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If I was let go because of a personality conflict, will it affect my applying for jobs at another facility?

Friday December 23, 2011
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Dear Nancy,

If I didn’t pass my probationary period because of cell phone use, can it be held against me if I apply for a job in another hospital? When I was terminated, initially my supervisor said it was not because of clinical error but a personality conflict with my preceptor. I am a new nurse, and it’s making me sick to think my years of hard work can be thrown away based on a personality conflict. What should I do?


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Veronica,

Any time an employee is terminated, either during a probationary period or afterward, the former employer may truthfully share the reason or reasons why an employee was let go when a prospective employer asks for a reference. Some employers prefer not to share details, but may tell the prospective employer the dates of hire and termination and whether the former employee would be rehired.

Unfortunately, personality conflicts exist in nursing and many nurse employees either leave a position, are asked to leave or are fired because of such conflicts. There is little legal recourse for an employee in this type of situation, unless the employer’s real motivation was based on a discriminatory basis, such as the employee’s religion, gender or race, as examples.

If a true personality conflict is the basis of a firing, truthfully sharing what happened with a future employer is the best way to handle it. Prospective employers know that not everybody gets along, and if the conflict is the only basis for the termination, many employers will hire the employee and give the person a chance at a job in its facility.

One thing you should learn more about is the use of social media, including a cell phone, while employed. Two resources for you to review are: ANA's “Principles for Social Networking and the Nurse: Guidance for Registered Nurses” (www.nursingworld.org) and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing's “A Nurse’s Guide to the Use of Social Media” (www.ncsbn.org).


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.