I worked for four years in a company where the "BOSS" was a vengeful kid. Please don't ask me why I'm working for a guy like this. Sometimes we need a job.

The employer has proven himself as a toxic vengeful kid many times over the past years. For example, he badmouthed for no reason at all an old coworker to his new company (he has networking) because he chose to leave for a better position.

Now it is time for me to leave. I'm planning to announce it the next week, and my new job requires some references from my previous jobs. I don't have many options since this is my last job and the role experience is vital for my new job. And the fear comes when I think, "What if he does the same thing to me?"

How to approach this matter without triggering this guy's nerves?

I even considered bringing up a personal issue in my life not to make him believe that I was leaving because I had found something better.

And to be honest, I don't want to leave with bad relations.

  • 2
    The recruiters asked me for references from the last 3 years, and I've been workings with this guy for the previous 4 years. Also, this was my best role so far.
    – devblack
    Commented Sep 17, 2022 at 15:00
  • 6
    Does this answer your question? What can I do about a malicious previous employer giving bad references? Commented Sep 17, 2022 at 15:19
  • 7
    Are there other people at your current place that you can use? It doesn't have to be your boss and you can explain while you are not using them
    – Hilmar
    Commented Sep 17, 2022 at 15:22
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    Is this the only person at your company? Just you and him? Surely there are other employees that you can use as a reference? What about coworkers at other companies that you've worked at? Is this the only company you've ever worked at? References need not be from your current employer.
    – joeqwerty
    Commented Sep 17, 2022 at 17:05
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    What country is this? Over time, references in the UK have become more technical and less opinion-based because the employer seeks to avoid legal action from former employees (and their current employers) if the reference could be construed as misleading. Commented Sep 18, 2022 at 11:13

3 Answers 3


Ask your new job for an alternate reference you can use. Explain that since you haven't announced your departure yet, you are unable to provide a reference from your current job.

If you have some available, you can suggest alternate references yourself, such as someone you worked with near the end of your job before this 4-year one, someone you've done volunteer work with, or a friend who works in your industry.

You don't have to say when you're planning to announce your departure. Just about every reasonable recruiter / HR person understands that there are many reasons why someone may not be able to ask their current employer for a reference. "I haven't told them I'm leaving yet, and want to ensure a smooth transition" is a relatively benign one. It can be interpreted as anything from "my employer is perfectly fine but has a strict policy about final work days" to "if I tell my current employer I'm quitting, they'll retaliate".

If your new employer pushes back, just repeat the same statement: "I haven't told them I'm leaving yet, and I want to ensure a smooth transition. I will provide [this other reference] instead." If they don't get the hint, you may want to dig deeper into their own management style before joining.

  • 6
    That's spot on. Even having good terms, I don't remember ever asking a current boss for reference, just because it's weird.
    – Fabio
    Commented Sep 18, 2022 at 5:50
  • @Fabio, I ask for a reference whenever my direct report manager changes. That's perfectly normal in Germany, both I and the HR department get a copy for the files, and if I should clash with the new manager I can say 'look, all the previous managers liked my work, so perhaps send me to a different team now.'
    – o.m.
    Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 5:26

Never ask somebody to marry you if you don't already know the answer. Or in this situation, never ask somebody for a recommendation if you don't know they're going to be supportive/effusive.

I know it's awkward to not have a reference from your current employer, is there anybody else you worked with who might endorse you instead? A personnel manager? A product owner? A coworker? Even if they don't know you quite as well, if they're good hearted people they're probably a better bet than someone you're unsure about.

And if there's anybody at a previous job/stage of life, 4 years is not too far outside the range to ask them. It's not great, but that's the situation you're in.


I've been in this situation with previous employment.

My advice would be: ask HR for a reference explicitly.

If the company you currently work for is small/doesn't have a HR department, ask the manager/owner of the company instead.

I can only speak from a UK perspective here; employers are extremely careful about giving "bad" references, for fear of being hauled into court over libel. If an employer ruins your chances with another job due to a reference that's full of lies and negative opinion, you have a legal avenue for compensation due to loss of earnings.

If your direct manager owns the company, and there is no one "higher" to ask for a reference, or if you think a "flat"/negative reference is on the way, you may want to explain the current situation to your new employer. Explaining the situation will pre-empt a flat/negative reference, and they may choose to simply view the reference as a formality and leave it at that.

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