A bad reference

Question:

I started a job search because I’d felt my position was going to be eliminated. When I asked my former supervisor, she admitted she was planning to outsource my duties. So I found a better job and gave two weeks’ notice. My supervisor wished me well.

Soon after I started my new job, my former supervisor called me and asked that she be able to call me whenever she had questions. She didn’t offer any compensation. I let her know I had just started a new job and would get back to her later that week.

One year into my new job, I was laid off. After I had several interviews that seemed like home runs but received no job offers, I called the last interviewer. She said my former supervisor had badmouthed me and implied I was not to be trusted. What can I do?

Answer:

Do you have one or more reference letters from your most recent employer? If so, they’ll be more persuasive than oral bad-mouthing from your year-earlier supervisor.

If not, learn more specifics concerning what your former supervisor now alleges and why. Your suspicions may prove accurate, that your former supervisor resents how you handled her call. Most departing employees offer to answer questions from their former supervisor or the employees who replace them.

Alternatively, you may learn that your former supervisor wished you well because she wasn’t as happy with your performance as you thought. Whatever her reasons, if you call her and she learns you’re aware of her negative discussions, she may provide a more neutral reference.

If she continues to describe you negatively, you can best combat this by hitting a home run in your interviews and providing multiple positive references that dilute the impact of her words.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.

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