A former colleague sent me a request for a recommendation on LinkedIn. However, I really don’t want to give a recommendation because in my experience, this person didn’t fulfill even the most basic requirements of his position. How do you suggest I handle this?
– Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Dear Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,
LinkedIn recommendations can be a valuable part of a person’s profile and sooner or later, many of us will encounter this sticky situation. I also understand why you do not want to provide a recommendation for another if you cannot be honest. A colleague once asked me to provide a recommendation for them as a speaker, and I had to decline as I’d never even seen her speak. I wrote back, “I hope you can appreciate I’m uncomfortable writing a recommendation without ever having seen you deliver your entire program. Please let me know if you are ever in my neck of the woods to see if our schedules align to see you in action. Wishing you success.”
Here are three options for handling the awkward recommendation request from a colleague or client. First, you could simply ignore the request. However, if you continue to interact, it could be awkward. Second, consider identifying something specific and positive you could focus on: Did they show up on time for an appointment? Did they meet their stated timeframe for delivering a product? In other words, look hard for something nice you could say and stick with that point only. Third, because I’m someone who really wants to help people achieve success, I would pick up the phone (not an email where tone can be misinterpreted) and provide a couple of clear examples where I felt there was room for improvement and why I’m hesitant to give a recommendation. But if that’s not your style or you feel it’s not worth your effort, a short and sweet, “Sorry, I’m unable to write a recommendation at this time,” may suffice.