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. Should a job offer be "take it or leave it"?

I received a job offer from a company that I had been interviewing with over the course of almost four months. It's a multinational firm, and the role would require me to move to a different country.

Its initial offer was lower than my current salary, which I expected because the country has lower average wages than the U.S. However, the offer did not include any relocation assistance and the core benefits were the legal minimum for the market.

I tried negotiating a higher base salary, asking if the company could meet in the middle. I had researched the position in that market and felt it was a reasonable request. They replied that their initial offer was good, and that they could not go up because the salary band for the position was restricted. They also said that they don't provide relocation assistance.

So I asked if there were ways to get creative about benefits, such as a signing bonus or another week of paid vacation. They have refused to negotiate any part of the package. On my latest call with the company's recruiter, he told me it was "take it or leave it." Negotiating salary is completely normal in the country where this job is located, so I'm surprised by the company's lack of flexibility.

I want to make this work, but I also don't want to make a ton of concessions when they refuse to flex. Do companies frequently use "take it or leave it" as a negotiating tactic to get candidates to cave?

Green responds:

Some companies make what they feel is their best offer and truly mean it when they say it's not negotiable. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with doing that, as long as they're clear about it and as long as they're willing to lose candidates over it (which they presumably are, pretty much by definition).

It's not necessarily a tactic to get candidates to cave. Plenty of people do walk away from offers that aren't right for them, and a company that won't negotiate knows that may happen.

They sound like they're being pretty straightforward with you: This is the offer, this is all they're willing to offer, and now it's up to you to decide if it works for you.

We'll probably see more of this as companies increasingly work to ensure their salary structures are equitable and consistent across similar roles, in order to avoid paying people differently for doing the same work at the same level simply because one person negotiated better (something that tends to result in lower salaries for women and people of color).

2. My colleague feels excluded by my friendship with our boss

The company I work for is about 400 employees, and the department I work for is a total of three (me, my boss, and my co-worker). My boss and I are really good friends. We hang out after work and on the weekends. We even to go to lunch on occasion during the workday. 

My co-worker is upset because I am so close with the boss. This is not the first time she has become upset about this, and our boss has talked to her about this before.

Isn't our lunchtime our personal time, and if we don't want to invite people, we shouldn't have to or feel guilty about it? What is your opinion on it? We do offer to bring her back something all the time.

Green responds:

For you, yes, your lunchtime is your personal time and you can do what you want with it.

Your boss, though, is really in the wrong here. Managers are held to a higher standard and have a professional obligation not to do things that create the appearance of favoritism. Your co-worker is no doubt miserable working in a three-person department where her other co-worker is close friends with the boss.

Your boss is being a bad manager to your co-worker and possibly a bad manager to you (since it's likely that her outside-of-work friendship with you compromises her ability to give you critical feedback and objectively assess your performance), and is acting in her own interests rather than the interests of the company that's paying her. And she's dug her heels in even after her employee explained how upsetting this is.

I'm booing her loudly over here.

3. Should we let employees accept freelance work that comes through work connections?

As the head of a nonprofit, I'm struggling with creating a freelancing policy that is fair to employees and fair to the organization. Plenty of people do freelance work while working full time. But where should an organization draw the line when it comes to employees taking freelance contracts with people they meet through their full-time job for work that is similar to what they are paid to do full time by their employer?

For example, our program director's primary responsibility is to organize an annual conference. One of the conference sponsors is an organization that also produces an annual conference. They asked the program director if they could contract her to help them produce their conference.

I'm toying with the idea of creating a policy that allows her to say yes, but runs the contract through our organization (treating it as earned revenue for our organization) and she can perform the work during her full-time hours. Or, if she doesn't have time within her work hours, she can take the contract but a percentage goes back to our organization since she is drawing on a connection made through us and applying skills she has developed through her job.

Green responds:

Just let people take the freelance work as long as it doesn't create a conflict of interest. Don't ask them to run it through your organization if it's not work that your organization would normally be taking on (and if it is work you'd normally take on, that generally would be a conflict of interest and should be prohibited anyway). And don't ask them to provide a percentage of their fee to the organization -- that would really be overstepping.

You're putting a lot of weight on the fact that they're getting these opportunities because of the work they do for you. But they also probably get them because they're good at what they do and people want to work with them. Making them turn over part of their wages is going to anger people, make them not want to take on freelance work at all, and possibly incentivize them to go and pursue those other opportunities full time at some point.

Write a good conflict of interest policy, and then let people do what they want as long as they don't violate it.

4. When a chronic illness makes you throw up at work

I have chronic health issues related to celiac disease that make it difficult for me to hold down food sometimes. I manage them to the best of my ability, and my company is incredibly understanding. My co-workers know as much information as is necessary. However, I occasionally will get sick while I am at work. This is not a problem at my office, since we have a private bathroom.

However, we occasionally have to use office space from a local corporation if we need more room. This corporation has a much more rigid culture, and I do not know any of the employees. They also have a communal bathroom. How should I handle it if one of their employees has questions or awkwardly stares? I don't want to draw attention to myself unnecessarily, and I do not want to do anything to harm our relationship with this generous partner.

Green responds:

If someone else is in the bathroom while you're getting sick, I'd just say (as cheerfully as you can muster, given the circumstances), "Chronic health condition -- nothing to worry about!" or "Chronic health condition -- I've got it under control!"

People will generally wonder if they need to come to your assistance in some way (or worry that it's an eating disorder or something else that people tend to speculate on in an unhelpful way), and just briskly reassuring them with a small amount of info should take care of that.

5. Applying for a job with someone who fired me four years ago

In the beginning of my career, I worked for the editorial director of a website. I was much more inexperienced than we both thought I was; I dropped the ball on a couple of important assignments because I simply did not know what to do. This led me to being fired from the job.

Fast-forward four years. I have gained much more experience and have a lot of accomplishments under my belt. My old boss is at a new company that is hiring. I would love to be considered for a job at that company, a role that I am qualified for in skills and experience, so I was thinking of sending her an email of interest.

Even though she fired me, we ended things on a cordial note, which makes me think that I can reach out to her again. Do you think it is too soon, or is it water under the bridge and we can move forward?

Green responds:

Well ... I'd be pretty hesitant to hire someone who I'd fired four years ago for dropping balls. That's not because I think it's impossible that they've learned and grown since then, because of course that happens all the time; rather, it's that it's a risk, and it would be tough to feel excited about hiring someone when the problems were significant enough previously that I had to fire them.

That doesn't mean that she'll feel the same, though. And I don't think you have a ton to lose by just applying and seeing what happens. If she's the hiring manager for the new job, send her a note telling her why you think you'd excel at the role and saying that you of course understand if she doesn't think it's the right fit. If she isn't, I might just apply on your own and not reach out to her (since any recommendation she makes to the hiring manager will be impacted by the fact that she'll almost certainly need to mention what happened previously, and that's likely to hurt more than help).

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