A bad reference


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?


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.

One Comment on “A bad reference

  1. I’ve always left on good terms with Employers most of my 40+ working life ( I’ve worked since I was 13) except for one or two who shall remain nameless. I never minded telling them where a file was, or some quirk in a machine to deal with. I’m a Printer, a highly specialized field. Sometimes a plate needs a certain fountain, or the press needs a certain twinking, or a neg needs a certain time on the plate burner. I never minded. It only takes a few moments to be decent. Of course to those one or two Employers who did me wrong, I’m not telling you snot. If they were decent to you, then be decent to them. It’s a small town, everyone in the trade knows each other. Do not burn bridges in a small town. Take the higher road, be accommodating, you might need their help at some point. I’ve seen other Print Shops work together even if they are in competition. I remember at one shop our plate burner went out and the shop across the street let me burn plates on theirs. Professional Courtesy is a fine way to establish yourself, having those contacts can be a boon to you. My Employer didn’t know what to do, because of my prior dealings with a former Employer, I got what we needed and the jobs done.


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