In the January 29, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter we consider the implications of a stunning Wall Street Journal investigation of Glassdoor “company reviews.”

GlassdoorWhat is Glassdoor serving its customers?

Wall Street Journal investigation suggests that Glassdoor is selling cooked “company reviews.”

“Jennifer Peatman, who headed Roostify’s human-resources team…asked human-resources staffers on her team to post new reviews on Glassdoor, hoping to offset the negative ones.”

“Concerned that negative reviews could hurt recruiting, Guaranteed Rate CEO Victor Ciardelli instructed his team to enlist employees likely to post positive reviews…”

“…companies, including Guaranteed Rate, have pressured employees to write positive reviews in order to raise poor ratings.”

Glassdoor is owned by Recruit Holdings Co., Ltd., based in Tokyo, Japan.

Can millions be wrong?

Still largely unregulated, leading recruitment advertising companies like LinkedIn, Indeed, ZipRecruiter and Glassdoor, among others, imply their services deliver benefits that no rational person believes are possible — while job seekers nonetheless swarm those sites like flies drawn to the nutritious scent of dung.

The job-searching and recruitment advertising models that these multi-billion-dollar companies market to employers and job seekers alike have created a smelly air in the job market. ZipRecruiter eliminates the “hassle” of recruiting and makes hiring “easy” — but Inc. magazine revealed it was selling illegal job ads. LinkedIn “connects” people to jobs through automated mails that deliver unsolicited job leads — that a federal judge called “spam.”

Everyone knows it’s phony marketing. But everyone excuses it as par for the course. And the employment industry banks on this contradiction between what consumers know and what they tolerate.

Hapless users routinely excuse the wild marketing claims and unforgivable sales tactics that now seem to define America’s employment system — which is now embodied in this small handful of online recruitment advertising firms. Frustrated job seekers have become numb to wasting their time and money — because employers openly endorse and participate in a shameful system of recruiting and hiring that challenges credulity.

It’s shocking the law has not come down on employers and an employment industry that together manipulate the information a nation relies on to fill jobs with workers. The latest example is an expose of the leading repository of “company reviews” that job seekers grudgingly rely on when deciding where to go work next.

The cost of questionable salary data

Glassdoor itself is clear in its Terms of Use that it doesn’t stand by anything posted by users or employers — that is, all its salary and company reviews:

“Because we do not control such Content, you understand and agree that: (1) we are not responsible for, and do not endorse, any such Content, including advertising and information about third-party products and services, job ads, or the employer, interview and salary-related information provided by other users; (2) we make no guarantees about the accuracy, currency, suitability, reliability or quality of the information in such Content; and (3) we assume no responsibility for unintended, objectionable, inaccuratemisleading, or unlawful Content made available by users, advertisers, and third parties.”

We’ve discussed the problem of data gathered from anonymous sources before. In Glassdoor Salary Data: Worse than useless we looked at how Wired magazine’s Rachel Nuwer reported a simple test that shattered the myth of Glassdoor’s vaunted salary surveys.

We saw that the “self-reported” salary information published by Glassdoor — if relied upon for salary negotiations — could cost a job seeker an additional 69% worth of compensation, according to Wired. When Glassdoor’s slap-happy anonymous data is compared to rigorously vetted salary data gathered directly from employers, it seems the job applicant stands to lose.

We saw in the disclaimers of the Terms of Use section of the Glassdoor website (see sidebar) that the company admits it publishes what seems to amount to useless crap — not verified, valid, reliable information.

Manipulation of reputations on Glassdoor

Last week, the Wall Street Journal released a damning report that addresses what skeptical job seekers have long been asking: Is wrong information being given out at Glassdoor, the employee feedback site where anonymous people rate the companies they work for?

In cooperation with Columbia University and the University of Washington, The Journal conducted an in-depth analysis of 4.8 million anonymous reviews, about more than 8,500 companies, posted on Glassdoor. The results reveal How Companies Secretly Boost Their Glassdoor Ratings — apparently with Glassdoor’s (Wink, wink! Nod, nod!) help and encouragement. (Please note that the Journal is behind a pay wall.)

Says the Journal: “Glassdoor’s company ratings are a powerful weapon in job recruiting, giving companies an incentive to inflate them.” And inflation is what the analysis found.

The dominant source of company reviews

The Journal points out that “Glassdoor has become an important arbiter of employee sentiment in today’s highly competitive job market. A Wall Street Journal investigation shows it can be manipulated by employers trying to sway opinion in their favor.

