Q: I commute to work every day with five co-workers. Two of them are always late, so the rest of us have to wait for them. This means that no one gets to work on time. How do we solve this problem?

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Q: I commute to work every day with five co-workers. Two of them are always late, so the rest of us have to wait for them. This means that no one gets to work on time. How do we solve this problem?

A: The punctual people in your group are being much too nice. Your thoughtless colleagues will never change as long as their rude behavior is being tolerated. If you want them to shape up, you will need to adopt a different strategy.

Give the slackers a clear warning that they are now expected to comply with the schedule. When they continue to be late, as they undoubtedly will, the group must drive away without them.

If you keep this up, they will either learn to be on time or find some other suckers to wait for them.

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Q: I was recently dismissed from my last job and am now looking for another one. Many applications ask “May we contact your previous employer?”

I’m not sure how to answer that question. If I say yes, I’m afraid someone will call and learn that I was fired. Should I just say no and explain my answer later?

A: While limiting communication with a current employer is reasonable, prohibiting contact with a previous one looks fishy. If hiring managers believe you have something to hide, they could easily screen you out before the interview stage.

On the other hand, saying “yes” to this question is not particularly risky, because most companies won’t check references until after they’ve talked with you. Just be sure that if you do get an interview, you are able to offer a reasonable explanation for your departure.

Submit questions to Marie G. McIntyre at yourofficecoach.com.