So, you’ve left a job and you want revenge. You feel wronged by your past employer but your options for payback are limited. Even if you genuinely feel you were treated unfairly, burning bridges by doing something drastic could earn you a bad reputation in your industry.
Instead, you log onto Glassdoor.com and start preparing your review while your face is still a volcanic shade of red. After it’s published it will be read over and over again by prospective employees and it will shape their decisions about taking an opportunity at your former workplace. That was kind of your goal, right?
In the marketing world, we often lament that customers only leave reviews when they’re super dissatisfied. Meanwhile, happy customers don’t bother to share their experiences. You can apply this same logic to Glassdoor reviews.
But the bad reviews are still there and they’re hard to ignore. So, how do you know what’s a legitimate complaint from a distressed employee and what’s a vindictive move from someone who deserved their pink slip?
Corroborating evidence is pretty damning
You’re checking a company’s Glassdoor page and they’ve got ten reviews, ranging from five-star sonnets to one-star rants. Some employees had great experiences and some left with their self-esteem shattered. Which reviews should you believe?
First, pay attention to the details. Reviews that are barely coherent, filled with grammatical errors or just seem downright petty are not your best bet when you’re seeking the truth. For as many honest, hardworking people that are out there, there are also those who believe everything should be handed to them on a platter. The tone and style of a review should shape your outlook on its contents because those factors give you an insight into the reviewer’s character.
Second, notice the patterns. Are the negative reviews always bringing up that the CEO is disrespectful to women in the office? Do the positive reviews mention that the holiday bonuses are generous? If similar points come up in different reviews, you can give them greater weight as they’re more likely to be truthful if shared by multiple sources.
You don’t have to worry about spam reviews either. Glassdoor has pretty good safeguards against keeping one person from spamming an employer’s page with reviews, even if they create new accounts to do it.
Happy people rarely blab
If things are going great at your job, there’s little chance you’re going to go to bother submitting a Glassdoor review. Some companies have zero reviews on Glassdoor, even though they’re well-established and been around for a while. But bitter people have plenty to say, especially if they have had no opportunity to vent to management or HR. Exit interviews are still not a common practice and some small companies won’t have an HR representative.
This means that even when you’re looking at multiple companies, the Glassdoor reviews you read are often negative. This can truly spook you away from an opportunity. But what if you really want the job anyway?
Try this exercise: if reviews complain there’s never any company outings or team-building exercises, ask yourself if that bothers you. If reviews mention that employees are cliquey, ask yourself if your skin is thick enough to withstand that.
It’s not a pretty sentiment, but let’s be honest, it’s tough to find a job and you may end up somewhere that isn’t perfect. Or, far from perfect. How much can you handle? Do some self-reflection and then approach with caution.
Employers do manipulate reviews
Glassdoor reviews are increasingly a point of contention among company executives. When you Google search an employer, their Glassdoor page, and rating, commonly come up on the first page. Seeing your company associated with 1/5 stars isn’t pretty.
Executives will encourage, and downright pressure, staff to leave positive Glassdoor reviews. If a flood of bad reviews is being drowned out by five-star reviews all of a sudden, you can assume an executive sent out a mass email to his employees to leave reviews. After all, there’s a slim chance a company’s culture underwent a massive overhaul overnight and everyone is so thrilled that they ran to Glassdoor to rave about it.
The Sunday Riley scandal involving Sephora product reviews is an example of companies advising their employees to leave fake reviews. One thing is for sure: writing a review under pressure automatically dismisses its authenticity. It’s unfortunate that Glassdoor hasn’t figured out a way to flag these reviews (yet).
The truth is out there
What do you do after you’ve read all the reviews and you’re more confused than ever? Here’s a final tip: forget about Glassdoor. Find the information you’re looking for in a different way. Reach out to past or current employees at the company and see if they’re willing to chat.
Do some digging and take note of how many employees have stayed at the company for over two years, and how many fled early. Take a look at the company’s Instagram page to get a sense of their culture and values. Do they highlight their awards more than their employees? Well, then you know what they value more.
Personally, I have found Glassdoor reviews to be accurate most of the time—but not always. I have read reviews that did not reflect the experience I had at that company at all. Ultimately, an employee’s experience depends on their role, their team and their manager. These are all factors that could be totally different from yours.
I have left Glassdoor reviews after having truly heinous experiences at certain organizations that didn’t bother doing exit interviews. Their mistake, because I really needed to vent and Glassdoor provided the opportunity to do so. But I am no longer only going to be motivated by anger when posting my next review. I think all employees, current and former, should share their experiences on Glassdoor as accurately as possible. You would be doing all incoming employees a big favour.