TL; DR: Bullying in workplace, unable to do anything about it, bully is responsible for informing boss of my performance and thus content for a reference, can I consequently get a bad reference? What are my options? How can I prove anything?

I am a recent graduate with some experience in my field of interest but the current job I have been at for almost a year. I unfortunately have to use this employer as a referee but I have had ongoing issues at work due to bullying and favouritism and feel as though it will permanently haunt me forever.

My manager was having none of it when I originally explained that some people were teasing me about 6 months ago, instead she said in better words for me to "man up" and that this "isn't school". Because I needed the money I continued my employment there. My assistant manager who has come back after some months of illness has been on medication that is affecting her behaviour. She is very petty and keeps on being condescending toward me. We had a dispute because I stood up to her for being unreasonably bossy some months ago and she's held a grudge ever since. Because of what my boss said months ago I've kept it bottled up but it's getting worse. My assistant manager wants a reaction and is even saying things with a snide tone but I want to leave the job on good terms and I'm well into my job hunting. My manager doesn't work on the floor so all opinions and feedback she's getting is from the assistant manager and well my assistant manager has consequently taken a lot of my responsibilities away which I think isn't justified (surely if I was a bad employee this would have been mentioned in my two appraisals I've had so far/I wouldn't have succeeded the probation period?). So at the moment my assistant manager is getting other people to do my job for me essentially or monitor me and it's really insulting. For example, I was to make sure someone's medication was taken in 45 minutes time (not hard right?) my manager rocked up and told a colleague to remember that time for me. I have also been monitored doing cooking (I can cook - I've lived independently all my adult life). It's really horrible tbh and I feel incompetent even though I know I'm not if that makes sense but I don't know how to approach this, particularly as my boss doesn't care.

Obviously the right thing to do would be to leave but the dilemma here is the worry that my boss thinks I'm incompetent thanks to my assistant manager. I feel like my only way out of there is a satisfactory reference otherwise I'm screwed. What do I do? Can I get a bad reference? Is there a point on mentioning to my boss how I'm being treated if she doesn't really care?

Honestly, the company I work for is very "friends and family" run so that's why when I'd made an initial complaint against her niece and friend she was having none of it. It's not the greatest company to work for but I've read before that it's not really wise to mention stuff like this at interview so I just feel like I have to keep quiet regardless of me wanting to leave for very good reasons.

Any help will be greatly appreciated thank you :)

  • 3
    It sounds like the right answer is to get out soon and not worry about the reference, unless you are willing to do the work to change their minds about you.
    – keshlam
    Sep 16, 2016 at 23:58
  • 1
    Do you have any other co-workers who can vouch for you? You don't need to use the boss as a reference, and any many cases, the company can't give a reference beyond, "Yes, tyrannyatwork was employed here from 2015 to 2016"
    – Herb
    Sep 17, 2016 at 5:48
  • Well really take heart,m, this won't haunt you forever. However, you should have learned a lesson about complaining about relatives of the managers. This is virtually always a bad move in the workplace. At interviews, just say that you are ready to move on to new challenges, by no means mention that you are having trouble getting along.
    – HLGEM
    Sep 17, 2016 at 9:31
  • In the UK at least its basically seen as impossible to leave a bad reference as it leaves you open to a civil suit for slander. Unsure how this is in other countries.
    – James T
    Sep 19, 2016 at 14:29

2 Answers 2


You need to leave and find a place where your work is appreciated. After you accumulate four or five years of work experience, this first bad job in a family-owned business won't matter much. Future employers might not even check your references at this job.

Just find another job as soon as possible, then thank this employer, leave, and forget about it.


It's normal to NOT give your current employer as a reference, and it will not raise any red flags. Many people job hunt without their current employer knowing. If you're asked how quickly you would be able to start a potential position, saying "2 weeks' communicates that your employer might not know you're looking.

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