My Take: Does HR hate Glassdoor?

December 3rd, 2019

It’s an open secret that HR pros don’t much like Glassdoor’s review platform. Recently, I saw it for myself when I attended a meeting at Glassdoor’s headquarters in San Francisco, along with a group of HR leaders. Their frustration with Glassdoor was palpable. Many of my colleagues at the meeting expressed outrage about a fairly common occurrence: An employee is terminated for cause, becomes disgruntled, and posts what the company views as salacious lies about it. And Glassdoor, holding to its mandate of an open platform, lets it stand.

How big of a problem is it really? On one hand, a healthy company is going to have enough strong reviews that a few disgruntled workers shouldn’t matter all that much. But, on the other hand, even a single bad faith review can really get under the skin of a management team committed to its mission.

Plus, it’s HR’s charge to hire top performers and that’s no easy task, especially in this wickedly competitive job market. More than a few disgruntled reviews can do real damage to HR’s hiring power, making it harder for HR to do its job. Hence the disdain last week at my meeting.

Some companies are fighting back against those negative reviews, as reported in the Wall Street Journal earlier this year. The article outlined how companies like Slack, Brown-Forman, SpaceX, SAP, LinkedIn, and others have had suspicious five-star spikes, some timed to make Glassdoor’s annual “Best Places to Work” list. In other words, they’re applying a heavier hand, soliciting five-star reviews from their employees. The slant of the article seemed to be that it’s a shocking, unethical practice that weakens the validity of what Glassdoor was trying to do in the first place: Paint a picture of what it’s really like to work at any given company.

Others, mainly in the HR realm, say: not so fast. Glassdoor, like all of social media, seems to be a breeding ground for anonymous vitriol. Ever read the comments on the digital version of your city’s newspaper? Trust me, don’t. Glassdoor is the place where people with an ax to grind about their employers go to, well, grind it. If companies can counter that negativity with some positive employee comments, isn’t that fair?

The fact is, negative Glassdoor reviews reverberate beyond job seekers. Customers see them. Vendors see them. Other employees see them. When people say false things, it triggers something in company employees that is hard to let go, even if the review in and of itself is not consequential to the whole rating. Now it’s affecting your whole business.

In the end, maybe all of the hand-wringing on both sides of the issue is for naught. Most company executives understand that Glassdoor users know how to interpret ratings and reviews. We’re used to it in many aspects of our lives. Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Amazon, to name a few. We’re more savvy than to trust isolated glowing reviews or scathing ones. Let’s face it. If you set out to eat at restaurants that had nothing but 5-star ratings, you would starve. We take reviews with a grain of salt. That said, negative or false reviews have a way of feeling personal and taking on much greater significance.

As an aside, a big part of our mission at GetFive is protecting reputations through our unique approach to outplacement. 60% of our participants report an improved view of their former employer thanks to our services. That’s a lot of negative reviews preempted.

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