Letter of recommendation from employer very poor

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Hi all,

Althout being in Germany for about two years, i dont understand the legal system at all so I would like to ask for your help.

My job is going to expire in about 15 days so I requested for a recommendation letter to my boss here in Germany; what I received was more close to a not-recommendation letter than a recommendation one where he was not telling anything good about me.

In addition to that, he received a phone call from a firm I applied to work for asking for references and he just told some personal comentaries not giving any good reference about me.

I have been recommended to raise a formal complaint againt him in the Betriebsrat but I dont really know if this is the right procedure or how I should do it; could you please guys help me with that?

Thank you very much!

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If your company has a Betriebsrat, then yes, that would be the place to go to complain about such behaviour.

Generally, in Germany, a letter of reference is not allowed to state anything negative, so they tend to use omission or understatement to put a point across.

You would really need to get somebody who knows more about reference letters to take a look at yours and see if it is actually acceptable or not.

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Thank you very much for your answer

Yes to both questions, my firm has a betriebsrat, called there personalrat and all the people who have read the letter agrees that it is unacceptable.

 

Do you, or anyone, know if there is a procedure to raise the complain or just sending an email to them is enough?

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You ask your boss to improve your reference, so the language gets changed to something like "Naturally we are happy to comply with Moulsin's request that we confirm that he was an exemplary employee, never stole anything, and dind't have an affair with any of his colleagues. We are also happy to confirm as he requested that he always worked very hard and never turned up drunk to work.".

 

In other words if you have a bad reference there is very little you can do about it. There is always a way to say negative (or even neutral) things without saying them. And the German Zeugnis is an art form in this respect.

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Rather than trying to correct a bad reference, it might be quicker to get an alternative reference from another member of management (if you are involved in tasks/projects which bring you into contact with others). Obviously they might not have the same amount of exposure to all of your work, but at least for the bits that they are exposed to, they should be able to give some statements.

 

Did you have something like a yearly appraisal/performance management review document? If the references are positive enough there, I suppose there is no harm in trying to use that upfront in job applications. And if the current-reference giver is being unfair, it allows for a balanced viewpoint in any case.

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At risk of "outing" myself here, I recently asked for a Zeugnis.

It has been written by my regional manager and my ex-boss.

During the past couple of yearly reviews the ex-boss simply insisted on drinking a cup of coffee with me and wasting some time so that other colleagues wouldn´t think that anything was "wrong" with my review, and it took as long as all of the others.

So, I rather anticipated that my yearly reviews would be marked as "sehr gut" in my Zeugnis - however, I only got a "gut".

My ex boss and I didn´t really get on well, and I guess this is the last time he will have any influence over me or my career, but it has really pissed me off!!!

(and no, the company I work for does not have a Betriebsrat or anything similar, so I literally have to shut up and put up with it...!)

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<Lots of really bad advice>

 

Look, Paul old love, those of us who read Zeugnisse with an intent to hire people were almost always not born yesterday. The thing that almost IMMEDIATELY stinks in a Bewerbung is the sort or weaselly ducking and diving you are suggesting - It almost always falls apart under questioning and you are left worse off than if youd just presented the original "bad" Zeugnis. What interests me as an employer is not if his last Boss hated him, but if he has learnt anything from it and changed his behaviour at all. In fact, a good dent in your CV with some good solid reflection and personal development as a result can, in some cases, be an advantage over a squeaky clean "perfect" CV

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There is somewhere online a translation of things they say in this Zeugnis. They are not allowed to technically say anything negative but they get away with it anyway with vagues statements. Sometimes it doesnt matter how great you were if you pissed someone off or you left and they didnt want you to, they can write a general Zeugnis that says absolutely nothing or something that looks bland but really has a negative meaning.

 

I remember leaving a job right at my probation experation. I was always there, almost never sick, my work was good even being one of the shittiest jobs in the world. I had a very vague Zeugnis that basically said nothing and some shit in negative words though it was positvely formed. I know I was not a bad employee because the assistant managers, who were nicer than that bitch of a boss I had, said so. The system here is a bit fucked up. Even when you think it is something positive and it doesn't sound at all negative there is an underlying meaning to it.

 

For this reason I do hate Germany sometimes, but I am to be signign soon an unbefristet vertrag, so really all is good in my world.

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Look, Paul old love, those of us who read Zeugnisse with an intent to hire people were almost always not born yesterday. The thing that almost IMMEDIATELY stinks in a Bewerbung is the sort or weaselly ducking and diving you are suggesting - It almost always falls apart under questioning and you are left worse off than if youd just presented the original "bad" Zeugnis. What interests me as an employer is not if his last Boss hated him, but if he has learnt anything from it and changed his behaviour at all. In fact, a good dent in your CV with some good solid reflection and personal development as a result can, in some cases, be an advantage over a squeaky clean "perfect" CV

 

Problem is there is a lot of times a personality clash between the boss and some of their employees so the employee may not always be able to change his behaviour because there was nothing wrong with it in the 1st place.

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IIRC you can demand rewrites so work through the betriebsrat and if necessary get a lawyer to help. It shocked me the first time i heard of people taking lawyers into meetings with their employers but it seems relatively common.

