At a past job I had a manager who was difficult to deal with. He was very rude, threatening and confusing. I reported the problem to HR but I don’t think they did anything (or if they did they did not keep me in the loop). Anyway I ended up quitting this job. Other people in the office knew about my boss’s demeanor and one woman (let’s call her Jane) told me I could use her as a reference instead of him. I think the exact words she used were “have them contact me as your manager gets confused easy”.
So I have applied to a job recently and they're doing a reference check. I got an email from Jane saying
Hello. I got questions from your new manager Joe, for a reference check. I have not answered yet, but question one has me a bit worried as you did not really work with me, but for part of the group I was in. Should Joe have worded this differently? Let me know how I should word this with your thoughts.
I’m not sure how to proceed. I think the next step is to ask Jane for a copy of the questions my new manager has asked. Would that be illegal or immoral? The new job did say they needed references from me, and I don't consider this to exclusively mean my direct manager.
I don't think it's a good idea, but it is an option to explain to my new manager about the situation with my old boss and why I'm using someone who isn't him as my reference. In the particular position I had, I worked solo and didn't directly work with anyone aside from my boss.
I intend to handle this as honestly as possible, and I think Jane feels the same way.