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This is concerning one of my previous employers. Recently some junior dev left a bad review, people found out, and this triggered a wave of disgruntled posts detailing their ill experiences. These are centered mostly around the use of old technologies, the inability of management to keep pace with newer tech, and the disappointment of new hires at having to write legacy code right out of the door. Many of them are emotional and some come off a bit bratty, but it's encouraged others to do the same.

People from business units (i.e., not devs) heard about it and some have also chipped in, their input being mostly positive or neutral.

This is not happening to me, but for the purpose of this question, I don't think it matters. Assuming I were the CEO or had a place in management, what could I do regarding damage control?

This is obviously hurting the business as savvy applicants will be discouraged from joining (not that they were flocking before, but let's put that aside) and potential clients may get second thoughts before signing a contract with a business in such internal turmoil.

So far the following things have been tried:

  • Leave a comment under each review calling it fake. Yeah, that didn't go well. These were thankfully removed after a level-headed reviewer called out the CEO for doing it.
  • Write to Glassdoor asking them to remove "fake" reviews. The CEO seems convinced they were all written by the same person. I don't know what Glassdoor's response was, but no reviews have been removed yet.
  • Ask employees, directly or indirectly, to write some good reviews instead. This produced a few positives, but nowhere near enough to turn the tide.
  • Ignore it.
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Nov 13 '18 at 22:11

14 Answers 14

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You're looking at this "problem" the wrong way. The way your question reads is "People are leaving negative reviews, therefore people shouldn't be leaving negative reviews, how do we stop people from leaving negative reviews, or have the negative reviews removed to keep our reputation?". That's the mindset that makes you deserving of those negative reviews. To put it another way, if that's how you react to negative reviews, then you deserve as many negative reviews as you get, and there is no hope for you. Remember, Glassdoor doesn't take action from companies based on the companies' wishes; they don't delete reviews just for being negative just because the company asked them to, that's in their policy.

Your mindset should be: "People are leaving negative reviews. Why are they being negative, and what can we take away from this to make people more positive?" Here's the thing: If you have 20 negative reviews that were written last month, you have a problem. If you have 20 negative reviews from 5 years ago and then another 100 positive reviews from last month, the problem goes away. So what you should do for now is ignore the negative reviews (or respond to them in a positive, professional manner, respecting the point of view of the reviewer; coming off as petulant children, which is what sounds like is happening currently, will only serve to make the problem worse). Then you take the constructive parts of the negative reviews (such as they are) and use them to implement changes. Some examples:

  1. Tech stack is too old. This is bad not only for your employees but also for your business as a whole. Perhaps today you are using technologies like C++, JQuery, and HTML4 for your tech stack, and that's fine, because these technologies are old but people still know them. But soon they won't be, and you'll be hard pressed to find a developer below retirement age who knows how to dereference a pointer. And then you're SOL because you have legacy code that nobody can maintain. This is a warning sign for you: You should update your tech stack to something that people are learning now, and this is something you should be doing without someone giving you a 1/5 on Glassdoor before you figure it out.

  2. Management incompetence is a sign of a company which is ready to fail. If the company is big enough, management doesn't need to know the details of the tech stack. But it sounds like your company isn't at that scale yet, so management needs to be aware of what is going on. It sounds like management has their heads in the clouds. This is just irresponsible, because it means if something goes wrong they not only don't know how to fix it, but they don't even know how to go about finding out how to fix it. This can lead to misallocated resources (e.g. a frontend developer assigned to fix a database-level task) and schedule churn.

Here's the bottom line: People leaving Glassdoor reviews is NEVER a bad thing. If you think it is a bad thing, that's because you have a problem which you know is a problem and you acknowledge as a problem but you refuse to fix it. Get off your high horse, fix your business, make some money, and stop grandstanding.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Nov 15 '18 at 0:32
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    people are still learning C++ , it's pretty much the only choice for game engines that has to render nearly photo-realistic virtual worlds at 120 fps, pretty much all of these game engines are written in c++, including current ones (Unity3D, UnrealEngine, and CryEngine to mention a few), if there was nobody learning c++, i believe triple-a game development companies would run out of.. developers. – hanshenrik Nov 19 '18 at 22:47
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    @hanshenrik maybe he wanted to write C++03 or C++98. Or just blantly unaware of C++ being the lang of choice for industry machinery, aircrafts and hardware drivers. – BlueWizard Nov 23 '18 at 6:53
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For the purposes of this, I'm going to assume that at least the bare facts of the reviews are accurate (i.e., that the company uses older technologies and sometimes requires legacy code from new hires). That being the case, I'd actually lean towards "Ignore it", perhaps even with a mixture of "Embrace it".

