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My friend works for a small company and recently applied to an opening with a prestigious employer in a semi-related field. Having little relevant experience outside his current job, he asked his current boss (the CEO) for a letter of recommendation for the new job. His boss told him that he would not give him one unless he put in his two weeks notice.

Is such a request reasonable from my friend?

Is the response reasonable from the boss?

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The primary use for such a letter would be in the search for another job. Why would you expect his current employer to endorse that? Additionally it is a red flag for the employer that this employee needs a replacement real soon, and if your friend is unfortunate he does not get a new job AND the replacement is found so he gets fired. Be cautious. –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Mar 7 at 15:02
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4 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

In a perfect world, an employer shouldn't hold a grudge against an employee who only wants to better thenmselves. They should also recognize they are not in a position to offer the greatest job. Most don't think this way and will hold it against you so, don't expect their help.

What's worse then giving a reference to an employee who leaves for a better job, keeping employees who aren't capable of finding a better job.

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This is basically in line with my take on the situation. I don't know what is supposed to constitute a correct answer to this question, so I'm gonna accept this. Thanks! –  mayhewr Jan 17 '13 at 0:55
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Most employers and managers would take asking for a letter of reference as an indication that you are, or are seriously considering, seeking other employment. In most US states that in itself would be perfectly legitimate grounds for termination.

A possible exception would be if a supervisor/manager that you've worked with is leaving the company. In that case I would consider it appropriate to ask that person before they leave. But that in itself might be questionable as far as your employer is concerned, so it might be best to request contact information then follow up with them after they left.

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I think it is an unreasonable request.

The employer will likely interpret this as a request to pay for your friend's job search. It also makes it difficult for the employer to plan long term. They don't know if they need to hire a replacement or not.

It's quite reasonable to explain to your boss that you are planning to leave the company, within 'x' number of weeks, and to then request the letter of reference. A co-worker of mine did this and it was quite positive. The company was able to plan for his departure, and he left on good terms with the company.

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As long as the employee is still performing their job on company time, and not using company time to do their job search, I don't see it as paying the employee to look for another job, I see it as paying the employee to do the job that they've been hired to do and have always been doing, and if they've been doing it well, then perhaps it is appropriate to give them the recommendation that they've earned. –  user3333 Aug 23 '13 at 1:02
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This depends a great deal on the employer's situation. If the employer is slowly sinking then the request may well be quite reasonable. On the other hand, if the employer appears to be doing well then I see this being not taken well in most cases.

I'd wonder if your friend could have changed the reason for the request. If he had the letter written for the purposes of a background check or someone wanting to know more about him as he was thinking of moving that could work as a way around this.

The boss' response would be reasonable if he didn't see this coming. In that case, there could well be a, "WTH" response that would be met with a confrontational reply like, "Sure, if you put in your notice," though I'd question how good of a reference he'd be in this case.

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