Every business has at least one HPE: a habitually problematic employee. As an owner or HR manager, your lucky day comes when that employee parts ways with the business—lucky, until another employer calls for your opinion of HPE. Awkward.
So what now? Do you tell the employer what you really think about HPE? Do you gloss over HPE’s 2-hour lunches? Do you fake static and hang up? Not only is this situation uncomfortable, but it presents potential legal troubles if improperly handled.
Some businesses solve this problem by routing all reference checks through the HR Department. There, only basic information is verified, such as dates of employment and job title. This option will definitely keep your business out of legal hot water, but it may displease managers who want to shout HPE’s negative qualities from the rooftops. In these cases, advise miffed managers how important it is that the business distributes consistent, carefully worded statements. Even the most truthful statements, if poorly worded, can be twisted into legal ammunition.
Another way to shield personnel from these uncomfortable inquiries is to deal with HPE proactively. There are two ways to do this. First, ask HPE for a signed release allowing the business to give out reference information. If HPE refuses to sign, explain to reference-seekers that HPE did not consent to release information. Second, tell HPE at the exit interview that the business won’t be able to provide a positive reference. That should be enough for HPE to look for support elsewhere.