A former direct of mine is job hunting and has asked me for a reference.   And I am happy to say it would be a glowing reference.

He does not want his new boss to know, and because I have been promoted and moved to a different area in the company, he obviously feels there is enough separation there.

I, however, am now a peer of my old boss (and the boss of the refereee's boss) and need to work closely with her.  I also know that she, as well as our company director, would be extremely upset to see this person leave.  I believe they would make some sort of counter proposal if they knew the refereee was a flight risk.

I am I right to keep this thing a secret between myself and the referee?  Or do I have an obligation to let "the company" know that they are about to lose a high performer?  



asteriskrntt1's picture

  1. Your first loyalty is to your company
  2. There are no secrets...things will get found out and reflect badly on you (there are podcasts in both career and manager tools about there being no such thing as off the record or people saying things to you in confidence
  3. How replaceable is this person and at what cost/time frame
  4. Do you want someone working for you who just held you hostage?
  5. Once the secrets get found out (ie, you knew about this and were helping your ex-direct hold the company hostage), what are your relationships and reputation in the company going to be like?


tlhausmann's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge


It is not clear to me that your former direct [say his name is "Bob"] has *decided* to leave. All I can tell from the post is that Bob is looking--and we have no background as to *why*.

Imagining myself in your shoes, I would have a conversation with Bob to answer a several questions.

(1) Has there been a life event (death, birth, change in health, divorce, etc.) motivating Bob's desire to look?

(2) Has Bob's work performance remained strong under the new manager? Do they butt heads?

(3) Was Bob's compensation adequate when reporting to you? Was it ever mentioned in an O3? Increased compensation may not retain Bob anyway.

(4) Based on your knowledge of Bob, is he seeking money, power, status, or what? Is he seeking a promotion and no career options exist at your company?

There is some guidance from the MT podcasts stating that counteroffers "rarely" work.

One of these days I need to assemble a retention analysis worksheet. If any of the experienced managers and executives on the forums want to share theirs as a starting point I would appreciate it very much.

canuck's picture

Thanks for the input guys.  Just to clarify a couple thing -

1) I only mentioned the counter offer idea to illustrate that the person is held in high regard.  I know that he has been earmarked as someone with a bright future at the company.  The former direct "Bob" and I never discussed such a thing, it's simply my inference on the situation (our company has an annoying habit of throwing counteroffers at people once they resign).

I should perhaps edit the counter offer idea out of the original scenario, as it isn't my main concern.

2) "Bob's" desire to move?  In our conversations, it's got a lot to do with wanting more responsibility and a promotion.  Two things which are not going to happen quickly where he is.   He also disagrees with "the direction" his department is moving to (but hsi work has not suffered - he's still the top performer over there).    Money is not the issue as he's paid as a top performer should be paid in his current role.  He's got nowhere to go except to a higher position.

If I were to rephrase my original question, I guess what I'm asking is where does the line of being a representative of the company get drawn?   I mean, there's a good chance that my informing his boss will result in nothing except bad feelings all around.   If counter offers truly don't work and the person leaves no matter what, does my butting my nose into the situation create any value to anyone?

ken_wills's picture

Does "Bob" have an actual need for a reference right now?  Or is he asking if you would provide one if circumstances arise where he needs it?

If he doesn't have an actual opportunity where he's being considered, you say "sure, let me know when you need it" and you move on.  *IF* he actually finds an opportunity and gets to the point where he's being asked for a reference, then you'll have the ability to ask about details.  Until then, it's all theoretical.