Is that forgivable marketing and public relations, or is it an indictable misrepresentation of Glassdoor’s products to its customers? One HR-related website that commented on the Journal report, BenefitsPRO, said: “The trends threaten to undermine Glassdoor’s credibility as a source for accurate information.”

The power of Glassdoor and its impact on the American job market and economy cannot be underestimated — nor can the import of the Journal’s findings.

“Sought-after workers — the site gets about 60 million users per month, according to web-research firm SimilarWeb — read reviews to help determine where they want to work.”

The article quotes Andy Challenger, vice president of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas: “Glassdoor is the most dominant company reviews website by far.”

According to Challenger, poor ratings on Glassdoor can cost an employer dearly, “particularly at a time like right now, with unemployment at historically low levels when companies are fighting to retain and attract good people.”

The Journal found that many employers take special measures to try and manipulate their reputations by “encouraging,” “galvanizing” and “pressuring” employees to post “five-star” reviews. But the question is, what liability does Glassdoor have for it?

No amount of rationalizing (“Well, I take the reviews with a grain of salt, but I rely on them anyway.”) excuses a job seeker’s reliance on company reviews that were prompted by the reviewer’s employer. And when we see how and why those reviews were prompted, Glassdoor’s entire database of reviews takes on the smell of a barrel of fish that includes maybe a few — and maybe a lot — of rotting dead ones.

A concerted conspiracy to manipulate recruiting?

You can and should read the analysis for yourself. But let’s look at the screaming evidence of manipulation behind the “spikes” in five-star company reviews on Glassdoor.

The Journal reports that its analysis “identified over 400 companies with unusually large single-month increases in reviews” that statistically seem to be related to efforts by those companies to boost their ratings on Glassdoor.

Is this a concerted conspiracy to improve recruiting by manipulating companies’ reputations among job seekers? Can a company with serious employee relations problems make itself seem like a sweet place to work by encouraging, pressuring and rewarding “target groups” of its workers for juicing reviews on Glassdoor?

The Journal’s analysis certainly seems to give credence to the imprecation of a famous 1970s poster depicting a fetid dung heap: “Eat Sh#t! 50 billion flies can’t ALL be wrong!”

The Wall Street Journal seems to imply that employers are gaming Glassdoor’s company review system, but the Journal’s analysis actually seems to reveal that Glassdoor is in on the game.

Let’s look at what the Journal tells us.

Which companies are jamming the frammitz?

The Journal delivers details from its analysis of “roughly 8,500 companies with the most Glassdoor reviews” and calls out these specific companies — among 400 it claims had suspicious spikes in their reviews.

  • Guaranteed Rate
  • Elon Musk’s SpaceX
  • SAP
  • Slack
  • LinkedIn
  • Anthem
  • Clorox
  • Brown-Forman Corp. (the maker of Jack Daniel’s whisky)
  • Bain
  • Roostify

What did over 400 companies do to “spike” their reviews?

The Journal inquired about how the review spikes occur, mostly around each October, when Glassdoor hands out its “Best Places to Work” awards.

“A Glassdoor spokeswoman said reviews may jump for a variety of reasons, including hiring surges, a company event or internal encouragement.

Say what? Internal encouragement? Do you mean like this?

  • Mortgage broker Guaranteed Rate saw its Glassdoor ratings fall to 2.6 out of 5 last summer. “CEO Victor Ciardelli instructed his team to enlist employees likely to post positive reviews, said a person familiar with his instructions. In September and October these employees flooded Glassdoor with hundreds of five-star ratings. The company rating now sits at 4.1.”
  • Among the companies with large spikes, “Spokespeople for Slack, LinkedIn and Anthem said their companies have encouraged employees to give feedback.”

Best time for review “spikes”

GlassdoorThe investigation revealed that reviews “balloon” around the annual October deadline for Glassdoor’s Best Workplaces award.

  • “Of 248 reviews [for one company at awards time], 73% are 5-star.”
  • “In some cases, companies have encouraged loyal employees to post reviews as part of a publicity campaign. SpaceX and SAP, for example, galvanized employees to leave reviews to make Glassdoor’s annual ranking of the ‘Best Places to Work.’”

