I am presently employed and looking for another job because a) I don't make enough money and b) the environment is so stressful it is toxic. The problem is that if I put my job down as my present employer my employer will sabotage my efforts and then fire me. I've seen this happen twice already to two other employees at my job and my boss laughed about it. Though many applications have a check box not contact a present employer or even if asking for confidentiality in a cover letter (which in itself is a red flag to many potential employers - after all, they might ask themselves, what does this employee have to hide?) many hiring managers will still contact the job anyway, or someone who works there, which will get back to the employer anyway. This just happened to me today.

Fortunately, I put down another work reference of a friend's company. Unfortunately, the hiring manager knew people who worked for my friend and contacted them, and they told him they never heard of me. As a result I didn't get the job. While I know my friend won't inform his employees who I am and where I work, there is still the risk that my job will find out.

Anyway, I'm at a loss of what options I have available. I'm not in the position to leave my job and seek employment elsewhere since I have bills to pay. Even if my job finds out and fires me (as this potential employer suggested to me) there's no guarantee that I'll get unemployment because my present employer will contest that too, as I've seen him do with other employees. So my question is, How do I get another job using my present employer without them finding out and getting fired? BTW - I never left a job without giving a 2 week notice and I plan to do the same with this job, though I've seen before that this job doesn't honor that either.

  • 2
    Who exactly is it who is sabotaging these job references? Is it your immediate boss? Is it the head of your company? Is there someone in the company who you would trust not to go along with this sabotage? And is there an HR professional in the company? Mar 6, 2014 at 18:40
  • Sorry, I wrote that while feeling very upset. My present employer is a very vindictive person who will sabotage any potential job I try to get. unfortunately, my present employer takes everything personally.
    – Ana
    Mar 6, 2014 at 21:05

4 Answers 4


First never lie or fake experience to get a job. It starts you off on the wrong foot with the employer and if the employer finds out you could be let go even after you start. And as you found out it really is a small world. It is amazing how many people I have crossed paths with time and again in 20+ years of IT Consulting. There is always the chance that someone in your hiring chain knows someone and with social media staying in contact and reaching out is easier than ever.

Chances are your employer is not going to take any action should they find out you looking for a new job unless you give them a reason to. If you do your job and keep the job search to off work hours you should have nothing to worry about. Firing someone and contesting unemployment is not cost effective especially for someone who is doing their job and going to be leaving anyway. If your manager says anything a simple response is that you need to be making more money. You do not have to tell them you do not like working there, and there is nothing to be gained from it, so I would not. It might even spur your manager to get you a raise, and you can still leave any time you want.

If you are really concerned about blowback from applying with another company then list your employer anonymously on your resume/application.


2012 - Current - National Industrial Supply Company - NY - Data Analyst

I am seeing this more often now as people submit resume's over the internet and do not want to leave too much personal information out there. You can always disclose in a personal or phone interview the actual company and if the company needs provide proof of employment. I would still avoid indicating that you are unhappy with your current employer just that you would prefer not to disclose that you are searching for a new job.


Disengaging from a company can be tough, and there are abusive personalities who will try to harm you on the way out, or even after.

In the US, companies are extremely gun-shy about this behavior, because a former employee can sue the company if they are harmed financially. (I believe it falls under slander.) So most US companies will only provide factual information like start date, end date, and title to potential employers.

However, some abusive personalities may go through back channels, and that's harder to pin down.

Absolutely keep your search private. And make it clear to potential employers that the job search is confidential.

There are also intermediate jobs you can take such as temp work or contracting that "break the chain" between you and a toxic employer.

But keep your head down, take your time. Something will work out. It can be frustrating and intimidating extracting yourself from a situation like that.

  • can you please clarify what you mean by "Disengaging from a company" ?
    – amphibient
    Mar 6, 2014 at 21:37

It might be advisable to take a two pronged course in this employment search:

  1. Start documenting the times and dates that you heard or witnessed your immediate superior disparage former employees and claiming the he adversely affected their employment or employment opportunities. Don't tell anyone, even trusted friends at work, that you are doing this and always make certain that you keep any such information in a discreet location in your home when you are not at work. The purpose of this is to keep a record of discriminatory employment practices which you have witnessed. Detail as much as you can remember (time, date, the individuals who were present,etc) and the exact comments this person made. Do not lie or exaggerate. Simply and honestly document events that you have witnessed.
  2. Create a new email (one that you never access at your work computer) to receive your responses to job inquiries. Access this email only using a smart phone if you have one or after you are away from work. This is because many companies monitor their employees Internet and telephone usage. If it is detected that you are spending company looking for other employment opportunities, if things are as bad at current employer as you claim, you find yourself the "victim" of the same treatment received by other former employees.

You may also wish to start saving some extra money if you can to do so. This will be in case you either find that you can no longer tolerate your work environment or if they discover that you are looking for another position.

If you find that you are, or have been, professionally damaged by your soon to be former supervisor, you may wish to take your documentation to an attorney and determine if you wish to take legal action against your former employer. While this may not be advisable in a smaller industry or if you are working at an industry leader, it may be enough to force the company to become more circumspect in how it allows managerial employees to deal with former employees.


I find that the truth and appealing to peoples emotions and sense of justice are the best way to go forward when you are afraid of what will happen. Above all else though...

Never Lie!

I would continue to search for a new job secretly but when you talk to the hiring manager just tell them the truth. Tell them who your current employer is, how long you have been working there, and ask them not to contact your current employer until an offer is made and accepted by you contingent on a successful background check. In this way if they like you and make you an offer and you accept, you and the company agree that the offer will be null and void if your background check fails. If you were truthful from the start then you should have nothing to worry about here.

Appeal to the hiring manager's sense of emotions. Tell them that your employer has fired people because they discovered that these people were looking for jobs. Convey this message to the hiring manager without emotions as if it is an indisputable fact and not something that you have a great deal of feelings about.

A hiring manager will likely not disqualify you for making such requests or by being perfectly sincere. The hiring manager might disqualify you if you start to complain about your current employer or seem emotionally charged. At that point they might wonder your sincerity or whether you are a disaffected employee with a chip on their shoulder. I think an unnecessary display of emotions or playing the victim card is where people get in trouble here.

Above all else be brave in the face of adversity and know that your employer does not own you. The only real power they have over you is your fear of them. Know your rights and abilities, control your fear and rage about the situation and you can control your situation to make it better.

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