Editor's note: 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. How can I get my staff to stop socializing in front of clients?

A reader writes:

Can you suggest a few phrases I can use to redirect my team during quieter periods of time when they all get chatting about their personal lives? I work in a veterinary office, and I'd like my team of client service representatives to be a bit more professional, especially when there are clients in the waiting room.

Alison Green answers:

Rather than waiting until it's happening and addressing it in the moment (and in front of clients), and potentially having to do that multiple times, I'd talk to them about the pattern, not a particular incident -- and lay out your expectations for how you want them to operate, whether you're around or not. For instance: "I've noticed that sometimes when clients are in the waiting room, they're able to overhear personal conversations, and that can appear less than polished and professional. When clients are around, we should keep the conversation work-focused and not chat about personal lives."

After that, if it continues to happen, address it with the individual perpetrators as you would anything else in their work that you needed to correct: Remind them of the standard of behavior that you expect, ask them to operate differently, and address it with escalating seriousness if it continues after that.

2. My manager told me to take guests for dinner but not to pay for it with a corporate card

A reader writes:

I just started a few weeks ago in a new position at the same company I've been working at. Our company had two out-of-town business people in for a meeting. I was told to take them out for dinner but not to use my corporate credit card to pay for it because our department does not have approval for things such as this. I work at a Fortune 500 company, and my old department never had such a restriction.

Needless to say, the end of dinner was incredibly awkward. I couldn't afford to put this business dinner on my own personal credit card, nor did I want to start a precedent of doing so. I ended up going to the bathroom, and one of the company's guests paid for it all while I was gone. I felt embarrassed but didn't know what else to do! Any help on how to handle the situation in the future would be great!

Alison Green answers:

If this happens again, don't go to dinner knowing that you can't pay, because that will set up the awkward situation that you ended up in this time. If it happens again, get some clarity from your manager first. I'd say something like, "I feel awkward inviting them out if the company won't pay for their meals -- how do you normally handle this?"

If it turns out that she expects you personally to cover their meals, that's absolutely not OK, but I'm thinking there might be some other expectation here that you won't figure out until you talk to her. In general, when you're feeling really awkward and uncertain about something your manager asks you to do, ask. You'll often get information that will make things clearer.

3. How can I get to know people in my new office?

A reader writes:

I'm an introverted new attorney who just started working with a small engineering firm. I'm the only attorney, so I work exclusively with management. Is there an easy way of getting to know the rest of my colleagues and office norms so it isn't as awkward in the cafeteria, etc.? All of my work so far has been with law firms or in academia (i.e., places where there is a 30-page-plus manual outlining what to wear, where to go, etc.) so I don't know how a more informal office functions -- and as you might expect, most of my colleagues are middle-aged men, so it's hard to find commonalities.

Alison Green answers:

Does anyone seem especially open or friendly? Go talk to that person. Make conversation! You can even say you'd love to get to know more people in the office since your job hasn't put you in contact with any. Then repeat with the next friendliest-appearing person. And if there's no obvious choice to start with, start with the person whose office is closest to yours. It sounds boringly simple, but that's the most straightforward way to do it. Most people have had the experience of being new in an office and knowing no one and will be friendly. (And if someone isn't, assume it's about that person rather than you, and try with someone else.)

In addition to that: If there are any office social events (happy hours, cake for a birthday, etc.), go to them, even if it's not normally your thing. Also, consider the power of food; you might bring in bagels one morning or some other food-related lure.

4. Do I have to reply to recruiters' emails?

A reader writes:

Is it considered rude or inconsiderate not to reply to recruiters' emails? I'm in the legal profession and I probably get anywhere from five to 20 emails a week from recruiters looking to fill positions nationwide. I'm not currently looking to make a move, but I might in the future. Am I burning any bridges by pressing the Delete key?

Alison Green answers:

No. If you have a relationship with a recruiter already -- someone whom you've worked with in a past job search or who has helped you find candidates when you're hiring or whom you've referred candidates to -- then it's going to be more noticeable, in the "why has my contact suddenly stopped responding to me?" way. But if the emails are from strangers, it's very unlikely that they're going to remember you at all, let alone as someone who didn't answer their emails, if you want to approach them in the future. (Plus, if they did remember you, they're still not likely to refuse to work with you on principle, if you're a great fit for a search they're running.)

Recruiters send out a ton of these emails. They're used to being ignored. It's pretty normal in that field.

5. Can I keep my current company's name confidential on my résumé?

A reader writes:

I am interviewing within the same industry -- leasing. Should I put "Confidential" instead of the company's name on the résumé? How should I respond when the prospective employer asks me whom I'm working for? Can I say I would like to keep that private?

Alison Green answers:

Replacing your company's name with "Confidential" on the résumé would look weird. And if you refuse to say where you're working, a prospective employer has no way of knowing if you're even working at all. You have to list the company name, although you can certainly let interviewers know that your job search needs to be confidential for now.

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

Published on: Aug 9, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.