But any time is a good time “to raise poor ratings”:

  • “Other companies, including Guaranteed Rate, have pressured employees to write positive reviews in order to raise poor ratings, according to interviews with current and former employees.”
  • In some cases, the disclosures by top executives are astonishing: “Guaranteed Rate’s Mr. Ciardelli said in a written statement that his management team felt Glassdoor ratings didn’t accurately reflect the company’s work environment and so it asked employees to post reviews.”

What employees would actually agree to post 5-star reviews on demand? Glassdoor told the Journal that “it coaches clients on how to target groups that tend to be more enthusiastic, such as new hires, according to guidelines for employers posted on its site.”

  • “Interns provide 92% of five-star reviews.”

Glassdoor “coaches clients” to “target” employees most likely “to be more enthusiastic.” Wink, wink. Nod, nod. Do you believe Glassdoor is a passive participant in five-star “spikes?”

Hey – No free mugs!

How’s this for clean hands:

“Glassdoor warns companies not to coerce employees to post positive reviews or to incentivize them to do so with money or prizes.”

Yes, but:

  • “In the summer of 2017, SpaceX recruiter Brittany Jacobson sent emails encouraging employees to post reviews in order to make Glassdoor’s ‘Best’ list, said a person familiar with the effort. Workers were offered free SpaceX mugs for completing their review, said the person.”

Check the July 2016 and August 2017 “bubbles” in SpaceX’s monthly reviews:

Glassdoor

Glassdoor’s warnings, employers’ branding campaigns, and rewards for employees to post five-star reviews collide while Glassdoor seems to turn a blind eye.

  • “SpaceX employees flooded Glassdoor with 180 five-star reviews in October 2016. In most months that year, it earned less than a dozen five-star reviews.”
  • “Some months with high numbers of reviews came after interns were recruited, according to the first person familiar with the effort. They provided more than 84% of five-star reviews in July 2016 and in August 2017.”

Who pulled off this 15X increase in 5-star reviews at SpaceX?

Do you know where to list accomplishments on your resume?

  • “Ms. Jacobson took credit for the campaigns on her LinkedIn profile, writing that she executed ‘company-wide employer branding campaigns’ on Glassdoor, increasing the number of reviews by more than 1,000, raising the company’s overall rating to 4.4 stars from 3.8 and resulting in SpaceX landing on Glassdoor’s ‘Best’ list two years in a row.”

What a great resume! When the Journal tried to contact her, “Ms. Jacobson didn’t respond to requests for comment. She removed the reference to Glassdoor on her LinkedIn page in mid-December after being contacted by the Journal.”

“A company spokeswoman said [SpaceX’s human-resources chief, Brian] Bjelde didn’t sign off on gifts in exchange for reviews or ask for positive reviews.”

Oops. Forget you ever heard about those free mugs. It seems Glassdoor did.

Does Glassdoor do anything to prevent “spikes” in 5-star reviews?

Glassdoor’s spokeswoman told the Journal that “Suspected ‘ballot box stuffing’ could…cause Glassdoor to remove positive reviews” so “The company touts a combination of human moderators and technology filters to detect attempted abuse.”

The Journal suggests Glassdoor isn’t alone. Other sites that rely on user reviews for their existence also “face” problematic review practices.:

“Glassdoor’s problem echoes the challenges faced by other online rating platforms, which are trying to ensure their rankings are real. Amazon.com Inc., local-business site Yelp Inc. and hotel-and-restaurant site TripAdvisor Inc. have all had to fend off attempts to game reviews and ratings.”

But there’s no mention of what measures Glassdoor has in place to maintain the integrity of reviews. If Glassdoor is the innocent while its corporate customers are gaming it, then how does the Journal explain this?

  • “Glassdoor charges companies to customize their pages and promote open jobs, from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars a month. Paying customers can feature a glowing review at the top of their page, prevent rival companies’ jobs from appearing…”

How does the Journal explain taking money to boost an employer’s reputation?

Is Glassdoor encouraging “spikes” in 5-star reviews?

It would seem so, suggests the Journal:

  • “Each year, Glassdoor drives traffic-and a flood of reviews-to its site by ranking hundreds of companies and CEOs in the U.S. and four other countries.” This is Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work” ranking. Could that be Glassdoor’s way of (Wink, wink! Nod, nod!) encouraging its customers to cause sudden spikes in their company ratings?

