Skip to main content

The Case of the Reference Request

Jim Balassone

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.

Mar 1, 2011

Center News

  • head shot of David

    DeCosse to Teach at Jesuit University in Tokyo

    Global Jesuit Fellow looks forward to unique opportunities this fall as visiting professor of Ethics, Sophia University

    DeCosse will teach four ethics classes and guest blog for the Center and National Catholic Reporter.

  • Lessons from Ethics Camp

    Teachers Learn about Knowledge of Faith

    The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics hosts a week-long ethics camp for new Catholic school teachers.