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Managing Negative Online Reviews

Published Wednesday Jun 15, 2022

Author Dave Solomon

Managing Negative Online Reviews

A great place to work, pays well, good benefits and the sky is the limit on opportunities.” This positive statement about BAE Systems in Nashua is at the top of the Google My Business page for the international defense contractor.

Google is just one of many websites where current and former employees can rate, review and rage against an employer.

“The good, bad and ugly of social media can be found in online reviews,” says Sean Dempsey, president of Loud Canvas, a Dover-based digital marketing firm whose specialties include online reputation management. “The reviews you get can be a blessing or a curse.”

Learn the Landscape
Business owners on the hunt for new employees should be familiar with the universe of review sites that factor most frequently into job searches. Glassdoor is rated as the top site in terms of credibility and reach while has the widest reach, with 72 million company ratings compared to 40 million on Glassdoor, and nearly 10 jobs added every second.

After those two dominant brands, there are many competitors. Comparably is rated best for functionality because of its ability to compare companies. Then there are the niche sites, like InHerSight, a female-friendly option dedicated to gender diversity in the workplace. And the list goes on: The Job Crowd, Work Advisor, Fairy God Boss, Rate My Employer.

A business owner concerned about reputation management must first locate sites that contain the most reviews from current or former employees. Consumer sites like Google and Yelp also have reviews of the workplace.

Offset the Negative
If a business has a significant number of reviews, some are bound to be negative. The important thing is to create a positive ratio in which good reviews vastly outnumber the bad. “For every bad review, if you have five or 10 good reviews, you’ve basically nullified that negative review,” says Dempsey.

This strategy requires business owners to encourage reviews by incumbent and outgoing employees. “There are a lot of creative approaches you can take,” Dempsey says.

One is to post a notice on the company bulletin board or distribute an email with a QR code or link that takes the employee directly to the desired review site. “What do you like about working at Company X? Scan this code or click on this link to share your thoughts and help us bring more people like you into the company.”

Generally, more reviews are better than fewer or none. The goal is not to have only positive reviews. That’s not realistic. The goal is to have the positive outweigh the negative.

After identifying the sites that matter to your company, evaluating the content of reviews on those sites and taking steps to boost your review count, it’s time to respond to those reviews, or at least some of them.

“The conventional wisdom from our agency standpoint is to always do so courteously and respectfully, but state your side of the issue,” says Dempsey. “A lot of people will search the reviews for bad ones because there’s a certain perverse interest in it. It’s highly likely your responses will be read.”

For example, The Granite Group, a Concord-based distributor of plumbing, heating, cooling, water and propane supplies, has 20 employee reviews on Glassdoor and only three are negative. The company responds to most of the positive reviews and responded to all three negative reviews. Here is one response, “Thank you for your feedback. Your experience is not consistent with what we strive for at TGG, where our people-first culture is built on a foundation of trust. Please reach out to our people team at If we did not meet your expectations in your new role, we would like to talk about it.”

Consider Your Response
Not everyone is of one mind about whether to respond to negative reviews. Some reviews may simply not merit a response. “Sometimes, responding to a negative review can make the situation worse. If the reviewer is excessively angry in their post, they may not be open to constructive discussion,” states on its website. “People may use overly negative or vulgar language to elicit an emotional response from you or bait you into an argument. If you think your response could result in further negative feedback, reconsider replying at all. Negative reviews that don’t have any specifics are another situation where you might not benefit from responding.”

However, Nashua-based human resources consultant Kristen Wilhelm, owner of Orchard HR, says it’s important for employers to respond to reviews, both negative and positive. “It shows candidates that you are open to feedback and interested in being transparent. Obviously, respond professionally and don’t be defensive or reactive. You can also encourage current employees to post a review, but avoid using bribery or pressure to do so,” she says.

And if a candidate brings up a negative review during the interview process, address it. “Acknowledge the situation that may have led to it, like management changes, a layoff, or an employee not happy with their position,” she says. “Let the candidate know that you value honest feedback and are always looking for ways to improve the experience for employees.[It’s] even better if you can explain changes or improvements that were made to address the complaint.”

Businesses looking for employees can be fairly sure that prospective employees are looking them up online and they need to put their best foot forward.

Responding to a Negative Review offers this example of how to respond to a negative review.

Review: “This company will overwork you and doesn’t give you a fair amount of vacation time.”

Reply: “Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback about our work environment. We strive to provide a positive workplace culture and take your input seriously when shaping company policy. We never want our employees to feel overworked, and pride ourselves on the positive feedback we get from our employees on work-life balance. When it comes to paid time off, we use market guidelines to offer competitive vacation options for our employees along with paid volunteer days and unlimited sick days. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with specific information or suggestions on how we could have done better.”

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