How to respond to negative reviews on Glassdoor is becoming an imperative for many companies. What may have been an issue impacting large enterprises with tens of thousands of employees is now something many startups and SMB tech companies have to address.

Much like other review sites (Yelp comes to mind), Glassdoor can be both a benefit and a burden on tech startups and SMBs competing against large enterprises for top talent. For starters, it gives past and current employees extraordinary ability to impact your company’s reputation. A handful of negative responses for a tech company with 50 employees can swing the perception needle into the red.

What’s more, it’s not uncommon for Glassdoor reviews to rise to the top of Google searches on a company’s name. Sure, positive reviews can rise to the top as well, but negative reviews have an oversized impact on buyer perception as this article in in Ratedly points out. Why reviews rise to the top of SERPs is due in large part to the domain authority that Glassdoor has on Google and other search engines.

So what happens if your company starts receiving negative reviews? More importantly, what do you do if they start appearing high up on search engine results pages (SERPs) for your company?

You respond! The trick, however, is to do so in a way that is strategic and steers clear of knee-jerk reactions fraught with emotion.

Keep in mind that when you do respond, you are not just responding directly to the employee who left the negative review. You are also responding to the large audience of prospective employees who may want to come work for you. Your company’s success depends on attracting top talent to maintain a competitive edge.

Nor should you forget that you are also responding to potential customers, some of whom may use Glassdoor to review your employer reputation as part of their buyer’s journey.

Here are some of my proven tips on how to respond to negative reviews on Glassdoor:

Don’t take it personally

My number one tip is to avoid emotion when you respond to negative Glassdoor reviews. Even if the reviewer takes what you think are cheap shots and misrepresents facts. I have had to talk clients ‘off the ledge’ before they could submit responses full of emotionally charged language.

The first step is to strip out anything negative from your response. Avoid using ‘no’, ‘can’t’, ‘won’t’, ‘never,’ ‘didn’t’, etc. Then read it for words that express any kind of emotion that could be seen as an attack against the reviewer’s reputation or veracity. In short, take any and all emotional language out of the equation. Period.

Take the high road — Always

Related to avoiding emotional reactions, when you start writing your response be sure to adopt a non-judgemental, empathetic mindset. Acknowledge that the employee has the right to express their opinion about their own employment experience, and that you value feedback in all forms. The key here is to not start a point-by-point take-down of their various criticisms. I’m not suggesting that you remain mute on the criticisms, but just don’t throw it back into the reviewers face.

Use words like ‘appreciate’, ‘understand’ and ‘care.’ While this approach is not guaranteed to take the sting out of a reviewer’s ill feelings toward your company, it may help. What’s more, it will show other readers that you showed compassion toward someone who just trashed your company’s reputation.

Address employee fit

This is a subtle way to deflect the reviewer’s criticism by talking about it terms of employee compatibility with your company. Say for example that you are a startup with aggressive growth goals and pressure is mounting to show results to your board and investors. It’s inevitable that your employees will feel the pressure as well. Some of them will naturally find it difficult to manage the pressure and high expectations placed on them in that kind of scenario.

Like many startups trying to disrupt a traditional industry, your company asks a lot from its employees and management team. Mention that it’s a pace and work environment that may not appeal to 100% of the workforce. In fact, some will even find it disagreeable. Fess up that as an organization you try your best to recruit and hire talent with the best fit possible with your company culture and workplace requirements. Then acknowledge that sometimes the fit is not an ideal one and a parting of the ways is necessary.

Counter with positives

A related tactic to showing empathy, stressing the positive shows the world that you are focused on delivering a great employee experience. Here’s a chance for you to invoke your company’s values to reassure the reviewer of your commitment to those key principles that are the glue holding your company together. Say for example that excellent customer experience is one of your core values. Relate that back to how your company relies upon the talent and motivation of its employees to deliver exceptional results.

Another positive to invoke is the experience of a majority of employees who have gained incredible opportunities and experience at your company. Mention that as a company you do care about every employee experience. Also state that you rely upon a variety of feedback loops like surveys and one-on-one employee interviews in order to improve the experience. In other words, show you care and tell them how you are going about accomplishing that.

Categorize the responses

If you have many different reviews focused on different aspects of the employee experience, then you might consider coming up with standardized responses for each category. For example, some reviews may emphasize compensation issues the employee experienced at your company. Another might spend more time criticizing management style and a lack of training for new hires. You can create a template addressing each category. The key is to lightly tweak each one to ‘personalize’ it to the reviewer.

Best wishes

At the end of every response to a negative Glassdoor review, I strongly urge you to end with a ‘best wishes’ statement. Re-emphasize that while the employee has moved on, you do wish them the best for a satisfying career. It shows you bear no ill will toward the employee despite the negative criticism on Glassdoor. It may serve to impress other reviewers and casual readers as well.

No guilty pleas

While you may in fact have had a challenging work environment, and more than a few employees left feeling bitter or resentful about their employment experience, there is no need to admit to any ‘wrongdoing’. That could open the floodgates of criticism and even result in more serious accusations. All the more reason to show empathy, counter with positives and address employee fit. It will serve to deflect the criticism, and keep you from being tried in a court of public opinion.

Final tip: respond to positive reviews too!

Positive reviews happen on Glassdoor, too, by the way! They just seem to get far less attention compared to negative ones. Thank your positive reviewers so that other Glassdoor readers see you showing your gratitude accordingly.

Got any questions about how to respond to your own company’s negative reviews on Glassdoor? Feel free to contact Swyft and we’ll set up a time to talk.

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