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 contact wants to charge me for a networking meeting

Is it normal for someone to charge a client for a networking meeting? I'm in the process of looking for a new job and setting up informational interviews with professionals in my field. I emailed back and forth with one woman trying to set a time to meet, but kept getting responses from her that we needed to reschedule.

As a compromise, we agreed that I should email her my questions. I sent some typical questions I would ask anyone I meet for an info interview (volunteer opportunities, organizations to recommend, other people I should connect with). In response, I received an email from her saying that once again we would have to reschedule. In addition, she stated that because of her limited time, the only way for her to fit these kind of conversations in would be to charge for them.

Am I overreacting in thinking she should have been more up front about this? I understand that time and information are valuable, but this is the first time I've encountered this request in (what I thought) was a more informal setting.

Green responds:

No, it's not normal to charge for networking meetings! Some consultants do charge to spend some time picking their brains, but rarely for the kind of thing you're doing -- and when it is the case, it's stated up front; it shouldn't come out only after multiple rescheduled plans to meet. I suspect that she doesn't actually normally charge for this (which is why she didn't mention it earlier), but that she mentioned it in a moment of frustration from feeling stretched too thin.

But that frustration isn't your fault; if she didn't want to meet, she should have just told you that originally, or backed out apologetically once she did realize it. Announcing at this stage that oh, by the way, she'd be charging you for a meeting you quite reasonably thought was free is ridiculous.

2. My office has a wall of shame for people who are late or out sick

My workplace has recently instituted a "wall of shame," where the names of everyone who called in sick or was tardy are posted above the computer where employees clock in. The rumor mill has it that this is supposed to help us with our "accountability," although no announcement has been made on the matter -- it just appeared one day. My managers have some problems, but are generally pretty reasonable people when I approach them. How can I suggest this public shaming is a terrible idea without coming across like a whiner? (If it makes a difference in your answer, I'm never late myself.)

Green responds:

A wall of shame is an awful idea on its own, but including people who call in sick? What exactly are they being shamed for? Being sick?

Since no one has announced or explained it, why not ask about it? As in, "Can you explain what this list is about?" And then if it is indeed what it sounds like, ask, "Why are people being listed there for being sick?" ... which should lead you to, "Is it possible to rethink whether this is the right approach? It signals that every unplanned absence or lateness is an incident of wrongdoing, when that's not the case. If someone has reliability problems, I'd hope it would be taken up with them directly, rather than everyone feeling that any instance is considered a problem."

3. My new job doesn't give me any work

I just started this new job. It's my first real job since graduating from college. Up until now, I had been interning for about a year. When I went in for the interview, I was told they would be hiring two assistants. I started first, and things were going great. I had no problem with the training and catching on to the job. I get along well with the other assistant, and it's nice to have someone to balance the workload.

However, in recent weeks, I have noticed that everyone comes to the other assistant when they want something done. I usually find myself feeling a little jealous, which is silly since I get along well with my co-workers. One of my bosses even took me out for lunch and has been really kind about explaining the business and job to me. I'm just really puzzled about why they never really come to me when they need something done. It kind of makes me feel insecure about my work. Do you think I should ask my manager about it or let it go?

Green responds:

First, I wonder if you can observe your co-worker and figure out any differences in her approach that might be resulting in this. Does she appear more eager to take on new work than you? Does she complete it faster or more accurately? Is she more approachable in general? Is she friendlier with people assigning the work? There might be something in her approach that you can adapt yourself.

But, failing that, yes, it's worth talking with your manager about what you've observed and asking if she has any insight into what might be going on. If there's a quality issue with your work, or if you're inadvertently discouraging people from giving it to you, that's something you want to know.

4. Persuading a company to let me work long distance

I applied to a job based at the other side of the country. The job posting specified that for the right candidate, the company would be willing to have someone work long distance, which is why I applied. During my second interview, they asked if I'd be willing to relocate to their city. I explained that I'd rather stay put but wouldn't want this to affect their final decision. They explained that they do prefer having someone in their offices.

I've moved around all over the world for the past 10 years and finally am ready to have a base, in my current city. How do I make them understand this? Can I use the company's original job ad as a negotiation tool?

Green responds:

Well, you can't really "make" them understand it. You can explain where you're coming from and see if they're willing to hire you in your current location, and you can explain what you'd do to make a long-distance employment work smoothly with a minimum of inconvenience for them. From there, it's up to them to decide if it's worth it to them or not. And keep in mind that while they might be willing to have a telecommuter in very specific circumstances, that can mean that the bar is much higher for a telecommuting candidate (i.e., they'd let a perfect unicorn of a candidate telecommute, but otherwise they might want to hire locally).

Also, it's not necessarily in your best interests to push them into allowing it if they're not comfortable with it on their own, because that increases the chances that they'll decide down the road that the arrangement isn't right for them.

5. An employer wants to know how much my other offers are

Should my wife, who is graduating with a masters in nursing, disclose details on the offers she has received to the company she really wants to work for? She interviewed and received offers at two companies. She now has an upcoming meeting with a third company, where the hiring manager indicated that it will give her an offer. The hiring manager knows that she's received offers from the other two companies, and asked her if she could share what the two other companies were offering, so that "they would know whether they are in the same ballpark." My wife likes this third company the best, so she doesn't want to alienate it by refusing to disclose the other two offers.

Green responds:

She can say: "I feel uncomfortable sharing other companies' specific offers, but I'm looking for a range of around $X." After all, this isn't an auction where the highest bidder gets her (or if it is, she at least shouldn't imply that).

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