christina-aguileraSometimes, reading the reviews on Glassdoor feels a little bit like watching a bad breakup – it’s uncomfortable, it’s awkward, and yet somehow, you can’t turn away from the drama of the frenzied fighting that inevitably accompanies the end of a broken relationship.

The couple, once so much in love it made everyone else sick, has somehow disintegrated into petty insults and personal attacks as each partner decides to go their own way, alone. It’s the digital version of throwing someone’s stuff out on the lawn while kicking them out of the house while the whole neighborhood watches the drama unfold, the last gasp of the desperately dejected.

Of course, like any love story, this should be where the story ends, but anyone who’s ever been unlucky enough in love to experience the hell that comes with a hellish breakup, it never ends as simply or as cleanly as it should.

Someone says something they shouldn’t have, then they’re telling their friends about the laundry list of petty grievances and perceived slights the other person has perpetuated over the course of their relationship, and the periphery players must get involved because everyone has to take a side when they hear these sorts of stories.

Before you know it, those same friends in whom you confided all that personal information suddenly turn around to emphatically air that dirty laundry for public consumption – and the dialogue disintegrates into a giant game of “he said, she said.” Any victory, in this case, is pyrrhic at best – but there are rarely any winners when scorched earth strategies are involved.

Add to this fact that you’re hurting, feeling rejected (even if you were the one to call it all off) and feel completely broken, emotionally vulnerable and psychologically scarred.

This somewhat muddies the waters, of course, making it hard to see past all the fighting and bickering and remember what it was that made you fall in love with that person in the first place. Bad breakups have a way of making us forget the good times, anger and pain painting an opaque view with broad brushstrokes of anger, pain and resentment.

These feelings eventually subside over time, thankfully, and in a few years, you’ll look back and suddenly remember those moments where everything worked and you felt fulfillment instead of anger or animosity.

Time plus distance always eases pain, and with the benefit of hindsight, it seems, one can almost always realize how even the worst relationships force us to grow, mature and learn something about ourselves – and often, that indictment can be damning, particularly if you realize that you threw away passion for pettiness or lost a loving, attentive partner over fights that could have been better resolved through conversation than confrontation.

This comes, eventually, but during the direct aftermath of a bad breakup, of course, you’re too pissed to see that every story, love or otherwise, always has two sides.

And the lines have been drawn.

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You Lost Me.

Employees experiencing this sort of uncomfortable uncoupling, of course, turn not to their immediate friends for solace or a sympathetic ear, but instead, take to Glassdoor to tell the world what a bastard their old organizations are, the professional equivalent, often, of throwing his favorite set of golf clubs in the river or keying his car. Now, I’d like to take a moment to point out that I can neither confirm, nor deny, that I’ve ever done any of these things, nor can you prove I did, so there.

But of course, there’s no Glassdoor for getting back at a bad boyfriend. Not so with jobs.

So, we sit down at the keyboard behind the veil of internet anonymity, pull up our employer’s Glassdoor profiles and anonymously pour out our achy, breaky hearts (I just don’t think you’ll understand) and pour out your heart in the hopes that the disdain dripping from your words, the outpouring of pure hatred and anecdotal animosity will somehow keep any future lover from making the same mistake you did. You’re emotional, you’re inconsolable, and you’re going to make that f-ing bastard pay for what he’s done.

Your vengeance knows no bounds, which is essentially the reason, of course, Glassdoor works. It feeds off of hurt, anger and bad experiences, potentially making or breaking a company’s ability to find future matches by airing dirty laundry that’s best kept in the closet, generating word of mouth when probably best for both sides to just shut up and stay silent. But sometimes, our emotions get in the way of reason and logic – and so it goes with ex-lovers and ex-employees, too.

Glassdoor has not only more or less replaced Monster as the most recognizable consumer brand in recruiting, but it’s created a Monster of its own, one that’s forever lurking in the shadows, ready to rear its ugly head at the most inopportune times.

I know I’m making Glassdoor sound pretty dreadful, but if you read some of the reviews on the site, you know I’m not overstating the situation. There are a lot of angry, disengaged and openly antagonistic employees out there, many of whom have been seriously burned by bad breakups from their old jobs – whether or not that rift was their fault or not, context doesn’t count for much on Glassdoor.

