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Respect People's Right to Review Your Company Online, Even When There's Bitching Involved.

"Asking if a company has ever had a bad review online is like asking if someone's ever been on a bad date," said one president.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Here's the problem, and it happens a lot: Job-seekers find an opening and immediately research the employer. They visit the company website, along with LinkedIn and Glassdoor.

Yuri_Arcurs | Getty Images

Related: Who's Managing Your Online Reviews?

And that's when they spot it: the negative employee review.

Bad reviews can impact a company and make talent recruitment hard. In fact, a January 2017 report from Glassdoor found that of the 238 job-seekers who participated in the study, those who'd seen a bad review of their prospective company asked for a salary bump, on average, 55 to 60 percent higher than that from their current company. By contrast, those who'd seen neutral employer reviews wanted a pay raise 45 to 50 percent higher.

And those who'd seen a positive review? A raise of 35 to 40 percent.

This problem is ubiquitous. Carol Lee Andersen, president of Questback, an enterprise-feedback and management-solution company, in The Woodlands, Texas, says that every company gets bad reviews.

"Asking if a company has ever had a bad review online is like asking if someone's ever been on a bad date," Andersen said via email. "In an ideal world, neither would exist. But that's not reality. Negative reviews may be unavoidable. But the real loss for a company is not learning and growing from the insight, so that today we can become better employers than yesterday."

When employers take the time to study those negative reviews, they can find ways to improve the workplace and the employee experience.

Always respond respectfully.

It could be tempting to deny or fight back against a review that seems unfair or even made up. However, this can make matters worse and hurt a company's reputation.

When Kristina Groves, an account executive for the PR firm Volume PR, in Denver, Colo., worked as a recruiter at a direct sales company, she found a disgruntled summer intern's review on Glassdoor complaining about compensation. The problem: The company didn't have an internship program.

Related: 6 Ways to Make Online Reviews Work for Your Business

"I responded to the review on the website," Groves told me via email. "I was very straightforward, honest and humble, and I thanked [the writer] for taking the time to write a review. Then, I stated that we had never had an intern in our company and maybe they were confused. And I addressed the accusations.

"Never mind that this was a phony review. Recruits were reading it and needed to know that we are genuine and straightforward about commissions . . . that we had successfully hired and helped other people grow to their goals, and that we were equal opportunity."

By responding respectfully, employers show job-seekers that they are working on making things better.

Encourage positive reviews.

Bad reviews should lead to positive change. As employers make improvements, they should encourage happy employees to leave positive reviews.

Sterling Snow, the marketing communications director at Jive Communications, a cloud-based phone systems and Unified Communications services company in Orem, Utah, recalled how his social media strategist wanted to improve the company's online employer brand.

"He realized we hadn't been keeping up with our employee reviews," Snow said via email. "HR sent out surveys asking employees for input on our company culture, as well as suggestions on how they felt the company could improve. This internal audit led to many great changes for us."

Jive Communications began using yearly goals and monthly meetings to build a sense of unity and encourage transparency. After these changes,it sought still more employee feedback. "We found that the majority of people were very pleased with the changes made," Snow said. "So, we encouraged them to write their own reviews."

As Snow pointed out, happy employees rarely take the time to share their perspective, but they should. While positive reviews won't undo the negative ones, they will show that negative reviews no longer represent what the company is really like.

Perform an exit survey.

Sometimes, disgruntled employees just want a way to vent. Then, once they've aired their grievances, they move on.

Don Rheem, the CEO of E3 Solutions, a management-consulting firm in Washington, D.C., said employers need to take a lesson from companies like United Airlines and Marriott that intercept negative consumer reviews by immediately asking for feedback.

"If an employee is upset, is there a way to safely register that concern internally?" Rheem said via email. "I don't mean the old-fashioned suggestion box, where the submission seems to evaporate, but a viable process where the offered ideas are acknowledged and responded to in a timely way. When people feel helpless regarding their concerns, that negativity can grow and fester."

Conducting an exit survey can keep negative reviews in-house. This way, instead of employees posting complaints online, they can have a productive, two-way conversation.

Honor anonymity.

Even if a company is able to figure out who left a negative review, it's important not to talk to that person directly about the review. The best feedback comes in because people feel safe being honest.

As the CEO of Talmetrix, an employee-feedback and insights solution company in Cincinnati, Ohio, Chris Powell knew who'd posted a negative review about him.

"I personally received a bad review from an employee I was managing when I was the head of HR at another company," he said via email. "I received the review through anonymous feedback, and even though I knew who it was, I had to honor that process. I couldn't address the employee directly, but I took it into account going forward. Now, whenever I have to make a controversial decision, I clearly explain my reasoning for my actions and address employee concerns."

Related: 5 Surefire Ways to Improve Your Site's Online Reviews

If employees think their boss will know the negative things they want to say, they'll keep it to themselves. Then, the company will never receive valuable feedback about what needs to be improved. Don't let that happen to you: Be comfortable with anonymity and the voice it encourages.

Heather R. Huhman

Written By

Waldorf, Md.-based Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager and president of Come Recommended, the PR solution for job search and HR tech companies. She writes about issues impacting the modern workplace.