Between A Rock And A Hard Place

My boss sent me a request for a recommendation via LinkedIn. She has been extremely difficult to work with, and I can’t think of a single nice thing to say about her. How should I respond?

M. C., Flushing, NY

Your boss has put you into a decidedly awkward. While it’s possible she requested a recommendation only from you, it’s more likely you are part of a group of people she has contacted. Some will respond, others won’t.

People on LinkedIn utilize the recommendations feature to enhance their profiles. Users can solicit recommendations from other users. The end result: Some people have no recommendations, some have a few, and others have many recommendations.

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There is no requirement in being a part of LinkedIn that obliges you to provide a recommendation if you are asked for one. The vexing issue you face is that the request is from your boss. Now you’re between the proverbial rock and hard place: You are concerned how she might react if you choose not to provide a recommendation, but you also don’t want to provide a positive recommendation which would be untruthful. For obvious reasons you also don’t want to say something negative. Essentially, you feel you don’t have any good option. In the final analysis, my advice is simply to ignore her request. Remember, within the LinkedIn community not responding to a recommendation request is an accepted, if not quite appropriate, way to respond. If she blasted out a bunch of requests, she may not even notice your lack of response among the many she has solicited.

If she targeted only you, then she probably will notice when she doesn’t see a response. If that’s the case, be prepared to talk with her if she asks you why. Instead of brutally dumping on her, “Because I hate you!” try a softer approach: “I didn’t respond because I think it’s awkward for any employee to give a recommendation for a boss. People might question the sincerity of my comments. I think it’s best if I don’t provide a recommendation.”

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In general there is nothing wrong with seeking recommendations from other LinkedIn users. However, if you are a boss or manage others, seeking recommendations from people who work for you isn’t a good practice. People will question why an employee is writing a recommendation for a boss, and it puts your reports in an awkward position if they don’t want to write something positive about you.