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Combating a Bad Online Review

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: What should we do about a negative review of our association on Glassdoor or other employer-rating sites? Should we respond or ignore it? I don't want this to hurt our chances to hire the best talent available.

A: Many organizations complain about sites like Glassdoor, Paysa, and Fairygodboss because they think they allow people to post unfair reviews that can have a harmful effect on hiring. But it sounds like you've got the right idea: These sites actually provide information you can use to help improve your organization so you attract great talent.

Applicants used to have a difficult time finding out what it was like to work at a particular organization. Generally, they had to know someone who already worked there. But today, with many online review sites, your prospective employees can easily read what your current and former employees have to say about you.

Keep in mind that one bad review isn't going to hurt your organization's ability to hire great people. However, if the bad reviews start piling up (if you get to four or more), you'll probably start to see an impact on recruitment.

If you start to see a pattern of negative comments, take it seriously. For example, if you see posts complaining that your salaries are below market averages or that your vacation policy is subpar, maybe you need to investigate.

Employer-rating sites actually provide information you can use to help improve your organization so you attract great talent.

Be proactive. If you haven't already done so, create a company profile on Glassdoor where you post a few words about what your organization does and what you stand for. You can also post a photo that represents your organization and gives prospects a positive first impression.

To go a step further, consider asking a few current employees to post reviews. Ask them to share their positive experiences at work or talk about their favorite benefits. However, remember that, ethically, you can't pay them or incentivize them in any way.

So, to answer your question—should you respond to a negative review? Yes, but you have to be careful about how you do it. Here are some tips from Glassdoor's community guidelines:

  • Don't respond when you're angry—wait until you've thought it through.
  • Don't use profanity.
  • Don't use a name, even if you know who posted the negative review.
  • Do use facts to back up your response.
  • Do say you're looking into the issue.
  • Do say thanks for bringing the issue to your attention.

Here's a sample response:

"Our time-off policy is generous and competitive, but based on your comment, we discovered that we had managers who weren't allowing people to take their vacation. We're working to remedy that. Thanks for bringing this to our attention."

Bottom line: Try to be as good an employer as possible, but know you can't please everyone. Monitor these sites frequently, and respond if and when it's appropriate.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer in "Ask the Expert"? Send it to [email protected]

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