The whole point of Glassdoor reviews is so you can assess whether a company provides a working environment that you'll be happy in - and while I personally don't agree with the whole bratty trend of developers whinging because they think they should be entitled to be working on the newest shiny toys (regardless of trivial things like whether it suits the business needs of the company), at the end of the day if someone does have that mindset then ultimately they aren't going to be happy working at that company so you don't want to hire them anyway.

If the company is upfront about what technologies etc. the position will entail, then you are going to stand a much better chance of hiring people who are a better fit for that environment, rather than people coming in with a misconception and ending up disgruntled.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Nov 15 '18 at 0:31
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Leave a comment under each review calling it fake.

What would "fake" mean in this case?

Did the person claiming the reviews were fake think the info in the reviews was false (i.e. the company doesn't use old-fashioned systems) or did they think the reviews were all written by one person?

If the reviews aren't facts-based, this can be pointed to. For example, it can be pointed out by the company's HR that they are actually using state-of-the-art technologies.

But lying can normally lead to a PR disaster.

Write to Glassdoor asking them to remove "fake" reviews.

If they were all produced by one person, it should be possible to prove that easily, so yes, it's a solution. But hopefully, glassdoor doesn't delete legitimate reviews.

Ask employees, directly or indirectly, to write some good reviews instead.

I use glassdoor and similar sites a lot and it's normally very clear which reviews were written by the HR.

Not to mention that when I was asked to produce similar reviews, this did impact on my opinion about my current employer. It's hard to respect a company that wants you to produce fake reviews.

Ignore it.

Well, it's better to ignore it than to write a silly answer, that's for sure.


The best response from the PR point of view would be, however, one not listed by you. The best response is to react constructively. This means the management should analyze the points from the reviews and take a fair stance on them. For example, if many people write the company is using old technologies, it would be good to scrutinize whether that's really the case or not.

If that's true, the company should own to it, but stress for example, that the technologies are still used by plenty of important companies, so by learning them new employees get valuable skills and that candidates learn about the technologies used from job ads and later during the interview processes - that nobody is misled.

This assertion makes sense only if really nobody is misled of course.

And if the company is really bad - if it misleads candidates promising them modern technologies, development and then gives them jobs using technologies from the 80s?

Well, then it's good it gets criticized online. The relation between employers and candidates is a dramatically unequal one. So it's good that some candidates will learn the truth from such reviews.

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    Not really the 80's, more like 00's, add some bad practices to the mix, add in hasty / brittle code that no one wants to touch lest they break absolutely everything, and it's not a pleasant experience overall. So even if you're ok with older technologies, quality control has been nonexistent for years. It's not a fun codebase to work with. – rath Nov 13 '18 at 11:56
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    @rath "hasty / brittle code that no one wants to touch lest they break absolutely everything" I find that to be one of the biggest issues there are when the quality control is lacking (or simply absent). You find code that should be changed but know that changing it would mean off-hours work and getting blame afterwards if anything built on it elsewhere stops working, so you're forced to write wrappers that make the problem even worse for the next addition. Technical debt can kill projects. – LordHieros Nov 13 '18 at 12:50
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    @LordHieros Exactly the case and a big reason why I left – rath Nov 13 '18 at 13:07
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    Interesting side-note: While you can counter-argue to objective claims, you can also just try to point at the glassdoor policy and maybe get their moderators on your side. They explicitly discourage factual statements in favour of clearly opinion-based statements, quote: 'We strongly suggest you not make provable statements of fact in your Glassdoor reviews. We encourage you instead to offer your "opinions" about your workplace.' help.glassdoor.com/article/… Feel free to incorporate that into your answer if you want. – Frank Hopkins Nov 13 '18 at 13:54
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    @Darkwing how depressing. I'm distrustful of assertions without evidence (Wikipedia FTW!), and this makes it even worse. – RonJohn Nov 15 '18 at 19:01
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Make it a positive experience. Leave a note on Glassdoor that says "Yes, your company's infrastructure is based on VB6 and SQL Server 7 and that it works nicely and meets your needs, and that you're happy with it, not planning on replacing it, and are looking for employees that are also happy with it." Also note that this wasn't a surprise and that the employee was told what the work was before accepting employment.

