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. Job applicants' parents keep calling me

I work at a camp, with loads of seasonal employees. We just opened applications for staffing opportunities for teens age 14 to 17 and were flooded with hundreds of applicants who want to come do our dishes, haul trash, and chop firewood. This is a wonderful thing!

The problem is their parents, who regularly call for updates on their teens' applications. We're really too swamped with inquiries to respond to their (sometimes daily!) requests. But, more important, I wish it was the teens themselves who called, not their parents.

I think most of these parents are still in "sign my kid up for camp" mode. They aren't seeing this as a job. And since these are teens, we really need the parents on our side. I can't afford to alienate them by being forceful about how inappropriate it is for them to call. What's your advice -- what can I say to parents like this?

Green responds:

You don't need to take them to task or anything like that; just plainly explain that you can only talk to the applicant herself. Say something like this: "To answer that, I would need her to contact me herself. Because this is a job application, we don't discuss those details with anyone other than the applicant directly."

If a parent pushes back in response to that, say this: "I'd be glad to talk with her directly if she'd like to call me. But we think it's important for prospective employees to manage this process themselves, even when they're teens. It's an important skill for them to have or develop, and it helps us to get a sense of our applicants. Of course, you can coach her on doing it, but we'd want her to reach out herself."

Or, if you actually want the message to be that none of them -- parents or teens -- should be doing all this follow-up because you don't have time to field it, you could instead say: "Because of the volume of applications we've received, we're not able to respond to individual questions like this. However, we'll be in touch with all applicants no later than (date). At that point, if your daughter has questions, she's welcome to contact us -- but we prefer for her to get in touch herself since she's the applicant, rather than a parent handling it for her."

2. Interviewing for a manager job when my team would be hired before me

I interviewed last week for a director position at a state agency. I saw they also currently have several vacancies for positions that would report to this director. At the end of the interview, I asked whether, if hired, I would be able to have any input on those new hires, and the answer was "no, not this time."

This answer feels like a red flag for me. Is it not best practice to have the supervisor make their own hires, instead of inheriting freshly hired staffers?

Green responds:

It depends. Sometimes there's a need to get people hired and up and running before an incoming manager would realistically be able to do it. Sometimes someone else in the organization is better placed to be able to make strong hires more effectively than a brand-new manager who doesn't yet have a nuanced understanding of what's needed in the role. Ideally, yes, incoming managers would be able to do their own hiring for current vacancies (and it's certainly better for the people being hired to get to talk with the person they'd be reporting to, as well) but the timing just doesn't always work out that way.

What I'd ask in your shoes is whether the manager will typically be able to hire her own staff members as vacancies come up in the future. It's definitely a red flag if the answer to that is no.

3. Resigning during a hiring freeze

I've been at my company for two and a half years. It's a pretty good job, but pay increases and advancement are almost non-existent for someone with my skills. For the entire time I've been here, I've been going to school and gaining skills in a much better-paying industry. I've been doing freelancing on the side in this new industry to get better, and I've been offered a flexible start date on a new job utilizing these skills. I was prepared to give notice six weeks ago, but a co-worker with a similar role gave her notice and I didn't think it was prudent to give mine as well when we had a lot of projects that needed to be finished soon. So I waited while we were working on hiring their replacement.

I was planning on giving my 30-days notice this week, and then another co-worker just gave hers. In the exchange with her manager, she was told that there was a hiring freeze so her position was not going to be replaced. We're a small office of 15 people (part of a larger organization). My opportunity won't be around forever, but I'm racked with guilt now knowing there's a hiring freeze and how it will affect my manager. Should I just try to stick it out another few months, or just give two-weeks notice so that the bad news doesn't come all at once?

Green responds:

Give your notice now. This is business; people leave, and it's often at inopportune times. That's just how it goes. Your company will survive. In fact, you're arguably doing them a disservice by not telling them now, because they're continuing to make plans as if you're going to be there longer-term. If giving notice now means you can give them an extra few weeks of transition time, that's far, far more valuable to them than your trying to manage their emotions around bad news.

4. Are offers to stay in touch with old co-workers sincere?

I recently resigned from my first professional job. I had been there nearly five years. Upon leaving, my manager and co-workers suggested things like "come back to visit sometime," "feel free to drop by the office anytime," "stay in touch and we'll grab coffee," etc. Are these invites sincere? If they are, I don't want to shun them by not dropping by or staying in touch. But if they're just meaningless platitudes, then I don't want to be the clingy oddball who won't leave her old boss and co-workers alone.

However, if they are sincere, how does one go about staying in touch with an old job? How long do you wait post-leaving to contact them? With what frequency do you stay in contact and go out for coffee?

Green responds:

They're probably genuine. I mean, it's also just a thing that people say when someone is leaving because it's polite, but in most cases people are happy to follow through on it if you're interested in doing that. It's not an obligation -- if you'd rather make a clean break, that's perfectly normal too -- but some people enjoy staying in touch with past co-workers and past offices, and that's not weird to do. (It can also be really smart from a networking perspective.)

If you do want to take them up on it, typically it might mean getting in touch a few months after leaving for coffee or something along those lines. After that, you might meet up once or twice a year, depending on what you feel like. It really varies depending on the people involved, but monthly would seem like a lot, if that's a helpful data point.

5. I have to eat dinner with co-workers every night on business trips and I'm exhausted

I am new to business travel, and have found that I am expected to eat dinner with my co-workers every night. I have nothing in common with my co-workers and would much rather have time to myself. Being with them 12 hours a day is exhausting! Unfortunately, they sometimes talk about work items during the meal, which is why I am expected to attend. Is this normal on a business trip? Is there any way I can get out of attending?

Green responds:

It's not unusual to have the option of eating with a group of co-workers every night on a business trip -- in the "hey, let's go get dinner" sense, where it would be totally fine for you to say "actually, I'm meeting up with a friend who lives here" or "I'm exhausted and going to head back to my room."

It can also be an expectation on short trips of one or two nights -- in that context, it's sometimes used to debrief the day or create getting-to-know-you-better time with non-local co-workers whom you don't normally see.

But if these are longer trips, it's pretty unusual to require or expect it every night -- especially if it's just because people sometimes talk about work. In that situation, I'd expect to see people bowing out or pleading exhaustion. Of course, sometimes no one wants to be the first one to do that, and it can be tough to pull off if you're junior or new. If that's your situation, though, I think you could still ask your manager or another co-worker whose judgment you trust whether it's OK to skip some of these. (And in doing that, you might discover it's not really mandatory.)

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