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3 Steps for Handling Negative Glassdoor Reviews—Without Making It Worse

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No one wants to hear that they’ve done a bad job.

Humans tend to be very resistant to accepting bad news about themselves, and when someone accuses your company of performing poorly, it can feel like a personal attack.

In such cases, your instinct may be to chalk up negative mentions of your company to jealousy or bitter former employees, However, it can really pay off to listen and consider whether their words hold a grain of truth.

But what if someone is blasting your company online for the whole world to see, on Glassdoor, for example? Will you be ready to handle it? And do you understand why your response really matters?

We’re helping you answer these questions, so you can be prepared if this happens to you. Read on to learn how to develop a solid strategy for handling negative reviews

Why does Glassdoor matter?

As a quick disclaimer, I’m focusing on Glassdoor in this article because it’s popular and well-known, but you can apply this advice to any reviews site, including Indeed, Careerbliss, or even Yelp (yes, I’ve seen negative reviews from former employees on Yelp, and for small businesses, you know how important your Yelp rating is).

You might be wondering how much impact a couple of bitter former employees whining online will really make for your company. They aren’t customers, after all.

But that’s the wrong attitude. When you’re hiring, what you’re really doing is selling your business to potential employees. You want to attract the best talent you possibly can, and the best talent will be doing research to see if your business is a good fit.

Consider these statistics:

  • Nearly 80% of people check a company’s listing on Glassdoor before accepting a job offer
  • As many as 90% of customers consider bad online reviews when making a purchasing decision

So, if you’re trying to sell your company to a potential employee who finds those bad reviews, they’re not going to be as eager to invest their abilities to your business. Bad Glassdoor reviews scare off applicants, and the best applicant tracking system in the world won’t win them back.

Long story short: Glassdoor reviews from former employees matter—a lot. So if you’ve got some negative reviews on your listing, what can you do about it?

3 steps for handling negative Glassdoor reviews

1. Make a plan

The first step is to have a plan, and there’s no time like the present to put an official procedure in place for how to handle negative reviews about your business.

The list below presents questions for consideration. The answers will be different for every business, so I can’t give you a solid suggestion on what’s right or wrong to do. Your business leaders should hold a discussion and decide for yourselves.

Here’s what you need to decide on:

  • Should you reply or not? (More on that below)
  • How long should you wait to respond? Set a minimum or maximum time frame. Say, if a review is six months old, do you consider it too old to bother responding to? What about nine months? A year?
  • Who should respond? It might be the CEO, the HR department, or a current employee. Decide who should pen the response along with your reasoning.
  • Develop a method for investigating any claims made by the review. For example, claims that your workplace has discriminatory hiring practices or an unsafe work environment are serious allegations. Are things really as bad as they say? How will you get to the bottom of these accusations?
  • If you know who wrote the review, do you want to reach out to them personally? Is that a good idea (i.e., do you really believe it will help, or are you just trying to soothe your pride?) How will you go about it? An email? A phone call? Who should make that call?

Making these decisions and having a process in place ahead of time will save you tons of trouble down the line, since you’ll be able to act swiftly and decisively. It will also ensure consistency in your reaction any time you have problems with negative reviews or unhappy former employees.

2. Respond … or don’t

At the end of the day, you have two choices: You can respond to the review or you can ignore it.

If you choose to respond to a negative Glassdoor review:

There is a right way and a wrong way to go about this.

The wrong way includes: Name calling, trying to expose the author of an anonymous review, poor grammar or spelling, profanity, self-promotion, or claiming that the reviewer’s issues don’t exist without proof.

At best, these types of responses will make you look immature, out of touch, and tacky; at worst, they’ll send any future prospective hires running.

The right way should be formulated similarly to an apology letter. (Even if you don’t feel you did anything wrong and don’t plan to actually apologize, it’s still a good structure):

  • Acknowledge what went wrong by mentioning their grievances directly
  • Explain what the company is doing to address each issue
  • Thank them sincerely for their feedback and wish them well

Even if doing so makes you grit your teeth, responding with grace is a great way to make yourself more appealing to future prospects. Seventy-eight percent of people say that seeing businesses respond to poor reviews improves their trust in the company.

If you’re not sure what to say, check out this list of Glassdoor responses from CEOs to get some inspiration.

If you choose to ignore a negative Glassdoor review

You don’t have to reply. If you have tons of positive reviews and just one bad one—and the bad one seems like a weak argument that most people would gloss over anyway—your best bet might be to say nothing at all.

In some cases, such as when a review is particularly vitriolic, or it seems as if the writer is trying to start a “flame war,” it might be possible to have the review removed, as per Glassdoor’s community guidelines. But unless the review specifically violates the site’s guidelines, don’t count on this.

3. Follow up

Just because you’ve responded to or filed away the negative review itself, that doesn’t mean you’re done. There are several things you still need to do:

  • First, seriously investigate any claims made by the review. This should be obvious for major issues such as harassment or unfair hiring practices, but even minor problems such as general employee satisfaction levels are worth looking into. You can distribute a survey to current employees to check on general happiness levels, and to get a feel for what changes (if any) they’d like to see.
  • You should also check back to make sure that you aren’t getting any further complaints or responses to the negative review. Glassdoor notifies reviewers when the business they’ve reviewed responds to their post, and the original poster may decide to continue the conversation with you.
  • Finally, drown out that bad review by asking your current employees to leave reviews on your company’s Glassdoor page. You might even reach out to former employees who left on good terms, and see if they’d be willing to contribute. Don’t micromanage this process or try to edit what they post. Trust that your effort to create a good work environment will pay off, and they’ll have only lovely things to say.

Have you been faced with negative Glassdoor reviews?

Have you had negative Glassdoor reviews? How did you deal? Tell me about it in the comments below, and answer this question: Do you think it’s better to answer a negative Glassdoor review, or ignore it?

Learn more about creating a positive work environment with these great articles:

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About the Author

Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen writes about HR and eLearning at Capterra. She’s a graduate of Agnes Scott College and a TEDx presenter. You can follow her on Twitter @CapterraHalden, just don’t get her started about her zombie survival plan.

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