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From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development
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11/23/07
Reference: How do you deal with a poor one?
Filed under: Interviewing, Public Relations docs, Job Offer (Situations), Mentoring
Posted by: site admin @ 5:09 pm

 ”Hi Dan,

  Just wanted to provide an update [on my
job search.  Several promising interviews.] 
It seems[, however,] that I have a problem. 
After talking with K{name withheld},
… from
W…, I found myself staring at a job
seeker’s worst nightmare… 

A boss [providing] …a bad recommendation
… I need to work out a plan with which to
counter this…”

LJ

This was not a situation that could be handled
via the Internet.  We talked.  And after we talked
I reached out to some in my professional
network.  So, this blog entry will talk about
several responses to help LJ sort through
alternatives to professionally deal with
a poor reference.

LJ clarified several issues that had arisen in
their relationship.  LJ offered that the
supervisor indicated that he would
provide a positive reference for the kinds 
of positions LJ sought.  That gave LJ
confidence that LJ could include the
supervisor in LJ’s list of references.

First we talked through what was the precise
nature of the controversy.  The controversy
seemed to highlight the supervisor indicating
what experiments and interpretations 
not expecting discussion
.  In a sense, the
supervisor offering top-down management.  

LJ then provided a specific example of a
starting series of experiments which were
interpreted incorrectly and since corrected.

This is not an easy thing for most people
to take from a less experienced person.

I offered to LJ that there are four general
situations
for which a boss asks for specific
tasks to be done.  They can be displayed in a
2×2 matrix with Urgency and Importance placed
on either axis.  Thus, High and low for each
of the two factors.  Research experiments
could be either High Importance/High
Urgency
(where it is critical to do it the way
the supervisor asks in a critical time fashion)
or High Importance/ Low Urgency
(where it is most important to do the right 
thing.)  The situation seemd like it could be
High/Low.  So discussion could be
warranted from one point of view. 

However, if the supervisor expected no
discussion and to simply have LJ perform
what he prescribed, there could be a
difference of expectations.

Thus, the basis for the controversy could
be simplified as not seeing the working
relationship eye-to-eye
.  This has led to a
respectful falling out between the two.

Whatever the root cause, have a fair
and truthful understanding for the places
where the reference is currently listed. 
When it is requested, preface the list with
the expected reference.  Alternatively
consider using other references familier
with LJ’s work in place of the supervisor.

Also, if the relationship is cordial, consider
talking with the reference.

Dan

Following comments speak to alternate
ideas:

-  on LinkedIn
-  take legal action
-  find several other references at same place
-  “move on”
-  ‘assistant could have written note, use HR’

6 comments