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Situation: "A colleague whose skills are lacking asked me to recommend her for a job."
How to deal: If you can't honestly say you'd want to work with her again, politely refuse, says Elster. Simply tell her you're not the best person at the company to give an endorsement and suggest someone who might be better, such as the head of your department.
If you're in charge, let the employee know that you don't provide job references for anyone. "Creating a policy will make saying 'no' less personal," says Elster. Don't want to lock yourself in this way? Consider, "I didn't work with you long enough to really assess your performance," or, "We interacted so little that I wouldn't feel right speaking on your behalf."
Got a difficult boss or a gossipy cube-mate? These expert strategies will help you save face—and your sanity
female professional reading the newspaper
Career Advice for the Stickiest Work Situations