The Case of the Reference Request
A former employee who was fired due to poor quality work, absences, and lateness related to her drinking problem, informs you that she has applied for a position at another company and has already given your name as a reference. She desperately needs a job (she is a single parent with three children), and she asks you to give her a good recommendation and not mention her drinking, which she assures you is now under control.
She also asks you to say that she voluntarily left the company to address a family medical crisis, and that the company was pleased with her work. You like this person and believe she is a good worker when she is not drinking. You doubt that she really has overcome her drinking problem, however, and you would not recommend your own company hire her back.
- What do you say to this woman?
- What do you say to an employer who calls you for a reference?
- What if the prospective employer was a friend?
- Suppose the problem was a theft?
- Suppose she had asked you to be a reference prior to supplying your name to her prospective employer?
- What values are at stake? Do some of the values conflict with one another?
Jim Balassone is executive-in-residence at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.