And it gets worse. One wonders just how explicit Glassdoor would have to be, before the Federal Trade Commission were to investigate the connection between Glassdoor’s site traffic and revenues, and the company’s promotion of its Best Places to Work contest that encourages spikes in 5-star reviews:

  • “Glassdoor said its algorithm ranks the companies based in part on the quantity of reviews in the past year, as well as ‘what employees have to say that shows winners truly outshine the rest.’”
  • “According to the Journal’s analysis, more than a quarter of spikes came in October — right around the deadline for Glassdoor’s annual ranking.”

Do 5-star reviews pay off?

You bet.

After employees posted complaints about Guaranteed Rate’s “management, pay and long work hours, the company’s rating dropped to 2.6 from 3.5. “The approval rating for Mr. Ciardelli, the CEO, plummeted to 43% from about 75%”

After employees received an e-mail that read, “Please complete a Glassdoor review with a strong five-star rating for us,” Ciardelli’s approval rating almost doubled — to 83%. “Dozens of glowing reviews were written by people who listed their title as managers.”

Is it time for an award?

What does this mean for job seekers?

Millions of job seekers swarm Glassdoor for salary data and “reviews” of employers, seemingly convinced that millions of Glassdoor users — including employers and HR professionals — can’t possibly be wrong.

But the Wall Street Journal’s investigation of Glassdoor’s and employers’ practices has revealed a stink unrivaled in the employment industry.

The only prudent conclusion one can draw from the Journal’s analysis of millions of reviews about over 8,500 companies on Glassdoor is that Glassdoor is crack for Human Resources departments that need a powerful stimulant to make their corporate reputations feel better — at any cost.

The Journal seems to have revealed a pervasive public relations manipulation whose objective is to game reputations.

no evilSay what??

Perhaps not surprisingly, a search of the websites of a dozen leading HR associations one week after publication of the Journal’s report doesn’t turn up any articles about it.

Notably, SHRM (the Society For Human Resource Management) seems to have posted nothing about the matter.

Glassdoor itself has published no response or comment on its website, and does not list the Journal’s article on the “Here’s what others are saying about us” section.

Glassdoor is not in business to deliver honest, accurate, valid, reliable salary information and “reviews” of employers. If it were, it would immediately require reviewers to disclose their identities and to be accountable for the salary information and employer reviews they post. The excuse that people won’t post honest reviews if they must disclose their identities rings hollow, now that we know the outcome of permitting anonymous reviews.

Glassdoor is in business to generate as much site traffic and revenue from employers as it possibly can. Absent regulations that would force the company to validate the data it sells, and to refrain from tacitly and explicitly permitting, encouraging and rewarding its customers for gaming Glassdoor’s ratings system, job seekers have no reason to expect Glassdoor can or will help them make sound decisions about where to work or how to negotiate job offers.

The shocking failure of Glassdoor to ensure the validity and reliability of information it sells to employers and job seekers alike reveals a business model run amuck amidst gullible — nay, stupid — users who really, really want to believe they cannot seek out honest, legitimate information about the reputations of employers on their own. Why do the work, when automation will deliver answers for a price?

There are three clear lessons in the Journal’s investigation and analysis for any prudent business person who depends on valid, reliable data and information to make sound judgments:

  1. The chance that any information found on Glassdoor is dishonest is much greater than zero. In fact, based on the Wall Street Journal’s investigation, it is more likely than not that information being given out at Glassdoor is dangerously tainted if not simply wrong.
  2. No one — not employers and not job seekers and not any company’s employees — needs the anonymously generated, unaccountable information Glassdoor sells, because it is too likely to be worthless or dangerous, and too likely to distract people from the all-important task of making their own sound judgments based on real interactions with other people who are personally accountable.
  3. The business world — especially the HR profession — doesn’t think there’s really anything wrong with what the Journal found.

Do you buy what Glassdoor is selling? How do anonymous company reviews affect employers, job seekers, the job market and our economy? Does anybody care — or is this just the way it’s going to be?

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37 Comments
  1. I think you have a typo in the title. It says “Is wrong information is being given out at Glassdoor?”

    I think the second “is” is a typo.

    • Right you are (were)! I fixed it. Thanks! Sometimes I edit and proof so hard that I miss a big one!

      • No, I’m pretty sure the first “is” and the question mark were typos.

        • @Peter: You figured out what the original title of the article was, Bro. The second “is” was an artifact of editing the original.

    • Maybe it’s the first “is” that shouldn’t be there—along with the question mark.

  2. When I tried posting a negative review of an interview experience, boom! An internal error has occurred. Wouldn’t you know it, Glassdoor runs paid job ads for the same company.

