How do I tell my boss I am job-hunting and need her to speak to an employer?
October 1, 2009 10:08 AM   Subscribe

I am well into the process of interviews for a job in my same industry but about 2,000 miles away. I am in a good job but at a stagnant company and I don't have a lot of clients and must cold call a lot. I need to tell my boss and ask her to be a reference. Help me do it!

She is already extremely on edge that people are planning on walking away and up to now I have been the ever-loving employee by not applying for anything in the last ten months. Every time she thinks I am going to do something, she will dress me down, which is very distressing and I am tired of it. I want to go but I need some good points to make when I approach her. She is a bully and I don't want to be pushed over.

I plan to tell her that I will need her to be a reference. Is it good to be so straightforward?

I plan to explain the position I am interviewing for is more of a behind-the-scenes job.

I am currently in a position that requires a lot of public interaction but I have never met any of our top clients. This makes things especially difficult as my boss has stated me to me weekly since I came here that she would like to leave herself.

I feel I have improved recently a lot but still think my leaving would not be a tremendous loss to the organization as in just over a year on the job only a handful of people know who I am and what I do.

I do get worked up over this and I don't want to yell at her during the conversation.

Any tips for telling a hostile boss that you are looking for work would be greatly appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I mean, really, don't. I don't see what you have to gain. You've already described your boss as "hostile". Either you'll be badmouthed to the hiring manager during the "reference" or you'll be outright fired. Bad idea.
posted by Oktober at 10:16 AM on October 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

Seconded. You have nothing to gain. Any future employer will understand that your current managers cannot be expected to be references. Surely there must be other people you can use - previous bosses, trusted co-workers etc.?
posted by momentofmagnus at 10:19 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've always used people I work with as reference. Coworkers in other departments and such (I work in IT support and work with everyone)
posted by PowerCat at 10:21 AM on October 1, 2009

I agree with Oktober and momentofmagnus. Is there any way you could get a reference from one or two of your clients?
posted by valannc at 10:25 AM on October 1, 2009

Your new employer will understand that your current boss cannot reasonably be asked to be the reference that will allow you to leave your current job.

Find other references.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:30 AM on October 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

Never ask a hostile person for a reference. Unless you want a bad one.
posted by witchstone at 10:52 AM on October 1, 2009

Even a boss who is mildly friendly and understanding would know it's in their best interest to fire an employee who they know is actively making plans to leave (which is job-hunting).

Don't ask her for a reference. Don't tell her you're job-hunting unless you want to be fired.
posted by anniecat at 11:03 AM on October 1, 2009

I plan to tell her that I will need her to be a reference. Is it good to be so straightforward?

No. No one expects that you will do this except in unusual circumstances.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:10 AM on October 1, 2009

Ditto all of the above.

Almost under no circumstances should you ever bring up the subject of leaving a job with a boss until you actually resign. (There must be an exception to this, but I can't think of one.)

If a potential new employer insists on a reference from a current employer, that employer might be worth passing over. Among other things, such a request would reflect a lack of respect for (other peoples') confidentiality (but probably not their own) as well as a lack of consideration for a potential employee's welfare.

It is also worth considering that asking anyone at a current employer for a reference risks putting the idea of your interest in leaving into the gossip pool. This can only hurt you, and you could wind up fired without another job to go to.

Bullies aren't rational or fair, and by asking one for something as important as a reference, you empower them to damage your reputation. Once besmirched, a reputation is difficult to rehabilitate.

Repeat: do not ask your boss for a reference.
posted by SuzB at 1:34 PM on October 1, 2009

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