Glassdoor: Honest resource or troll's paradise?

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I have only recently had the misfortune to come across Glassdoor. I have effectively been the victim of cyber bulling facilitated by Glassdoor. I'm a small business owner and someone has posted a ...


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Some HR professionals embrace Glassdoor, others think it's a risk. Who is right?

Good old Harrods. The boutique for the rich and famous is now (according to a recent Bloomberg poll) Britain’s third best employer to work for.

Job done, HR top of its game. End of. Well, maybe not. ‘No recognition of good work’, ‘blame culture’, ‘managers have something mentally wrong with them’ – these are just some of the most recent reviews of Harrods on Glassdoor, the website often described as the TripAdvisor for jobseekers.

Launched in the US in 2008, and in the UK since 2013, this repository of 10 million-plus anonymous and ‘real-life’ employee/former employee reviews gives a very different image of the famous Knightsbridge store – 3.7 stars overall. Or, to put it another way, just above an average ranking. So, who’s wrong?

“Glassdoor is a troll’s paradise,” says one HRD for a different retailer. “In three years on Glassdoor we’ve had just 170 reviews. This compares to 30,000 staff that have actually been through the business in that time. The most recent post was by someone I personally removed; his account was vastly different to my memory of it.”

For many this experience sums the website up – that it merely gives oxygen to the angry rather than being anything more useful. But is this also the voice of denial? For all the claims (and there are many) that Glassdoor gives a jilted view of corporate life one thing is certain: this antidote to carefully crafted corporate spin has become intoxicating. In 2014 recruitment intelligence firm ERE Media found 46% of US jobseekers said reviews they read in the last six months had the greatest impact on their view of that company.

“UK traffic has grown 50% year on year to reach 2.5 million visitors each month,” says Diarmuid Russell, head of international at Glassdoor, in an exclusive interview with HR magazine. “The UK site now holds 650,000 insights on 60,000 companies. We’re here to help people make better decisions about where they work, and our growth indicates people need us.” The message is loud and clear – you may not like it, you may think what’s there are the ravings of the irrational few, but that’s not the point. This is your brand that’s being talked about and maybe Glassdoor’s reach is such you can’t ignore it any longer.

“Lots of HRDs think ‘if we ignore it it will go away’,” says Sara Duxbury, head of people at negligence and serious injury law firm Fletchers. “But it won’t. Type us into Google and a Glassdoor link is the fourth one down, so it’s impossible to hide from it nowadays. We might only have had 19 posts and 34 job interview reviews, but we know they play a massive part in how people understand our brand. Our Glassdoor page gets 600 to 800 views a month. We actually find it heartening that even though 98% of interviewees don’t get a job they still say they like our culture and values, and still give us a great 84% ‘would recommend’ rating. That shows we’re doing something right.”

The fact former, current or prospective employees are already likely to be talking about your firm is revealed by recruitment giant Hays. “We only realised staff were talking about us when we were named the UK’s 14th Best Employer by Glassdoor itself,” admits Sandra Henke, its group head of people and culture. “That’s when we decided to engage with it more. We’re in a new world of transparency and sound bites. Channels like these will only proliferate, so we feel HR has to get involved. Today we’ll take time to respond to comments we feel are not wholly correct [Glassdoor will never delete a post, but it gives the right of reply] and we also encourage our staff – at all job levels – to write reviews, such as on work anniversaries, or even those who attended interviews.”

Suggesting that staff leave comments is a tactic Duxbury also follows. But some regard this as the antithesis of what Glassdoor should be – corporate-free, end user only, and no solicited views.

Recently gone bust start-up Power Technologies was chided in the press when its CEO offered employees Starbucks vouchers to write nice things. However, both argue it protects the brand from extremist-only views, that they don’t tell people what to say anyway, and that by at least replying it shows the outside world that here is a company that listens.

But there’s something else too. Henke argues that if HR is doing its job, what it sees on the site really shouldn’t be a surprise. “We have to be careful the tail doesn’t wag the dog,” she says. “We don’t rely on Glassdoor to learn our reputation, we’d be doing something wrong if we did. However, as an external review mechanism it’s great.”

To those who are still unconvinced, Glassdoor’s Russell argues most visitors will take a measured view of a range of comments, and can make their own minds up about those that appear overly vengeful. “We have technology – I can’t say what exactly – that can work out who and where people are to help ensure comments are genuine.”

He adds: “We’re not here to show up bad employers.”

