View Full Version : Unethical Request?

10-21-2006, 05:51 PM
Hi all -
My current boss may end up being a huge deciding factor in whether or not I get a position I am going after (and REALLY want). I have been a temporary employee at a pharm company in NJ for 8 months while waiting to move to CO, and would LOVE to get a permanent position that has just opened up in Denver. The position of the hiring manager in the CO region opened up recently, and rumor has it that my current boss is going after THAT position (and would be responsible for hiring me there.)
OK - before I knew about either of these open CO positions, I asked my boss if he wouldn't mind writing me a letter of recommendation for me to take with me. His response to me was, "Sure, why don't you go ahead and draft one up, and I'll take a look at it.
Hmm - I'm not sure how to feel about this. I read that this may be unethical (to write my own Rec Ltr), but also that it is common.
Any opinions?

Thanks everyone!

10-21-2006, 06:06 PM
Hey, Cheri

I have not taken a business ethics course. I don't have a university education. I do seem to have a way with words enough to impress most bosses I've worked for.

Yes, I have written a letter for myself and found it quite uncomfortable to do. After that, any time someone asked me to write it myself I would first say that it would have more meaning if it were in their own words. If that doesn't work, then I ask them to give me a handful of key words - the things they think are my greatest strengths. At least if they give you that, you can flesh out some sentences from it without having to guess what they really think ofyou.

Any chance you can ask for that?

Good luck with all the job stuff and the potentiel new move. If it is meant to be, it will happen and be so much better than you even think it could be!


10-21-2006, 06:54 PM
In my field, that's done all the time. It isn't unethical, he has to read it and sign it. You should give him an electronic version, and he should edit it, sign it, and seal it - so you will never actually know what ends up in the letter. That's standard practice in jobs like this.
Don't worry, write yourself a nice letter and count on him to make it his.
In fact, I would write the letter first, before asking a collegue/boss for a letter, give them the letter (electronically) for them to do with what they want. Most people in that position are too busy to start from scratch, and that gives them what they need to know - relevant background about you and the position you want, so they don't write a generic letter or a letter that suggests you are a good dog walker when you want them to think you are a good cat wrangler.

10-22-2006, 03:41 AM
I completely agree with TsPoet. It is not at all unethical to write your own letter so long as the boss really does read and sign it. View it as a request from the boss out of laziness. It probably is. I've never had to do it. It's uncomfortable but a common and reasonable request.

And do NOT sell yourself short. Don't be modest. You can email it to the boss so he/she can edit it. Then it really is just a time saver for the boss. Thats all.

10-22-2006, 04:59 AM
The practice is fairly common. At my company we are asked each year to draft up our performance reviews (everyone is asked to do this) and then the manager reviews and makes necessary changes. Know how weird it is to write your own performance review?

Bottom line the recommendation will go out under your manager's name so he takes full responsbility for its content. There probably still is alittle nepotism going on since the recommendation you are writing is essential for your current manager but that's not unethical.

10-22-2006, 05:48 AM
Our company is really big on ethics training. The letter becomes unethical if you state untruths in it.
So be honest, and ethical.

have an ethical day!
:D :D

10-22-2006, 06:41 AM
We do this all the time in my field too. I don't believe it is unethical for the reasons stated, ultimatly the person signing it edits it to make it 'his' or 'hers' and signs their name to it. I do this all the time when asked to write letters, because it takes too much time to write a letter from scratch, and I worry I might sell the person short if there are things I don't know about them off the top of my head. I view it as a 'first draft' to get the facts down, and then I edit it, trying to add some more personal anecdotes, etc. Obviously if it sounds really weird, I would check the facts against their CV, but this has never happened. AND, don't sell yourself short. Write the best letter that you can write that tells the truth. For example, there are two ways to say the same thing. A technician brought me a first draft of a letter recently in which she stated that her peformance reviews were always good. I changed it to outstanding, since that was the word choson in the performance review. Good indicates a lower level of performance than outstanding. So again, tell the truth but don't sell yourself short. View this as an opportunity rather than an ethical dilemma. And don't view the boss as lazy, he/she probably has a lot of other things to do too and wants to be sure this letter gets off to a good start.

10-22-2006, 09:37 AM
If it makes you feel any better, we had a form letter to give to our interns once their hours were completed. I personally had three interns and never once edited the letter.

Added: I had to go back and edit this to comment that I wound up leaving the job I was talking about because the owner wanted us to be compliant with some really truly unethical behavior. He was planning on screwing over the manufacturers who actually made the product by a) refusing timely delivery so he wouldn't have to pay when due and b) claiming the merchandise was defective so he wouldn't have to pay full price and then selling it as first quality goods. Yikes!

10-22-2006, 11:35 AM
We have to write our own annual performance reviews too. I started, after the first year, taking notes over the course of the year of good things I did, so I would have something to say. I'd never remember everything, otherwise.


Bad JuJu
10-22-2006, 03:15 PM
For just these reasons--as a basis for letters and for performance reviews--I do what Nanci does. Every year, I open a document called Goals and Achievements and I list every little thing I do at work in that document, from the mundane to the unusual. It's also a good place to keep track of problems and what causes them--lack of resources, etc.

I can't remember a job in which I didn't have to provide at least some input for my own performance review. And it kind of makes sense--you're more likely to know than your boss is exactly what you've done and how well you've done it. If you can't blow your own horn, you can't expect someone else to do it for you.