Should You Give Personal Recommendations to Past Employees?

Being a manager means you get the opportunity to hire skilled employees. However, it also means that you might be asked to give references to past ones. It can be a complicated issue but it’s something that comes with the territory. Whenever an employee leaves, you will have to be prepared for what you will say to other employers who might call for a reference. If the employee left on good terms, this might be a pretty simple task. If the employee was fired, on the other hand, this might be a little more difficult. Here’s how to handle this sometimes tricky situation.


Should You Give a Reference at All?

It is not uncommon for former employees to have their new potential employer reach out to you for a recommendation. If your former employee left on good terms, it would absolutely be acceptable to share their performance with this new employer. It would be respectful of you to share the glowing truth about this employee to their prospective employer. If you are asked to give a recommendation for a former employee who did NOT leave on good terms, it is advisable to simply acknowledge that the employee worked for you and for how long. It is best to say as little as possible.


What Information Can You Disclose?

If you are giving a positive reference then feel free to shower your former employee with compliments. However, if you are speaking about an employee who left on bad terms, you should tread lightly. If you aren’t careful in your statements about previous employees, you could find yourself facing a defamation lawsuit. Most states have laws about what employers can legally disclose so it depends on the state whether or not you can share general information about the person’s performance.


What to Tell Potential Employers

When a potential employer calls you for a reference, you can feel trapped between giving an honest review and fearing a lawsuit by saying too much. Here are a few tips to help you avoid any problems:

  • Warn the employer on the front end that you can’t give a positive reference for this employee and leave it at that.
  • Only give basic information like dates of employment and job title.
  • Stick to the facts and avoid giving comments about why you think the employee left.
  • Don’t give false flattery. You don’t need to give the employee a scathing review but you also don’t want to lie about their reference either.
  • Keep it brief and simple. Give as little information as possible.