But here’s the thing. In theory, fundamentally, Glassdoor is wonderful, one of the most positive and powerful tools job seekers and employers have in their ever expanding arsenal – and likely, one of the biggest game changers to the way we find jobs and companies since the invention of the Internet itself. It fulfills our need for transparency and authenticity in this new world of work, forcing ethical business practices and accurate employer branding, effectively leveling what used to be a significantly skewed playing field. The democratization of information on Glassdoor is theoretically a great thing for employers and employees alike – but that’s only in theory, really.

The sad reality is, once put into practice, Glassdoor suddenly doesn’t seem quite as wonderful.


Genie in a Bottle.

If Glassdoor worked as intended, as an absolutely agnostic arbiter of employment information, providing a self-regulating and self-policing platform where employers and employees could really engage and ensure both sides to the story are given equal consideration, then it would indeed deliver on its potential as the definitive due diligence destination for job seekers everywhere, an essential touch point in the hiring process.

And I fundamentally believe Glassdoor to be a necessary tool, one that has actually become an important part of a candidate’s’ decision making process and a company’s recruiting strategy in today’s rapidly evolving world of work. The problem is, honesty – or “transparency,” as it were – is inherently a subjective and fluid concept to begin with. And in the absence of an absolute truth, there are no absolutes – but the gray gets colored out when the world is bifurcated into the black and white of an employee review.

As a marketing professional, I understand the need to twist the truth to get a desired outcome, a competency that companies and hiring managers are only too acutely aware of, too. That’s why “employer branding” has become such a burgeoning industry – throwing together the right combination of words and maybe turn to the thesaurus for a few synonyms to change up your copy, and suddenly there’s nothing but glowing reports about the company, its culture and careers.

It’s the online recruitment equivalent of jazz hands, really, an attempt to overcompensate for reality by throwing up obvious artifice designed to minimize the impact of a few negative reviews.

Either it’s a bunch of HR and PR people obviously leaving 5 star reviews where the only area for improvement is “some people just can’t cut it in such a dynamic, creative environment” or some such shit, or the deluge of reviews from employees that hit shortly after the memo from HR makes the rounds, reminding them to submit their own Glassdoor reviews in an attempt to negate that one shit stain on our otherwise unblemished records – the one we all suspect was left by that nasty fellow who got sacked for having sex in the toilets, something that we really can’t write in self-defense on Glassdoor.

But for some reason, we have to take the piss for stupid employees and their stupid behaviors – we can fire them, and do, but Glassdoor doesn’t ask ex-employees to provide any circumstance on why they’ve left. This means those who stay are forced to generate positive reviews to offset the disaffected outliers, resulting in subjective and staged reviews that are as inauthentic as the ones they’re trying so hard to negate.

Even if everything in these glowing reviews is true, and the company is the best place to work this side of the Wonka Factory, if you’re forced to defend an employer in these circumstances, you’ve still written an inauthentic, completely biased review under duress, no matter how accurate that review might actually be.

Glassdoor has created a platform that, in allowing everyone to have a voice, has erred on the side of open access, meaning that all anyone needs to comment is an email address. Even if that’s, say, [email protected] (or something equally obvious), there is no methodology of verifying whether or not that person really worked at the company or not, no mechanism for challenging the veracity of these individual experiences or even the actual existence of these individuals.

I’m all for authenticity – the problem is, there’s simply no way to really regulate it. And I get why Glassdoor couldn’t commit to doing so, considering the sheer volume of reviews and resources this would take – but at the same time, their neutrality deprives the platform of much of the authenticity it purports to create.

Finding the truth on the site feels a lot like finding a needle in a haystack, sometimes – a haystack that just happens to have claws.


The Voice Within.

Billboard-Music-Awards-GIF-5But I’m not here to argue Glassdoor’s comment approval process, how it moderates the site or how these mechanisms can be improved. I’m not going to discuss if companies can pay to make the negative reviews disappear, or whether a company’s score can be bought, bribed or manipulated by either the site or their spend.

What happens behind the scenes is a mystery to me (like most), and as such that’s a rabbit hole I’ve no interest in going down, nor am I qualified to do so. All these accusations commonly levied at Glassdoor are nothing but speculation, or banal BS that we’re throwing around to see what sticks, and since I don’t know the rules, it’s a game I’m not going to even attempt playing. I’d advise all of you do to the same, frankly.