There will still be sceptics that think Glassdoor really is having its cake and eating it. After all, here is a business that gives people the platform to make a fuss then charges worried firms for ‘Enhanced Employer Profiles’ where they can add responses, put up blogs, and even post job vacancies (Glassdoor is ultimately a job board).

“No, we’re absolutely on the side of the jobseeker,” retorts Russell. “Our objectivity is what gives us our value so we wouldn’t endanger that.” He even explains how advertising agency AKQA improved its holiday entitlement after staff moaned about it on Glassdoor. “We’re changing HR,” he says. “We’re almost an early warning system of things that might take time to show up on an employee survey.”

Is he right? It’s ultimately up to HR to decide. But perhaps the best way to see Glassdoor is as yet another ‘channel’ organisations have to be aware of as part of their brand management. “We undoubtedly saw Glassdoor as a ‘risk’,” says Jane Graham, resourcing manager at Wiltshire Council, which last year became the first public sector organisation to tie-in with it, and now has 114 jobs up on its Glassdoor page. “At the end of the day we want to promote our brand and we feel this helps us. We only get two to three reviews per month, but we get 1,500 to 2,000 visits a month – that’s 50 a day. I feel strongly that HR has to take ownership of its recruitment brand. Glassdoor enables you to do so much more. That said, it’s not the entirety of our digital strategy. We’re also on five other social media platforms too.”

Kathryn Pritchard, HRD at Odeon and UCI Group, adds: “We make it our business to ask our people what they think about working at Odeon, so we use a wide range of internal and external channels, of which Glassdoor is one of them. It may not be the be all and end all, but this way of keeping in touch with opinion mirrors real life, and the way current and future colleagues form their views to gather feedback. It makes sure we don’t miss anything.”

Top tips for HRDS

Wiltshire Council’s Jane Graham’s advice for flourishing on Glassdoor:

  • Reply individually and speedily: “This does require a commitment of resources, but it’s your brand you’re investing in. We aim for punchy replies, either to say thanks for a great comment or to put our side of other ones.”
  • Encourage staff to use it: “For us Glassdoor is also our employee voice. We never force, but say it’s there if you want to use it. We’re thinking of creating digital ambassadors because we want our own staff to be our assets, to demystify certain job roles for example.”
  • Don’t churn stuff out: “There’s an art to a good response. Don’t cut and paste the same ones, and don’t downplay any negatives. Acknowledge them but don’t promise anything you can’t deliver.”
Comments

Glass door gives leavers the opportunity to rant and generally not to be constructive. As an employer we have no way of being able to indicate if the individual was a good or bad leaver. It of course encourages bad leavers to have their say which to my mind is pointless in the public domain.


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As we see throughout the internet, it is far to easy to 'Vent' anger and then forget about it. As Humans we don't do this when things are good therefore giving very biased reports and feedback, essentially an echo chamber of negativity. Personally I think that they are adopting a bullying tactic similar to Yelp in America. No real checks to see if you actually worked for the company leaving it open to abuse from competitors. I don't believe they have software that is able to solve this problem. Yelp have been found to purposely create bad reviews for companies that have refused to sign up with them, I have no doubts this will happen with Glassdoor. They will unfortunately become relevant as they will continue to target Graduates, giving them the impression that they are 'Market Leaders in understanding a companies true environment' until they have enough negative comments to approach a company to state '60% of reviews are negative, pay us and we can help improve this'. Very similar to Yelp giving companies the ability to remove negative feedback once they have parted with a lump sum of money. As previously stated, we live in a society where in 10 mins of irrational frustration we can leave a permanent comment tarnishing a company. We very rarely see people go out of the way to shout about their positive interaction and this plays perfectly into Glassdoors development.


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I work for Glassdoor. There is some misunderstanding here about how Glassdoor works so I'm happy to clear this up. Our ultimate goal is to make sure that we have a productive and healthy community where people can get straight, untainted talk. We have community guidelines to set parameters for the community on what is acceptable and what constitutes activity that may cause a contribution to be removed. We require both pros and cons for a review and we typically reject 5-10% of content for not meeting community guidelines. Glassdoor has a multi-tier review process that includes technological and human touch. If it does not pass technological review (a proprietary software system) then a team of human moderators reviews the content to determine if it meets our guidelines. We don't publish all the content we receive and if anyone in the community wants something re-reviewed then they just need to flag it and we will take another look. We require each person to certify their employee relationship to the company and to validate their email address or log in via their Facebook account before their posts are made available to their community. We never edit or alter content submitted to our site. We never suppress, filter or delete content simply because it is negative or because a company asks us to. Finally, I want to address the mis-conception that Glassdoor is simply a place for people to vent their negativity. Over 70% of Glassdoor users tell us that they are "ok" or "satisfied" with their job. The average company rating is 3.2. Positive Glassdoor reviews are actually really powerful for a company's employer brand, which is why more and more employers are linking to their Glassdoor profile from their careers pages, social media feeds, recruitment advertising and email signatures, for example.


