A negative relationship with a previous employer in the workplace can be a daily struggle. And the problems don’t always end when you leave the job.
Maybe you’re wondering how to list references on your resume when you’ve had a negative relationship with a previous employer or how to obtain letters of recommendation when needed. Below, we’ll answer these questions and help you work through your bad boss relationship before, while, and after you take your leave.
Tips for Improving Negative Relationship with a Previous Employer
If you are soon to leave a job in which you have a negative relationship with a previous employer, you can lay the groundwork now to overcome that challenge.
Differences in personality, background, and other traits can strain relationships in the workplace, including your relationship with your employer. Minor matters can become major irritants when you must work closely with another person on a daily basis.
But remember, every relationship is based on the actions of two people. You may not be able to alter your boss’s behavior, but you can change your own.
One important step is to try to communicate effectively. Many negative interactions can be traced to miscommunications. Do what you can to communicate clearly and frequently. Strive to understand exactly what is expected of you, and don’t put off communication regarding mistakes, a need for assistance, or rapidly approaching deadlines.
Also, remember that how you communicate can be even more important than what or how often you communicate. Treat your employer with respect. Show this in how you talk to them and about them. Never bad-mouth your employer to your coworkers.
1. Try to Leave the Door Open
As the time comes for you to resign, respect and good communication become even more important if you desire a more positive interaction in the future.
Let your boss know about your decision to leave well in advance. Typically, two weeks’ notice is considered courteous. Speak to your employer in person or write a tactful resignation letter – especially if such a letter is considered customary in your industry. Your letter can be emailed rather than printed, but don’t resign via text message.
The act of writing your letter can help you think about and clearly communicate your reasons for leaving. Focus on the positive, such as the benefits of the new job or the freedom to care for family responsibilities. Avoid complaining about the job you are leaving or the people who work there.
You may choose to send your resignation letter to the HR department or your boss’s boss as well. This can influence how they will think about you if you ask them for a reference in the future.
What, though, if you didn’t leave by choice – what if you were fired? Keep your cool. It can be tempting to go on a vocal, vengeful tirade, but resist the urge. Instead, continue to focus on the positive. Thank your boss for the time and opportunities the job has afforded. If possible, cite specifics, such as training you have received. Then gracefully take your leave. Your calm demeanor may be more impressive than you would realize.
2. Strategies for Moving On
After a break with an employer, the following tips can help you move on in your career.
Don’t Talk Negatively About Your Former Employer
Feel like venting? Don’t. If you post your complaints on social media or voice them to your former coworkers, they may get back to your former employer, making matters worse.
Don’t complain to your new employer, either. Being known as a complainer is not a beneficial trait. Vehement complaints may be seen as a red flag—that perhaps you were the source of the problem.
In Most Cases, Don’t Worry About It
How do you handle your Negative relationship with a previous employer during the job application process? Most of the time, it is a non-issue. Fill out your resume as you normally would, listing the work experience and tailoring it to the needs of the job you’re applying for. Don’t mention the negative interactions. Even if you were fired from the job, there is no need to say so.
What about references? In most cases, you don’t have to worry about these, either. Unless specifically requested, there is little need to include references with your job application.
3. Ask Others for References
What if your prospective employer does ask for references? Generally, you should be able to find other willing references. Consider asking former instructors or managers from previous jobs.
What if that job is your only experience or a reference from that company is especially vital? That’s where your efforts to improve relationships come in. First, check with others at the organization with whom you had better relationships. And if it comes down to it, the respect and dignity you showed your employer may have produced a change in attitude toward you.
You can take steps today to improve strained workplace relations, especially by employing respect and good communication. As you move on to a new job, you may not need to worry about the former employer any longer. If you do need a reference from the company, your exceptional behavior will give them something positive to relate.