Possible new job, help me leave the old one
September 26, 2012 8:52 AM   Subscribe

References and a toxic job--Help me navigate workplace politics so's I can get myself into a better workplace.

Hi all,
I'm in my mid-20s, and have been in a toxic academic office job for the past 13 months. In mid-August, I applied for another position at the same institution way more closely related to my background (creative). I had a few interviews and really enjoyed the people I met, and felt much more like I could be myself. I am now extremely close to getting the position, but have been asked for my references. The HR person as well as my potential new employer knows that I have not yet informed my direct supervisors that I've been looking for work.

I have a few older work references that I used for my present job, but I'd rather have some folks that I work with now vouch for me. In addition to my bosses, I support about 5-6 other people around the office, but I'm freaking out about asking them to recommend me and having them keep a secret. Obviously, I need to tell my bosses that I'm leaving at some point soon, too. I'm just not sure what I need to prioritize and I'm feeling incredibly stuck.

Mefites--could you please advise? How should I go about asking for references from people I work for who *aren't* my bosses, without telling my bosses? Or should I just tell my bosses, even though I don't have an offer? Also, it's busier around here than usual (September at a university) so that's also complicating things.

posted by socky mcsockerson to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Suggesting that you deal with the HR person, who is much more likely than your potential boss to appreciate the sensitivity of your situation. Be straight with said HR person ...

"My sense is that we're nearing the finish line in this process. I share your interest in a successful resolution. Because of the sensitivity of the situation, I have not said anything to my current boss about my interest in the new position. I assume that [potential employer] would like to have a reference from a current supervisor. I hope you can see how that could put me in a compromising position. Let me make a suggestion.

I would gladly accept an employment offer contingent upon successful completion of reference and any other background checks required for the process.

Is that fair?"

Contingent offers of this sort are made all the time in business as a way of finessing the very sort of situation you face.
posted by John Borrowman at 9:10 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, John Borrowman--I just spoke with the HR person and they seem to understand that. I think what I'm paranoid about is *selecting* references from my current job (I have a really short career history at this time) but ensuring that those references don't a) tell my bosses or b) feel like I've compromised them in any way because I feel like no one's going to see this coming.
posted by socky mcsockerson at 9:13 AM on September 26, 2012

At jobs where you think supervisor will say something horrid, you make a co-worker your reference instead. Of course, HR is going to call your current supervisor, that's expected, but you wouldn't name them as a reference if you had a poor relationship with them. Instead, you'd name someone who could say "X was an excellent co-worker."

Plus, if you have it, a manager from a prior job who can say "X was an excellent employee."
posted by zippy at 9:37 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

The important thing is to remain very positive throughout the process. You're pursuing better opportunities not leaving a bad one. Don't be at all negative about where you are leaving particularly since you are staying at the same institution.

Likewise deal fairly with your manager because you will both still be at the same place.
posted by srboisvert at 10:43 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Phew. Ok, I bit the bullet and went ahead and asked a couple of trusted coworkers for their references and requested confidentiality for now. Feeling better already.

Thanks everyone!
posted by socky mcsockerson at 11:04 AM on September 26, 2012

Response by poster: I got the jo(r)b!
posted by socky mcsockerson at 8:53 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

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