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Legalities? Here's How References Work in the Real World....

Want to know why I write about sports a lot on an HR blog?  Because it's the most transparent place in the world for talent decisions of all types - by far.  Tune into tonight's espisode of the HR Happy Hour with Steve Boese, Lance Haun, Tim Sackett, Matthew Stollak and myself as we talk about the connection.

Example:  Lots of HR pros wring their hands about whether a manager can provide any negative information on a reference.  They also wring their hands about providing a positive reference that doesn't get into the negative.  To control all the bad stuff, many HR pros tell their people that they can only do name, title and dates of employment. HR Happy Hour

Meanwhile, your managers are blasting away on people they don't like - just play the game and don't ask them for an official reference.  Just say, "what did you think about working with XXXX?", or my backup favorite, "Can you give me a personal, not professional reference?"

Case in point:  The recent reference it appears Maryland hoops coach, Gary Williams, gave multiple candidates on NC State Athletic Director Debbie Yow.  The two used to work together at Maryland (Yow was the boss) and across time, Yow wasn't happy with the often profane Williams.  So she started trying to raise money among prominent boosters to buy him out.  I actually had drinks with a booster who told me the backstabbing story about 6 months ago.

Williams, like your managers, has a long memory.  Yow was recently in the market to hire a new hoops coach at NC State.  Candidates reportedly called Williams for the 411.  More from the World Wide Leader:

"The frosty relationship between North Carolina State athletic director Debbie Yow and Maryland's Gary Williams took a nasty turn during the introduction of the Wolfpack's new men's basketball coach.

Yow -- who spent 16 years as Maryland's athletic director -- called out the Terrapins coach, who won the 2002 NCAA championship working under her, of interfering with the search.

It happened during North Carolina State's news conference introducing Mark Gottfried, who replaced Sidney Lowe. Yow responded to a reporter's question to Gottfried about whether she had a reputation of being difficult to work with.

"I don't have a reputation across all men's basketball of being difficult to work with," she said Tuesday. "I have a reputation of not getting along with Gary Williams, who has tried to sabotage the search. Come on, we all know that. OK, so whatever.

"It's not a reputation. It's Gary Williams out there doing his thing. Whatever."

Boom.  That's why I use sports.  Where else are you going to get that type of info on reference checking gone horribly wrong?  Check out the video below for the venom.  Also, it's an onboarding issue as well.  What can Mark Gottfried (the new coach) be thinking as his boss publicly tries to hurt someone's career in such a direct fashion?

PS - your managers are giving mind-blowing opinions on references every day.  Someone is doing it right now...

Fortunately, managers in the private sector don't have access to a camera and media outlets to document their feelings on how they've been wronged (or wronged others).  

Thank whatever God you pray to for that.

Comments

John Hunter

Another thing I like about sports is the futility of accurate performance appraisal. We have athletes who thousands of people devote a huge amount of time to dissecting their strengths and weaknesses and are constantly failing. Paying free agents tens of millions that completely flop. Hiring someone no-one else wanted for the league minimum who becomes a big contributor.

Yes, it isn't hard to figure out Kobe Bryant is far better than some bench warmer (or me). but trying to value some non-superstar is extremely difficult. Yet we have many people that think they can provide a great assessment of exactly what rating their people deserve. If someone is really able to judge people that well they should move into the front office of a sports team because they would pay a huge amount for such talent.

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