Dear Urban Diplomat: do I have to give a job recommendation to a friend even if I don’t think he deserves one?
Dear Urban Diplomat,
A good friend who used to work under me has asked for a job reference. Trouble is, I can’t think of anyone who would be worse for the position. I haven’t responded to his email yet, and the longer I wait, the more awkward it becomes. What should I do?
—Refer Madness, WANLESS PARK
You’re close to this person, so he deserves the truth: “You’re a great guy, but you show up late for work reeking of whiskey and mediocrity. Ask someone who doesn’t think you’re a steaming hot mess.” A softened version will also suffice: “I say this as your former boss, not your friend: there were some rough patches when you worked for me. You should ask someone who can provide an unequivocally enthusiastic recommendation.” If he persists, combat his obstinacy with some of your own: fake an out-of-office notice and screen your calls until your services are no longer required.
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