We live in an age when just the thought of a bad online review can cause panic.
But for many business owners and founders, few things are as jarring as a negative review on Glassdoor.
While reviews for products and services are increasingly seen as not entirely trustworthy, a negative review from a former or present employee carries weight, and it needs to be dealt with.
People ops pro Megan Huey is an expert in reputation management. In a Technical.ly video interview attached to Introduced, she put Glassdoor reviews in perspective and advised on how to handle criticism on the platform. Here are a few key takeaways:
Criticism is an opportunity for engagement
The way you react to criticism on a public platform can tell prospective employees a lot about you, and can even attract recruits if you do it right.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for companies to engage with people who formerly worked with them,” Huey said. “Having the opportunity to respond to these things I think gives you a seat at the table, an opportunity to share your perspective. That’s really tricky to do sometimes, depending upon how the reviews are structured and what they’re saying about you. But if nothing else, it leaves you with an opportunity to provide some context for the conversation or some additional insight that maybe candidates wouldn’t get if they were just reading the reviews on their own.”
Don’t forget that Glassdoor, while it may be the first stop for many jobseekers, is not the only tool you can use to counter criticism (nor is it the only place where people may be criticizing your company). Other platforms Huey suggests checking on include Reddit, Fishbowl and Blind.
“Blind is a really interesting one,” she said. “They post a lot of information about compensation, which I know is a hot topic right now. So getting out there and reading what people are saying – and also being aware of it – provides you with some strategic advantage so that you’re able to know how to approach those conversations when you do get to have a conversation with candidates. At least you’ll know what they’re reading and what kind of information they’re consuming before they come to the table to negotiate.”
Don’t get defensive
Keeping your cool in response to negative reviews is probably the most common piece of advice for business owners, and for good reason: If potential employees or clients see you handling such a situation calmly and professionally, it can turn something otherwise bad into a positive.
“If it’s someone who’s currently at your company, that’s a great opportunity to engage them in an offline dialogue and offer that in a very clear way,” Huey said. “If it’s someone who’s not at your company anymore, you can always thank them for their review, because I think it’s important to meet them where they are and acknowledge that their experience is what it is. It’s not necessarily something you have to agree with, but acknowledging that this person took the time to write feedback in a public setting, and acknowledging where they are, but also being able to say what is and isn’t true.”
Setting the record straight when the criticism isn’t entirely accurate can be particularly tricky, she says.
“If it’s something that’s egregiously false, you don’t have to point-by-point go through and tell them why they’re wrong, but acknowledge it and then say, ‘here’s some of the facts behind this’ without sounding defensive. Being really thoughtful about the language you use is important in doing something like that.”
If the negative feedback is coming from somebody that’s currently on your team, Huey suggests offering multiple options – not just HR or people ops – for engaging in a productive conversation that will provide actionable feedback that can potentially inspire positive change.
“You have to think about whether this is an indication of a much larger systemic thing, and if so, there’s probably a bigger conversation that you don’t want to go about it just by yourself,” Huey said. “You want to look at the specific information they’re providing. If it’s a negative individual experience, not everybody is going to like working at your company. Not every single person is going to have a great experience there. You can do your best, but it’s unlikely you’re going to be 100% on that. […] But if it’s something that looks like a very large problem across the organization, then I think it’s probably worth engaging other people in the conversation and saying, ‘Look, we need to take a look at these problematic or concerning things.’ Especially if it’s related to legal issues or compliance issues, you want to make make sure you’re taking it seriously and actually taking action.”
Asking for good reviews can work, but only sometimes
Asking employees to post positive reviews on Glassdoor isn’t the best idea, especially if you don’t really know for sure that they’re having a positive experience. Still, you can encourage employees to share their good feelings about the company.
“When people provide positive feedback, just verbally, like, ‘Hey, this was really great, I love this part about working here,’ I always say, ‘Go put that on Glassdoor and make sure you include that information,’ rather than making a blanket call to please go provide feedback.”
If you do opt to ask employees to opine on Glassdoor, make it optional and don’t put a lot of pressure on them to do it.
“You can push too much, and you probably won’t like what you see if you’re pushing it too much,” she said. “People saying ‘I was forced to post this’ really has diminishing returns.”
Keep it human – with multiple humans
You’ve probably seen review pages where the company diligently responds to each complaint with a cut-and-paste boilerplate response. Not only should you not respond to human employees with robotic boilerplate, you should not put all of the responsibility to respond on HR/people ops.
“It should not just be up to people ops. It should be the CEO, it should be your other leaders,” Huey said. “Because, in many cases, that can be a really powerful statement of how engaged our leadership is in the conversation. People can say people matter all the time, but if the only person interacting with the unhappy people is the HR department, then most likely you’re probably going to end up with the same results.”
Watch the full video here: