Our local radio station this morning was asking the audience to call in and reveal their “pet-peeve”. As someone who provides advice on terminating employees, I have one: ‘managers who recommend employees on LinkedIn without thinking about the unintended consequences’.

Normally, if you are terminating a sub-par employee you will not recommend that person to another employer. It’s difficult to argue that an employee is useless while praising their attributes in writing. However, by allowing your managers to “recommend” people on LinkedIn, you are forcing your HR personnel and lawyers to do just that. Employees are encouraged to enhance their profile on-line by asking for recommendations from co-workers and supervisors. Co-workers and supervisors are reluctant to say no when asked, regardless of whether the employee is a good worker. Therein lies the problem.

One of the first things I do when I am asked to provide advice on terminating a poor performer is check LinkedIn. It is simply amazing how many times I find strong recommendations from their managers (sometimes even HR Managers and CEO’s) on their LinkedIn page. There are enough hurdles to overcome when terminating an incompetent employee without having to distance ourselves from recommendations on LinkedIn. Seriously, make it stop!

Now, I know what you’re thinking – aren’t we encouraged to provide letters of reference?  The answer is yes but not inconsistent with my rant. The Supreme Court of Canada in Wallace determined that a refusal to provide a former employee in that case with a letter of reference to help him seek alternate employment was evidence of bad faith. That case has some peculiar facts and, more importantly, there is a significant difference between a letter of recommendation and a letter of reference. The former is an endorsement, the latter simply references the experience obtained by an employee from working at your business. In short, you can say that an employee has 10 years experience doing a particular function without saying that they were good at it.

My advice is simple: encourage employees enhance their profile on-line through sites like LinkedIn but do not recommend employees on LinkedIn without careful consideration. Human nature makes it difficult for a person, when asked, to deny the request to “recommend” them. Therefore, I have been encouraging my clients to have a “no recommending employees on LinkedIn” clause in their social media policy. That provides a perfect excuse when denying an employee that request and, hopefully, avoids the opportunity for co-workers and subordinates to be offended. It would also be prudent to make one person in your organization responsible for issuing reference letters to avoid surprise letters surfacing after termination. Maybe I should deal with one “pet-peeve” at a time.