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It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I’m the interim manager while my boss is out — can I make a play for the job?

I work with a small team of people who historically have only had a team lead. About eight months ago, we hired a true manager for our team for the first time. He was okay. He recently (unexpectedly) left for three months of FMLA leave and I was asked to step into his role with no warning. So far, I’ve been really enjoying the challenge and I think it’s been going really, really well. I’ve had feedback from above and below me that I’m doing a much better job than him and I feel like I have a great rapport with all of the team, and that we’re working really well together. We also just hired a few people who I’m orienting right now, which is also going well.

He’s due back in a month. We don’t know 100% that he is coming back, but my understanding of FMLA is that you are legally required to offer the job back if they return. However, he’s been here less than a year so I’m not even sure true FMLA rules apply yet.

Regardless, this brings me to my question — should I see how this plays out or should I make the case to my boss that I should stay in this role even if my old manager returns? I truly believe it would be better for the team and department. But is that even ethical? Am I being selfish? There’s not a similar leadership role I could move to, so it would probably be this or eventually leave. I may or may not have a say in this, but I’m wondering if I should make my case to my boss or keep my mouth shut and see what happens.

If this is FMLA leave, your company is required to hold your manager’s job for him, even if they find someone they think could do it better. FMLA protection only covers people who have worked at a company for a year, so that may not be in play. But if they’re calling it FMLA, they might have their own internal eligibility rules that are less restrictive than the government’s.

Regardless of all that, though, you don’t want to seem like you’re making a play for someone’s job while they’re dealing with serious illness or a family member’s health crisis. That’s the kind of thing that can harm your reputation, follow you around for a long time, and affect how much people trust you. It will also make it harder for you to manage effectively in the long term.

What you can do, though, is to say that you’re very interested in the job should it be open at some point. That’s as explicit as I’d be. If they’re seeing significant improvements under you, they’ll get the point — and from there it’s up to them.

2. Using sick days to get work done at home

At both my current and previous jobs, my company has had the following bad combination: (1) detailed work that needs to get done on a tight deadline, (2) an open office where people interrupt you all day long, and (3) absolutely no working remotely despite pleas from employees.

At my last job, my boss openly acknowledged that he would sometimes use sick leave to stay home and knock out whatever tight-deadline project he was working on. I’ve continued to do this at my new job. I’m lucky because I get enough sick leave that I usually have plenty left over at the end of the year, and it doesn’t pay out so I’m not really “losing” anything by doing this. It does annoy me that this could come back to bite me some day if I had an extended illness — but that possibility seems remote compared to the immediate need. It also involves misleading my boss, which feels wrong. Where do you fall on this practice?

I don’t think you should be using sick leave to work at home. First, as you point out, you might need it for actual sickness at some point — and if you do, you’re not going to be happy that you used it doing work for your company. Second, by doing this, you’re inadvertently helping your company believe its current set-up is working just fine.

I’d much rather see you and your coworkers make the case to your company that you need quiet places where you can focus on your work, and if that can’t be in the office, you should be allowed to do it remotely.

Of course, if they say no, you’re right back where you are now, tempted to use sick days to get work done, and thus enabling their crappy set-up. So it’s a tough situation (of their making).

3. Women wearing menswear to work

I was wondering what is your opinion on women wearing “male” style clothes in the workplace? By male style, I mean two/three-piece suits in a traditionally masculine cut with a tie and brogues or loafers.

I’m a university student and I think this is fine, provided everything fits well and matches. But my mum was horrified (like, she was really upset by this). And I’m not sure who’s wrong. Would wearing a waistcoat and tie to an interview (or to work) really impact employers’ opinions of me?

You’re right and your mom is wrong. In most situations, it’s absolutely fine for women to wear “men’s” styles.

I say “most” and not “all” because there are some particularly conservative fields and offices where this would raise eyebrows. But it sounds like you wouldn’t want to work for them anyway — and there are tons of other places where it won’t be an issue.

4. I’m being offered less than my predecessor

I took a temp-to-perm position replacing a guy who was fired after 30 days. Given he hadn’t worked out they advised that decision time from their side would be around two months. I’m now about a month in and they just made me an offer for the permanent position. It’s pretty decent, and more than I was making at my last job.

Here’s the thing: I happen to know what my predecessor’s salary package was because HR accidentally emailed it to me. (HR knows I saw this.) The salary is the same, but they offered him a larger annual bonus and several other perks. He and I are the same age with comparable experience and qualifications, and were offered the exact same position a matter of weeks apart.

If I hadn’t known his package, I would have likely accepted their offer. But knowing they offered him more benefits makes me reluctant. What do you think I should do?

They know you saw his offer, and you don’t have to pretend you don’t. That makes this easier! You can say, “As you know, Cecil’s salary package was accidentally emailed to me. He was offered XYZ. If you can offer that to me as well, I’d love to accept.”

5. Coworkers asks our admins to tell me she was looking for me

I have a coworker who comes by my office to look for me, and if I am not there, she will ask our admin staff to tell me she is looking for me. At first this seemed harmless enough, but it’s starting to bug me. Our admins usually tell me this coworker was looking for me on my way in or out of the office (because that’s when they see me) and I often don’t have the time to stop and call her or go find her. I would much rather she call me if she needs something, or email me if I am away.

Is there a way I can tactfully communicate this to my coworker? She is my superior but she is not my boss, and we both report directly to the same boss (the CEO of my company). I don’t want to step on any toes but I feel like this isn’t the best way for her to communicate with me and I would like to try to improve things if I can.

Yes! The next time it happens, say this: “By the way, when you’re looking for me and don’t see me, would you shoot me an email instead of leaving a message with the admins? That way I can be sure I’ll see it when I’m back at my desk — otherwise they often give me the message when I’m on my way somewhere else and can’t stop to respond.”

You could also enlist the admins’ help. Ideally when she asks them to tell you she’s looking for you, they’d respond with, “Jane has asked that we tell people it’s better to call or email her directly rather than leaving messages with us.”

can I steal my boss’s job while he’s on leave, women in menswear, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.