The idea for BossCheck came about after I had a bad experience with line managers in one of my workplaces. Most prospective employers require references from past line managers, but in my case I was concerned about what sort of reference I would get, and whether future employers would be put off. Managers tend to believe each other, and especially in a time of recession when they have plenty of applicants to choose from, they are unlikely to choose someone who has been given a bad reference. If your qualifications and talents really stand out, then your future employer may contact you for your side of the story. But most of the time they will simply delete you from the short list regardless of whose fault it is.
It is therefore important that job hunters know what sort of reference they are likely to get from a present or past line manager before they use them as a reference on a job application. In the United States there are reference checking companies available. As far as I understand, these companies are professionally run, and use legitimate businesses to elicit reference checks on behalf of their clients. There is certainly a need for a similar service in this country. As far as I am aware, BossCheck is the first of its kind in New Zealand.
What we do
At BossCheck we will firstly discuss your needs and requirements. We want to know for example whether you have asked your manager if is is okay to use their name as a reference, or whether you are concerned about prospective employers contacting your manager without your permission. We also need to know what sort of information you want to elicit from your manager and what sort of jobs you will be looking for, so we can frame our questions accordingly. Most prospective employers doing reference checks have standard questions, examples being:
Can you confirm starting and ending employment dates?
Why did the employee leave?
Did the employee get along well with management/co-workers/clients?
How did the employee handle conflict?
How well did the employee perform under pressure?
What is the employee’s strong point?
What is the employee’s weak point?
Would you employ the employee again?
How good is the employee at working in a team?
If you require specific information, we may have to re-frame some of our questions.
BossCheck will check verbal or written references, depending on your requirements. We will use our own legitimate business name when doing this, If employers are not available and need to call back, they will reach us at a legitimate and professional business number. We will NOT use the name “Boss Check” in our dealings with employers, and we will NEVER reveal our clients.
A sample conversation may go like this:
BossCheck: “Good morning, this is [real name] from [real business name], a recruitment consultant company. We are enquiring about a reference for [client], who has given your name as a referee.
Manager: Sure. Can I ask you who you are representing?
BossCheck: I’m sorry, our client has asked us to remain discreet. The client is however very interested in your opinion on [client’s] suitability for employment. Would we be able to ask you some questions on [client’s] job performance? If it is not convenient at present, could we call at another time, or would you be able to call us back?
Sensitive and non-judgmental service
Massey University recently conducted a study on workplace bullying in New Zealand. The results of the study were quite surprising. Eighteen percent of workers reported that they had been bullied, and most bullying was in the health and education sectors. While not all bullying is initiated by managers, they are in a very good position to be bullies, given the unequal distribution of power in the workplace. The Massey study found that most bullying came about through managers who do not know how to manage.
Bullying in the workplace is more subtle than bullying in the playground. Taunts, insults and physical violence that many of us remember from school are not common (though not unheard of either). Workplace bullying more often takes the guise of “professional development”; frivolous and vexatious disciplinary meetings, nitpicking performance reviews, subtle put-downs, passing over for promotion on flimsy pretexts – the cumulative effect of these behaviours can be just as devastating as more blatant bullying, and harder to prove in an employment hearing.
At Boss Check we therefore recognise that workplace bullying is real, and that targets of bullying are often talented, conscientious workers who are picked on simply because they show up the bullies’ own lack of talent. We will therefore never judge any client or imply, even indirectly, that it is their own fault. We will respect confidentiality and never reveal any details to a third party without your permission.
In the same way we will not judge the managers. Some may be bullies, others may simply be trying to do the best they can under very trying conditions. You may even be pleasantly surprised by some of the references. The boss you thought was unduly harsh may simply have had a bad day, and really appreciates the excellent work you have been doing!
Boss Check wishes to be seen in the market place as a responsible agency doing a service for employment relations. We want our testimony to be taken seriously in employment disputes. For this reason, we will not do anything illegal or which breaches privacy, like recording conversations with managers without their permission. We will also not knowingly say anything untrue to a manager. We make no judgment on those who do choose to use subterfuge to find out information, but this is not part of our business culture.
We charge $60 per hour for any work we do on your behalf, including calling employers, reference checking, client consultations and writing reports. Initial consultations to determine what we can do for you are free of charge. We do however have a minimum charge of $30 to cover administration costs. At present we are not registered for GST, but if we do, then GST of 15% will be charged on top of this. You will be kept fully informed before this happens.
Ask about our discounts for Community Service Card holders.
Beyond bullying: A New Zealand site with lots of relevant information on workplace bullying in New Zealand.
Understanding stress and bullying in the New Zealand workplace: An academic report on workplace bullying, published in 2010.
Bully on line: A UK site. Much of the legal advice is not relevant to New Zealand. However it provides a useful description and psychological profile of both bullies and targets.
Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE): New Zealand’s largest animal liberation site. Non-human animals are workers too!
Factory farming and animal liberation in New Zealand: My book on the ethics and politics of animal liberation and animal exploitation, available in New Zealand as an e-book.
BossCheck: Tel. 07 571 4145 | Email: Michael.Morris@actrix.co.nz