    Conflicts pervade all “review” sites. TripAdvisor makes money selling hotel rooms. That TripAdvisor sticker on the front door of the property? I bet it would still be there if the health dept. closed the place for bedbugs.

    And don’t get me started on Yelp.

  3. There is a catch in all of this, as I’m sure readers have noticed: this fake-review campaign doesn’t mention how these companies are hiding all of the NEGATIVE reviews. If there are a ton of negative reviews (all sounding similar, written at various times and by various people) all blasting the company for being negative, and then these mysterious five star reviews pop up, they’re more likely to be interpreted as put there by the company and give even MORE credibility to the bad reviews, especially in light of the fact, as I’ve seen myself some reviews that sounded like PR rear-smooching to me, that they are often just praise with little insight into why and often put a very suspiciously low amount in the area of what could be improved in the company.

    The only way these five star reviews would possibly work is if they came soon after a negative trend began (i.e dropping from 4.3 to 3.4) or something, not when things drop from 4.3 to 2.5 over a period of time.

    At least corporate PR people haven’t figured out how to REALLY damage the negative review rating: by having employers put bad reviews for COMPETITOR companies, thus making all bad reviews suspect in time as competing companies reciprocated the bad reviews back at them.

    I think that it’s a given that the bad reviews (the more-likely-to-be real ones anyway) are given more validity than the positive reviews in any case, even before this story broke.

    However, if, as Nick and the Journal I think it was, insist that Glassdoor is actually taking bribes, so to speak, from companies to list them as the “best place to work” when they are in fact definitely not, that should definitely be looked into by some kind of law enforcement (if nothing else, for violation of “false advertising” laws)

    • I guess, to sum up my post above, we have proof that Glassdoor is ALLOWING WRONG information to be posted. Do we have any evidence that it is BLOCKING TRUE information from being posted or removing it (perhaps due to a payoff from the company being reviewed) if it is posted?

      If they aren’t, then the true information may tell the real story in spite of the fake information, and may in fact, be able to make it obvious that the fake information is fake and further show that it’s a bad company to work for.

    • I didn’t suggest Glassdoor is taking bribes. The WSJ reports:

      “Paying customers can feature a glowing review at the top of their page”

      Does that mean a 5-star review that the company (the “paying customer”) pressured an employee to post on Glassdoor? Is that false advertising?

      Here’s one pretty good legal discussion about false advertising:
      https://www.classlawgroup.com/consumer-protection/false-advertising/laws/

      The WSJ’s report raises a lot of questions. If you’re going to dig into this, also look up the Lanham Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act, which holds that “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce” are illegal.

  4. I review employee comments and salaries on Glassdoor. However, when I see glowing five-star ratings and no cons, I suspect it was written by HR. Now I know they are bribing/coercing employees to post upbeat reviews about the company too.

    If job seekers knew more about this practice, I wonder how Glassdoor would do.

    • @Dee: Well, thanks to the WSJ, now job seekers know what’s contributing to the “spikes” in 5-star reviews. I wish the WSJ article were available without a subscription so everyone could read it. A copy — legal? illegal? — appears here:
      https://share.qz.com/news/1388923/body/

  5. Negative postings – likely accurate unless obviously spiteful.

    Positive postings – approach with caution

    Salary information – almost always low

  6. Great story! I have always viewed info on Glassdoor with a measure of suspicion and hadn’t heard about the WSJ article until I read your story about it. Thanks for confirming my suspicions!!

  7. I can answer the question in the title with two words: Well, d’UH!

    I learned when my bad review of Fidelity was automatically deleted that companies could pay a little extra for an upgraded package that, in addition to doing what you’ve mentioned, also deletes negative comments. Hence wealthier companies like Fido have stellar ratings, while smaller companies who can’t afford the fee will be “outed” by other employees, like this place, https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/C-4-Analytics-Reviews-E676606.htm?sort.sortType=RD&sort.ascending=false. I’ve wondered for years whether GD will start censoring the interview reviews as well (lordie knows I’ve left enough to write a book), I’m guessing the reason they haven’t yet is because it’s the only thing that keeps GD looking somewhat legitimate.

