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Bad Boss – Bad Reference?



6/22/2013 2:27:07 AM

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Bad Boss – Bad Reference?By Jeff Shane for BioSpace.com

Does this scenario sound familiar? Ellen and her former supervisor did not part on the best of terms when she left the organization. She is now in the employment market again (seeking a biochemical product manager position) and a prospective employer has asked her “May we contact your former supervisor?” She’s afraid of what that person will say, but also afraid to tell her potential employer “no, you can’t contact them” for fear that it will eliminate her from consideration. What should Ellen do?

If you haven’t been asked if your former supervisor may be contacted, be aware you likely will be at some point. If you tell the prospective employer you do not want them to contact a former supervisor, the employer will likely regard that as a “red flag” and your hiring prospects will probably be nil. However, if you indicate they can contact the supervisor and that person does, indeed, offer negative commentary about you, it may also ensure you don’t receive a second look. Again, what to do?

What You Should Tell Your Prospective Employer When They Ask if They Can Contact Your Ex-Boss

Your best course is to always advise an employer that they can, indeed, contact your former supervisor. However, you can improve your odds by having a reference checking organization like Allison & Taylor check out your supervisor beforehand to determine what they will say about you to your potential employers. Even if you parted on unfavorable terms with this supervisor, they may take the “high road” by simply confirming your employment dates and title and invoking company policy that they are unable to offer any further information. This is what is known as a “neutral reference” and potential employers understand that this is all the input they are supposed to receive from your reference. They will not (or should not) hold such a response against you. In this scenario, you may freely offer up the name of your former supervisor, already confident they will not offer any damaging commentary about you.

What to Do if Your Former Boss IS Bad-Mouthing You

However, what happens if you have a reference check conducted on your supervisor and find out that they are offering negative remarks about you? You could (to the best of your ability) try to keep them off an employer’s “radar” by not offering up their name (unless, again, you are specifically asked if they may be contacted). Or, you could attempt to preempt their negative input by proactively advising a prospective employer of your challenges with that supervisor, framing the difficulties in your own words. However, this latter approach might work against you in calling unwanted attention to the particulars of your less-than-stellar relationship with your former boss.

The ideal recourse is to discourage your negative reference to ever offer up negative input about you. Having identified that your reference will be unfavorable, you can have a Cease & Desist letter issued by an attorney, typically to the senior management of the company where the negative reference originated. The letter would alert management of the negative reference’s identity and actions. Typically the very act of offering a negative reference is against corporate guidelines, which normally state that only a former employee’s title/dates of employment can be confirmed. The negative reference will likely be cautioned by management not to offer additional comments and – out of self-interest – is unlikely to offer negative commentary again. Allison & Taylor advises that the success rate of such letters approaches 100%.

So, take heart – your former bad boss need not threaten your employment prospects indefinitely. Take action to preserve your employment prospects by checking your references yourself, and control your own destiny.

About Allison & Taylor:

Allison & Taylor, Inc. is a global firm with 27 years of experience in professional reference checking and employment verification.

Since 1984, the company has been featured on CBSNews.com, NETSHARE.com, the Wall Street Journal, NationJob.com, Glamour Magazine, New Woman Magazine, Worth Magazine, the Detroit News, the St. Petersburg Times, and has been rated a "Top Executive Site" in Forbes magazine.

They are open 7/24 for orders via our Web site at www.AllisonTaylor.com.

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