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How bad is it? Could you provide some of the lines that are negative? I've never have a full-time job in Germany, but I'm in academia and it's a somewhat known fact in academic circles outside of Germany that reference and recommendation letters written in this country are rarely as positive (in any sense of the word) as they would be coming from elsewhere in the world. The first time I'd heard about that was a while back from an advisor of mine on a search committee at University of California. The advisor mentioned that letters coming from German institutions were often rather flat and uninspiring (implying this made it difficult to determine if a candidate was worth interviewing). I'm sure this is all fine and typical here, but it's a death sentence for the U.S. job market, where references and recommendations are by default almost always supposed to glow about ex-employees unless there was something seriously wrong.

 

Are you applying for another job in Germany or are you applying in your current location (Spain)? That could make a difference and I understand your concern.

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Problem is there is a lot of times a personality clash between the boss and some of their employees so the employee may not always be able to change his behaviour because there was nothing wrong with it in the 1st place.

 

While I am realistic enough to know this can happen 8its happened to me) theres a little problem with this. As an employee (the German is more direct and clear: "abhängig Beschäftigter") in a capitalist company, when it comes down to it you aren't there to be right or to do your job "properly", you are there to do the job your Boss (as proxy for the whole company) wants you to do. As such, however unfair it is, a failure on your part to do this is, in the eyes of the system, ALWAYS your fault. However "right" your behaviour may be, its "wrong" when the boss decides so.

 

In practice there may be little an employee can do about this, but if you get canned with a rotten Zeugnis I, as a future employer, would want to hear what your reflective thoughts on the situation are and any strategies you may have thought up to deal with a similar situation in the future.

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Its worth dealing if you are staying in Germany.

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This happened to me once - I was hired by one boss, then a different boss took over and he really did not like me one bit, probably because I'm British as he kept on making comparisons between anything I said and Monty Python (which was complete Bahnhof to me, I'm not a fan) and also because I was not his choice.

Anyway, my division was outsourced and said boss had arranged a transfer for me with much pressure for me to sign, including the threat of a shitty reference.

 

The Betriebsrat helped enormously - I chose to leave instead, got relocation (I'd been relocated into post) and an Abfindung, although I went straight into another job, plus my original boss wrote the reference (the Betriebsrat were also not fans of Boss2).

 

As this was a large, international company, I also requested my reference in German and English which can be a help depending on your field.

It is definitely worth fighting, whether via a Betriebsrat or an employment lawyer. Good luck!

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http://www.personalradar.ch/arbeitsrecht-kategorien/geheime-codes-im-arbeitszeugnis-sind-schon-lange-nicht-mehr-geheim-hier-eine-kleine-uebersetzungshilfe/1024

 

You can check your Zeugnis here

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Why Personalrat, are you in "öffentlicher dienst"?

 

I did this:

1. Personalrat - got advice

2. Sent the Zeugnis back and said try again, list reasons. (Conversations with boss, or lack of "do a better job" conversations, do you have a yearly bonus - have you been getting it, etc..)

3. let it be reviewed be your personalrat - they make an effort

4. ask a lawyer to write a letter!

 

Heres the deal. The employee always wins this one. The employer knows this.

Recruiting knows that its always going to be "great" and so most recruiters dont even read past the job description (i work in HR and have worked in 3 large companies HR departments). And to top it off 1 in 3 are "touched up", so the value of a zeugnis is really not what it used to be.

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I once got a bad Arbeitszeugnis after leaving the company after 1-1/2 years. My boss was angry with me for leaving, although I had a good reason (raising a 4-year old while working full time plus overtime). She wanted me to freelance for them after leaving, but I politely turned her down, and I think that angered her.

 

The Arbeitszeugnis had factual errors (wrong job title and start/end dates) and didn't reflect the excellent performance reviews I'd always gotten and voluntary pay raise FROM THIS BOSS. Luckily, I had all the paperwork showing the performance reviews in the boss's own handwriting. I was baffled how HR could issue an Arbeitszeugnis that completely contradicted the facts in my personnel file. Two friends in HR departments of other large companies helped me rewrite it to fit the facts in my official file. I then submitted the revised Arbeitszeugnis to the HR contact, pointing out that the Arbeitszeugnis was basically a fabrication that didn't reflect the facts in my file. Surprise! HR accepted my version with one minor change AND APOLOGIZED. The HR contact said that they had just accepted my boss's written Arbeitszeugnis WITHOUT COMPARING IT TO MY PERSONNEL FILE. (Geez!)

 

So if you really feel that the Arbeitszeugnis is incorrect, and have the proof to back this up, do check into having it corrected.

 

(For the record, this former boss was relieved of the department six months after I left.)

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And to top it off 1 in 3 are "touched up", so the value of a zeugnis is really not what it used to be.

 

Which is why it is important to have a Zeugnis that says more than just canned phrases.

My Zeugnis from a sysadmin job stated I was "exceptionally trustworthy", which got me into a security job even though my interview wasn't so hot (me not good at selling self).

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http://www.personalradar.ch/arbeitsrecht-kategorien/geheime-codes-im-arbeitszeugnis-sind-schon-lange-nicht-mehr-geheim-hier-eine-kleine-uebersetzungshilfe/1024

 

You can check your Zeugnis here

 

Well, you can check it against the crappy and largely fake interpretations that particular website presents. Its 90% BS.

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