About a year ago, I started to manage our corporate Glassdoor account. Seemed like the perfect responsibility for me to assume; I lead our Talent Acquisition department, I love to write, and my 17 years as a married man has accustomed me to baseless criticism.
I kid, I kid.
But yes, I took the wheel as the official Glassdoor voice for DentalOne Partners – responding to reviews (good and bad), adding photos and content, and basically trying to showcase the employer brand of my wonderful company. In a world of cyber-muscles, having the chore of responding to anonymous reviews can be daunting. It takes some discipline, but with some practice you find a way to respond to even the most toxic review after a while. That skill can help you in other areas as well…for instance:
Last week we receive a written warning from the city, citing us for an animal offense, i.e. – “your dog was reported as messing in your neighbor’s lawn.” So we had been accused by our city of harboring a criminal canine. There’s no fine attached or anything truly penal, but it quickly festered with me and my wife for a few reasons:
- We’ve lived in this neighborhood for 15 years. We know the names of every family in our division. Someone felt it necessary to call the city rather than leave us a note, call us, knock on our door?
- The complainant was anonymous. No name, no address, no time of the “offense,” no time of the actual report, just a yellow ticket on my door. So apparently all that it takes is a phone call and a neighbor receives a warning, no questions asked.
- Finally, there’s this nugget. We have a puppy, her name is Sadie, and she’s never pooped on anyone’s lawn other than her own. Not only was the complaint anonymous, we had no opportunity to contest the charge. Presumed guilt without recourse.
Sounds a lot like social media, yes? Doesn’t take much to leave anonymous flames on the internet, does it?
I should mention at this time that me and my wife are both predominantly Irish and have tempers akin to a tea kettle on a hot plate. Incriminating our baby girl brought out the windpipes in both of us, and we were ready for tactical and psychological warfare on the complainant. But then a little rational sense kicked in, and I revisited the lessons taught to me during my management of our Glassdoor profile.
- The “anonymous” option encourages participation from any and everyone who has an ax to grind. The truth is that in most cases of toxic feedback, you know exactly who the reviewer/complainant is based on the information they share. The disgruntled employee becomes the disgruntled ex-employee becomes the virtual flamethrower. Likewise, it wasn’t difficult for us to determine the idea of our disgruntled neighbor-turned-whistle-blower.
- The more ridiculous the complaint, the less credence it carries. When you read a review on Glassdoor written with the sole intent of scorching the Earth, how much validity can you really give it? Every company has its warts, I don’t care who you are, so constructive criticism is something we value – when I see a thoughtful response about areas for improvement, I take note and share the information. When I read a review full of venom, it’s very hard to give it any real credence.
- From the point of view of the “accused,” a rational response is your best option. Usually, one of the two extremes seems like the way to proceed – go “Irish”, as we originally contemplated, or completely disregard the gripe. But you need to take the stance of “feedback deserves feedback” by replying to all the reviews…even those reviews. As it happens, we have a neighborhood Facebook page – so we decided to respond to our neighborhood with a post “apologizing for any transgressions that Sadie may have perpetrated, and to please call or alert us personally should there be anything we can do to be better neighbors,” and we included a picture of the official warning from the City. Snarky? I guess it depends on the tone in which its read, but the responses were overwhelmingly supportive. Most included some reference to “I’m shocked someone would be so petty/spiteful/mean-spirited…” You get the idea – we took the high road and the audience was intelligent enough to realize the ridiculousness of the situation.
I have to tell you, it felt good. Stay out of the mud, be responsive, don’t take it personally…and don’t mess with my puppy dog.
John Whitaker (“Whit”) is a SVP and Chief People Officer at Sage Dental and the founder of HRHardball.com (2008). He specializes in building and developing strong recruiting teams who are unafraid of “kicking the ant pile.” Like most Texans, he loves to tell a story (especially those that include an armadillo or a poker game) and cutting through the chaff…don’t take it personal.