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 keeps interrupting me

We hired a new member of our team almost a year ago now, and her work product is fantastic. Unfortunately, she is constantly interrupting and correcting me, even when she isn't correct about her correction. I've tried giving her the floor when that happens and just ignoring it, and also tried just continuing my thought as though she didn't ignore me, but it's just not stopping. Is it reasonable to bring it up with her in private? If so, how would you phrase it? 

Green responds:

Yes, this is absolutely something you should raise!  From now on when she  interrupts you, call it out. For example:
* "Actually, please hang on -- I wasn't done."
* "Please let me finish."
* "Please wait, I was still talking. As I was saying..."


It's possible that a few times of this will solve the problem. But if it doesn't, then after one of those interruptions I'd say, "I'm not sure if you realize, but you interrupt me a lot. Please let me finish my thought before you jump in."

2. Grieving employee won't come back full-time

I'm a manager in a state institution of higher education. One of my employees tragically lost her husband very suddenly, and about five years before she was set to retire. We are very empathetic to her circumstance and despite some "cut and dry" rules around bereavement, we have allowed her three weeks off and then 11 weeks where she only worked half her scheduled week, utilizing vacation and personal time for the difference.

We have advised her she will need to return to her regularly scheduled full time hours in May, but she is refusing to work full-time again. Working for a state agency, if you give up a full-time role, there is no guarantee you will ever get it back, nor can you hire another part-time person to compensate. Since neither of those are an option and we are a small office, I feel like there is no other option but to write her up for unauthorized absences and eventually terminate her. This feels horrible, given her circumstance. I've tried to reason with her, I've offered FMLA if she had documentation showing she needed treatment for mental health, but she is just outwardly refusing to help herself. Any advice?

Green responds:

What about just sitting down with her and explaining that? You could say, "I really appreciate you being candid with me on where you're at with this. I've tried to figure out if there's any way that we could make part-time work, because I value you and want to keep you, but we really do need the role to be a full-time one. If you're sure you don't want to do that -- and I definitely understand if you don't, as much I want you to stay on -- we need to figure out a transition so that we can hire a full-timer. I'm sorry that I'm not able to make part-time work; I would if I could."

If she says she won't return to full-time work but isn't  resigning either, then you say, "I understand. Given the circumstances, will you work with me on making this a resignation so that we can do this in a way that's as easy as possible on you? I don't want to go down the path of framing this as this unauthorized a bsences, because that doesn't reflect the real situation. What makes the most sense to you?" If she still holds firm at that point, then talk to HR to see if there's a way to move her out of the role without going the unauthorized absences/firing route. There should be.

3. Should I contact a fired employee to see how she's doing?

I am in the middle of a very difficult dismissal of a probationary employee who just wasn't able to perform her job at the level we needed. She tried really hard and I liked her, which is why this is so difficult. We've done performance reviews and she knows it's coming. She is probationary, so the dismissal is somewhat easier from a procedural standpoint and she's eligible for rehire, etc.

After our meeting where she's officially dismissed, is it okay to follow up with her via text to check how she's doing or is it kinder to leave her alone? I don't want to appear that I don't care, but don't want to rub salt in a wound either.

Green responds:

I'd leave her alone. It's just too likely to sting, and it's really not your role to do that. It's possible that she'd appreciate it, but it's at least as likely that she wouldn't. She's not likely to be annoyed that you don't, but there's a good chance it will be salt in the wound if you do.

Look at it this way: You do have a way to support and help her, and it's something that you alone are uniquely positioned to do -- and that's making sure that you handle her dismissal and the process leading up to it as kindly and as fairly as possible. Other people can play different roles in supporting her, but this is the part that's yours. Focus on doing that well, and limit your role to that.

4. Can I offer to volunteer if a job offer doesn't work out?

I recently applied for a position that would be a step back in my career, but which still appeals to me for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons--working part-time--is something that I can only swing financially if my spouse's employment situation changes. Since you can never know what's going to happen, I applied anyway and have now been invited for an interview. This is proceeding faster than my spouse's opportunities, so although I'm going to interview, I think it's likely I will have to turn down the position if it's offered.

If they do offer me the job and I can't take it, or if they don't offer me the job but the interviewer and I had good rapport, is there any graceful/non-weird way to offer my services as a volunteer instead? I have a software certification that I think they will have trouble finding in other candidates, and I wouldn't mind helping with that aspect in an unpaid volunteer capacity because I'd like to be involved with the organization. I would even be interested in training their new employee for free if they can't find someone else with the technical knowledge they want. It's a nonprofit, so volunteering itself is not a strange thing. However, I don't want to come across as non-genuine in my initial interest in the job (I would love to take it, I just might not be able to), and I don't want to make the person they do hire feel weird or threatened.

Green responds:

It would be fine to offer that. They may or may not take you up on it, but there's nothing wrong with offering. If they do turn you down, it might be because they don't have the systems in place to manage volunteers well (it takes more time and energy than people tend to think) or because they're wary of relying on volunteer help for this (volunteers are notorious for not following through, and there are some projects where it's not worth the risk). But it's still reasonable to suggest it, and they might say yes.

It won't come across as if you weren't genuine about your original interest in the job. Very few, if any, people apply for and then turn down paid jobs as a strategy for sneaking into a volunteer position instead.

5. My references were contacted before I was even interviewed

I was offered an in-person interview three weeks from now. I normally notify my references right before interviewing. However, the day after I agreed to the interview, one of my references told me she had already been contacted by my potential employer for a reference check. Are there reasons that employers check references before interviews? Is this typical practice? I was under the impression they usually do this after the interview.

Green responds:

It's uncommon but not unheard of. But it's a weird and inefficient practice; since most people who get interviewed don't end up becoming finalists, it wastes a huge amount of time to contact references before even talking with the candidate and establishing some real interest in moving the person forward in the process.

The exception to this if if the hiring manager knows your reference personally. In that case, it's pretty normal to reach out informally before an interview. (In that case, it's generally a time saver, because getting the opinion of someone whose judgment you know and trust and who you're especially confident will be candid with you can help you make the right decision about whether or not to interview the candidate in the first place.)

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