What To Do When Your Bad Boss Won’t Give You A Reference

What To Do When Your Bad Boss Won’t Give You A Reference

 

A question I get asked a lot is: “What do I do when my boss won’t give me a reference?” If you’ve been working in a hostile environment, the chances are your boss has said to you: “You’re lucky to have a job!” and: “There are no jobs out there” and: “Be grateful I don’t fire you!

 

All those statements are propaganda and if you believe them, you’ve been brainwashed. The truth of it is, YOU are in control of your own life, in every moment and with every decision you make. Therefore, IT IS POSSIBLE for you to not only get another job, but a GOOD one, where you feel FULFILLED!

 

Herein are 5 steps you can take to change your reality:

 

1. The Helicopter View

 

The first step to any major life change is to step back and take a bigger picture view, as if you’re looking down from a helicopter at the bends in the Amazon River. You’d be in a better position to know how to navigate the rapids than a canoe, because you can see where they are and the canoe can’t.

 

 

Start by asking yourself the following big picture questions:

  • => “Where am I now?” 
  • => “Where do I want to be?”
  • => “Who am I?” and
  • => “What do I want to create?”

 

BUT don’t require an immediate answer. Sit with these questions for as long as you need with an open and curious mind. Prepare yourself to receive the answers from a higher source.

 

This is where your regular mindfulness practice is extremely helpful; I teach you how in my free guide: The Silence of Mindfulness: A Simple Guide to Inner Peace and Emotional Well-Being.”

 

 

Then, choose to take responsibility for creating your career, starting RIGHT NOW. No time to be asleep; this is YOUR life we’re talking about!

 

Human resources author Liz Ryan (who writes for Forbes magazine) talks about the importance of ending the dependency on your employer for your income and instead think of yourself as a consultant, there to address a problematic, “business pain.”

 

Your contribution solves that important problem for your company, enough to hire someone to fix it. That person is YOU. Remember, there are other companies with the exact same problem, which you are uniquely qualified to solve.

 

Taking responsibility means making the time to research who your clients are (AKA employers) and getting to know the gatekeepers in those companies. You need to tell them about the unique value you bring and the sense of purpose you have in solving their problem.

 

2. Nurture An Exit Plan

 

If you’ve been lulled into a false sense of security by working in one company for too long, being the target of workplace bullying has no doubt come as a shock. Suddenly you face a dilemma: put up with the toxic workplace and pay your bills, or leave and default on the mortgage.

 

With a jolt, you wake up to the reality that it only takes one person to fire you and that person seems to have all the power.

 

In this situation, your next step is to prepare an exit plan, which may take a few months to implement. It’s not a quick fix and you’ll have to tolerate the intolerable for a while longer.

 

3. How Powerful Is Your Boss, Really?

 

Do some research before assuming that your boss has almighty sway over your career. He may not have that much power over you after all.

 

Conversely, who does have power in your industry? Find out who the players are and put them on your list to connect with on social media – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook.

 

Your job is now to make these influencers know, like and trust you. Start with a simple conversation and find some common ground. If one of these connections ends up offering you a job because they like you (it’s who you know, not what you know), why would they ask your boss about you? They’ve already decided you’re a great gal / guy.

 

4. Build Your Network

 

They say your network = your net worth. In his book, “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell talks about the strength of weak ties.

 

Gladwell cites a classic 1974 study by Mark Granovetter, called: “Getting a Job” in which 282 Boston workers were surveyed and found that 56% got jobs through a personal connection. Of those connections, most were weak ties. Only 16.7% saw the contact often, 55.6% saw them occasionally, and 28% saw them rarely.

 

Furthermore, weak ties are often more important than strong ties for discovering new information; as Granovetter says: “Your friends, after all, occupy the same world that you do. They might work with you, or live near you, and go to the same churches, or parties. How much, then, would they know that you don’t know?

 

The more acquaintances you have, the more social power you can wield. Become a Gladwell-esque “connector” and you’ll have a far greater resource than laboriously applying for 60 different jobs on Seek.dot.com

 

5. Give Heaps Of Value

 

Once you’ve located an influential person in your network whose company you’d like to work for, give that person heaps of value. It could be as simple as finding out about their interests and sharing an article with them they’d find useful.

 

Or, you could take it one step further and do as this teenager did when he desperately wanted to work in a jeans retail store during the holidays. This shop was very popular with teens – it paid well and the work was interesting, but it was almost impossible to get a job there.

 

Every time the boy would walk past (let’s call him Steve), it would remind him of his desire. Then, one busy Saturday he had an epiphany. He walked into the store and started folding up the sweaters on a display stand until they were all neat and tidy.

 

When a staff member came up to him and asked what he was doing he said: “you seemed pretty busy, so I thought I’d help out by folding all these sweaters that were in a mess on your central display.”

 

It took him about 20 minutes to do and the staff member thanked him. Thereafter for the next four weeks, he’d do the same – every Saturday he’d spend 30 minutes or so tidying up. He was there on a super busy day when a customer dropped a glass bottle on the floor, shattering it into a thousand pieces.

 

The manager, stressed and alarmed, called out for someone to help clean up, but all the staff were busy. Steve went straight up to the manager and offered to clean it up. “Who are you?” asked the manager. “Someone who loves your store and wants to help,” said Steve.

 

Within a few days of that incident, the manager offered Steve a job, thus fulfilling his dream. The manager had acquired a dedicated, conscientious and motivated employee (I can’t remember where I read this story, but please let me know the provenance if you know it, so I can cite the source!).

 

In conclusion, what I’ve presented here is a very different perspective to your job search than what you might be used to. Its challenging to change your mindset, but I’d love to see YOU get your power back and have the ball firmly and squarely in YOUR court!

 

P.S. I can help you implement this strategy!

Written by

Dr Sophie Henshaw is a Work Stress Strategist, Author and Doctor of Psychology who also works as a clinical psychologist in private practice in Western Australia. She’s helps mid-career professionals working in toxic workplaces with bully bosses walk away from work stress without losing their career, reputation, income or sanity in her online program, "Walk Away From Work Stress." Dr Sophie is the author of “Stressed, Depressed And Dreading Mondays” and has contributed a chapter in Anton Hout's book: “What Every Target Of Workplace Bullying Needs To Know.” She also writes for her blog at: www.freespiritedme.com and has made media appearances on Channel 10, 6PR, Huffpost Live, WA Today, Ninemsn Health and is a contributor to Huffington post, Women’s Agenda and PsychCentral online magazines. In 2017 she presented at the “No More Harm” conference and in 2016 was a keynote speaker at the "No2Bullying conference," as well as the inaugural HPARA conference.

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