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The Polite Way to Reject Writing a Letter of Recommendation

The Polite Way to Reject Writing a Letter of Recommendation

Emma, a senior copywriter at a reputed advertising agency, found herself in a tricky situation when a former colleague rang up to ask her for a letter of recommendation.

This colleague had been quite unpopular in the office and was known for her temper tantrums when things did not go her way. Now how, in good conscience, do you write a letter of reference for someone you don’t actually approve of.

Saying ‘No’ is a skill that many people lack. But, it is one life skill that helps you minimize stress and stay productive.

People often agonise about saying “No” to others and they get pressured into doing things they don’t really want to do. In reality, saying NO isn’t that hard. When you say ‘no’ assertively and clearly, you are more likely to gain respect than lose it.

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There is never an obligation to give someone a reference.

There are ways to politely and diplomatically decline the request without offending the person who asked you. The trick is to do so without making your refusal sound like a personal criticism or a professional rejection.

There are three suitable excuses you can use:

When you don’t know the person well…

The best recommendations come from people who value your character and your work skills. It’s in no one’s best interest for you to endorse someone you can’t speak genuinely about or someone you don’t intimately know.

You can decline the request with the excuse “I don’t know you well enough.” Or in other words:

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“I received your request for a letter of recommendation yesterday and I am flattered that you would ask for a recommendation from me. Letters of reference carry the most weight when they are from colleagues who know your work skills. Since I work in an entirely different section of the company, I can hardly speak with authority about your professional abilities. I hope you will understand if I decline.”

If the individual insists on pursuing the matter, explain that you simply do not feel comfortable writing the recommendation as your integrity and professional brand is on the line with each recommendation you make.

Use “I” statements rather than “you”- “I feel that I don’t know you well enough” rather than “You haven’t made a good impression on me.”

When you can’t provide a glowing review…

If you do know the person very well as in Emma’s case and you have nothing positive to recommend, it best to get out of situation at the earliest.

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There are people who give negative references without considering how it will impact the individual, professionally or psychologically. It’s better not to give a recommendation at all than to give a vague one or a negative one.

It’s one thing to decline endorsing someone, but it’s a below the belt tactic to say yes and then jeopardize their future. You can considering tell them:

“I am honored that you put your trust in me for such an important task and chose me to write a letter of recommendation for you. Regrettably, I must decline your request as I believe that it would serve your requirement better to select another colleague whose endorsement would truly benefit you.”

When you have things that are a lot more important to do…

When you are focused on achieving a goal, finishing a project and getting home to the kids on time, every additional task you take on upsets your time management, decreases your efficiency and disrupts your productivity.

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You definitely don’t have the time to be writing recommendation letters for every Tom, Dick and Harry. People ask for our time every single day. We’ll end up feeling frazzled and grumpy, if we give away our time to everyone who asks for it.

Take the tip from Steve Jobs when he says “Innovation is saying “no” to 1,000 things.”[1]

Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

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Anju Mobin

Anju is a Certified Nutritionist, and a Highly Experienced Health, Fitness and Nutrition Writer.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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    Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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    Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

    When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

    When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

    How to Make Decision Effectively

    Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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    1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

    You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

    Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

    Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

    2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

    You don’t have to choose all the time.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

    Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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    3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

    You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

    The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

    Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

    Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

    So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

    More Tips About Decision Making

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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