when a reference changes their mind, advice for new managers, and more

It’s wee answer Wednesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. When a reference changes their mind about what they’ll say about you

How do you tell a prospective employer that your manager has decided they can’t give you a glowing reference?

My husband left his job a few months ago on good terms. The company was moving state and downsizing anyway. My husband had always had glowing performance reviews, which often came with bonuses and two promotions during the 3 years he was there. When he left, his manager said he was always a good worker and would be happy to give him a good reference.

My husband is now short-listed for a job and contacted the former manager for a reference. Now, the manager says he cannot give a good reference considering some of the “challenges” before he resigned. My husband has no idea what these are and is willing to move on (this manager could be petty and make mountains out of molehills), but how does he now tell his prospective employer that his recent manager has changed his mind?

“Unfortunately, my former manager is now declining to be a reference, although he’d earlier told me he’d be happy to give a strong one. I had glowing performance reviews while I was there, as well as bonuses and two promotions in three years, so I’m at a loss as to what could be causing this, but I suspect he’s unhappy that I left. I’d be glad to supply you with other references who can speak about my work there and at other companies.”

If he has copies of those performance reviews, it wouldn’t hurt to offer to share them either.

2. My old manager emailed my new manager to say bad things about me

I have started a new job. My interview, references, and first week were all good. However, my new manager told me that she got an email saying bad things about me from my previous company. I do not know who sent it, but I am guessing that it was my ex-boss. My question is: Is not it illegal that she sent an email after I already started working with another company?

It’s not illegal unless she was deliberately lying about you, in which case it could potentially be slander or defamation. It is, however, incredibly petty to badmouth you to a new employer after you’ve already started working there. In fact, it’s such a bizarre action to take that if your new manager is at all sensible, it made her see your old manager as unhinged, rather than giving much credence to what was in the email.

If you’re concerned, go back to your new manager and say, “I’m really taken aback that she would do that, and I want to make sure that you don’t have any concerns about me or my work.”

3. Recruiter asked for my Social Security number and the year I graduated high school

Today I had a phone interview with an agency recruiter. Everything was going fine during our standard discussion. Toward the end, he asked me when I graduated high school, which I answered. After that, he wanted my Social Security number to “move forward,” which I refused to give him.

During the talk, I pretty much determined that asking about graduation was the way to get around the age question. And, regarding the Social Security number, I told him I do not give that to anyone at the early stages, so I doubt we are moving forward. Was I wrong in either situation?

Nope, you were right. There’s no reason that he should need to know when you graduated from high school (!), assuming that you’re not coming across as very young and inexperienced. And there’s no reason he needs your Social Security number at this stage either, and it’s intrusive to ask for it.

4. Reapplying for a job I was recently laid off from

I was given notice in January that I would be laid off at the end of March from a job I really loved. Last week, I saw that the job I was laid off from is being advertised — likely because they finally figured out that there was no way to actually cut the service and putting the work of a team of 5 onto the one person that didn’t get laid off was completely unreasonable. Since March, I’ve been consulting. While the money is great, the work isn’t and it’s not what I want to be doing or who I want to be doing it for. So I put some feelers out to my old manager and the guy who didn’t get laid off to see if they’d be open to me coming back. My old manager has been promoted and I don’t really know the new department manager very well — I think I met him once in the year I was at the company. Both my manager and coworker think I should apply and would love to have me back.

Should I decide to apply, what does my cover letter look like in this situation? It’s only been 3 months since I left and I haven’t even added the consulting job on my resume yet. Should I reach out directly to the new manager? Or the HR recruiter listed for the job (she is the one who originally placed me at the company)? Should I mention in my cover letter that I have discussed the position with my former manager and coworker?

You should absolutely mention in your cover letter that you spoke to your former manager about the position and that she encouraged you to apply.

Send your application materials directly to the new manager, and cc the recruiter. Then forward it to your old manager with a note that you applied — and you might also ask if she can advise you on how to have the best chance of moving forward (which she will hopefully take as a cue that she should go sing your praises to the new manager).

All this said … keep in mind that they might want to go in a different direction, and that there might have been a reason for the layoff and their subsequently not reaching back out to you when the position re-opened. I have no idea if that’s the case or not, but keep that in mind as you approach all this and be sensitive to any cues along those lines.

5. I’m on the schedule beyond my last day at work

I gave my two weeks notice to my boss, stating that my final day working there would be July 10. The newest schedule for my last week is up, and he put me on for the 11th. I’m a part-time cashier/deli worker in a small store, and we’re all relatively close because there’s so few of us. But I’m concerned about the last day he has me on for because I informed him I would be leaving town and I needed to be off by the tenth. Is there anything I can do or say about this?

Start by assuming it’s a mistake, and just point it out to him: “I noticed you have me on the schedule for July 11, but my last day is July 10.”

When in doubt, just be straightforward.

6. My job refused to give me time off to interview for a different position

In my current job, I have told my manager numerous times that the work is too simple. He agrees with me and has even given me more jobs to do, but I’m simply just bored. I advised him I was looking elsewhere, and when I had the offer of an interview, he said HR would not allow me the morning off the next week, because I need 3 weeks notice. Hence I missed the interview.

He said that the company didn’t look favorably on going to interviews outside the business on their time. Can they do this? And is there not a law protecting employees from this?

Uh, yes, they can do that, and no, there’s no law requiring employers to make it easy for you to interview for other jobs during the hours you’re supposed to be working for them. Generally people are discreet when they’re looking for other jobs and don’t announce that they need time off for an interview.

7. Advice for new managers

I was recently promoted to my first supervisor position. I manage 4 people now. Can you recommend your top five past articles that give advice to new managers? I enjoy my daily reading of your blog.

I certainly can. Try these:

the most important advice for new managers

12 ways to make your employees love you

how to deal with employee performance problems and its cousin, be honest about employee performance problems

what reality-based management looks like

10 ways to appear more authoritative at work

Yes, that was six, not five, because they’re all important. But most importantly, check out my book for managers, which will walk you through the mechanics of managing well, step by step.

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