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. My employee gets drunk on business trips

I need to know the proper way to handle the fact that one of our employees drinks at night while on the road with the crew. Our company pays for the hotel rooms and the guys bunk two to a room. We are getting complaints that one of the guys drinks every night and becomes loud and belligerent, and it is difficult for the other employees to share a room with him.

Green responds:

"Bob, I'm getting reports that when you drink in the evenings on business trips, you're loud and disruptive when you come back to the hotel. What's going on?"

.... Followed by, "When you're on company-paid travel and sharing space with other employees, we need you to be considerate and respectful of your colleagues. You're an adult and I'm not going to police your drinking, but I have an obligation to ensure that other employees aren't impacted by it. That means that if I get further reports of this, we will need to ____." (Fill in with whatever you deem appropriate consequences: pull him off the road, let him go, whatever it might be.)

And then make sure you follow up with his co-workers proactively, so that if this continues to be a problem, you'll know about it and can address it promptly.

2. My job offer was rescinded -- after I quit my current job

My husband was offered a job and accepted it. Well, today he received an email that said "Please see attachment" from his would-be new employer. He opened the attachment and it was a letter rescinding the offer. No reason why, no call from the company, nothing. He called the hiring manager, and she said that she "isn't at liberty to say" why they are rescinding the offer. Meanwhile, he has already put in his two weeks' notice at his current job. He asked them if he could stay and they said it is too late. They already told people he was leaving and started to rehire. So now he is out of both jobs.

Is there anything he can do? He was supposed to get a $1,000 sign-on bonus. Could he still get that, seeing that he did sign on? If so, how would we even go about doing so?

Green responds:

That's horrible. There are very rare situations where an employer needs to rescind a job offer, but if that happens, they owe you a clear explanation, a massive apology, and ideally severance payments -- not an appallingly cold "please see attachment" email.

That said, rescinding a job offer is generally legal unless the employer operated with deliberate fraudulent intent. There is a legal concept called "detrimental reliance," where your husband could argue that he relied on this offer to his detriment ... but courts generally haven't sided with those claims (partly because since employment is usually at-will, he could have been fired on his first day without legal recourse anyway).

But he can spell out to the employer exactly the situation they put him in and ask for some sort of restitution and see what happens. For example: "I resigned my job on your word that I had a job with you. I'm now unemployed as a result, unable to get my old job back, and facing potentially months without income while I look for a new position. What can you do to make this right?" An employer with even a bit of decency should be willing to pay him severance or some other kind of settlement (which still won't make him whole but is better than nothing). If that doesn't work, he may have better luck if a lawyer contacts them to try to negotiate on his behalf.

3. An employee clique is causing problems

I'm a new manager who's been internally promoted and taken over a team of 13 people, divided into two main cliques. There's a group of the tenured employees and a group of the new employees, and they can't seem to manage to intermingle.

In my weekly one-on-ones, the new employees mention they feel as though they're stepping on the tenured employees' toes. One even referred to the workplace environment as "pledging into a sorority." The more tenured employees have negative attitudes about new processes that are rolled out, which affects the team's momentum and growth. They question decisions made by leadership without presenting an alternate solution and have a sense of entitlement that's caused a toxic environment for others. This is starting to be noticed by other employees outside my department and affect our ability to hit goals, and I'm starting to feel more like a therapist than a manager.

I've arranged buddy systems, team outings, and switched up seats at lunches, but nobody is warming up. Any suggestions on how to squash this and make a cohesive team?

Green responds:

You're seeing this as a social issue (and trying to solve it with social overtures), but it's not. It's not about the longer-term employees needing to mingle with the newer employees; it's about specific behaviors they're displaying that are impacting your team's work results -- resisting new processes and generally naysaying and creating a negative environment. That's the part of this that you need to address, and you can't do it through social engineering (buddy systems, outings, and switching seats). That's like trying to solve a sore throat by putting a cast on your knee.

Instead, you need to talk with the problem employees individually about the behaviors they're displaying that are problematic, clearly tell them what you need to see from them instead, and then set and enforce consequences if the problems continue. You should be treating this like any other performance issue that impacts the work (meaning you may need to let people go if they don't respond to clear and specific warnings about what needs to change).

4. Are employee referrals effective?

Are employee referrals effective? Do most companies these days take them seriously? If I apply to a job and have an employee referral from someone who works at the company, does that help my chances, or does it not really matter much? If I don't hear back in a certain time frame, should I assume they won't be getting back to me?

Green responds:

It depends on the type of the referral. There are three types, in order of least effective to most effective: (1) the "this is my brother-in-law's neighbor, and I don't really know him but he asked me to forward his résumé​" referral, (2) the "I know Jane socially and think she's smart and driven but have never worked with her" referral, and (3) the "I used to work with Jane and she was awesome and I can personally vouch for her work" referral. The first is unlikely to give you a significant advantage, whereas the third carries a lot of weight (as long as the person doing the referring is known to do good work themselves and to have good judgment). The middle one will usually at least get you looked at.

If you're in the first category, I'd treat it as basically the same as any other job application (meaning that you might hear back and you might not). If you're in the second or third category and you don't hear anything after a few weeks, you could say to your referrer, "I wanted to let you know that I haven't heard anything back from your company, but thank you for referring me nonetheless!" It's possible that that will nudge them to follow up on your behalf -- but that's solely in their court. On your end of things, your best bet is to justmove on mentally and let it be a pleasant surprise if you do get contacted.

5. I don't want to share a spreadsheet that I created on my own initiative

I have been at my job for over one year now, processing requests for an escrow company. When I started, there wasn't anything in place to enable me to perform my job. I documented every request and made notes and compiled the information into a spreadsheet at home on my own time. The spreadsheet now contains more than 2,000 entries and is a valuable tool to me, and I continue to update it on a daily basis.

I have been asked by my boss to put this document on the shared drive to help others when needed. I am the only one doing this particular task, and in the past when others were in this position, no one took the initiative to create anything, nor was it required as part of my job description. Since I created this document on my own time, I do not feel that I have to share this information, as I did it of my own volition to perform at my own job. Can I request compensation for this before I consider relinquishing this? Or what is the best way to handle this?

Green responds:

No. It doesn't matter that you did it on your own initiative; it's still work that you performed as part of your job, and your employer reasonably considers it such. (Although if you're non-exempt, they need to pay you for the time you spent creating it. If you're exempt, they do not.) If you resist sharing it when requested, it's going to look really, really bad; there's no real way you can pull that off without torpedoing your reputation.

The fact that you came up with the idea and put extra work into making it happen is the kind of thing that makes you a good employee, and you can bring it up at evaluation and raise time. But if you just refuse to share it, it'll go from an advantage to a strong disadvantage.

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

Published on: Apr 16, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.