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. Should I conduct exit interviews?

​My assistant is leaving at the end of the month. I've always heard you should lead an exit interview with anyone who quits. Is an exit interview still the norm if the employee was part-time? He was at our organization 20 hours a week for one year. If I should lead an exit interview, can you please let me know what types of questions should be included?

Green responds:

It's really up to you. Some employers do them and some don't. There's no point in doing them unless you're genuinely interested in the information you'll receive and open to acting on it in some way; don't do it just to go through the motions because that will create cynicism in your other employees. And of course, exit interviews shouldn't take the place of checking in with people regularly while they're still employees (and if you're only going to do one or the other, do that!), but sometimes you get more candor from people when they're leaving.

Rather than doing it yourself, it can make sense to have someone like HR do it, since people might not feel as comfortable sharing feedback directly with you (especially if the feedback is about you).

Good questions to ask: What could we do to make this job work even better? What should your manager do differently? How comfortable were you approaching your manager with a concern? What do you wish you knew when you first started working here? What do you wish you could tell the next person in this role? What could we have done, if anything, to convince you to stay?

2. I heard rumors about an employee's professionalism

I recently inherited a team that includes several employees who do frequent international travel. One team member, Bob, does not currently travel but has frequently requested the ability to do so. 

I asked another employee (who had previously been responsible for managing everyone's travel) if she knew why Bob had not been allowed any trips, and she said that after Bob had been hired, several colleagues in the field had shared negative stories about his behavior from when he had traveled for a previous institution. Another colleague in the field (who I trust completely) who worked at Bob's previous institution told me that he did not have a good reputation among his former colleagues and boss. People believed he was not responsible with the institution's time or money when he was on the road, and that he abused the freedom and autonomy of the position.

Bob has asked several times why he can't pick up trips when we are searching for someone to cover. I generally believe in being honest with people whenever possible so my instinct is to explain that I have received negative feedback about his professionalism on the road. There are other issues I am managing with this employee as well, and he may not have this job for much longer. But I would like to be honest and help him grow for as long as I am working with him. How should I handle this?

Green responds:

They way this was managed before you came on the scene is a bit odd -- both that Bob has been penalized for issues people heard he had at a previous job but which no one has seen at this job, and that no one has talked to him about it, especially when he's apparently asked directly for an explanation.

I think you've either got to tell him the reason he hasn't been allowed to travel (presumably without outing your sources) or you need to let him travel if that would normally be part of his job. If he doesn't behave appropriately on the travel, then you'd address that right away. And that's one of the strangest parts of this: The way it's been handled before you came on board seems to indicate that your team can't possibly let Bob on the road because you'd have no recourse if he doesn't conduct himself well. But of course you'd have recourse! You can lay out the rules he needs to follow, hold him to those rules, and address it if he doesn't meet them -- just like you would with any other issue with his work or behavior. And if the concerns about his behavior are too serious to risk it, that's serious enough to warrant an honest conversation with him. Either way, you should talk with him about what's going on.

3. Can we charge a new hire who flaked for the cost of her training?

We hired an employee who was being trained by the person who was leaving. We trained her for a week, then she didn't show up and had excuse after excuse for a week while we held her job. We now have no employee or anyone to train the new one. She showed up and wanted her check immediately. Is there any way we can charge her for her free training and wasting our time along with the person's salary we paid to train her?

Green responds:

Nope, you cannot. That would be illegal. You're required by law to pay her for the time she spent working for you, even though it was just training time. It's frustrating when something like this happens, but you're better off seeing the occasional flaky new hire as just part of the cost of doing business.

4. Responding to questions about an employee who's on maternity leave

I have a team member who is out on parental leave. Other members of the team and I have taken over for her ongoing work, which includes a lot of correspondence with individuals outside our organization (clients and vendors) who know she's on maternity leave. How should I respond when some of these people ask questions such as "How is Mary doing?" or "Did Mary have the baby yet?" or "When is Mary returning?" I am sure these questions are coming from a good place of genuine concern, but I don't want to respond with private information about my employee and we do not yet have a specific return date. Even when I respond with "Mary is still out on leave," I sometimes get follow-up with more specific questions about how she is doing. How to you recommend responding to these sorts of inquiries?

Green responds:

People almost certainly aren't expecting details ("her episiotomy stitches are giving her a lot of trouble!"); they're generally just looking to hear she's doing well. So be positive but vague -- "Last I heard, she's doing well." You could add, "We're trying not to bother her on leave, but we're looking forward to seeing the baby at some point!"
 

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