Please assist with a business class writing assignmentThis is the complete assignment. Your subordinate, Mark Smith has not really delivered. Your boss Helen really does not like him and he has...

Please assist with a business class writing assignment

This is the complete assignment.

Your subordinate, Mark Smith has not really delivered. Your boss Helen really does not like him and he has given her some shoddy work. Otherwise Mark has some good qualities. He is punctual, considerate, works well with others, appears ethical and has sound judgment. He is a creative thinker though and this job (supply requisitioning) requires a rational, logical, detail oriented worker—not Mark's strength. Your boss has you fire him, which goes well. In fact, Mark says he was not happy anyway and knew his skills were in a different area. He has an interview with a Marketing firm to write advertising copy and would like you to personally provide a reference letter. You clear this with your boss who says it is fine as long as you sign it personally and not as a representative of the firm; but your boss says you must be honest about Mark's history with the firm, and his strengths and weaknesses. Write a letter for Mark that will possibly help him get the new job, while still meeting your commitment to your boss. Use any appropriate business letter format.

Expert Answers
Stephen Holliday eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think you have a good framework for a letter that will provide a reference and satisfy the requirements of your supervisor.

For example, your supervisor asked you to be honest about Mark's strengths and weaknesses.  This is an area in which you have to be very careful to provide objective criticism about Mark's weaknesses: instead of sayiing something subjective like "he's disorganized and didn't complete assignments on a timely basis," you simply point to an objective measure like "he did not always turn assignments in on a timely basis."

It is better, however, to emphasize his positive attributes by saying something like "Mark's creativity is best suited to a job, like writing advertising copy, in which his creative strengths are an advantage.  Working on routine, repetitive tasks is not among his strengths."  You don't need to dwell on his negative attributes, but you can let the hiring person know where his strengths lie, and by implication, what his weaknesses are.  Again, you need to avoid subjective comments and focus on comments based on objective measures.

To give you an idea of how most human resource departments handle references--they usually simply confirm that a person worked for a period of time and confirm salary information, but HR people will never actually say anything good or bad about a former employee.  That is how seriously HR people avoid the complications inherent in negative feedback.

On the other hand, as a personal reference, you can give honest, objective feedback, focusing on a person's strengths, and by focusing on a person's strengths, you can often make the person's weaknesses obvious without actually discussing them.  In other words, if Mark's strengths lie in creative, non-repetitive work, by implication repetitive, non-creative work is not his strength.  An astute hiring manager can pick up on what is not being said.

And if the hiring manager asks you if Mark was fired, an honest answer might be that both of you decided Mark was not a good fit for the supply requisitioning position and that his interests and skills lay elswhere, and that it was an amicable separation.

Hope that helps.