How to Respond to Negative Employee Reviews

how to respond to negative employee reviews

A recent study by Glassdoor shows that around 70% of job seekers look to online employee reviews before they make a career decision. And while one or two bad experiences in a sea of great reviews can be harmless, it can only take one poorly handled negative review to leave a bad taste in the mouth of a potential employee. In turn, a bad online reputation can translate to higher recruiting costs and applications from fewer, less qualified candidates.


No one likes to hear bad things about the company where they work, helped to build, or even started completely on their own. When this happens to your business, don’t panic – the human resource and compliance experts at Benely know exactly what to do.  Read on for Benely’s step-by-step process for responding to handling negative employee reviews in a way that protects your business and helps you grow. 


Step 1: Consider the Reason Behind the Negative Employee Review.


It’s one thing when a customer lodges a complaint against your business. Of course, it’s painful, but you know you can’t make everyone happy every time. It can feel even worse when one of the people you trusted to help run your company is the one writing the negative review. When you see a negative review, it can be easy to see the worst in the disgruntled former employee who took the time to write something abysmal for the world to see. But, if you can, it’s important to remember that there are two sides to every story. If the former employee genuinely felt wronged, they may be trying to warn prospective employees who could potentially face a similar issue in the future or simply want to vent about their experience.


Some of the most frequent reasons for former employees’ negative reviews include the feeling that they were underpaid salary-wise, didn’t receive adequate health insurance or other benefits, or were otherwise under-compensated; a dissatisfaction or dispute with another employee, manager, or supervisor; the feeling that they were not recognized or appreciated, or rewarded with career opportunities and growth; a lack of work-life balance; and a poor company culture.


No matter the reason for the negative review, the first step in responding to a negative employee review is to consider the reason behind it. Doing so will help your organization frame its outlook on what to do next.


Step 2: Investigate the Complaint if The Situation Warrants It


In the negative review situation, your company may or may not be the party actually in the wrong. And of course, it’s possible that both parties could have behaved differently to avoid the unfortunate result. In any event, it’s important to gather all the facts surrounding what happened, reread past performance reviews and employee feedback, and, if possible, talk to everyone at the company who was involved or who may have any information that can point your Human Resources department in the right direction.


If the complaint being lodged was serious, you may legally be required to respond, albeit if this is the case, you should consult compliance experts and seek first to handle the situation offline. 


Step 3: Conduct a Thoughtful Response


62% of job seekers report that their perception of a company improves after seeing an employer respond to a review. That’s why it’s important to create an employer account on the website where the review was made and write back with a thoughtful response. Keep in mind, you’re not completing this task for the benefit of the former employee who left the review; instead, your audience is all the future job seekers who are or will be interested in your company. Your objective, then, is not to quarrel with the reviewer or “fight fire with fire” on an inflammatory posting. Your goal is to come across as thoughtful, professional, and eager to improve and make corrections.


Without rushing, you should respond relatively promptly, if at all possible, rather than waiting weeks or months. This minimizes the amount of time the employee review remains unaddressed online. As long as the review is unaddressed, future job seekers have only one side of the story. Make this a habit by instructing your Human Resources department to routinely and frequently check popular employee review websites, paying particular attention after an employee is fired for cause or quits on bad terms.


Quick Tips for Writing a Great Response to a Negative Employee Review:

  • Your writing’s tone should be calm, considerate, and professional. This goes beyond simply refraining from pointing fingers and insulting the employee; it means really taking the high road and being as polite as possible.
  • If you can, put one Human Resources professional in charge of responding to all employee reviews. This way, your tone can remain consistent, and the person in charge can learn best practices over time.
  • While it’s okay to reuse certain phrases, like greetings and expressions of thankfulness or remorse, don’t use the exact same response for each review. This can make your organization seem disingenuous.
  • Be careful never to divulge personal information about the employee (or anyone else) involved, including names.
  • Thank your former employee for taking the time to write a review. It may seem counterintuitive to thank someone for saying something bad about your business, but it shows you value feedback, are willing to hear dissenting opinions, and won’t shut down in the face of criticism. Jobseekers will pick up on the good attitude you’re showing and like your company more for it.
  • Invite the former employee to have a discussion with a representative from your Human Resources department. This is particularly important if this employee was not offered or declined an exit interview. Doing so shows you genuinely care about what happened and value your employees as human beings even after they’re no longer employed with you.
  • Apologize for their experience. Even if the former employee has described a situation that didn’t happen or painted circumstances in a misleading light, it helps your company’s reputation to genuinely express remorse that they had a negative experience with you. If kept brief, i.e., “We apologize for your negative experience during your employment with our company,” the apology can be made without accepting any undue blame.


Step 4: Consider Removing the Negative Review, if it’s Appropriate


Employers are not able to unilaterally delete negative employee reviews – doing so defeats the purpose of the review site itself. However, in some very specific situations, you may be able to get the negative employee review removed from the posting site completely.


The first step to getting an employee review removed is to flag it with the review site. After you’ve created your employer account, review the website’s terms of use and posting guidelines, paying careful attention to what’s not allowed. Some common violations include making false accusations or claims about the employer, making comments about specific employees who are not executives (even if names aren’t used), and the use of vulgar language.


After you’ve flagged an employee review, the posting site will review it to determine whether it violates their community standards. The review site makes a decision as to whether or not to remove the posting. If they choose to leave the review up and you disagree with their decision, your company’s only further avenue for removal is to take legal action.

Step 5: Learn from the Negative Employee Review & Improve Your Organization


It’s true: negative employee reviews can have a silver lining! Unless the review is way out of the left field, it can be used to help identify latent issues within your organization and uncover employee pain points. Ask yourself whether themes are emerging from groups of employee reviews. Are problems within a particular department coming up frequently? Is a specific policy or project unpopular? If so, take those grievances seriously. If you pay attention to negative reviews, over time, your company can improve its culture, keep better talent around longer, and improve your reputation online with future jobseekers.


Step 6: Cross your T’s and Dot your I’s: Reach out to Human Resources and Compliance Experts


If you’re running into issues surrounding negative employee reviews, it helps to reach out to human resources and compliances experts who know exactly how to move forward in a positive direction. At Benely, our experts understand that your brand’s status with job seekers is of utmost value to your recruitment efforts, and your interactions with upset employees are delicate. Working with a group of experts in this field will ensure that your company manages poor online reviews at the moment and preserves its great reputation in the event of a bad employee experience for years to come.


Need a partner who really knows their stuff? You can trust Benely to help you make the best out of a bad situation. Benely is your partner for all your organization’s human resources and compliance needs, employee reviews, and beyond. Contact Benely or request a demo today to get started.