I am a recent graduate from college and have been employed at my current job for 8 months and it unfortunately is not a good fit.

After having a very negative performance review from my manager in which she emphasized all of my shortcoming but never discussed my accomplishments I decided to look for other jobs while putting in my best effort to improve at my current job.

I have made some improvements at my current job but I am still unhappy at it. I have been offered another job. When I resign from my current job I want to discuss with my manager the possibility that she may be contacted by future employers and I want to mitigate a bad reference.

How do I bring this up with her? Ideally I would like to have her agree to just confirm my dates of employment and not say anything bad.

A disclaimer, I am from the United States.

The current job that applied to asked for references using the statment "Follow your job history/resume. Do not leave gaps. Start with your supervisors/managers from each job. After completing the supervisors/managers, add peers, direct reports, or clients." For this current job I got out using my manager because I am currently employed there but what about any subsequent jobs I may apply to? Future employers may ask to speak to my current manager.

  • There are "work skills" which you acquire only by being in the work environment over periods of time. Don't be too put off over a bad performance review, because you will improve. The time it takes to improve, however, depends on your capacity to learn from your mistakes. Good luck! :)
    – Neil
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 6:35
  • this is location dependent so I would suggest a country flag on this. For example, in the UK it is illegal to give a bad reference. The only indication of something being amiss is the previous company providing employment dates and refusing to provide a reference, but this is not always an indication as some HR departments simply have it as a rule to never provide references...I have no idea how it works outside of the UK Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 9:25
  • Your both right, in some places it is illegal to say certain things in a reference. So what is asked is "would you hire this person again" and they can reply yes or no. That's usually all they need to know anyways.
    – Trevor
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 13:14
  • 1
    @JoeStrazzere Thank you, have always been told it is illegal. Even though at least now I know how difficult it is to do so Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 13:14
  • @JoeStrazzere - Most people in the UK do not give negative references - as it is too much possible hassle.
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 14:12

3 Answers 3


I want to discuss with my manager the possibility that she may be contacted by future employers and I want to mitigate a bad reference.

How do I bring this up with her? Ideally I would like to have her agree to just confirm my dates of employment and not say anything bad.

The thing is, these are two very different things. A letter of work confirmation vs. a reference.

You can ask your current employer to provide you with a letter that confirms your employment. In some countries they're mandatory to give this to you when you asks for it. To make sure you get it the quickest you should provide the papers upfront so all they have to do is sign it. In other countries this is completely unnecessary.

A reference is a completely different ballpark.

You don't ask someone to be your reference if you're even the slightest worried about what they will say once contacted. You don't really ask a reference to say good stuff about you and leave out the bad stuff. If they have bad stuff to say about you then they shouldn't be your reference in the first place.

You can ask her to be your reference once you've left the company, but you need to be sure that she's actually capable of recognizing your strengths and not be too focused on your weaknesses. Can she?

Do you trust this person enough to know that they'll actually be recommending you? That's what a reference is after all, a recommendation.

  • +1 Get a letter that proves your employment. Approach people you trust for a reference. Note, in some places such as Germany, some employers will expect a combined proof of employment and reference (detailed Arbeitszeugnis) Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 3:16

Your off in the deep end of the pool now. You effectively don't have a reference from your former manager.

If you have worked many years with a company, not having a reference from your manager can be ok. That usually tells the recruiter that your current manager doesn't know you are leaving, or they are the reason you are leaving. Either way, it doesn't reflect badly on you.

However, you are leaving after a very short amount of time, and not having your manager as a reference says something far worse.

But don't panic, you can still get out of the pool, you just need to aim for another starter job, one that doesn't care about your past employment. When you encounter those applications asking for your job history, do not provide your managers contact information, just a name is enough. Often those applications have a place where you can say whether or not those people can be contacted as a reference. Here is where you can say no because you don't want them to know you are looking for a job.

Everything about the working world and life in general is about controlling the narrative. You want your story to be told, not your managers story. Sometimes your story won't be believed, but eventually, with enough persistence, it will be. Just keep trying, keep applying for jobs, and take some school on the side. School gives you a stronger narrative because now your saying you didn't like your career path and are trying another. Any narrative is better than "my manager thinks my performance is terrible".

Good luck.


Most (all?) people usually either give a positive reference or at least a neutral one for the following reasons:

  1. Litigation
  2. It is easy to leave the negative stuff off as the person giving the reference has nothing to gain for giving negative references

I would just ask her. Most likely it will be just confirmation that you worked their. Also most probably she will not even write it - HR job.

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