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What if your former employer gives you a bad reference?

On Behalf of | Sep 22, 2023 | Executive Employment

As an executive, having a stellar professional reputation is invaluable. You know how important it is to be highly regarded in your field.

Therefore, it is upsetting if you discover a former employer has spoken poorly about you and your job performance. Do you have any recourse?

Strategies for dealing with negative references

A bad reference from a former employer doesn’t mean the end of your career. There are some steps you can take to mitigate the damage.

Reach out to your former employer to discuss your concerns

There may have been a misunderstanding or an issue you could have handled differently. After a conversation, they may reconsider their position.

Reach out to other professionals in your field or company

Try to counterbalance your one negative reference with several positive ones.

Be honest with the hiring team

If they ask you about the negative reference, explain the situation without becoming angry or defensive. Instead, focus on any lessons you learned from the experience. 

Remember that a single reference doesn’t define your entire career

Continue to build your skills and reputation; over time, your results will speak for themselves.

If your former employer continues to give you bad references, ask them to stop via an email or letter. Be sure to mention the name of the company they gave the reference to and the particular negative statement. Keep records of all correspondence.

If your former employer continues to make negative statements after you asked them to stop, or they are stating false information, you may have legal options. Speak with someone who can review your situation and guide you on the appropriate steps you need to take to protect your professional reputation.