you back tomorrow."

That said, I wouldn't do that in jobs where it doesn't impact anything negatively if the person returns early, just in cases where you're paying for someone else to cover or adjusted the workload.

4. My manager told my co-worker and me to decide who gets to go on a business trip

I recently started a new job. There is a business trip coming up for a project I'm working on. A co-worker and I were each asked if we were interested in going, and both said that we were. Our boss told us to decide between the two of us who would go on the trip. Am I wrong to think this is a little weird?

Green responds:

Nope, that is indeed a little weird. You both said you were interested--it's a little unfair for your manager to then throw it back to the two of you to work it out, since it will mean that whoever holds firm "wins," and what if you both hold firm? Your manager should pick one of you, ideally explaining why to the other (such as that the person selected has particular skills in X, which will be helpful, or that the person staying behind is more equipped to cover Y during the other person's absence). Or if it's truly just a random selection, that's fine to explain too--something like "I can only take one person and I mentioned it to Jane first, but if another opportunity comes up where one of you could go, I'll check with Fergus first next time."

But given that your manager has punted it back to you, if you really want to go, I think it's fine for you to say to your co-worker, "I'd really like to go because of XYZ. Do you feel strongly about it too?" Maybe she doesn't--but if it turns out that you both do, maybe you can both try negotiating something else that the other person would appreciate (like doing some undesirable task for the other person for a week or some other favor).

5. Asking people to knock on my door before entering

I am new in the role of management. My staff don't knock on my door. I'll be on the phone or in a meeting or even on my lunch, and yet staff walk in without knocking and it gets annoying. I feel if I raise this, it will sound petty. But I do need to ensure my privacy. How do I ask without being petty?

Green responds:

It's not petty to ask people to knock. Just be direct and straightforward: "Hey, would you mind knocking before you come in? Sometimes I'm on the phone or in a meeting where I'm dealing with something sensitive. Thanks!"

And if they forget--and people will--just remind them. Don't take that as a sign that they're disrespecting you; it's normal for people to need time to build new habits.

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