Misinformation cuts both ways.

What I am trying to figure out, though, is whether we really need a platform like Glassdoor at all, and, if so, whether companies should fear or embrace the tactical transparency and forced authenticity inherent to such a site’s operating model (obviously, Glassdoor isn’t the only employer review site, but it’s by far the biggest and most visible among an increasingly crowded field).

I could easily make the argument for both sides, and give you the pros and cons of each respective side – which, coincidentally, is precisely the sort of balanced feedback that Glassdoor is engineered to encourage. But sitting on the fence, of course, leaves you with a sore arse – and is insanely boring, as content is concerned.

Here’s the thing we should really be paying attention to: Glassdoor isn’t the problem, it’s the byproduct of a larger phenomenon that simply underscores that in an age of subjectivity and social media, we’ve got to rely less on secondary information and go straight to the source if we really want the information required to make well informed decisions.

Because the reality is, if you’re still scared of sharing platforms like Glassdoor, your company is still stuck in the Dark Ages – as is your mindset and company mentality, frankly. Instead of concerning yourself with its shortcomings, take a step back and realize that Glassdoor represents the new way of working in the new world of work. Like it or not, Glassdoor is here, and it’s here to stay. This is the reality.

The sooner you accept this fact, the sooner you can start addressing the real problems at hand.

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Bound to You.

We can publish as many articles as we want about the rise of the Millennials and the future of work, but Glassdoor manifests these changes and suggests that the future of work is now. It’s up to our organizations to reflect these changes in their culture and careers, and if these changes are meaningful, its impact on your Glassdoor score will be a means, not an end, to a much more important and holistic initiative.

We need to be creating experiences for our employees, not routines, and the construct of culture needs to be so much more than just another ‘value’ we stick up on our walls and websites to make ourselves feel good. We need to make sure we have ethical businesses that care about our people as much as our profits, and trust our employees enough to speak about their jobs openly, honestly and truthfully. If you’re working on the substantial stuff that’s deeper than anything a Glassdoor review could ever capture, then you’re not just positioning your brand – you’re positioning your company to effectively attract, recruit and retain the top talent you need to compete today – and tomorrow.

Because if your organization has faced the fact that it’s now the year of our Lord 2016, and that times, they are a changin’, and if you understand stuff like social media, sharing economies, flexible and remote working arrangements, employer branding, and, first and fundamentally most important, treat your people with respect and as humans instead of disposable cogs in some giant money making machine, then you’re good.

Seriously, get this stuff down, and you can stop giving a shit about what anyone says about your company on Glassdoor or any other public platform, really. Shit talks, money walks, but ultimately, it’s what you do as an organization that matters.

Haters gonna hate. Just make sure you’ve got enough to shine some light on that shade they’re throwing. And you’ll be good. I promise. I’ve learnt that people will always say bad stuff about you, and nothing is going to change that. Hell, I’m sure some sage “thought leader” or “influencer” is going to troll this very article.

Which is cool, since this is what I believe, and standing on conviction is easy when the facts are in your favor. Similarly, if you’re the best employer you can be, know that even the best employers out there are likely to have a host of negative buzz or bad reviews out there. The reason? People are fundamentally selfish, reviews inherently subjective.

But if you can learn to separate emotion from circumstance and make judgements based on rational fact rather than anecdotal aphorisms, if your work works for the greater good instead of your own self-interests, and if you’re the rare company that actually cares about its people, not just what they may or may not say, then you’ve already figured out how to win at word of mouth recruitment marketing.

Breaking up is hard to do, but fixing the reasons your relationship failed are far harder.

The only reflection that matters on any Glassdoor is what you see when you look in the mirror, after all. If you don’t like what you see, you’ve got far bigger problems than a few bad reviews.

salmaAbout the Author: Salma El-Wardany, Head of Marketing, Recruitment Entrepreneur cut her teeth in recruitment at a global Plc, working in business development to win new clients and accounts into the company. She gave up corporate life in favour of the startup world, specifically recruitment startups.

Salma spends her days advising recruitment companies on their marketing, digital and branding strategies, and how to make their voice heard in an industry that is already overcrowded and full of voices clamoring to be heard. By night, she writes about many things, mainly all the things in recruitment that vex her.

Check out her blog, The Chronicles of Salma or connect with her on LinkedIn.