For potential employees, Glassdoor seems a golden opportunity to get an insider view of what it’s really like to work at a particular organisation. But often it’s not the empowering ‘invisibility cloak' it’s cracked to be. It can be a forum for disgruntled ex-employees with axes to grind to sound off about their previous employer, leaving the company’s hard earned reputation in tatters for the world to see. Or worse, it can be hijacked by employers posting false testimonies in order to rubbish the legitimate grievances of poorly-treated former colleagues.

It’s becoming increasingly important to know how to interact with the minefield that is Glassdoor , particularly when considering how or if to respond to negative reviews.

Here’s our advice:

1. Be transparent: If you do get challenged by a candidate about a negative comment that they’ve seen, simply explain why the comments are there. Perhaps there was a new management structure put in place which meant significant changes, for example. Be open and honest, being defensive will only look like you have something to hide.

2. Build on what you can control: Manage your business’ online presence. Asking for recommendations on your LinkedIn Company page is a good example. Determine the sites that are the most influential to your potential candidates and customers and focus on enhancing these sites by building on their content.

3. Respond to all reviews – positive or negative: Review sites give employers the opportunity to respond to reviews (on Glassdoor you can have an employer profile for free). The value of this opportunity shouldn’t be underestimated. If you receive a negative review, respond as quickly as you can. Job seekers will not only be reading the reviews, they’ll be looking to see how businesses respond to these reviews. Responding promptly and politely will show you care about the opinions of your employees; and this can go a long way to minimizing the impact of a negative review.

4. Don’t lash out: If you’re considering working for a company, and you see a negative review, which approach from the business would make you more confident? a) them getting defensive and listing all of the reasons why the ex-employee is wrong or b)  them being human, empathetic and apologetic. The answer might seem obvious when we look at it from that perspective, which is what makes it amazing to see how many companies will lash out as a first reaction.

5. Take the issue offline: As much as possible, try not to engage in discussions of details; the last thing you want is to air your dirty laundry online, or get into a “he said, she said” situation. Respond in a non-defensive way that shows you’re listening, and whenever possible, take the conversation offline as quickly as possible.  For instance, rather than specifically addressing negative remarks, you could say, “Thank you for your valuable feedback. I would love the opportunity to talk with you about your experience in detail. Please contact me at your earliest convenience.

6. DO NOT try to prohibit bad reviews: As the importance of online reviews has risen in recent years, so too have reports of small business owners going to extreme measures to stop customers leaving negative reviews of their company online. Let’s be clear, it is a bad idea to try and influence what your employees post on these sites (other than by being a good employer!) and if there are issues that are leading to negative reviews you would be wiser to spend your time addressing these.  Glassdoor itself has a policy on these types of reviews and states that “you can always encourage employees to post feedback on Glassdoor, however if we suspect you are encouraging or incentivising specifically positive reviews, those reviews are subject to removal”.

7. Please don't take it personally: Your business isn’t right for everyone.  And that’s a great thing, because you can’t be all things to all people.  And remember, some of the people who leave negative reviews - very, very few - are, quite frankly, just idiots.  These are the ex-employees who make personal attacks and aren’t constructive in their feedback. These are exactly the type of the individuals you don’t want in your business anyway.

The world of online reviews can be a blessing for small business if handled properly.  If not, they can become something of a marketing disaster. This is something many small business owners have discovered the hard way, with poorly judged responses to their company’s negative reviews going viral. So make sure you learn from their mistakes and handle negative reviews in a professional and courteous manner.

For help and advice on this or any other HR issue do please get in touch at hello@thehrhub or call us on 0203 627 7048.

Photocredit: Flickr Spadge6868

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