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 four questions from readers.

Should I make job offers by phone or email?

I lead a team and just sent an email to a candidate making a job offer. After I sent the email (my typical practice), I was curious, and I googled "email job offers," which led me to articles declaring the practice a bad idea and recommending phone calls instead. I was wondering if you agree. To me, these days, non-pre-arranged phone calls seem rarer and rarer. I can't remember the last time I called someone in a professional context without setting up a time to talk first. And emailing someone to set up a call to make an offer--well, that just seems like torture to make someone wait to hear what you have to say.

What do you think of a personal email from the hiring manager, expressing excitement and laying out the basic terms (salary, reporting structure) and offering to chat by phone to follow up if the candidate has questions or wants to talk more?

Green responds:

Phone calls are still standard for job offers for a reason. You want to be able to pitch the job and express your enthusiasm for bringing the person on board, as well as get an initial sense of their response. Plus, if you email it, you have no idea if the email was even received (or if it got lost, or if the person is away and not checking email for several days or so forth).

To be clear, you'd still follow up the phone call with a written offer so that the candidate has all the details in writing.

You're right that unscheduled phone calls are increasingly rare for a lot of people -- but they haven't disappeared entirely, particularly in business contexts, and this is one situation when they're still in common use. Alternately, you can send an email asking if they have 15 minutes to speak in the next day or two (and feel free to imply good news). 

My employee over-thanks the co-workers she's friends with

I manage a small office with 10 employees. The employees are segregated into very specific cliques, and while there are never huge issues, it is clear who is on whose team, although I have been working hard to unify the office.

One employee, Veronica, has gotten in the habit of over-thanking her friends when they do something helpful at work. For example, I asked an employee to switch lunch times one Friday to allow Veronica to attend a webinar and the employee obliged. Veronica made a point to loudly announce to the office that she would be buying lunch for that employee as a thank-you. On the one hand, that is super thoughtful, and it is nice when your co-workers appreciate your help. On the other hand, employees outside of Veronica's clique have made similar efforts to be helpful, and they receive a quick "Thanks!" This kind of thing happens regularly with the people Veronica considers her "pals" at the office.

Am I over-thinking this? I know I can't tell people whom they can buy lunch for, but I'm concerned that excessive praise for acts that are really just employees doing their job can be polarizing when it is only directed to certain people. I know it would be a way bigger issue if I, as the manager, were doing this, but is it still a problem? If so, how can I address it? Veronica is a great employee; I just don't want this behavior to further divide the office

Green responds:

As long as Veronica is thanking everyone who helps her and not treating some of them brusquely, I'd leave this alone. I get where your worry is coming from, but it's OK for her to be more effusive with the people she's personally closer to. If she were being rude to others, you'd need to address that, but if it's just that she's being excessively nice to some, I'd write that off as a personal quirk and not something you need to intervene on. (The exception would be if she's doing it in a way that really does slight someone. For example, if two co-workers did her the exact same favor in the same week and she did a public celebration of one and not the other, you could privately point out to her that the disparity probably didn't feel great and may make the people getting the short end of the stick less inclined to help her out in the future.)

The other thing that could be relevant here: Does Veronica want to move into a leadership role or otherwise take on more responsibility over time? If so, you could point out to her this kind of blatant favoritism will make it hard to promote her, because to move into a position of authority over others, she needs to seem unbiased. That's true even if she's not going for a management position; it would be hard to move her into even an informal team lead position if people don't think she'll treat them evenhandedly.

Pumping etiquette in an office with a culture of opening doors

I recently returned to the office from maternity leave and am pumping several times a day. My office is conservative, but has a largely open-door culture, and few of the offices have locks; it is customary for folks entering to knock briefly on the door (open or closed), then simply walk in without waiting for a response. Multiple times I have had colleagues knock and attempt to open the door (occasionally multiple times in a row) while I was pumping. By the time I disentangle myself from the pump, they often have walked off. But ignoring the knocks seems rude, posting signs on one's office door (particularly about something so personal) seems out of step with the office culture, and I have too many colleagues to do one-on-one conversations to address it. So far, no one has raised concerns about not being able to reach me when needed, but I would love a polite, professional way to head colleagues off without making a thing of it.

Green responds:

I'd go for the sign on your door. It doesn't need to say "Hi. I am pumping breast milk"; it could simply say, "Please do not disturb." If you think your team will wonder about it, you could give them a heads-up, but I think this is the best of all the imperfect options -- for everyone, including you. Your pumping time shouldn't be interrupted (you definitely don't need to disentangle yourself from the pump and answer the door), and it's more courteous to simply let folks know you're unavailable than to have them knocking and waiting around and unsure.

What do I say to networking contacts whom I don't have much connection with?

I unintentionally did some informal networking on Twitter, and got referrals for a couple of people to reach out to on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, I don't think I'm really qualified to work with either of them. I hate to let potential connections go to waste, or disregard someone who has been generous enough to try to help me network. But I also hate to show up on someone's doorstep with no real qualifications like I expect a huge favor just because I was referred by someone they know.

The only thing I can think of to do is to message them on LinkedIn acknowledging that I don't think I'm currently qualified to work with them and ask whether they had a minute to share what steps I might take in order to become qualified. Would that be OK? Is there a better way to make use of the connections without sounding ridiculous or presumptuous

Green responds:

Is that stuff you genuinely want to know and would be excited to connect about? And is there no other obvious way of getting that information? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then yeah, you can do that. But if the answer to either question is no and you'd just be asking those things because you feel like you should make use of the connection somehow, don't do that -- that will probably show and it will be annoying to the contacts. In that case, I'd spend more time thinking about what exactly you really want from these people (and can realistically expect). It's OK if it's just "Jane Smith suggested I contact you because X. I realize that my background isn't quite what you need for the roles you're trying to fill, but I'd love to connect on LinkedIn since I'm hoping to do Y in the future." (Note that's not asking them for their time; don't ask for that unless you can clearly explain why you want it.)

Also, sometimes contacts refer you to people who just aren't going to make sense for you to network with. It's okay to decide that happened here, if that's actually the case. (If that's true, and if the person who referred you is more than a casual Twitter acquaintance, go back and explain that so they're not wondering why you never acted on their suggestion. That will also give them the opening to say, "No, actually, I was thinking she'd be a great person to do X for you," and maybe X is something you hadn't thought about.)

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