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I work in UK for a software company. I applied for a job at two other companies, 1 and 2. I accepted the offer from company 1 (after 2 months and 3 interviews) and returned the signed contract, resigning from my current job and telling company 2 I was not interested.

When I resigned, my current employer started insulting me, calling me "useless" and "incompetent". We are talking about blatantly denying any contribution I gave to the company.

I thought it was just OK to leave that, but... the new contact says "subject to satisfactory references". They wanted to contact my current employer.

Now I resigned and company 1 could cancel my new job offer because of a bad reference. Moreover, my current employer might could cost me future jobs.

Note: company 1 is not interested in contacting my other referees, all of which I am on personal, friendly good terms with and all of which are supportive.

Question: how can I avoid my current employer destroy my new job opportunity and my next ones?

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    In the U.S., most companies won't give opinionated reviews based on "how they liked you". The information that is given via a reference is attendance, performance metrics, displinary actions, etc.(factual info) The reason for this is, if your previous company cost you a job(and a living) based on an opinionated review of YOU and not your work, this would give grounds to sue for lost wages/opportunities. I'm not sure how it works in the U.K. - but I'd be surprised if it was much different. One question that I would ask is, did you go about your resignation in the proper manner/proper notice? – SQLSavant Feb 15 '15 at 17:25
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    Hi, Thanks for your answer. I handed over my resignation properly, announcing that I would start working somewhere else at the end of the required notice period. Before this, the conversation was "I got a job offer", "you should take it (insults)". – user32664 Feb 15 '15 at 17:41
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    I hope your current employer is proud of the fact they kept someone on staff that is so useless. Glad you're moving on to a better place and I hope they don't find a replacement. – user8365 Feb 15 '15 at 17:58
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    Will your HR department conduct an exit interview by chance? If so, I would mention this altercation with your manager in it to them. This is most definitely an HR issue - and I wouldn't want any other employee to have to go through what you went through when trying to leave on good terms. – SQLSavant Feb 15 '15 at 18:11
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    shrug. The worst reference he can give is actually declining to give one. A negative reference may be libel, or otherwise legally inadvisable. But just give the new company a heads up, and it should turn out fine. It's not unknown for mean spirited individuals to lash out at departing employees, and most HR departments can cope with it. – Sobrique Feb 15 '15 at 21:50
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You should have no obligation to tell your now-former employer where you are going. As a result, do not tell anyone at the company where you are going.

However, if your new to-be-employer wants to get a reference from your old company, you really can't stop them, and lying to them about who that employer was would only make matters worse. If they really are bent on contacting your old employer, I would explain your situation with them and set up the expectation that it might not be a glowing reference.

Furthermore, though I'm not familiar with UK law, in certain states in the US it is possible to get a copy of the reference that employer gives to the new company, and if they say anything about you unrelated to job performance (like "that guy is a sociopath") or something that is discriminatory (like "minorities don't really get along with our company"), you can go after that company for defamation or discrimination.

Worst case, the new company revokes your job offer, and you're left temporarily unemployed. From the context of your question, it sounds like your old job wasn't going to last too much longer, and now you're out of what sounded like a bad job situation anyway.

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    Thanks for your answer. I got a signed contract from the new company, and only at that point they insisted on contacting my current employer. I agree, it's good that I am out of that bad job situation, and yes, that company won't last much longer in its current shape. I did anticipate to HR that there was a sour discussion with my boss when I told him I was leaving: HR panicked. – user32664 Feb 15 '15 at 17:25
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    @StackTA42 In my opinion, you did well in following this answer's advice. For that, you should be proud of yourself. From now on, you have to be very careful when handing resumes. I don't know if someone does this, but they might call to the "mad boss" without consulting you and you might lose a few interviews. I don't know if you can do this, but I would leave a note describing this "incident". I may be completely wrong or right on the track. But since this is a community, I'm sure that a better solution will be found if someone contacts the "mad boss". – Ismael Miguel Feb 15 '15 at 22:07
  • Regarding your comments on UK law - unlike some countries, in the UK it is both legal and acceptable to give a negative reference. However, there can be grounds for legal action if that reference is unfair or unsubstantiated (or discriminatory, etc), so while companies who have evidence of your poor performance will happily give bad references because they can back them up, in other cases the company may simply decline to provide a reference when asked. Doing so speaks volumes and is generally understood to mean "we have nothing nice to say, so we choose to say nothing at all". – anaximander Feb 17 '16 at 15:24
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All you can really do is be honest about the situation.

It may seem like your former employer is going to ruin you, but if you explain to your new prospective employer that things were copacetic before you resigned and that after giving notice the relationship soured, they may be understanding.

My wife had a similar situation when she applied to her current job. She was more than a little worried about what kind of reference her former employer would give because, even though she was quite good at her job, she didn't leave on the best terms.

When she explained the situation to her new boss, it turned out that her former employer had a well know reputation for throwing fits when people left his company.

This may not be true in all cases, but within many industries people talk. And people tend to talk more when they've been burned be the same person in the same way.

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    Hi, Thanks for your reply. I have been honest, I told them "look, I can give you my current employer's reference but there was an emotional discussion when I said I had a job offer", and HR panicked. My current boss openly insults anybody who left the company. Except one person, all people who left resigned and were not fired, but this doesn't stop my current boss from badly calling all of them "useless" and "incompetent". – user32664 Feb 15 '15 at 17:28
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My gut feel as a hiring manager in the UK (who has worked in both enhanced background checks and screening for police) is not to worry. The majority of reference checks in the UK (even enhanced ones) are employment verification only, so it's likely the company will only be asked about job title and dates, and as long as you match that you should be fine.

The odd small company may still pursue "references", but given their reluctance to take your others I don't think this is likely.

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