Dear Awesome Advice Central,
Hi, I’m kind of in a rush today because this total moron keeps harassing me, telling me it’s my duty to write him a letter of reference. He says that because he used to work for me, I need to write something and do it quickly, so he can start applying for a new job. He’s saying that if I don’t, he could sue me for discrimination or something.
Here’s the thing: I fired him last month.
I don’t like him. He was incompetent. A knucklehead. A shit disturber.
And I don’t wanna write him a letter, because what if someone hires him based on what I say? I can’t bear to write something horrible about him, even though I’m totally tempted to.
So what I’d like is help in writing this blasted thing. If I tell you the bullet points, would you translate it to something that looks and sounds positive, without me actually having to lie?
Okay, some background. I’m in charge of the crew on a private yacht. This guy was the chef on board. Here are the facts:
- He was an incompetent chef. A terrible cook. Everything that came out of his kitchen tasted of rancid oil and/or vinegar. Even the desserts.
- He was asked to cook fresh, Mediterranean food but instead cooked Polish cuisine each night. Yep, cabbage and kielbasa. Every. Single. Night.
- Every day he could be found in the kitchen, on the phone with his girlfriends (yes, that’s right, girlfriends plural) with earbuds plugged in so he couldn’t hear when we spoke with him.
- He was lazy, never adhered to hygiene standards, and our ship’s kitchen was nearly closed by the health inspectors while he was in charge.
- He never showed up for a single lifeboat drill.
- He was argumentative and got into plenty of fights on board and on shore.
- He lied on his CV, claiming to know the cuisines of the world. He also claimed he was a recent graduate of a famous cooking school and that he’d interned for Gordon Ramsay.
- He hit on all the females on board. Age didn’t seem to matter. If they had a pulse, he was game.
He’s asked me 3 times now for references, and I’m feeling cornered here. I want future employers to know what they’re getting if they hire this joker, but I also don’t want to seem rude.
Please help! Please say you can help!
Captain C. Gull
We’d be only too delighted to help—in fact, we fancy ourselves rather the HR specialists, as we’ve been through so many pool boys over the years. We agree, writing letters of reference is a tricky business: while you don’t wish to offend, neither do you wish to lie. At least, not much.
All right, here’s what we’ve come up with:
To whomever might be fortunate enough to wish to hire our former chef: Congratulations!
Curly Pete, as he likes to be known, is an outstanding employee in many respects. As chief cook and bottle-washer aboard the SS Kerplunk, he fed our guests a never-ending stream of cabbage and kielbasa—always emphasizing that this was a healthy diet, rich in fat, micronutrients, and fibre. Gradually, our guests grew accustomed to the taste of aged oil and cabbage drippings, and by the time they were ready to put ashore, they were effusive in their praise for Curly Pete’s creations.
“How does he get a chocolate torte to taste of cabbage?” they’d enquire, wide-eyed. “It has really helped with my diet—I’m sure I’ve lost at least 10 pounds on this trip alone!”
His internship with Gordon Ramsay seems to have had little to no effect on his cooking style, which remains quite singular. In a class by itself, you might say.
Curly Pete is a renowned and enthusiastic heterosexualist, who regaled passengers and crew alike with tales of his antics both onboard and ashore. In fact, the phrase, “girl in every port” might have been invented just for him. Actually, he extended his bonhomie and joie de vivre to the ladies onboard, as well. No matter how elderly or frail, he loved ‘em all!
As he used to say, “You can’t keep a good man down!”
Of course, this led to much giggling amongst the womenfolk, who treated Curly Pete’s advances much as one might greet those of an enthusiastic puppy with poor bladder control. They’d run along the decks, screaming and squealing (in delight, no doubt); the poor souls who had to use walkers or canes were left to fend for themselves, but it was all in good fun, what? Excellent for morale.
When we held lifeboat drills, Curly Pete would gallantly excuse himself—he could usually be found in his bunk, and when pressed on the matter, said, “Give the old birds my spot—they need it more than I do. Lifeboat drills are for losers.” Then, in a display of bravery, he’d take a hefty swig from his rum bottle, and belch loudly. Such a gentleman!
As you can imagine, I was devastated to lose this treasure of a man: his colourful, relaxed style brought a certain je ne sais quoi to our little vessel, and we’re sure the paternity suits will be settled in due course, leaving Curly Pete free to work with you!
Best of British luck,
Yours sincerely, etc,