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 three questions from readers.

1. My employee won't stop pushing for a job she's not qualified for

An employee I manage, Elizabeth, wants a job that's open on another team. She has no experience and doesn't have the education or certification required for it. If she were given the job, it would be like hiring a person who never went to law school, never passed the bar exam, and never set foot in a law firm to be a lawyer. HR explained to her why she wouldn't be considered, but she has responded that she disagrees and asked to be reconsidered. She thinks showing initiative and being a quick learner is enough when it isn't. Besides an internship, this is her first job.

I've tried explaining to Elizabeth why she can't have the job, but she still wants it and is arguing her case to anyone who will listen. It may seem obvious, but I am out of ideas.

Green responds:

"This job requires XYZ qualifications. We're not able to consider candidates who don't meet those requirements because they're essential to performing the work well, and that's not something that will change. Continuing to raise this it's becoming a distraction from our work. We can't continue to discuss this, and I need to know you understand that."

If she pushes back, say this: "Continuing to push after you've been told this isn't a possibility is raising concerns for me about your judgment. This isn't something we can continue to spend time on. If I hear that you've continue to approach people about the job after this conversation, I'll consider that a pretty serious problem."

Also, how's her work and her judgment aside from this? This behavior is odd enough that I suspect this isn't the only sign of trouble with her, and you might need to take on any other issues with her more head-on as well.

2. I think I hurt my assistant's feelings

My assistant has been working with me for almost a year and things have been great. We hit a bit of a snag this week, and I could use some advice.

She loves birthdays. I got her a card and a gift, since obviously she cares a lot about her birthday and if it's important to her, I want to recognize that. 

I, on the other hand, don't particularly care about birthdays. I dislike being the center of attention, and it simply isn't common in our office to celebrate birthdays in any way. My assistant somehow found out it was my birthday. When I was in a meeting, she decorated my office -- streamers, balloons, the whole nine yards. I was surprised and, frankly, not particularly enthusiastic about it. I don't think I did a very good job pretending to be excited. I said thank you, but when we were chatting I said I wasn't really into celebrating my birthday. I left the decorations up, although she took down some of them on her own.

I think I hurt her feelings. I didn't mean to, but she's been super quiet ever since. It was a sweet idea and a lovely gesture from her, but just not right for me or for my office. I asked if everything was OK and she said yes, but I don't think it is. What do I do?

Green responds:

Yes, it sounds like she didn't read the office -- or you -- well. But now she feels dejected or unappreciated, and maybe even embarrassed.

I'm a fan of addressing issues head-on, so I'd just ask her about it: "You seem pretty down lately -- is everything OK?" And depending on her answer, you could follow it up with, "I might be off-base with this, but I wonder if I didn't convey how much I appreciate you thinking of me on my birthday. While I'm not one for a lot of attention on my birthday, you had no way of knowing that before now. And it was thoughtful of you to go out of your way for me. You're a great assistant, and I'd never want you to feel like I wasn't recognizing you and your work, and how thoughtful you are."

Also, if she's someone who would be delighted with, say, flowers from you or another small token of appreciation, this might be a good time to do that. (Not as a thank-you for the birthday stuff -- you don't want to reinforce that -- but as a tangible mark of appreciation for her in general.) Not everyone wants that stuff, but if she's someone who likes it, it might be well timed.

3. I cried on a call with a client

I had a conference call scheduled with my client team for testing their new solution. The first meeting was a disaster because the system was down. Then, I had to reschedule the second meeting because they didn't return materials to me soon enough. Finally, this morning I was ready for them, except I was in a car accident and didn't have my cell phone with me to contact anyone. I finally got home and texted a co-worker, who reached out to said client and told them I would be ready in 15 minutes, which was an entire hour late.

I thought I was fine to hold the call. But during the call I said something I had intended to be reassuring, yet since I was off my game it apparently didn't come off that way and the client got pretty upset. Between the fact that I'd worked until 10 p.m. the night before because of their delay and that I felt guilty for being late and my stressful morning, I lost it and I began crying. I was unable to hide it, but managed to pull it together pretty quickly.

I of course apologized in the moment and again later in the day when we met again. They also knew the circumstances of my tardiness. Should I address it again, or will that seem overboard? I filled in the project manager on the account and suggested she may want to call her counterpart on the clients team to reassure him.

Green responds:

Don't address it again; it'll feel like too much. You apologized in the moment and again later, and now it is dealt with. If you keep bringing it up, it's likely to make it into a bigger deal and possibly will make them feel awkward. They knew you'd been in a car accident; you're human and humans get rattled by that stuff. But even without that context, sometimes people just mess up. You addressed it and have moved forward. Just make a point of being super on top of stuff with them for the next couple of weeks, and it'll be behind you.

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