The world is full of people who would be thrilled to work with whatever technology you have.

The biggest thing you need to do is make sure you set their expectations from the start. You'll probably need to hire experienced, older devs and skip recent grads.

Glassdoor debacle?

It's only a debacle if you perceive it as such.

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    This is an excellent answer! – Fattie Nov 14 '18 at 15:56
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    indeed. Short of catering to the people leaving bad reviews because they had incorrect assumptions about the work they'd be doing after getting hired there's little else you can do. If you're hired for a VB6 maintenance job but expect to be employed on a C# 2018 new development project, either you're delusional or the environment you'd be working in wasn't explained properly in the application process (which is also your responsibility for not asking about it). – jwenting Nov 15 '18 at 4:54
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    "Also note that this wasn't a surprise and that the employee was told what the work was before accepting employment" - nothing in the question suggests this is the case. Due to the global shortage of software devs, it's sadly common that companies who need devs are willing to resort to "bait and switch" tactics by being deceptive about what tech devs will work in. In contrast, because devs are in high demand, they are generally able to pick and choose what job they take based on the tech it involves, which is why it's rare that a dev will take a job that they know they aren't qualified for. – Ian Kemp Nov 15 '18 at 7:44
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    @jwenting I've been outright lied to before in job interviews. (The one that stands out in my memory is the one where my manager cited the Peter Principle, in slightly different words, as company policy, and at another time described a company as "bigger liars than we are".) – David Thornley Nov 15 '18 at 17:01
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    @TerryCarmen You're correct in that there may be no business case for an upgrade, but that doesn't mean they get to lie to prospects with impunity. If they advertise what they're really looking for, they may have to spend more, but they'll get employees who know what they're getting into and won't feel like they have to complain on Glassdoor. – David Thornley Nov 16 '18 at 16:35
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Adding a response to complaints is the correct answer - but calling them each "fake" is the wrong answer.

When people leave a review on the company, and the feedback is negative, responding by calling it 'fake' does not leave the correct impression - it leads people to believe that your company sweeps problems under the rug and doesn't really care about negative feedback at all. While it might be frustrating to your CEO, if a problem is preported it should be addressed - and in a mature and level-headed manner.

The correct way to respond to these reviews is to address the issue - to leave a comment detailing how the company works to assist people with the problems these programmers have - perhaps even to explain that yes, your company is in the business of maintaining legacy programs, because you are a long-standing company with a lot of legacy users who need that support, and that you offer plenty of training for these long-standing programs and for new recruits.

I don't know the full details of your company - but the bottom line of this is that the best way to deflect complaints like this is to tackle them head-on, and show that you are above these whiners - not to completely ignore them, but to overwhelm them with concern for their reported company issues.

Note - ideally, you would also actually be implementing these improvements, but in lieu of that, you can at least acknowledge these problems and explain steps that you plan to take to correct them.

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There really is only two things that the management can do about this. One is long-term, and the other is short-term.

In the short-term...

Instead of inserting comments which call negative reviews "fake", someone who represents the company can address the individual case in a kind and humane way while also indicating the steps the company is taking to avoid this kind of problem in the future. This is the best way to handle hot-headed negative reviews, in some cases it can even be interpreted as a positive by readers.

In the long term...

Learn from the criticism they've received, and implement changes.

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I have seen this happening, and the net result was lowering the level of candidates for non-managerial jobs. Your CEO has work to do if he wants to rescue the company's reputation in the talent pool. In terms of practical actions, the CEO needs to address this internally, prioritising complaints and reviewing the most urgent ones internally. Certainly, he doesn't want to brainstorm about those reviews with the whole organisation.

