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How to Properly Deal with Negative Employee Evaluations

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Online reviews can determine the success of a restaurant or catapult a product to the top of the Amazon search engine. Many companies are aware of this and have learned the art of responding to negative customer reviews, turning something potentially harmful into an opportunity to take the right path, show more transparency, and even improve the relationship with a grumpy customer.

But what happens when a company review comes from one of your own employees? Do the same rules then apply? Is there any reason to view a poor employee review through rose-colored glasses?

Let's explore where you might come across employer reviews, how negative reviews impact employer branding, why bad employee reviews happen, and how best to respond to them.

What are employer rating portals?

Employer review portals offer employees the opportunity to share their experiences. From compensation to company culture, these websites cover all aspects of the employee experience. This article is primarily about negative employee reviews, but there is a wide range of reviews on employer review sites, from poor to fair to excellent. Here are some employer review sites where you are likely to find reviews about your company:

  • Glassdoor: Glassdoor is arguably the most popular employer review site and covers all industries. Here you can research companies, salaries and jobs.
  • Fairygodboss: Fairygodboss focuses specifically on insights from women, highlighting salary ranges, company culture, and benefits like parental leave and work-life balance.
  • Blind: This site provides a sense of community by allowing interaction between reviewers and job seekers. Users can ask questions and receive honest answers from people who have experience in specific positions or companies.
  • Indeed: As one of the most popular job websites in the world, it makes sense that Indeed offers an employee reviews section. With employee reviews in the same window, job seekers can make informed decisions about where to apply.
  • Firsthand (Vault): Firsthand is aimed at students and young professionals and is characterized by its focus on internships.

You may also come across employee reviews on general review sites like Yelp and Google, although they violate these sites' terms of service. (More on that later!)

How employee reviews impact your employer brand

Not surprisingly, disgruntled reviews from former employees can damage an employer's brand, even if they're untrue. The vast majority of workers and job seekers - 86% of them - research the company on employee review sites before applying for a job, and 50% of applicants say they are not interested in working for a company to work with a bad reputation, even if it means they get a raise.

At a time when recruiting top talent is a top priority for employers, negative employee reviews carry more weight than ever and can severely impact your ability to build and maintain a talent pipeline.

Why bad employee reviews happen

When you receive a negative employee review, it's often tempting to see yourself (or your company) as an innocent victim, but there's a reason the person felt the need to leave a bad review.

Many employees who leave a bad review feel wronged by the company they worked for, and a negative review is a way to vent their displeasure, warn other potential employees, or have the final say. after they have been terminated, laid off or dismissed for cause.

Whatever the intention, a negative review is often a sign of a failure in communication before that point. If you receive a negative review, ask yourself the following questions as you reflect on the employee's experience:

  • Were clear expectations set?
  • Was communication regular and thorough?
  • Did the employee have another safe place to voice their concerns?

Respond to bad employee reviews in 8 steps

And now some good news. No matter how malicious a former employee's review may seem, a simple response can move things in the right direction. In fact, 62% of job seekers say they think more highly of a company that responds to employee reviews, and 75% would be more likely to apply to a company that responds to reviews.

Here's how you can handle the task smoothly:

1.Respond promptly and calmly

It's best to respond promptly to a negative review on Glassdoor or another employer review site - a comment on an outdated review won't have the same impact. However, reacting in the heat of the moment is just as bad an idea.

Instead, regularly review employee reviews, create an action plan or checklist to ensure you are on top of the issues, seek input from team members who have worked closely with the employee, and then formulate responses over the course of an or an answer in two days. It's also a good idea to entrust a (prudent) person with responding to reviews. It can be difficult to convey tone in writing. So ask someone from your marketing or communications team - or someone who's particularly good with words - to help with this particular task.


Even if you're instinctively trying to prove your innocence, a direct defense can make you seem, well, defensive. Instead, take a step back and put yourself in the employee's shoes. You may not feel that he was "poorly paid," but if he feels like he wasn't valued, that's very upsetting - no matter how you put it. At the end of the day, we are all human and probably value similar things. Make this clear in your answer.

3.Set the record straight

While you want to be empathetic and understanding, don't be afraid to correct incorrect information in a review. Of course, you should proceed carefully and not reveal any sensitive personal or company data.

For example, let's say an employee claims your company doesn't provide a safe space for feedback. In this case, you can refer to the semi-annual performance reviews, the anonymous HR feedback form, the quarterly eNPS surveys, and any other space for feedback you offer in your review response.

When it comes to facts rather than opinions, you may also need to follow up on reviews. If an employee makes incriminating allegations in an online review, it is important that you take their words seriously. Even if the claims turn out to be false, the incident still deserves a thorough investigation (and may be required by law).

You don't have to conduct a full investigation before responding, but it's worth knowing whether you have a serious problem to address before making a public statement.

