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 four questions from readers.

1. My employee is tethered to her phone

One of my employees, Robin, is a good employee, but she seems tethered to her cell phone. I've noticed her on it in small meetings and larger ones. Meetings are not my favorite place to be either, but I find it extremely rude and distracting when she does this. Having her do this in a very small meeting I was leading while she was right beside me was the last straw. I know her mother is not in great health and she's dealing with some things personally, so I'm reluctant to speak with her about this. I don't have an issue with someone checking the time or weather on their phone during a meeting, or even excusing themselves if it's an urgent call or text, but it's coming across poorly. She has even talked about going into withdrawals without her phone. Should I address this?

Green responds:

Say something! You can address it while still being sensitive to what's going on with her mother. Say something like this: "I've noticed that you've been using your phone a lot in meetings recently, both in small meetings with me and in larger ones, and it's coming across as if you're not focused on the discussions we're there to have. I know you're having a tough time with your mom's health and other things in your personal life right now, and I don't mind if you need to excuse yourself from a meeting if you get an urgent call or text, but aside from a quick check when you need to, I'd like you to stay off your phone while meeting with others. Can you agree to that?"

2. How to enforce high standards while still treating employees like adults

In the past as a manager, I was all about being strict on being on time and working a full eight hours. But you've taught me to treat people like adults and that if they are getting their work done, you shouldn't sweat it. However, one of my employees is taking advantage of this by saying he's running slightly late and showing up two hours later. Once he showed up 45 minutes late and still took an hour and a half lunch. This person's work is not always as strong as I need either.

I want to let employees manage their hours and not step in if they are getting work done, but what if it's not stellar work?

Green responds:

The key part of "if they're getting their work done, don't sweat it" is if they're getting their work done -- and the subtext of that is at a high level of quality. It's utterly reasonable -- and in fact necessary -- to say to someone who isn't performing at a stellar level, "You've been coming in late a lot recently. I need you to be here on time." That doesn't mean that you then enforce it to the minute -- five or 10 minutes late isn't a big deal in most jobs. But an hour or two is a big deal!

And certainly on a day that your employee is very late, if you then see him taking a long lunch, address that right away: "You were an hour late today and then gone for an hour and a half for lunch. I need you here more reliably than this. What's going on?" It's also reasonable to say, "The flexibility with your hours is dependent on you hitting all of your goals. Right now, you're not where I need you to be in work areas A, B, and C. Part of the problem may be that you're not putting in the time I'd expect to see. I need you here 40 hours a week -- in general, but especially while we're working to raise your performance."

3. Are executives coaches worth it?

I was recently at a professional conference where a panel of directors talked about their experiences getting to that level and the challenges they encountered once there. Not surprisingly, many talked about dealing with their own impostor syndrome issues. One mentioned her issues were so bad she found herself freezing up and unable to make even small decisions, and she worked with an executive coach to get through that.

I have been working on my own impostor issues of late. So this really caught my attention and has made me interested in executive coaching. Do you think that kind of coaching is worth it?

Green responds:

It depends heavily on the coach, and on what you want to gain from it. Some coaches focus on very practical, concrete skills (like helping you delegate better, or plan better, or stop acting like a jerk and alienating all your staff). Other coaches are more about mindset or leadership generally. Some of those are very good, and some are more touchy-feely than I think is useful to most people. On the other hand, there are people who love touchy-feely! So it depends on what you want to get out of it, but lots of people attribute working with a coach to significant improvements in their professional lives.

The keys are to get really clear about what you want and then screen rigorously for people who are good at that thing in particular. Pay attention to the person's professional background (since anyone can hang up a shingle and call themselves an executive coach), and look for someone who can speak in specifics about how they'll work with you and what outcomes you can expect. There's a lot of fluff out there. You're looking for concretes.

4. When an employee can't attend a mandatory meeting

I manage student employees. We have a mandatory scheduled meeting, and I told them that if they couldn't make it to the meeting, they couldn't work this quarter. One of my employees is active in extracurricular activities and has a prior commitment and can't make it. What should I tell her? I want her to be able to work this quarter.

Green responds:

I'd say don't schedule mandatory meetings for people who don't work for you full-time. When people aren't full-time, and especially when they're students, they have other commitments that are highly likely to interfere with this kind of thing. You're much more likely to retain the people you want to retain if you make it easy for them to attend -- which in this case might mean holding two or three sessions of the meeting, so that people have multiple times to choose from.

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