  8. Well, I’m not sure what’s soo shocking here? Don’t we all know about ‘fake news’ by now? My feeling is, Companies such as Glassdoor, Yelp, TripAdvisor, even google who offer some insight/feedback/reviews….are all going to be ‘manipulated’ to agree. However, I still use w/logic. A TON of negative reviews vs positive….to take with a grain. There’s some ‘reason’ for that. For those w/ Very few reviews….either all negative or positive…well, we probably shouldn’t put much stock into.
    So Nick, what do you suggest (with what we have available today) Sites to go to if want some ‘insider’ info….if we don’t have ‘inside’ info about Companies we seek to review? You think ALL out there (including Glassdoor) are completely worthless?

    • @Kay: I think you’ve fallen for the fallacy like most people have. “However, I still use w/logic.”

      I’m not picking on you. :-) You’re just the first to come out and say it, so I’ll take the opportunity to repeat what I’ve said in other columns about Glassdoor’s salary “data” and company reviews.

      I raised this issue in this column. People rationalize illogical conclusions. If we know reviews are anonymous, we know there’s no accountability. It’s also clear from experience that lots of reviews on Glassdoor are fake — some stick out like sore thumbs!

      So, if all are anonymous and thus unaccountable, and some are obviously fake, how can you logically trust ANY “n-th” review? The answer is — logically — that you cannot. Thus, you cannot trust ANY review on Glassdoor. And the whole thing falls apart.

      The other fallacy has to do with quantity. Why are high quantities of positive or negative reviews more or less worth believing? “There’s some ‘reason’ for that.” No, there’s not, and even if there were some “reason,” you would not know for which ones or what the reason is.

      The fundamental problem is that people who try to use Glassdoor reviews really, really want information they can use. Thus they approach the site with an unreasonable BIAS. They WANT to believe because they NEED the information. I get that. But needing something doesn’t validate it.

      So let’s get to your very good question: “So Nick, what do you suggest (with what we have available today) Sites to go to if want some ‘insider’ info….if we don’t have ‘inside’ info about Companies we seek to review?”

      Don’t let my answer shock you, because it’s very obvious. Invest the time and effort to identify and talk with people who actually know the company in question. There’s no trick, no shortcut. Discuss with them one on one. Ask questions. When you get answers, ask follow-up questions. This is called reasoned research. The main reason this is better than ANY website is that you not only get information; you get to assess all the other cues that let you JUDGE THE SOURCE. Does the person SOUND knowledgeable? Are they consistent in what they say? Do they seem to have a grudge, or do they seem to have a healthy, balanced view of the company?

      See where I’m going with this? Valid references — on people or employers — are WORTH A LOT. They don’t come cheap, easy or free. And they’re not posted on some website. (HINT: THIS IS WHY GLASSDOOR IS A WORTHLESS SERVICE IN MY OPINION. It costs you nothing.) You have to do the work to get valid, reliable data because you must obtain it in a way that enables you to JUDGE it based on many other factors.

      If I’m going to invest a lot in someone or something or some company, I’m going to invest seriously in due diligence. Everything else is, well, crap.

      • > If we know reviews are anonymous, we know there’s no accountability.

        I don’t think it’s quite so pat, as my experience with my former workplace might illustrate. It was a dysfunctional workplace that spiraled down into sheer toxicity when the HR department and leadership tried to implement a grass roots culture change as a way to improve employee engagement. The largest part of the dysfunction came from the management style of one director, and the managers who reported to him passed the dysfunction down the chain either because they emulated his awful management style or they were busy with CYA behaviors.

        Around this stage, I (and some others) submitted Glassdoor reviews about the issues. I tried to explain unemotionally what the problems were and gave constructive suggestions for improving things. The HR team replied to the reviews with only a commiserating tone and invited us to contact them directly. As trust was rock bottom and I knew that my managers would retaliate, I never did that and hoped they’d take my GD review as I intended it. They apparently disregarded it.

        The following engagement survey showed even worse results in that one division, so they then implemented a anonymous 360-degree feedback for the managers. I’m not sure why HR thought that was the solution, but they’re known for being very Mary Poppins. It did throw fuel on the fire, as just after I left the company, I heard from my non-managerial former coworkers that many of them were getting PIP’s filed against them. (performance improvement plan, generally used as documentation prior to termination) Clearly the managers were retaliating for the 360-degree feedback they got.