4.Be specific, but choose your words carefully

It's easy to write a canned response to online reviews, but most people can recognize one (especially if the same response is used for every review), and that could be worse than not responding at all. Being specific shows sincerity and can help calm an angry employee. Consider each point raised in the review and then address those concerns thoroughly and thoughtfully. Avoid legal and public relations risks by choosing your words carefully - don't reveal personal information, don't say anything that could be misunderstood, and don't add details that put the company or the former employee in a bad light back.

5.Express gratitude

Saying thank you for a bad review may seem a little cheesy, but this simple act can work wonders if you really mean it. Managers who ask for employee feedback (and receive it respectfully) are perceived as more effective by their managers and employees alike, and reviews can serve as a helpful feedback channel. Former employees who felt unheard will appreciate your efforts to make amends. Potential employees will also appreciate your openness to criticism.

6.Take the conversation offline if necessary

Responding publicly to negative reviews has advantages, but there are also some disadvantages to consider. For example, publicly dealing with a disgruntled employee can be risky from a PR or legal perspective because the information may be sensitive or confidential. In this case, offer a brief response and then invite the employee to discuss the matter offline with a human resources representative.

7.Highlight reviews (if necessary)

Review portals like Glassdoor do not allow employers to delete negative reviews on their own - this would affect their reputation as a neutral review platform. However, employers can flag negative reviews if they violate the site's community guidelines or terms of service. Violations include false statements, negative comments about individual (non-executive) employees and the use of profanity or other inappropriate language, to name a few.

More general review websites such as Google and Yelp prohibit reviews written by employees or former employees; If a reviewer identifies themselves as such, this is a reason for removal. Once flagged, the website will review the content and remove it if it is deemed inappropriate. Read each review site's terms of service to familiarize yourself with what can (and can't) be flagged.

8.Use this as an opportunity for self-reflection

Finally, it's always a good idea to think about how you can prevent further bad reviews. If a bad review indicates problem areas within your company, consider what steps you need to take to resolve them for other employees. Is there a particular department that seems to attract negative reviews, or a particular project or policy that keeps coming up? Of course, not all problems are solvable, so you must balance business goals against the time, effort, and resources required to resolve major or minor issues. But just addressing issues openly and getting feedback can go a long way toward ensuring employees don't feel like their only recourse to complain is to a review site.

Prevent bad employee reviews before they happen

To round out our list, it's important to mention that there is one key point to responding to public employee feedback: keeping an eye on employee sentiment and having open conversations before it's too late. Tools like Performance Management and Employee Well-being can help you automate feedback loops and provide your employees with a structured environment to make their voices heard before these conversations take place on public platforms.

If you haven't already done so, consider setting up multiple areas for anonymous and direct employee feedback so that your team can address concerns in a comfortable and supportive environment.

Dealing with employer review sites as an employee

Let’s take a step back and look at employer review portals from the employee’s perspective. Are there consequences if you leave negative reviews? What should you keep in mind when sharing your experiences? Below are some frequently asked questions about employee reviews that you should consider.

FAQs about employee reviews

Can a company sue a former employee for leaving a negative review about working conditions?

Technically, a company can sue a former employee over a negative review if it qualifies as defamation. While anonymity online is not always a guarantee or a legal right, most employee review sites are completely anonymous, and these sites go to great lengths to protect that anonymity.

How can I as an employee leave a negative or positive review?

Employees can leave reviews about their employer (or former employer) by logging into a job review site such as Glassdoor and submitting a review under the company's profile. We advise against writing reviews on more general sites such as Google Reviews or Yelp for the reasons listed below.

What risks does giving an employer a bad review pose?

Leaving a bad review for a previous employer may be justified in some situations, but it's important to understand the risks before doing so. While dedicated employer review sites like Glassdoor value anonymity, reviewers' identities are less strictly protected on platforms like Yelp and Google. Reviews you write are often linked to your personal account and include your name, location or other revealing information. If you don't take steps to remain anonymous, future employers may one day see your posts, and previous employers could face legal action if the review violates a contract or makes damaging claims that you cannot back up with evidence. Therefore, it is best to use anonymous websites like Glassdoor when leaving a negative review.

Is it unprofessional to leave a bad review for a previous employer?

In our opinion, a bad review from a previous employer is only unprofessional if it is untrue or contains proprietary or sensitive information that could harm an individual or violate a nondisclosure agreement. Everyone has the right to express their opinion - good or bad - and review sites are a valuable resource for both applicants who want to learn more about their future employer and employees who feel that their company has unresolved problems leaves.

Take negative employee reviews calmly

It's not always easy to respond to negative Glassdoor or other reviews. However, if this task is carried out with honesty, transparency and legal considerations, companies that actively manage their employer brand can benefit. So just be brave! With a little strategy and forethought, a negative employee review can be a helpful way to show past, current and future employees that you are listening and want to improve.

Responding to negative employee reviews requires empathy and strategy. IceHrm offers tools to proactively manage feedback and foster a positive workplace culture.

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