Can you give a bad reference?

Posted on: 05/10/2016

Can you give a bad reference?

Everyone dreams of being the boss one day or of obtaining that dream job. One part of this dream, that you don’t always think about, is having a team and having to give references. But what if you have a bad employee? Can you give a bad reference? Will you get sued if you do? Could you just give them a “neutral” reference?

A “neutral” reference is one where only the dates of service and title are given. Many businesses have now implemented a policy of only giving “neutral” references. It is a policy that is backed legally and allows a business to avoid being sued. It seems to be especially useful to give this kind of reference for bad employees. From the perspective of a recruiter, this type of reference could be the difference between you and another candidate getting a job. However, there appears to be a way of being honest and still remaining on the good side of legality, below we have listed five ways to do just that.

1. If you cannot honestly recommend an employee for a new role then it would be best to let them know. This allows them time to ask someone else or forewarns them of what is going to happen.

2. If the employee in question worked for you for more than a couple years ago, then you can decline, on the basis that they worked for you so long ago. Thus, you cannot remember what work they did for you and that your reference will then be invalid.

3. You may decide to still give a “neutral” reference but be ready for a reference checker to ask whether this is the policy of the company or just for this candidate.

4. You may sympathise with the manager and decide to be honest. However, ensure that you remain factual and objective.

5. Lastly, ensure that your employees know where you stand on their work. This will give them a good indicator of what to expect from your reference.

References can be a minefield at times but, if you stick to these simple methods, you can ensure that everyone remains happy and informed.

To discuss further, you can email me on James@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.