August 24, 2017

When Toxic Culture Spills Over Onto Glassdoor

No matter where you work, odds are there are individuals, teams, even whole business units that have a culture of toxicity at your company. This can play out in many different ways. Managers who are protective of their team or product and create an “us vs them” atmosphere. Inept workers in positions that they are seemingly unqualified for.

So, when these complaints, and often time very real issues, come out on Glassdoor, where do you start? You are not going to be able to systematically change all the cultural issues within your company right away, so what can you do?

I’m going to give you 3 steps to create a simple and effective strategy on replying to negative Glassdoor reviews.

1. Exposure to Leadership

The most important advocate you can get on your team is the Executive Leadership Team. Any CEO, Chief People Officer, or head of a business, worth their salt should take any complaint, internal or external, about culture toxicity or abuses in power extremely seriously. The problem often is how to get the reviews in front of leadership to get a response.

What I recommend clients do is prepare an easy to read document with the negative reviews from a previous couple of weeks. It is important to highlight or bold key sections of the reviews to call attention to the heart of the complaint. Then I write a response underneath on behalf of HR.

This document, at a minimum, needs to get in front of your head of HR. If you are having trouble getting the ear of leadership, you can also leverage a number of articles and data from Glassdoor showing how much influence Glassdoor has on candidates. It should be a top priority for any TA organization.

2. Kindness & Respect In Replies

Hopefully, at this point, you have a process in place in which leadership is helping respond to reviews. However, when crafting responses, it is important to remember that damage has already been done to these individuals. This review could be 100% valid or absolutely bogus and from an employee who is bitter and wants to just do damage. However, your goal in replying isn’t to defend the company or refute the claim.

My goal, in replying to reviews, is always, acknowledge the individuals feelings, share progress that the organization is making on the specific complaint, and try to direct them to continue a dialogue within HR. It may sound overly simple, but what this does is:

A. Try to show compassion and desire for understanding with every employee, and

B. show candidates that your company is one who can admit shortcomings within the organization and have the desire to work with employees.

Think about what that means for a candidate. No one has ever worked at a company free of drama, problems or dysfunction. But to see a company who replies with respect and kindness goes a long way in attracting individuals.

You can’t fix all the problems in the company that led to this review. But you can see if you can encourage the reviewer to reach back out to HR, even if they’ve already left, to help the company better understand what happened and how HR and leadership can address it.

3. Strategy for Finding Good Reviews

So now that you know you have a plan for responding to negative reviews, how do you start to move that rating in a positive direction?

There are dozens of articles on how to improve Glassdoor reviews. From including desire for transparency built into onboarding and encouraging new employees to go review their hiring process, to having managers bring up Glassdoor in employee reviews, there are a number of ways to activate employees to review so that you have a good representation of your culture rather than a one-sided story.

One technique that I encourage Talent Brand teams to incorporate is in my follow-ups after an employee has helped me with a project.  If you are leveraging your employees for blog posts, videos, Instagram photos, or any other type of content to share, I’ve crafted an email template that I send out after we’ve finished up the project. Odds are, if they have helped you with content creation, they are an engaged employee who has a story to share. These are the exact people who you want to be reviewing you on Glassdoor!

So, when I send out the follow-up email, I thank them for their partnership to help us show what it is like to work at the company. Then I ask, if they are interested, to write a quick review on Glassdoor (provide a link), and share with them how by them reviewing on Glassdoor, it helps us hire the right individuals, by giving real insight into the good and the bad of working there. I also ALWAYS encourage them to be honest in their reviews.

By catching them immediately after working with your team on sharing about the great experience they have working at the company, odds are, the review will be good!


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