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My old employer is listed as a best place to work, despite it being widely known as a terrible place to be. The sheer size of it, being a large organisation, has given it a best place to work status that isn't deserved. The high volume of people that work there, means that those in the sales team (for example) that do get it good hugely misrepresents the rest of the working population. It worries me that people doing their research ahead of a job interview will think it's great place to work, based on skewed ratings of selected happy teams and organisations that invest in profiles with Glassdoor, when the reality is the epitome of hell. Having said all this, I'm the disgruntled ex-employee that has yet to post about it on Glassdoor.


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Let's turn this on its head for a moment. Imagine a website which allowed employers to post anonymous comments on their underperforming employees (including referring to them by name) but where in order to respond to the employer's comment in depth, they had to sign up for a subscription service. This would attract highly critical reviews - and rightly so - but essentially this is what Glassdoor is offering to the disgruntled employee. Quite simply, Glassdoor is a money making venture which preys upon the sensitivity of employers who wish to keep their company reputation intact. Sadly, Glassdoor is yet another example of creating an environment in which any form of criticism or abuse can made online, and where it is difficult for the recipient of the criticism to respond in an easy way.


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I think Employers' perception of this will be based on the content of their reviews! Employers need feedback and should be open to listen and reflect on what employees are saying. That said, if you have good internal feedback mechanisms there should be no surprises here. We like it because if allows candidates to get first hand information about what it is like to work for us. Once you have claimed your profile with Glassdoor you can respond to entries and you can, of course, take note and learn - or not. It's a choice.


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@Concerned HR Professional fear not, because employers can respond to reviews with a Free Employer Account, without paying a penny. If employers simply want to claim their profile, monitor and respond to reviews, then they can do so. We're not holding anyone to ransom here. Glassdoor harnesses the power of the crowd. One person's opinion is simply one data point and you can take it or leave it. However, if you have hundreds or thousands of reviews then you start to see distinct patterns and this becomes really insightful. It's all about helping people find the right fit.


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I agree with Joe - most of our reviews are positive. Yes, we've had the odd one or 2 which are more negative (and there will always be a risk that you'll have the disgruntled employee review) but on the whole this has only been a good thing; it's a temperature gauge for the organisation and a bit of a mirror you can hold up when you are so embedded in the workplace. It has to go hand in hand with employee engagement you are doing internally. We've also been able to lift positive quotes from reviews and use them in promoting our brand - on twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The employee voice is really powerful and we want more!


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Unfortunately Glassdoor is playing to the lowest common denominator by monopolising on the fear that companies have of the negative publicity produced by a few disgruntled employees who chose to use their site to promote vexatious and inaccurate statements to the detriment of hard won reputations. In the real world, no matter how hard we try to ensure that all staff are provided with amazing career opportunities, training, development, wellbeing initiatives and reward systems that recognise achievement, and so on, there will always be one or two employees who actually do not meet the standards expected and consequently are managed out of the business, to only then post negative and inaccurate information. HR teams then spend precious time defending the company’s excellent reputation from being inappropriately and inaccurately tarnished, time that would be better spent on working for the loyal, hard-working and committed majority. From personal experience, when our lawyers sought to address some completely false allegations that had been posted on Glassdoor, allegations that we could prove were false, they (Glassdoor) initially ignored and then sidestepped the issue completely. Their response: we should upgrade our company profile with them and address the negative views with a positive posting. My company, along with many others, are now being effectively held to ransom by finding ourselves in the unenviable position of having to join their website to address these issues, with the added irritation that I and my colleagues now receive countless job vacancy opportunities from Glassdoor per week! I am totally supportive of staff feedback and regularly run in house surveys and all leavers have exit interviews, information from which is actioned when required. Therefore we have no need to receive malicious, and false statements from anonymous individuals posted on public websites. Perhaps if the ex-member of staff was asked to publish their name (although it is often obvious who they are as we rarely have “bad” leavers), then we wouldn’t find quite so many unhelpful and negative comments being posted and instead receive constructive feedback from which we can genuinely learn and improve!


