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how do job offers that are contingent on a reference from your current manager work?

A reader writes: I don’t understand job offers that are contingent on a positive reference from a current employer. Do you give notice to your current employer, thus throwing your current job into jeopardy and hoping you will be given a good reference, since otherwise you may be fired for looking elsewhere for employment? Or if you don’t get fired, it seems like everyone would be upset with you for contemplating leaving. Or do you...