Promised Recommendation Never Delivered

By Lindsey Novak

April 5, 2012 5 min read

Q: I left my job when my contract expired, as I was very unhappy with it. Originally, my supervisor and I expected that I would sign on for another year, but as tensions mounted, we agreed it was best for me to move on somewhere else. She agreed (in writing) to write me a strong recommendation letter. She has not done so, nor do I think she will. I already have strong recommendations from past supervisors, so I don't think this will hurt me.

My position required me to have a lot of institutional knowledge and expertise, something that the people I worked with did not have. I wrote instructions and trained everyone before I left, but the information they needed was challenging for them to grasp, since they were so inexperienced.

I am getting emails from my former colleagues asking questions about how to the job. I hold no animosity towards them, and I have helped as they have needed. Since I have not received my recommendation letter, I am wondering if I should still be spending my time answering all of their questions. I want to act professionally and not be spiteful, but I think my time is best spent looking for a new job rather than continuing to train my former colleagues. What do you think?

A: Don't assume that your former supervisor is refusing to write you a recommendation. In fact, never assume anything in business. Your supervisor singed an agreement to give you a strong recommendation letter, something that is rarely, if ever, done. Call her to say you have not received the letter, and ask her if, in the interest of saving her time, she would like you to write and forward a draft to her. Tell her that you have continued to train your former colleagues and that you would like that included in the recommendation letter.

If she agrees that is a great idea, write a letter describing the job requirements and all that you brought to the position. This is your chance for you to promote yourself as a marketing letter would do. Whenever you ask someone to write something for you, you are at that person's mercy. She may not have the time needed to craft a well-written letter. She may not remember all your accomplishments on the job. She also may not be a good writer. Writing your own recommendation letter is your best option.

If she refuses your help and says she will do it on her own, ask when you can expect to receive it. This is also the perfect time to ask if she would like to go into a written contract with you for consulting/training time, since you have spent many hours of your own time helping your former colleagues.

If she says she no longer wants to write the recommendation letter, remind her you have a signed agreement stating she will do so. If she is a smart supervisor, she will acquiesce, knowing she needs your continued help training her employees.



Q: I am a student working occasionally for a health care agency, helping disabled seniors with various errands. A senior woman who wasn't able to go out gave me $500 to pay her bills and buy her food. When I returned, I handed her the receipts and the remaining money, and I left.

She called me later and said, "Don't bother coming back if you're going to steal from me!" I didn't know what she was talking about, so I agreed to return to talk to her. I helped her look for her missing money, which we found stuffed into one of her pockets. Before I arrived, she had torn apart her place looking for the money, so I also straightened up the mess she had made. How do I protect myself from this kind of thing happening again?

A: This senior citizen may be suffering from dementia, so report all unusual incidents to your employer. The agency may need to contact the woman's family or doctor and assign a highly experienced caregiver to service this client.

Email all your workplace questions to [email protected] She answers all emails. To find out more about Lindsey Novak and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Website at

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