Should You Worry About Negative Employee Reviews Online?

Learn why negative reviews on Glassdoor and other review sites matter — and how to handle them.

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Should You Worry About Negative Employee Reviews Online?

Your business reputation can make or break your success. Employee reviews of companies could impact your recruiting efforts. They could influence consumer choices. They can also have trickle-down effects that affect employee retention.

People can research companies online anywhere from small-business social media channels to online negative reviews on Glassdoor. Brands like the Better Business Bureau (BBB) verify complaints to strengthen trust in companies.

Since your past and current employees have an inside look into your operations, you may be wondering how much employee reviews of companies matter. Here’s what to consider and how to handle negative employee reviews of your business.

Where can I find reviews of a company?

Company reviews are popular all over the internet these days. Some jobseeker sites, like Indeed, feature them. Others pop up when someone searches the company on a social media channel like Twitter. Employee reviews may even reside in the comments section of a company’s own website.

Many sites that host employee reviews enable anonymous posting. Glassdoor, for example, has a policy that it won’t share reviewer information with employers or anyone who takes legal action to get the identity of a reviewer. On social media sites, an angry former or current employee could create a fake or burner profile to post anonymously.

Other sites, like the Better Business Bureau, will only post complaints by those who submit them with a real name, address, and phone number. The BBB doesn’t post anonymous complaints, so complaint filers must be willing to share their personal information if they want to file one. The complaint filer’s real first name and last initial appear alongside their review.

If you’re curious about what employees might be saying about your company, some of the most common employee review sites are:

  • Better Business Bureau
  • CareerBliss
  • Comparably
  • Glassdoor
  • Google Reviews
  • Indeed
  • Yelp
  • Zippia

Some of the sites listed above, like Yelp and Google Reviews, primarily feature customer reviews of a business. But often, they include some employee reviews mixed in, which adds to the importance of checking all reviews of your business regularly.

You can search your company on these sites to see anonymous and non-anonymous reviews. You can also do a search engine query for “employee reviews for [your company]” to see what people are saying online.

Also, it’s a good idea to set up Google Alerts for your company to monitor for news that mentions your brand. Some news pieces may feature quotes from employees, which make news articles an additional potential source of employee reviews about companies.

Why do employees post company reviews?

A 2020 survey of 1,096 American workers who left reviews of their companies found more than half gave their former employer 1 or 2 stars.

There are lots of reasons why past and current employees might leave company reviews. Some include:

  • A current employee feels frustrated and wants to vent anonymously to get the company’s attention.
  • The company receives media attention, which prompts a current or former employee to share their perspective on what it is/was like to work there.
  • An employee who’s let go or fired seeks revenge and posts a truthful or dishonest review of the company.
  • An employee’s leaving the company on “good” terms but wants to share their honest experience of the business once they’re leaving.

Most employees who leave reviews post negatively about the company. A 2020 survey of 1,096 American workers who left reviews of their companies found more than half gave their former employer 1 or 2 stars. Nearly 40% left a 1-star review, while only 22% gave an ex-employer 4 or 5 stars. More than 88% of respondents said their review was completely truthful.

The research tells us:

  • Ex-employees are more likely to leave a negative review of a company than give one at all.
  • The vast majority of your company reviews feature reviewers’ honest perspectives.

It’s important that companies don’t turn a blind eye to reviews or assume they’re untruthful. Employee reviews can help your company improve its culture and retention by making the workplace more equitable and inclusive to all. The truth hurts sometimes, but it can also reveal insights that help you grow.

Why do employee reviews matter?

First off, employee reviews matter because they’re generally rooted in fact. You may not be aware of how your business affects its employees. Reviews can illuminate things you may be missing as an employer or small business. Enlist your HR team or community manager to monitor reviews regularly and prepare reports on notable insights for your leadership team to address.

Employee reviews can also affect your recruiting and hiring efforts. According to a 2021 report by Glassdoor, 86% of employees and job seekers research employee reviews of companies when they’re deciding where to apply for jobs. For top talent that’s in high demand, a single negative review could eliminate your business from that candidate’s consideration.

Beyond employees, consumers may also check out your business reputation online before purchasing from you. An April 2022 report by Google Cloud found that 82% of shoppers prefer that a company’s brand values align with their own. If there’s no match, they don’t purchase from the company. If a consumer is searching for your brand online and they see negative reviews, they might choose your competitor instead.

What about current employees? If one of your workers today reads negative employee reviews that reinforce their own feelings, they may accelerate their job search in preparation to leave your company.

Negative employee reviews can affect everything from recruitment to retention to revenue. Even false reviews could give a bad impression, so it’s important to monitor what’s being said online.

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How do you respond to a negative employee review?

How you respond to negative employee reviews will depend on the review site. Your review management team should familiarize itself with how each employee review site works and the terms and conditions for employer responses. Start with the common sites mentioned above.

Some sites, like Yelp, the BBB, and Google Reviews, will enable employer responses to reviews right on the site. According to 2022 data from ReviewTrackers, 45% of consumers are more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews. Responding to reviews shows you:

  • Listen to what reviewers have to say
  • Are willing to engage in a conversation to make things right

The research shows review responses can improve customer sentiment. For a current employee who’s considering quitting your company, seeing a response could motivate them to talk to a manager about their issues since you’re open to responding.

When you’re responding to a negative review, keep the response short and sweet. A good formula follows this template:

  • Acknowledge the reviewer for their thoughts and opinions.
  • Reinforce that you want to make the situation right.
  • Ask the reviewer to contact you outside of the review channel for a more detailed discussion. Provide an email address and/or phone number so they can contact you directly.

Resist the urge to defend yourself or accuse the review of lying, even if they are. Your response represents your brand, so keep the tone professional and friendly.

If the review is completely false, research how to contact the website to potentially get it removed. In the meantime, work on attracting more positive employee reviews for your business.

 45% of consumers are more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews.

Negative employer reviews can impact your business

Even when your business does most things right, negative employee reviews of your business are bound to pop up. Some people will get angry and post bad reviews, even if they left your company on good terms.

You can minimize the impact of bad reviews by working to create a positive culture that attracts more positive ones. When you see negative reviews of your company:

  • Recognize they may be truthful.
  • Respond to the review professionally. Ask to take the conversation off the review site channel to discuss the problem further.
  • Contact review sites when the reviewer has lied. Enquire about steps to get it removed.

By being visible on review sites and representing your business positively, you show employees and consumers you’re listening and care about people’s opinions so you can do better. In some cases, a friendly response may be enough to motivate angry reviewers to remove their reviews altogether.

Treat those online like you would in person at your business. A positive, proactive approach can help you improve your online reputation.

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