Being Kept Back In Retaliation

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about boss withholding a recommendation:

I am MD and just finish my fellowship. My program director is not giving me a recommendation letter and I can’t get the job or medical license! I had very good standing during the training and no actions were taken against me.

Signed, Need That Letter

Dear Need That Letter:

The first and most obvious action is to communicate with your program director about why he is not giving you a recommendation letter. He knows how significant it is and realizes the impact of his actions. Unless there would a serious violation of protocol, I would advise sending him a letter or email and requesting a response in writing. He will understand what you are doing, which is documenting his statements. But, I’m sure he is aware of your concerns anyway.

Second, if you have already talked to him and he has stated his reasons, but you don’t agree with them, go over his head and ask for a review. There is nearly always a review process of some sort. Have copies of any paperwork that shows you have performed effectively. If there are individuals who would be willing to testify about your performance and behavior, ask them for statements as well.

The third thing to do will be worthwhile no matter what other action you take: Do a thorough self-evaluation of this situation. WHY would the program director fail to give you a recommendation letter? Think about it from his perspective and ask yourself how he could justify it. He probably CAN justify to himself, so that would be good to consider.You say you have had no actions taken against you and that you were in very good standing. So, consider when things might have gone wrong. What happened that would have caused retaliation, which you imply has happened? Can you prove it in some way? Be clear in your own mind about your real status and your real capabilities.

If none of that helps, you may need to seek a lawyer and take civil action alleging retaliation that is harming your life and professional future. An attorney might be expensive, but many will help on a contingency basis (they only make money if they win the case.) Many will also give a free consultation to let you know if they think you have a basis for a legal action.The important things you have to do is be very clear about why you are not receiving the letter and then to find out what you can do to require your program director to write one, or if he won’t, to require the college or university to assign someone to you who will give you the needed letter.Best wishes to you.

Tina Lewis Rowe