CEO Confidential

The CEO’s Guide to Dealing With Negative Glassdoor Reviews

Is Glassdoor a curse or a blessing for your business?

If your instinctive response is that it must be a curse, you’re doing it all wrong.

The beauty of Glassdoor is right there in the name: the employer review site is the equivalent of passing by a ‘glass door’ into your office. A clear window through which your HR practices and day-to-day environment can be appraised by potential employees and, indeed, anyone who has any interest in the health or otherwise of your business. And Glassdoor opens out not just into that self-contained website but into the broader business community of social media, online and IRL networking, gossip and reputation.

If your business gives a good impression on Glassdoor, the illusion of transparency just multiplies the positive effect.

Unfortunately, to twist the metaphor a little, it isn’t in your power to control the smears. And Glassdoor exists for the smears: through hot-headed revenge, bitterness, genuine peer-to-peer good will or plain old justice-seeking, employees who leave work under a cloud lead the conversation on Glassdoor. You may not even know your employee was disgruntled until you discover the words he or she has published since their departure have harmed your chances of finding a high-quality replacement.

This transparency and this employee-oriented publishing culture together require measured and sensitive treatment if your business is to emerge untarnished. Indeed, dealt with maturely and with humility and charm, your business can even emerge from a negative review incident even stronger – and it’s important to note that this strength applies not just to your reputation, but to the way you do things in-house. Glassdoor isn’t just a window through which others see how your company does things: it’s a mirror with which you can take an objective look at the way you treat your workforce.

So what steps should you take when you receive a bad review on Glassdoor?  The first thing is to stop your defensive instincts dead. It is natural to feel attacked, defensive, even hurt when you see negative things written about you in public. It can be worse with an employee that you thought you saw eye-to-eye with than when it comes from a difficult character who left in difficult circumstances. But either way, making your response slow and measured gives you a chance to take control of the situation.

Whether your critic is making wild accusations or voicing experiences that you had read differently, it is worth examining their words for kernels of truth. Don’t respond right away. Read, digest, read again, and sleep on it. Only then are you ready to autopsy the review point by point within your own team.

As CEO, it’s great that you’re on the case from the beginning. Even if somebody else is given the task of dealing with the issue, it’s vital that you are kept aware of what’s going on, and even that you should be the one who signs the eventual response. It shows that you take your business and the welfare of your employees seriously. It illustrates a sense of responsibility that will be respected by those who follow the case – regardless the level of the former employee who’s venting. And it is, after all, your ultimate responsibility to ensure the issue has been addressed and dealt with, rather than brushed under the rug. Over two-thirds of prospective employees say they are more likely to apply for a job if the company has made the effort to respond to Glassdoor-style reviews.

Regardless of the tone of the response, begin by thanking the writer for taking the time to share their feedback. This shows that you are interested in a constructive dialogue rather than an insult match. It sets the tone for a calm and polite conversation – even if your ex-employee remains irate. Remember, there is nothing to be gained by winning points or out-shouting your critic. You can only accept their criticisms and demonstrate a will to improve, or disagree and express your point of view on what happened.

This you will do point by point. For each criticism that has been leveled at you, explain what you will do to rectify the issue. Use this as a chance not just clear your name, but to genuinely improve the way you do business. Each flaw that is identified in your company can be the seed for a new idea if you approach it with wisdom. And remember that the criticisms that hurt you the most are often the ones that highlight your own most fundamental insecurities – issues to which you may have been turning a blind eye because they are particularly difficult or particularly personal. Use this unmasking as a chance to face your demons head on.

It isn’t all about humility, though. When composing your Glassdoor response, look for natural opportunities to modestly state some of the positive aspects of your company. Tie it to the issue on which you’ve come up short: “We didn’t do A, but we’ve done a lot of B – and we’re going to use that as a starting point for more A.” This isn’t a commercial for your business, so you need to strike the right balance of humility and positive spin: make sure you’re not the only person in the company who reads your response before you post it, as there’s sure to be a point that reads differently to a person who did not themselves write it.

So, as to the question of whether Glassdoor is a curse or a blessing, the answer clearly varies from business to business. Ignore bad reviews, get into fights, or issue stock replies and empty pacification, and the net result will be negative. Own negative feedback with dignity and class, and these qualities will be reflected in your company’s subsequent reputation. For a few more ideas on how you can strike this balance, check out this new infographic from Headway Capital – and remember to take a deep breath before logging in to the complex world of Glassdoor.

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Aimee Lee Webber
Editorial Aide/Reporter at The CEOWORLD magazine. Nationally Syndicated Advice Columnist. Generally prefer dogs to humans. Loves dragons. New Yorker.
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