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No-Reference Policy

No-Reference Policy

A reader writes:

The company I work for has a no-reference policy. From what I can gather, it’s because the managers I work for aren’t permitted to speak about my performance on behalf of their area managers.

I have worked for the company for 2.5 yrs and have performed well, risen to supervisor, and have received prizes for doing so. However, I didn’t finish high school and have wanted to get more qualifications.

I asked my managers if they could write me a reference for my college application, and they said they’d write a character one. I brought in the form and they informed me they couldn’t write that as head office told them it would be in breach of the aforementioned reference policy (it took them two weeks to inform me of that). I then asked what they could do within those parameters. They then told me they could give me a reference that was very basic, giving details of how much I’m paid, how many hours I’m contracted for and title within the company etc. Three weeks after I handed them my college application and they have put it off for ages despite me being on their case all the time to ask them to get it done.

I have contacted them outside of work hours asking about it, and they’ve told me that they’re still writing it “off their own backs” and have implied that I should be grateful they’re doing it at all. On top of it all, because of all their delays and recent snow I haven’t been able to contact the University about the problem.

Am I asking too much of my employer? Are they within their rights not to right me a reference at all, even a basic one?

I’m one of the longest serving members of staff and feel I deserve more.

Are they within their rights? Sure. Is something else going on here? Yes.

That something else is one of two things:

1. They don’t feel they could honestly give you a good reference, and they’re too weak to come out and tell you that.


2. They’re rude/inconsiderate/lazy/jerks/all of the above.

If they felt they couldn’t give you a good reference, they should have just explained that and not jerked you around. And what’s this business about saying they’d give you a “character reference” rather than a performance reference and then not even coming through with that?

At this point, I would give up on getting a reference from them and find a way to complete your application without them. Even if they come through with the bare bones reference they’re not promising (pay, hours, and title), I don’t think that’s something likely to be useful for a college application anyway.

I would also start seriously questioning what kind of people you might be working for, and feeling good about the fact that you’re on your way out of there.