        How do I know it was retaliation? In my 360-degree feedback for specific managers I gave them specific and constructive criticism, like “Bob needs to learn the correct use of authority and should not abuse his authority to do things like ask an employee to do something and then publicly laugh at them for doing it.” That was something that happened to my coworker, not me, but my coworker was too timid to bring it up as feedback. Now, the manager knew that I knew about this specific situation (because I confronted him at the time using “open and honest feedback” that we’d just been coached on!) but he seemed to assume it was my coworker who submitted the feedback and filed a really hopped up, ridiculous PIP for her. (A long list of nitpicks she was “doing wrong”, a long list of vague and un-measurable improvements she was supposed to do and no timeline for doing it, but a specific threat of termination for not accomplishing it.) (An intelligent person should also identify the feedback as coming from me because of my writing style. None of my former coworkers wrote like I do.)

        My intuition is that the toxic managers made a few assumptions as to who sent the 360-degree feedback and PIP’ed them all. In a place like this, anonymity is the only way to keep your job! (Yes, while you look for a better one.)

  9. What we have here is a failure to communicate. @Nick you said it best:

    No one — not employers and not job seekers and not any company’s employees — needs the anonymously generated, unaccountable information Glassdoor sells, because it is too likely to be worthless or dangerous, and too likely to distract people from the all-important task of making their own sound judgments based on real interactions with other people who are personally accountable.

    Own judgements…real interactions…personally accountable. Everything else is BS.

    Oldest rule in journalism applies here: follow the money. Who pays Glassdoor? Who pays LinkedIn? Not us worker bees. Once more, thanks for a great column.

  10. I worked at Zander Insurance. The company is pushed by Dave Ramsey who in turn uses Jesus to push his agenda. That guy has made millions and made Zander Insurance millions by using religion to sell and not on a Sunday! Regarding Glassdoor reviews, Zander Insurance uses internal employees to spruce up their company reviews. The company has done better with culture but it is far from being a 10-best places to work in Nashville or Tennessee. The company has a greed problem that holds back its true potential. Same problem at Dave Ramsey’s business. Messed up!

  11. Thank you Nick! A certain ex-employer of mine, a daycare owner in Seattle, does this. She has yes-men (and women) who post five-star reviews on Yelp, Indeed, and Glassdoor to try to offset the many bad ones left by dissatisfied parents and ex-employees who know the truth: It’s a horrible place to work.

    The owner’s management style includes various forms of bullying, including blaming her own shortcomings on employees’ incompetence, bad attitude, or bad character; threats and intimidation, including threats of termination if a current employee says ANYTHING negative about her or the company; and gaslighting.

    I was there only 16 months, and in that time, out of a staff of 30, 11 quit with little to no notice.

    Of the 11, 2 gave two weeks’ notice, but did not stay the full two weeks; 2 gave only one week’s notice; 3, including me, left work at the end of a shift and never came back; and 4–yes, I said FOUR–walked off the job in the middle of a shift.

    Of the 3 who left at the end of a shift and never returned, 2, including me, gave physical or mental health-related reasons as the main reason for leaving. Of the 4 who walked off the job, 2 did so for physical or mental health reasons.

    The daycare offers organic food to the children and gym memberships as an employee perk, and claims to promote health and wellness. But the numbers above tell a completely different story: of unhappy employees whose physical and mental health is being severely damaged by work stress, and a business owner who cannot be trusted to tell the truth or keep her word.

  12. I love the ‘Not us!’ disclaimer, I remember the Eat Sh#t posters, and I remember, Nick, when you became so disillusioned with LI. Perhaps part of the problem is that the younger, Internet-raised generations don’t understand they need to learn real-world personal and interpersonal skills and to trust their guts instead of automatically believing what they’re told electronically.

    As for the reviews themselves, I rarely post any kind, and then only if I can do so honestly with the intention of either rewarding or training. I’m always, always cognizant of my words living in the ether. And when I taught high school, my students learned the hard way that averaging a 100 and a 0 came to only 50, which wasn’t easy to raise back up to a passing grade.

  13. It is a conspiratorial supply chain built to extract wealth from the hourly wage earner. It is called the Fissured Workplace (). Call centers in India hired by US recruiting companies use relay servers to mask X-Originating-IPs and lie about where they are calling from and other contract relevant information use LunkedOut to find high-tech and other workers. This is employer delegated deception. This goes on daily around the globe in almost all countries, with some regulating it to manage the Fissured Workplace: Why Work Became So Bad for So Many and What Can Be Done to Improve It. It is a clear and present abuse of the market place:

    https://soundcloud.com/user-295952651

    https://youtu.be/G4TN3caBMxg

  14. I worked briefly for Akima, the government contractor which later became best known for firing an employee for giving the finger to Trump while on her own time. While I knew that the company did not have a great reputation, I was suckered and lied to when they hired me and desperate for job with benefits. It was a horrible place to work. The only employees who seemed happy were those rewarded for kissing the boss’s rear.