  • uh, no. The problem here is people having impossible expectations about the work environment it seems, rather than the company itself having a bad work environment. – jwenting Nov 15 '18 at 4:55
  • I disagree, but thanks for commenting. – Monoandale Nov 15 '18 at 10:52
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    @jwenting good software developers are sparse currently. As a dev, you can find jobs so easily that you can decide where you work. If a company only has jobs to offer that devs don't like, they have to somehow make up if they still want to hire competent people. They can lie and squeeze out some work from new hires until they quit, like happening here. But that's not sustainable. They have to find some other way to motivate people. E.g. "yes, you have to fix bugs in old VB6 code, but you get 150% salary and three days of home office per week out of it". – Josef Nov 19 '18 at 11:15
  • @Josef good devs are sparse, but so are the jobs that match their skill sets. Many medior and senior jobs have such specific requirements that a dev can be looking for quite a while for a job that matches him well, just as companies can be looking for quite a while for the right dev. – jwenting Nov 19 '18 at 13:10
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Simple: pay considerably above the market rate.

That's what many "leading" technology companies do. This brings in lots of candidates to the job interviews, and retains (locks in) existing employees. Of course this requires that company is making money or has regular investment rounds, but if that were not the case, I imagine you wouldn't be asking :)

The above is the easy part. The hard part is how to get healthier company culture adopted. That takes time, but if you solve that, you wouldn't have to worry about a bad review or two.

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These are centered mostly around the use of old technologies, the inability of management to keep pace with newer tech, and the disappointment of new hires at having to write legacy code right out of the door.

That's good to have in there. This is just the kind of information you want prospective applicants/new hires to have. If they know this going in, you're likely to have better retention and higher worker satisfaction (which also positively affects productivity). Management should probably even put this information in the job description for applicants who don't read Glassdoor. If you can't get people on when that's accurately disclosed, increase salary or other relevant attraction factors. Don't deceive applicants about the type of technology or work they're being hired to do.

Many of them are emotional and some come off a bit bratty, but it's encouraged others to do the same.

If you can tell from reading it that a post is emotional/bratty, probably so can a prospective applicant, who can also discount the value of that review appropriately.

When reading through reviews (for a job or anything else) I find that the negative reviews where people complain about petty things can be some of the most convincing to get me to buy in. If people are complaining about little things, and there are enough reviews that more major issues likely would have been included, that usually means the important things are all at least OK, maybe quite good. "I was hired as a COBOL developer and they just have me writing COBOL for 8 hours a day; so boring" was maybe intended as negative but it'd be a plus in that company's column for me and probably other readers.

Sometimes the effect is even more direct. The coffee is cold on the devs' corporate yacht, and the salary for remote work is only enough to rent a mid-size apartment in San Francisco or Manhattan? Where do I go to sign up?

Assuming I were the CEO or had a place in management, what could I do regarding damage control?

Fix your job descriptions so people know what they are getting into.
If there are other problems being raised in the reviews, think about whether or not those are issues the company can/should fix and if so, how.
If you know of particular loyal employees who are having a good experience, consider asking them to write reviews, to help attract new colleagues.

Also, keep in mind that the percentage of potential applicants/employees who read Glassdoor is lower than you might expect.

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I have seen this as an employee, the issue was that 80% of the job spec asked for people with skills in the new technologies along with most of the interview being about the new technologies and that they are moving over all their systems. Then when I started work, it becomes clear that there would always be a “quick fix” that was more important than moving to the new technologies.

Therefore you must make the job spec and interview true to what a person will be working on in real life, and target people who have not been spending their own time learning the new technologies.

To recover from the bad reviews, you need to explain that at the time you were planning to use the new technologies, but that the needs of the current customers come first. Ideally you should also offer full compensation to anyone who took a job believing they would be using the new technologies.

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The only two correct responses are actually fixing the issues and making a large pr move promising to fix the issues that shows what you're doing for your devs and how it's making their life easier.

