by Terra L. Dourlain,
President of Faith, Winter & Grace, Inc.
Does power corrupt or do some
people simply turn evil when they are given a managerial role?
We’ve all seen it and most of us have unfortunately experienced it
– a bad boss.
Whether your employer is oppressive,
ill-mannered, intolerant or even emotionally disturbed, we spend
far too much time at work to put up with the stress caused by a
bad boss. Typically, the decision to move on and get away from
this environment is easy. The hard part is actually doing it and
securing another position especially when you consider that this
bad boss will be called upon by prospective employers to learn
more about you. The reality is that this bad boss is about to
become a bad reference.
So, how can you
handle this? Any career management expert will tell you
that it is always best to stay employed until you have secured
another position. In the case of having a bad boss, this is even
more important. You see, a prospective employer will want to speak
with your previous bosses whether you list them as references or
not. If you are still employed then you can request that your
current employer not be called until an offer has been extended.
Using this strategy, you can hopefully avoid or at least delay
this potentially damaging conversation.
But what if you
can’t stay employed? What if you blow up and walk out? What
if you are asked to leave, are asked for your resignation or are
fired? Now you can not avoid it – your bad boss is now likely a
bad reference. But, are you sure?
First, do not assume that this person will
give you a negative reference, a positive reference or any
reference at all. Many candidates are under the false impression
that it is illegal for a past employer to negatively comment on a
former employee. The reality is that whether it be legal or not,
it goes on everyday. Likewise, many candidates feel that they are
protected from being given a negative recommendation by the
company policy. Face reality. Company policies are enforced about
as much as speed limits. If we do not see a police officer sitting
on the side of the highway with a radar gun (and we are running
late) we speed. Nothing happens, in fact we get to where we are
going on time.
What can you do?
The key to handling a bad separation / a bad reference
from a previous company is to not over or under explain the
situation to a prospective employer. To assume that this previous
employer is "blackballing" you, could be your own undoing. You
see, if this past employer is not "blackballing" you, then you are
actually bringing up a negative subject to a prospective employer
unnecessarily. Likewise, to assume that a negative reference would
not be given could be damaging if your past boss is indeed
providing uncomplimentary statements as you would not be properly
Knowledge is power.
It is important that you learn what this bad boss is actually
saying about you. Some level of confidence could be gained by
meeting with this individual and asking them what will they say.
Current employees of this organization may also provide insight as
to how this employer handles calls about you. Additionally, many
job seekers take a more aggressive approach and hire a reference
checking firm to track down what their former bosses and
colleagues are really saying about them.
Terra L. Dourlain is a Career Transition Specialist and
Executive Career Coach with an extensive background in
employee training and development. As President of Faith,
Winter & Grace, Inc. she has assisted hundreds of senior
level candidates through successful transitions. Currently,
Terra is the Managing Director of
(an Allison & Taylor Company), the nation's oldest
professional employment verification and reference checking
firm. Please visit their site at
or call (800) 422-3905 to learn more about this valuable