I have been in my current role for roughly 15 months- the first 12 months or so went fairly well, but since then several issues have crept up which have caused me to start looking for other employment. The issues include: a reluctance by my supervisor to make reasonable adjustments required to assist me with my disability, breakdown of relationship with one or two colleagues due to harassment (and my supervisor's unwillingness to deal with the issues- choosing to ignore them instead), and my position becoming 'redundant' following the delivery of a product to the client- subsequently leaving me with very little work to do.

Having spoken to my supervisor about the these issues, it has become clear that he is not trying to resolve them, but rather trying to use them to leverage me out of the company (I guess to save money, as there's not much work on at the moment).

What I'm worried about is if (or more likely, when) I leave the company for another job, I doubt whether the reference my supervisor will give will be all that great, despite the fact that I have delivered several projects during my time in employment here, and that the work I have completed has been to a good standard- the pressure that I am under to leave the company makes me worry that any reference he provides me with for future employment will have a negative overtone.

Obviously, I don't know for sure that the reference will be negative, but how should I approach this when dealing with future prospective employers? How do I get 'my side' of the story over without jeopardising my chances of getting other roles?

  • I live in the UK, and in my field (computing/ software), most companies I have applied to ask for 1 or 2 references. I would have thought it will probably have to be my supervisor, as that's who I report to day-to-day, or possibly my manager (who is also my supervisor's manager- so everything he knows about me/ my work comes from my supervisor). I also have a referee for my previous job- a six month contract which was extended by a couple of months, but then ended due to my disability being too big a hindrance to my performance in that role. Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 11:45
  • I think that the referee for my previous job would probably be 'fair' in his assessment of my performance, but I think the nature of the work there just clashed with disability in terms of how well I was able to do the work- which although I declared at interview, wouldn't necessarily have been obvious prior to them taking me on. My only other professional experience was a sandwich placement from university- back in 2010/11, so is probably too long ago to be useful... Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 11:48
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    During my military service there was the saying of "complementing people away", i.e. giving people, that you don't want to have in your work environment, better references than they deserve to get them promoted away from you. Your supervisor seems to have a similar interest to get rid of you (sorry for the harsh wording), so you might propose him an agreement like "I try to find a new job as soon as possible ad you won't do anything to prevent it when I give you as a reference to potential new employers." Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 13:21
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    Most references in the UK are that you have worked between x and y with the reason for leaving. As you have not been sacked your reference should be ok. Also it is usually felt with by hr for legal reasons
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 13:23
  • Refermnces do not ever have to be supervisors
    – HLGEM
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 19:58

2 Answers 2


how should I approach this when dealing with future prospective employers? How do I get 'my side' of the story over without jeopardising my chances of getting other roles?

First, try harder to have only positive references.

If you believe your supervisor will not give you a positive reference (and you aren't willing or able to ask him directly), try to find someone else at this company who can serve as a reference.

Since it's not unusual that you don't want your current company to know you are looking elsewhere, it's not unusual to give no reference from this company, or to use a confidential co-worker as your current reference. Find a co-worker you can trust with the news that you may be leaving, and who you think will give you the best possible reference under the circumstances. Ask this co-worker if they would be willing to be a good reference for you, then act accordingly.

Then go back through your previous positions and find people who would make great references. Contact them, bring them up to speed on your situation, and ask if they would be willing to be a reference.

When the time comes in the interview process to specify reference, pick of the strongest ones and use them.

In most locales, in most contexts, it's not necessary to use anyone as a reference who you believe won't say great things about you. Most often, you get to choose. Choose wisely.

If you still end up with less-than-terrific references, be ready to discuss any less than stellar mentions in the interview, should they be questioned. You know your issues and weaknesses. Be prepared to explain what they are, how they may have negatively impacted you in the past, and (hopefully) how they won't be a problem going forward. Practice your answers until they feel natural, and don't come across as excuses or whining about former companies. You want to confidently be able to reassure interviewers that any problems are in the past.


The best way to deal with this is to have a really good explanation and deliver it with confidence. You only need to discuss the essence of it. Don't go into excessive detail. Don't be bitter. Don't make accusations. Don't lie. Keep it short and sweet. As short as you can make it. Above all, be humble and take some responsibility for whatever happened, and say what you learned from it.

So work on a response. Write it. Edit it. Practice it. Make it natural and instinctive. And hope you never have to use it.

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