The latter is very similar to a popular strategy used by youtubers when they get caught in unsavory light. The thing this response affords a company to do is pretend to fix the problem and convince their audience that it's been fixed without actually fixing anything. Youtube itself also employs this strategy.

You don't have to fix anything, if you've made it look like you've fixed everything.

If you don't want to just lie until people agree with you, then you could try being more transparent about what the job actually is, or you can stop making the decision to work for your company something that's massively career limiting by refusing to use modern frameworks that would give your devs relevant experience to put on their resume when applying to better places. You could also try offsetting the garbage work conditions with perks like more time off, more time off, or modern work practices like working from home, unlimited PTO, or unlimited sick days.

Those are really the only good responses. The rest are just going to see the company go really negative as far as hiring PR is concerned.

  • Perks definitely count. But did you really mean unlimited PTO? That’s impossible. – LN6595 Nov 13 '18 at 21:13
  • @LN6595 I've seen it on a few job listings. Usually it has to be within reason and it seems to be working out for these companies. I assume you'd still get fired if you took a ton of time off for no reason. Tbh I'm not sure how it works, but I have seen it offered. – user53651 Nov 13 '18 at 21:57
  • And if the "issues" turn out to be mostly one disgruntled employee who's smart enough to evade the duplicate user checks. – Joshua Nov 14 '18 at 18:07
  • @Joshua then reap the rewards of being an employer that attracts talent with good work policies. Gotta stop worrying about punishment, it takes too much of your resources. – user53651 Nov 14 '18 at 21:57
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    Some companies have apparently found that unlimited PTO with review of its use gets employees to use less of it than if they had a standard amount. It has the additional advantage of not pressuring employees to come in sick. – David Thornley Nov 16 '18 at 22:14
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Well, one possibility could be to use the critics and try to solve some issues, e.g. by using more modern practices and spend more time in refactoring your legacy code problem. When things change and become more positive for each of the employees, then they may change the review.

0

Does your company conduct exit interviews? Many companies do. It's an opportunity to solicit feedback from the departing employee about what your company could have done to prevent the departure. Ok, maybe you won't get honest feedback - maybe the employee will feel reluctant to disclose what they really think about you, and maybe it won't be actionable. However, by at least offering to listen it may reduce the likelihood of an employee acting out on their bitterness with a negative Glassdoor review. It won't help fix your current problem, but could make a future repeat less likely.

As for your current problem, as already stated in other answers, all you can do is respond to the negative reviews with correct statements of fact - stay professional. Don't attack the reviewer, address the issues with decorum.

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Assuming I was the CEO or had a place in management, what could I do regarding damage control?

As long as your company has money to pay salary, you'd always have a team of coding monkeys at your service. There's nothing you or the company should do, clients don't read Glassdoors. Bad candidates? Raise salary or/and employee benefits.

Ask employees, directly or indirectly, to write some good reviews instead.

This is also a possibility. It can also be part of the job; everybody will need to submit a positive review to Glassdoor, reviewed by management.

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    If I was required as part of my job to write a positive work review at my company on any platform, you can bet I'd be writing at least 3 bad ones when I got home that day. – Sam Nov 13 '18 at 13:13
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    "This is also a possibility. It can also be part of the job; everybody will need to submit a positive review to Glassdoor." Sounds like, what's the word, extortion? Blackmail? – jo1storm Nov 13 '18 at 13:21
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    @bharal Unless the employees are allowed to clearly label their reviews as "company's social engagement efforts", it's pretty much blackmail. – Dmitry Grigoryev Nov 13 '18 at 13:45
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    The suggestion of having employees submit positive reviews on glassdoor as "part of the job" reads like an attempt at parody. You can't possibly be serious. – teego1967 Nov 13 '18 at 14:50
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    @teego1967 My previous company did actually request employees to submit positive Glassdoor reviews, to counter the many negative (and completely justified) reviews from leavers. I'm not aware of anyone apart from board members who actually did submit a positive review. All it did was prompt the rest of us to check Glassdoor and say "yup, that's about right". – Graham Nov 13 '18 at 14:55

protected by mcknz Nov 14 '18 at 15:36

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