What to Do When Former Employees Leave Bad Reviews

May 14, 2019

Just as consumers rely on customer reviews when making decisions, employee reviews of companies are becoming essential for job seekers’ decisions.

So what’s a company to do when a bad review shows up online about their company (that may or may not have any truth)?

Well, ideally you – as a company representative – have already taken the first step need to respond to online reviews, which is claiming your employer account (which gives you real-time notification of reviews and the opportunity to respond directly). You can claim your kununu account easily here.

From there, here are your three next steps to protecting your company’s online reputation and employer brand from bad reviews:

1. Investigate any allegations internally and make corrections if necessary.

Your employer brand is only as effective as your company culture, so identifying and repairing cultural problems, particulary; when they appear in bad online reviews is key to building a positive employer brand.

Always prioritize investigating allegations of sexual harassment, hostile working environment, discrimination, or other unethical practices within your organization that are brought forward in a former employee’s online review.

It’s not always possible to investigate an anonymous complaint, though. If you need more information, you can reply to the review with something like this: “We take complaints like this one very seriously at ABC Company. Please contact us with more information so we can conduct a thorough investigation and take corrective measures if necessary.” Be sure to include name, title, and contact information to make it easy to reach out.

2. Always, always reply.

A professional, mission-centered response to every negative review can quickly demonstrate the stark difference between an emotional former employee and a fair, non-discriminatory organization. When doing this, though, feel free to correct misinformation. As you read the example below, consider how it might influence you if you were seeking employment in an organization like this one:

Review by former employee: “STUPID MANAGEMENT. HARD TO GET A GOOD REVIEW, easy to get fired. Only men get promoted. Idiots running the show.”

Response by company: “We welcome all feedback but hope to correct some of the misinformation in your review. Over the last 12 months, we have had a turnover rate of just 5.7%, and 95% of those terminations were voluntary due to relocation, career changes, personal obligations, and other similar reasons. The remaining 1% were for disciplinary reasons or gross misconduct; i.e. infractions that warranted termination on the first offense or employees who were put on a performance improvement plan and failed to perform as outlined in the plan. The average employee at ABC Manufacturing has been with the organization for more than 5 years and the average performance review rating is 3.9 stars out of 5. We also take pride in our diverse workforce and promotion decisions; 48% of our employees at supervisor level and above are women, and 29% belong to minority groups despite just 18% of the local population belonging to those same groups. We welcome high performers who take high accountability from every background – and we love to give great reviews to those employees.”

Here’s an example of more professional negative feedback that might have more influence on a potential employee (and an acceptable company response):

Review by former employee: “ABC Manufacturing has established policies and procedures, a diverse leadership team, and a plethora of opportunities for advancement. Unfortunately, I felt that there was a toxic environment in the quality assurance department and didn’t feel comfortable talking to my manager, who often publicly praised the most abusive employee in the department. I was too afraid that he would treat me differently or tell her about my complaint, and I would be the next person targeted.”

Response by company: “Thank you for sharing this valuable insight. Bullying and toxic behavior doesn’t align with our mission. We know how hard it can be to bring forward concerns when working alongside a bully, and we’re sorry that you experienced this. We’ll investigate this further and take action if necessary.”

3. Put an exec in the review response role.

Company responses to online reviews from former employees should come from a specific person from your company, and preferably a company exec such as the the president, CEO, or another senior director. Why? Because positive company culture needs to be supported by those at the top for it to truly stick and be authentic.

Prospective employees who are researching your company and reading your online reviews, especially the bad ones, will be happy to see when a senior representative of your company is truly invested in the culture enough to respond to individual reviews. This shows that you take your employees’ experiences seriously and put effort into hearing feedback – the first step of learning and improving as a company.

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Linda Le Phan
Senior Content Marketing Manager at kununu.

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