Personal references - What do you say?

  1. I have dealt with this problem before but it has cropped up again. And I am about to reveal my innate wimpiness.

    During your work life, you will run into a variety of dysfunctional people, some of whom attach themselves to you and you cannot seem to get loose. You do not want to be mean or evil, but there are parts of their lifestyle/behavior that you cannot support. They are essentially good workers and intelligent people but have issues in which they just don't handle well, and tend to burn bridges.

    What do you do when they submit your name as a reference..without asking you beforehand? And how do you respond?

    Please know that I did speak to the referring agency and verbally tapdanced tactfully through the truth minefield, but it was also obvious that they had listed me as a supervisor (NOT) and inferred that I had worked closely and for a long time period with them (SOOOO NOT!) and that issue got blown out right off the bat.
  2. Visit caroladybelle profile page

    About caroladybelle, RN

    Joined: May '02; Posts: 7,040; Likes: 7,495
    Haemetology nurse; from US
    Specialty: Oncology/Haemetology/HIV

    7 Comments

  3. by   Jules A
    Quote from caroladybelle
    Please know that I did speak to the referring agency and verbally tapdanced tactfully through the truth minefield, but it was also obvious that they had listed me as a supervisor (NOT) and inferred that I had worked closely and for a long time period with them (SOOOO NOT!) and that issue got blown out right off the bat.
    In this case since you straightened out the misrepresentations hopefully that speaks volumes about this applicants integrity or rather, lack of. It sounds like you handled it just fine. If you keep running into this problem with screwy people I'd try and figure out why. You can't help who you work with but you do have control over how close you get. I've made it a mission in life not to become involved with people that are more dysfunctional than I am, lol. I choose to live a relatively drama free life and having well adjusted friends is an important part of that, imo.
  4. by   Halinja
    It's kind of like charting. Be objective, don't say anything subjective. For instance the issue of being a supervisor. You just say, no, that wasn't my position, my position was XXX. The employer can make the inferences themself. (which it sounds like you handled well)

    That way you haven't torpedoed anything, but it would just be wrong to go along with the misrepresentations of your acquaintence. If the employer asks you subjective questions that makes it harder, but the very best you can do is stick to facts, not feelings.

    It might sound harsh, but it is no kindness to buy into someone else's dysfunction. If you back up a lie, then you take on a measure of responsibility for future problems/actions of that person. You aren't being mean, or cruel, or 'disloyal' to tell the truth.
  5. by   llg
    I agree with the above posters. Keep your comments about the other person as objective as possible and clear up any misunderstandings. If you are asked for an opinion you are not comfortable in providing, tell them that you are not in a position to give a response to their question. You can say something like, "I wasn't in a position where I could adequately assess her skills in that area" or something like that.

    I also agree that you should reflect upon your work relationships if you find yourself in that situation often. It happens to all of us ocassionally as we try to be kind to people who are struggling in their careers ... but if you are regularly supporting and enabling dysfunctional co-workers to the point where they have an unrealistic view of your relationship, then maybe you need to be a little more restrained in your dealings with them.

    It sounds like you handled the situation just fine ...and maybe it was a blessing in disguise as it gives you (and all us readers) a chance to think about this issue and discuss it.
  6. by   loricatus
    Quote from caroladybelle
    I have dealt with this problem before but it has cropped up again. And I am about to reveal my innate wimpiness.

    During your work life, you will run into a variety of dysfunctional people, some of whom attach themselves to you and you cannot seem to get loose. You do not want to be mean or evil, but there are parts of their lifestyle/behavior that you cannot support. They are essentially good workers and intelligent people but have issues in which they just don't handle well, and tend to burn bridges.

    What do you do when they submit your name as a reference..without asking you beforehand? And how do you respond?

    Please know that I did speak to the referring agency and verbally tapdanced tactfully through the truth minefield, but it was also obvious that they had listed me as a supervisor (NOT) and inferred that I had worked closely and for a long time period with them (SOOOO NOT!) and that issue got blown out right off the bat.

    Having been in that situation many times, the best advise I can give you to say is something you basically have already said yourself:

    [FONT="Century Gothic"]From my limited exposure to her, the best that I can say about her is:"[She is] essentially [a] good worker and intelligent [person]" PERIOD
  7. by   VivaLasViejas
    Agree with the above advice.

    I think most people in the "helping professions" tend to attract dysfunctional individuals; it's part of what we do, and maybe a little of why we go into it in the first place. More than once, I've asked myself "What am I---flypaper for freaks??"

    You handled this just fine, caroladybelle, and you are certainly NOT a 'wimp'. Personally, I never give a recommendation unless I know an employee and his/her quality of work very well; and if someone uses me as a reference without my knowledge or permission, I will state that fact and let the potential employer decide what to do with the information. I won't necessarily go negative---you never know if that will come back to bite you in the fanny---but neither will I say "Oh, yes, so-and-so was a good worker" if they weren't. (And chances are, they didn't ask for a reference before going on to seek new employment because they knew they wouldn't get one. )
  8. by   Antikigirl
    Although a bummer at times, but my last employer does not allow personal references at all, and even if you leave you sign a agreement that you will not give personal references from anything during that time at the facility. This saved me from all these references, but there were a few I really wanted to give a great reference to...especially for entry into RN school!

    They said that it is too easy to violate HIPAA giving reference to the workings at the facility...yadda yadda...uhg! What if someone uses a reference about a certain pt and that patients name came up or described the patient in a way they could be identified. Plus that organization was pretty clouded in mystery and wierd anyway (a fraternal organization, very old fraternal organization who likes to keep things in their circles private...even if it is a medical facility with private pay non members in it as pts!).

    I was able finally to overcome the deal, and tread in the grey...I got to know those whom I would give a reference to personally outside of work...so I can be a personal reference outside of the work arena and if their work ethics and hard work...which I could see as a friend...came into question I could answer it by simply being a very close friend *wink* That has worked well!

    As far as me...I couldn't get any references from 4 years of working hard...but I told that to my now employer at the start, and all these rules they had on even confirming I worked there (it was red tape galore for just checking if I actually was an employee there) was proof to them that their politics and management was goofy!!!!! LOL!!!!!!
  9. by   Daytonite
    You answer questions that you can. Do not answer questions that would require you to give a truthful response that would be negative. If the people who get and read those references have any brains at all, they will be able to read between the lines and realize there is information that has not been addressed. In today's world, most HR departments are well-aware that most people are litigation-shy and will not put any negative responses on these forms. To me, a big gaping blank in a form says just as much as a bunch of words.

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