Here are some clues to tell whether a company is covering up bad reviews.
Glassdoor.com has become an essential part of the interview process for many job hunters. Glassdoor provides a layer of transparency for job seekers that allows an inside look of what goes on behind closed doors; their Reviews section allows employees to anonymously leave feedback and rate different aspects of the company such as compensation, leadership approval, and the pros vs. cons of working within the company. The reviews are based on a five star rating which factors into the overall rating of the company.
Glassdoor reviews may not be the end-all-be-all of deciding factors as to whether you should accept a job offer, but they definitely shouldn’t be ignored. Online reviews can be manipulated by the company to increase ratings or maybe there was one bad apple that left undeserving reviews. In whichever case, here are some pointers to pay attention to when you’re browsing the comments:
Reoccurring themes: Yes, it’s possible to have a "Negative Nelly" from time to time, but pay close attention when the negative review comments have a reoccurring theme. For instance, the majority of the negative reviews mention favoritism or lack of transparency from management. Even if this pops up in a few of the reviews, it’s worth considering whether you’re willing to deal with that sort of negativity if you accept a position at the company. You may want to ask your interviewer about the negative comments and how they’re being handled. Words of caution if you take this route: the employer is usually aware of these comments and may have coached their managers on the best way to sweep these negative reviews under the rug. If the company can’t have an honest conversation about internal issues, that’s a waving red flag.
Responses to negative comments: Glassdoor allows companies to publicly post their responses to negative comments. If the company responds with accountability and sincerity, this is a good sign. A response that shows accountability would sound something like this: “We thank you for your honest feedback and helping to shed light on these issues. Our company addresses these issues through XYZ.” Where XYZ is some sort of solution within the company.
A red flag is when the company responds with a sense of hostility or is dismissive of the comment, which would sound something like this: “If you read through our other reviews, you’ll see how much employees love our company. If this reviewer wants to discuss these issues, they should take them up with us directly and not through a public platform.” If an employee leaves a negative review, it’s usually about issues that management chooses to ignore; issues that if confronted with, management will dismiss them just as they did in their Glassdoor response.
Flooded with positive reviews to cover up the bad: There are several indications a company is doing damage control on their Glassdoor review section. One indication is the dates of the postings. You may notice some sporadic negative reviews that are relatively spread apart over months or even years, but then there's a cluster of super-positive 5 star reviews within a span of a week or two. Remember that the company rating is based off the total reviews and the rating of each review. Quick damage control is easy to do when a company needs to increase its rating; they can send out an email to a group of people and ask them to leave a quick 5 star rating, which would explain a surge of positive ratings in a short amount of time.
Another sign of damage control posts is that they’re generic and have no true “cons” about the company. For instance, a generic 5 star post will have a handful of “pros” about the company: “Friendly people…. Great benefits…. Pizza parties…”, but in the “cons” section you’ll see something generic that isn’t really a con, like, "No one puts their coffee mug in the dishwasher..." or even worse, something like, “Nothing that I can think of!”
Reviewer's position at the company: Pay attention to the position of the employees leaving the posts. Is it someone in HR? Someone in management? HR and management are the positions most likely to be involved in covering up bad reviews. Or, for instance, maybe you're an attorney looking to change law firms. Are the positive reviews coming from the administrative assistant, marketing or IT? The position of the person making the post is important because if you’re an attorney and the majority of the positive posts are coming from different departments, you may not be getting the full picture of the department in which you'll be working. You would need to pay attention to posts coming from the other attorneys; maybe the negative posts are coming from attorneys complaining about insane billing requirements and lack of professional growth, if so, you may want to find a different firm.
Glassdoor is a helpful tool when looking to get insight about a company's culture. Just remember that these reviews can be skewed and aren't always an accurate picture of what's happening. Pay attention to the in-depth reviews that have substance and a thorough explanation as to why the reviewer was moved to leave a review in the first place. Be sure to address any concerns with the company before accepting an offer.
Written by Carleigh J. M. 2021
Questions or comments? Email me at Carleigh@toxicworkplacepodcast.com