Ask LH: My Ex In-Law Refuses To Give Me A Reference, What Can I Do?

Hi Lifehacker, I worked at the same company with the same manager for eight years before having a major falling out after I divorced his daughter. I couldn't stay working in the hostile environment and he refuses to be a referee for me. How do I explain the lack of a professional referee to potential employers? Thanks, Split Decision

Divorce picture from Shutterstock

Dear SD,

That's definitely a sticky situation! Unfortunately, your boss is under no obligation to provide you with a reference, especially if you left the company on bad terms. This is probably also for the best. Think about it: would you really want this guy to have the final word on your hireability with potential employers? You'd basically be writing him a blank cheque to avenge his daughter.

That said, explaining the situation to potential employers is also unwise. They may have strong views on the sanctity of marriage and judge your character accordingly. In any event, such deeply personal information should probably be left out of a job interview — otherwise you'll be forever known as the guy with an angry in-law for a boss.

A better solution would be to use a different referee. Is there nobody else at the company that can vouch for you? As long as they have a semi-senior position that can be dressed up to sound important, it shouldn't be much of an issue. You could also try using suppliers and other work contacts to pad out your referee list.

Our main advice is to not lose too much sleep over this. Generally, an employer has already made up their mind to hire somebody before they get around to ringing the people on the reference list — in many cases it's nothing more than a formality. In future though, we advise saving your best pick-up lines for people outside upper management and their immediate families.

Cheers Lifehacker

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