When I was younger, things seemed very simple. I either wasn't asked to be a reference, or I was asked to be a reference for someone for whom I could easily sing praises. Lately however, I find it hard being a reference. I think at risk of being thought of as a witch I have to politely decline to be a reference upfront, or suggest someone with a more glorious title.
95% of the time I just have to check off a couple of boxes, or answer a few multiple choice questions, or compose a generic letter concluding what an asset so-and-so going to be to the prospective place of employment/school. And the other 5% percent I hope ( and pray) that the check offs are leave room for vague answers, the multiple choice questions are very generic, and if I conclude my letters with just a ' please feel free to contact me for any further information' it won't look suspicious to the reader.
Because there are some people with whom I worked who were unfortunately mediocre-not bad, but not good, either; a somebody who was usually ( but not always) better than a nobody. And I was secretly relieved when they resigned. I don't want to provide inaccurate or inadequate information to the potential employer but I don't want to provide information that would be less than favorable, either. Agreeing to be a reference for someone implies that I'm on her/his side.
And so my 'new year's resolution' will be to try to go back to being blunt and transparent. Bluntness be a tad uncomfortable in the moment but it definitely eliminates nagging doubt in the future.
Happy new year!