Monday, March 05, 2007

Sabotaged by Ex-Boss

I am wondering what to do about an ex-boss from a most recent position who is sabotaging a job search by giving out bad reference information on employment verification calls.

If an employee due to an economic reduction in force, has had a long work history with the employer with good performance reviews, and received a good severance package, but then the ex-boss says negative things on reference calls that cost job offers, what can be done? No, HR can't help if the ex-boss is the head of HR and has a long term close relationship with the owner of the company. And the severance agreement signed away all rights to sue the employer so that's not an option even if desired.

What can be done when all prospective employers require you to complete an application which asks for supervisors' names and phone numbers during the interview process and a list of references after the interview? Is there any good solution to this?

by Richard Yadon, President/CEO

There are a couple of ways you can approach this situation. I always prefer the most direct and least costly remedy as the first choice.

Hopefully you have copies of your performance evaluations, termination letter stating that you are being let go for economic reasons, positive reference letters from other supervisors or co-workers, and other supporting documents. Although your former supervisor is good friends of the owner, try to arrange a confidential meeting with the owner away from the office. Tell the owner you have heard some disturbing news about one of his managers, that it is negatively impacting you and possibly his company, and you would like to discuss it before it escalates.

Bring your supporting material to the meeting and explain what is happening. Show the owner that the negative reference information is wrong and possibly malicious. The owner will understand the liability inherent in this conduct and will not want it placed on his company. Ask the owner if he agrees to be the reference instead of the HR supervisor. If he agrees, leave copies of your supporting material with the owner to make it easy for him to give you a good reference.

If, however, the owner is unwilling to do this or if the HR manager’s behavior doesn’t change you may be forced to go to another option. I’m not an attorney so please consult one before you take any legal action. Perhaps a simple “cease and desist” letter from an attorney would correct the behavior.

Another option, depending on the relationship you have with a potential employer, is to alert them about the possible negative reference. If the new employer is really interested in you, she won’t let one bad reference, which is contradicted by your documentation, become her only hiring criteria. Tell the potential employer that there are some hard feelings toward you on the part of the other company. However, you are prepared to show them documentation of your positive performance and the circumstances of your departure.

Richard Yardon is President/CEO of Health Career Professionals, an executive search and employee development company focused in the healthcare industry.

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