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@Anonymous - Oct 26th - 17:19 This is the point I was making in my original comment. Quite scary that it is already in practice. Joe Wiggins has spent a lot of time defending Glassdoor and explaining how they are able to verify a comment to see if it is a true representation. Your experience proves that it is just a money making venture for them. Ignore the evidence and prompt you to sign up with them for full control. They will remain relevant whilst they continue to pump money into exposure and advertising, but the fact that they are having to do this just highlights how this is not a long term model. They are paying to be relevant. There are many examples given in this comment thread as to why from an employers point of view this is flawed. This is being repeated at the various HR networking events I attend. Candidates that I spoken with are aware of Glassdoor but do not view it as a reliable source. Companies that they have worked for and found enjoyable have bad reviews due to one or two responses by disgruntled employees. Whilst companies that they have worked for and have bad practices are highly rated most likely due to overbearing management telling staff to write positive reviews. Far from convinced on its effectiveness and distrustful of the company as a whole.


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I'm frankly astonished at the level of cynicism and negativity from HR practitioners about Glassdoor. We spend hours and considerable effort and resources trying to solicit honest and unvarnished feedback from employees about what we're doing right and what we're doing wrong. Then Glassdoor gives us an opportunity to get it for nothing and without lifting a finger and we complain. Why? Because they also let our employees (and former employees) do it in the public domain. For my part, I am positively eager for employees, former employees and even unsuccessful job applicants to leave us reviews. Positive or negative, I really don't care. If you think we got something wrong, by all means tear a strip off us! If there was even one thing you really liked, please let the world know. My perspective is that, if someone is going to complain about us, they're going to do it one way or another, either down the pub or on social media. And if they do it on Glassdoor, not only do we know about it, but we can respond, honestly and constructively. So what if prospective employees read other people's complaints? Maybe they'll see through transparent mud-slinging, or they'll appreciate our openness to critical feedback, or they'll be stupid enough to be put off, in which case we didn't need them working for us anyway! I call it win-win.


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@Robey Jenkins - You mention "We spend hours and considerable effort and resources trying to solicit honest and unvarnished feedback from employees about what we're doing right and what we're doing wrong" which is right and what should be done, but as examples have been given, and what we see on a daily basis is that people will go out of their way to vent and bad mouth something if they have been upset, people do not go out of their way to praise when something has gone right. You expect people to 'see through' the mud slinging, therefore accepting that it will be used to sling mud at a company. Therein lies the problem, it is a way to tarnish a companies reputation. If it is a single tweet, or a single post on Facebook that it will be seen in the context that it is in. Just one persons grievance. Glassdoor is parading itself as the voice of the employees so therefore giving a platform that implies legitimate complaints when as examples have already been given, it is just disgruntled employees that have a particular grudge against the company. The fact that Glassdoor is having to work so hard to make themselves relevant goes to show that its not a model that people really trust, when I speak with candidates and discuss their thoughts on Glassdoor the typical response is scepticism as most people feel that it is just an angry employee giving a review on a bad day. You also mention that if they are stupid enough to believe the complaint then they are not the type of person you want working for you. So what is the point of Glassdoor!? If they use it for it's intended purpose then they are not good enough for you. Your saying it is good but only if people ignore the negative reviews. Renders the site pointless. Which is what the majority here are agreeing with HR should always be finding ways to improve the workplace for the benefit of their staff, but Glassdoor is not the solution. As much as they try and claim they are.


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I'm seriously concerned. I know for a fact that most of the reviews ranting on our Glassdoor page are from the same people. A competitor and a disgruntled ex employee. Glassdoor are actively moderating reviews and the balance as said appears to be to generate negative publicity in order that the employer has to engage with Glassdoor and pay. We know that there has been illegal activity and Glassdoor have ignored requests to address this. Internally I've been told by a Glassdoor employee that the company is struggling to meet sales targets and is facing pressure from investors to drive revenue, whether this is true or not I don't know. Although I would never condone such activity, someone will hack or someone with large enough pockets will sue Glassdoor into revealing sources as happened with other large sites that have a questionable reputation, and when that happens, there will be mass lawsuits against those trolls that use the Glassdoor site. Their strategy appears to PR troll sites like this with positive stock answers, and generate more drivel about why they are empowering employers. Let's face it, they have a platform full of spam and trolls, and by the looks of it in the U.K. are failing. And I wonder if Robert the CEO Has any skeletons in his closet. I understand that given the amount of hate and damage to companies he has allowed, that it's only a matter of time before there is a legal complaint against him and his leadership team.


