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How to get job reference from boss who hates you

Q: I asked for a transfer at a local hospital because my boss has refused to give me a raise for two years based on a personal dislike of me, despite an excellent work record. The transfer was denied so now she is making my life miserable every day complaining how I am such a poor employee. How can I apply for new jobs without using my job reference -- she already has given two bad reports.

B.M., Lutherville

A: You really can't apply for new jobs without listing your current employment. Any potential employer is likely to call and see how you're doing at your current job. Most companies have a policy for giving out information to reference inquiries that usually means only the dates worked and the job title. Check with your personnel office and find out what your reference policy is. In your job search, it is customary to ask the potential employer not to contact the current boss. Therefore, reference letters are often provided by someone else in the company who knows your work -- a previous supervisor, co-worker, etc. Another more favorable reference can balance out your current boss' negativity. You probably could also obtain previous performance reviews from personnel. Finally, if the topic does come up with a prospective new employer, you should be honest about the nature of the dispute without attacking her personally. Another possibility would be to sit down with your boss to see if you can work out a solution. Try explaining to her in a nonconfrontational way that you would really like to move and you hope she'll give you a satisfactory reference. Listen to her answer, and try to show her that you understand it. You could try approaching your boss' boss or someone from human resources and ask for assistance solving it. Doing either of these things may further aggravate your boss, however, so try a direct discussion first.

ELLEN KABCENELL WAYNE, assistant professor of negotiations and conflict management

THOMAS MITCHELL, director of graduate programs in applied psychology

Q: What do you think about a professional-level employee of a large government organization being asked to submit a doctor's note when requesting sick leave for a physician's appointment during work hours? The workplace policy states that it can be requested at the supervisor's discretion.

Z.S., Baltimore

A: It is important for a supervisor to implement policy consistently without showing favoritism. And it may be wise for him or her not to waive the policy for professional staff. Doing so can cause morale problems once employees find out that a note is required for some but not others. On the other hand, given that the supervisor doesn't follow other policies consistently, there may be reason for the employee to broach the issue but in a diplomatic manner. It is not advised to raise the issue of non-compensated overtime work as a reason to waive the physician's note. These are separate issues. One way to approach the supervisor is to raise the question by presenting it as a potential issue that could cause others to ask about consistency. Perhaps the employee should also consider whether the request indicates some general dissatisfaction with their work.


University of Baltimore professors answer questions from readers about workplace issues. To submit a question, send it to or Working, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md., 21278-0001, or fax it to 410-783-2517

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