How do I recommend someone I have reservations about?
January 6, 2009 9:09 AM Subscribe
How do I write a letter of reference for someone I previously supervised and am ambivalent about?
posted by anonymous to human relations (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A couple of years ago, I was in a supervisory position over a few people in a yearlong community-service program engaged in rather heavy-duty work. One of the people in my group (we'll call E) had a lot of problems, being often defiant, sometimes irresponsible, and an occasional headache. At the same time, E really took to the work when the going got tough and helped me out when I needed it. On balance: not a bad person.
Now, E is applying for an undergraduate program in social services and has recently asked me for a letter of recommendation. I said yes, partly because it was Christmastime and I was feeling magnanimous and partly because E was 18 when we worked together and I recognize that a lot of people just out of high school still have a lot of growing up to do...which I think E is doing. And an undergraduate program is not so high-stakes that I'd feel ethically disingenuous helping E get in; I'd previously refused to give a work reference for another member of the group who I felt truly didn't deserve one, so I didn't take the decision lightly.
Now I'm feeling uncertain. I can't back out (that would be shitty) and I don't want to write a tepid letter (that would be passive-aggressive and shitty), not to mention that E has asked me to send it direct to E's house...which I guess ups that chances that E will read it before sending it in.
So I guess my question is, how do I focus on the positive in order to crank this thing out?