Use this messaging if you find yourself in a position where someone you don’t like/respect is asking you to give them a recommendation. You can also use this guide if someone asks you about someone you don’t like. Here’s how to navigate those tricky scenarios.
YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO GIVE ANYONE A RECOMMENDATION
- It’s okay to say no.
There are laws to protect people that make it challenging for employers to give negative reviews to former employees. For that reason, be careful how you give a negative reference so a former or current employee doesn't have legal grounds to sue you or your company. Even if your comments are valid and you might even win in a lawsuit, it’s rarely worth your time or emotional investment.
- Keep your tone as professional/unemotional as possible
- Start with something nice (everyone has at least one or two things good about them)
- Be honest - it is perfectly legal to give a negative reference as long as it is honest and accurate (but that doesn’t mean you still won’t get dragged into court)
- Discuss problem areas with tact and provide concrete examples.
- Try to mitigate the negatives.
“Bob is most productive when he works on individual assignments.”
“At times, Stacy has trouble completing tasks and meeting deadlines.”
“Angela struggles with writing but often makes up for it in her attention to detail while editing.”
“Tony lacks critical thinking at times, but he is always willing to take on feedback and rarely makes the same mistake twice.”