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I have only recently had the misfortune to come across Glassdoor. I have effectively been the victim of cyber bulling facilitated by Glassdoor. I'm a small business owner and someone has posted a personal attack about me. Our business has fewer than 10 staff, I do my best to get things right but sometimes I don't. I'm open about that and welcome feedback from my colleagues. The review publically berates me and I'm devastated. Running a small business is HARD work and because of Glassdoor I'm now wishing I hadn't bothered. Someone who's never lived with the stress and challenge of growing a business is allowed to just post abuse about me. If I'd stayed a sole trader and a lifestyle business this wouldn't have happened. As several people on this thread have mentioned - Glassdoor doesn't bother checking if this person was an employee (or a supplier with a grudge or a competitor). I told them that I suspect this person was a supplier and therefore the post should be removed - needless to say that said no. If I wasn't so hurt I'd find it laughable that Glassdoor claims to be 'trusted ad transparent'. Anonymous reviews are completely at odds with that. I am thinking of sending them a dictionary so they can look up what transparent means. As for the claim on this thread that employers can have a free account to respond - how can an employer respond fairly if the review is anonymous and could be fraudulent? My current team were furious and wanted to post responses but I have asked them not to because I don't want to validate a company that promotes trolling of hard working people just to line their own pockets. In my view they represent all that is wrong with the recruitment sector and harm the industry for quality recruiters. Roll on those lawsuits that Concerned Employee forecasts!


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Can a Glassdoor employee explain how employment is verified before any message is posted? In the absence of this it would appear that anyone, including a competitor or an employee fired for gross misconduct, could post multiple messages by using different email addresses. It's very easy to get alias email addresses from free email providers, and it's very easy to change your IP address. What are Glassdoor doing to protect innocent parties?


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We had one employee posting fictional reviews under a set of false email addresses. We knew because she told people. How is this useful to anyone? Employers can't win a debate with an anonymous person. We won't go near Glassdoor. Professional networks show the names of the people who are posting.


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Same story here. We're a tiny company and two vindictive ex-employees have posted a personal attack that makes me easily identifiable. What makes these two not the brightest is that they apparently failed to look at their new employer's Glassdoor rating and feedback which is frankly terrible. I have reported Glassdoor to the ICO which is something I would encourage others to do. When Glassdoor heard of my intention to do this, this is what they responded: Thank you for reaching out to us on this issue. Glassdoor is committed to respecting the enhanced rights of data subjects under the GDPR and undertaking continuing efforts to comply with the GDPR and other EU privacy laws. Glasssdoor profiles include CEO ratings. We also allow reviews that name individuals in the highest positions in a company who have broad influence over the work environment, as long as the review describes the individual’s behavior or performance at work. Individuals in this category include those who are the public face of the company (C-Suite, Executive Director, President, Owner, Founder, etc.). Employees and job seekers have an interest in access to this information because it sheds light on a company’s culture and work environment. The right to erasure under Article 17 of the GDPR includes an exception (see GDPR Art. 17.3) that permits processing necessary for exercising the right of freedom of expression and information. Users who submit CEO ratings and post reviews that discuss the workplace behavior of senior most leadership are exercising their right of expression and information. So, we do not remove this information in response to a GDPR data erasure request. If you have received GDPR advice that contradicts our interpretation of data subject rights, we will be happy to discuss this with your legal counsel. To contact our legal department directly, please email legalinquiries@glassdoor.com . Our address for service of legal process is: Glassdoor, Inc. c/o CT Corporation, 818 W Seventh Street Los Angeles, CA 90017 The California Code of Civil Procedure requires that subpoenas for out-of-state actions must be domesticated in California by way of a validly-issued and properly-served California subpoena in order to be enforceable in California. In addition, other states' discover procedures require such subpoenas to be served in compliance with the law of the state where the recipient of the subpoena is location - in this case, California. Though our registered agent office for service of process is in Los Angeles County, Glassdoor's headquarters (where we keep our records) is in Marin County, California. This means that subpoenas to Glassdoor should be issued from the Marin County Superior Court or the federal courts in the Northern District of California. If you intend to serve documents on Glassdoor in connection with legal proceeding initiated outside the US, please make sure that service is properly effected in the US in accordance with all applicable law. We are not obligated to respond if service is invalid. Thank you for helping us uphold the integrity of content on Glassdoor.


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We are a small family company and feel we are at the mercy of a couple of toxic ex employees, who are quite frankly trolling their nasty vitriolic words under the cloak of anonymity. We haven't even set up a company page, it was done by yet again one of the anonymous. I have written to GD on several occasions and they just do not want to know, they come back with the same automated reply as in the above post. The posts are causing our company hardship, it does have an effect on recruitment. Please can someone tell me what to do about this awful slanderous website.


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Thanks for the article, it was very helpful.


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