|BAD BOSSES BECOME BAD REFERENCES
by Terra L. Dourlain,
President of Faith, Winter & Grace, Inc.
Does power corrupt or do some people simply turn evil when they
are given a managerial role?
We’ve all seen it and most of us have unfortunately
experienced it – a bad boss.
Whether your employer is oppressive, ill-mannered, intolerant
or even emotionally disturbed, we spend far too much time at work to put up with
the stress caused by a bad boss. Typically, the decision to move on and get away
from this environment is easy. The hard part is actually doing it and securing another
position especially when you consider that this bad boss will be called upon by
prospective employers to learn more about you. The reality is that this bad boss
is about to become a bad reference.
So, how can you handle this?
Any career management expert will tell you that it is always best to stay employed
until you have secured another position. In the case of having a bad boss, this
is even more important. You see, a prospective employer will want to speak with
your previous bosses whether you list them as references or not. If you are still
employed then you can request that your current employer not be called until an
offer has been extended. Using this strategy, you can hopefully avoid or at least
delay this potentially damaging conversation.
But what if you can’t stay employed?
What if you blow up and walk out?
What if you are asked to leave, are asked for
your resignation or are fired?
Now you can not avoid it – your bad boss is now likely
a bad reference. But, are you sure?
First, do not assume that this person will give you a negative
reference, a positive reference or any reference at all. Many candidates are under
the false impression that it is illegal for a past employer to negatively comment
on a former employee. The reality is that whether it be legal or not, it goes on
everyday. Likewise, many candidates feel that they are protected from being given
a negative recommendation by the company policy. Face reality. Company policies
are enforced about as much as speed limits. If we do not see a police officer sitting
on the side of the highway with a radar gun (and we are running late) we speed.
Nothing happens, in fact we get to where we are going on time.
What can you do?
The key to
handling a bad separation / a bad reference from a previous company is to not over
or under explain the situation to a prospective employer. To assume that this previous
employer is "blackballing" you, could be your own undoing. You see, if this past
employer is not "blackballing" you, then you are actually bringing up a negative
subject to a prospective employer unnecessarily. Likewise, to assume that a negative
reference would not be given could be damaging if your past boss is indeed providing
uncomplimentary statements as you would not be properly defending yourself.
Knowledge is power. It is
important that you learn what this bad boss is actually saying about you. Some level
of confidence could be gained by meeting with this individual and asking them what
will they say. Current employees of this organization may also provide insight as
to how this employer handles calls about you. Additionally, many job seekers take
a more aggressive approach and hire a reference checking firm to track down what
their former bosses and colleagues are really saying about them.