Companies will be naturally inclined to go on the defensive when confronted with adverse Glassdoor reviews. However, a healthy dose of restraint is warranted.
It has been impossible for HR directors and CEOs in Austin and elsewhere in the United States and around the world where the service has been launched to fail to notice the growing popularity of Glassdoor (now at 60 million monthly unique visitors) with job seekers in the last few years. The days that companies were black boxes to anyone on the outside are gone for good. Through Glassdoor, prospective employees get a view into what former employees think of leadership, strategy, company culture, and much more.
Needless to say, not all reviews take the form of laudations and the people who are closely involved with HR management, being HR staff for large companies and founders and CEOs in start-ups, will often be left grinding their teeth reading reviews that make for a treatment of their company that is unfair, or at least one that is perceived by them as such. So what is to be done?
Asking Glassdoor to remove reviews
- Posting content that is defamatory, libelous, or fraudulent; that you know to be false or misleading; or that does not reflect your honest opinion and experience;
- Acting in a manner that is harassing, threatening, abusive, racist or bigoted, is otherwise objectionable (as determined by Glassdoor);
- Disclosing information in violation of any legally enforceable confidentiality, non-disclosure or other contractual restrictions or rights of any third party, including any current or former employers or potential employers;
- Violate the privacy, publicity, copyright, patent, trademark, trade secret, or other intellectual property or proprietary rights of any third-party;
If a company files a complaint and makes a case that any of these terms were violated, it stands a good chance that the contested review will be scrapped, though in many cases, this does not actually mean that companies will be in a position to have a review removed.
What would an organization do if it found a former employee at fault for divulging information on a management practice that is simply incorrect? Making the case that the reviewer will have known it to be false or misleading will prove difficult. So simply trying to remove a review because it depicts a negative image of your company without meeting one of the conditions that have been laid out by Glassdoor, will be impossible.
A question to be answered here is also whether or not you should even file to remove a review if you had ground to do so. Aggressive policing of online reviews could possibly cause former employees to complain in public about your censure. Is the perception of you trying to mute former employees worth the reputational cost? My answer to that question is not a definite ‘no’ in all circumstances, but gains and losses need to be put in the balance before you go in heavy handed.
A softer approach to managing Glassdoor reviews exists in responding to them.
Responding to Glassdoor reviews
Glassdoor allows employers to respond to reviews published on its website. Different companies will go about this in different ways, and every company will have to make up for itself what will be said, how it will be said, and who will do the talking.
What you say
Any company that responds to a Glassdoor review needs to be cognizant that it is communicating first and foremost with the readers of the review and not so much the author. The latter will have probably checked out long ago, and it is not his or her change of heart that is at stake here.
If you think you have received a bad treatment, take a look at the arguments that support the claim and assess whether you can dispute them. But do so in a manner that shows empathy and acknowledges that the reviewer is sincere even if that empathy might not be heartfelt and you actually have doubts that the reviewer acted in good faith.
Communicate that you are sorry it did not work out, that you felt compelled to clarify to the readers that X was not the case, or to provide more context (for example: you are a start-up, things move very quickly, or you are very large company, things take a bit more time than the reviewer wished) and that you wish him or her the best of luck in the future.
Readers will consider the criticism on your organization a ‘moment of truth’ where your response will show then more about who you are than all the copy you have on your site on mission, vision, statement and purpose put together (are they wrong?).
Finally, if you are commenting on reviews, there is no reason to only reply to negative appraisals of your organization. You can briefly acknowledge the positive ones and thank people for their worthwhile past contribution to your company’s success.
How you say it
The style, tone, and voice in which you will respond to a review will have to be in a manner that is ‘on brand’ (as in: compliant with your brand voice) and testifies to respect and understanding of the viewpoints of the other party.
Part of your style is the length of your answer. How would you feel if were looking for a job and you saw a review of a former employee that is 300 words long receive a 400 word come-back? Companies should not try to shout over critical voices, and understand that the length of their answers as it compares to the length of the original review has significant meta-communicative meaning.
And even companies that decide to reply to reviews should consider it a good practice to simply not respond to all of them. If a review goes overboard to such a degree that it can be reasonably expected that readers will not give much credence to what is said, the company does well to not bother to comment since any reply will unnecessarily legitimize what it is meant to dispute.
Who says it
Casting is an important part of corporate communication, both internally and externally, and this also applies to replies to Glassdoor reviews. You can just have the company publish the answers (no attribution), somebody from the HR department can answer or you can have the CEO or founder hold the pen.
The decision on who will speak should fit perfectly with the company’s communication style. Do you have a CEO who communicates often and well with employees in a hands-on manner on company HR practices? In that case, the CEO will not be miscast here. However, a word of caution: CEOs and founders will easily take criticism of the company personally. It is the role of the communication professionals to counsel them on how they should best address the reviews in a manner that does not do more harm than good.
The remark about the meta-communicative aspects of a mere response apply especially to CEOs of course. If you want a reader to not take a negative review too seriously, then don’t have the CEO intervene. Why would a CEO go through great lengths arguing against a statement if there were not a kernel of truth in what was said, the reader will wonder.
Getting staff to post reviews
Glassdoor recommends asking staff for reviews and even makes tools available to do so. HR does well to take the temperature of employee sentiment first before a decision is made to call upon employees to leave reviews on Glassdoor. Companies that are going through some form of turmoil, or that for any other reason have issues with employee satisfaction, need employees to vent inside the organization, and not on public forums.
If companies ask their employees to post reviews, they should make it a continuous campaign where reviews drip gradually throughout the year onto Glassdoor, and not through short and powerful bursts. Readers sense very well when a company is trying to drown certain negative reviews in a batch of positive ones.
Managing Glassdoor reviews can mitigate to some degree the impact of negative reviews when it is done right. The most durable approach is of course not a curative, but a preventive one where employee satisfaction is regularly audited in order to not only make timely changes to how the organization communicates to employees, but also to any HR practices that cause the company to not succeed in making employees with the right traits, skills, and knowledge happy and productive. The first and most important relationship to manage in brand management is indeed the one between management and staff.
This article is an expanded version of a Dutch language piece that appeared earlier in MT.be.
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