    I wrote negative reviews on Glassdoor and Indeed but they were both deleted around the same time most other bad reviews disappeared and a number of glowing reviews appeared. Some even wrote positive things about management and the CEO. Shortly before I left, the HR Dept. hired someone to be an image doctor for hiring so my guess is that they paid off Glassdoor, Indeed and who knows what else.

  15. Hi everyone. I am having trouble with this. Is anyone really that gullible to trust this type of site with their career choices solely, or even partially with out checking further about a company? What type of individual makes decisions according to data that can be easily corrupted or manipulated?
    Please don’t answer…lots!
    .

    • @Tony: Who believes and relies on such “data” is one thing. The fact that Glassdoor operates as it does with apparent impunity, and the fact that thousands of companies spend money on it is another — I’d argue bigger — thing.

      The impact on employment and the economy is yet another thing.

      To extend your question, What type of employer makes decisions and spends money to be a part of this?

    • Unfortunately people do, including those new to searching for jobs. My daughter and her boyfriend are both in college and searching for work.

      They’ve applied to multiple jobs through Indeed and have not received one response. They’ve had similar problems trying to find an apartment and other work through Craigslist – scams galore. They are both young and trusted what was being posted, but became suspicious after some of the offers were too good to be true.
      Both now realize it’s best to use those sites as fishing expeditions, then go to companies offering the jobs in person, finding out how to apply for the jobs, if they are available, and doing their own research. It’s been a frustrating and time consuming process. Both are now interviewing with a legitimate company connected to their college after I did some initial research online and found positions not posted on job boards.

  16. I receive several emails from Glassdoor daily. I started wondering about the quality of the information I was getting from them some time ago. Not necessarily about the company ratings, though. My questions were about the so-called “High Paying” text that would accompany many of the job listings.

    What Glassdoor calls “high paying” is all over the map—even within a single job listing email. When I see that text and see a salary ranges where my typical response is `yeah, right’. I often get an email that allegedly contains job listings that I’m a good candidate for has one “high paying” job have a salary range of something like $105K-$145K (often that range is much greater) and another job listing for a comparable job with the same “high paying” blurb with a salary of $40K-$60K. And to make things more confusing, Glassdoor sends out emails letting you know that you’re supposedly worth $xxK but floods your Inbox with job ads that are paying well below that. (They must assume that if you haven’t unsubscribed by now that, maybe, you’re desperate.)

    After the company and CEO rankings (which I don’t pay much attention to, anyway) and the wild salary estimates, by biggest beef with their business model is their sending emails full of job for which I’d be a poor candidate. Heck, if *I* were a hiring manager I’d never consider me for many of the ads that Glassdoor seems to thing I’m ideal for. I can imagine that others tire of reading through the listings that a good recruiter would know not to contact you about.

  17. I work somewhere currently where a negative review was deleted. I didn’t know employers could pay to alter or delete reviews!!
    Fake Phony SCAM!!

  18. Shocking….negative reviews removed! I didn’t know employers could pay to delete negative reviews or to edit them either. I don’t use Glassdoor as I’d rather do my own research and preferably get intel about employers from current or former employees. This way, I know the source and can better judge the intel (I hope).

    Reviews aren’t perfect; I see reviews as opinions; everybody has them, and people can agree to disagree on the product or employers reviewed. But what I find despicable are employers who only want glowing, five star reviews and who don’t see anything wrong with getting rid of anything negative or changing a so-so review to a positive review.

    It isn’t just Glassdoor. A few years ago I bought an item online and was so disappointed in the product that I returned it. The company had really gone downhill, and I posted a negative comment online about it. My comment appeared briefly (maybe a day or two, tops), then was removed. Why? I had noticed a few others commented as I did, and their negative reviews were also removed.

    Note to company: instead of sweeping the negative reviews under the rug, why not contact those who gave poor reviews and find out more, then take a good, honest look at the merits of the negative reviews to see if those people were justified. If so, then fix the product!

    The same goes for Glassdoor. Any job hunter with a brain should be suspicious of all of the positive reviews. If Glassdoor really wanted to do what they say they want to do, then leave up the negative reviews. Even the best of companies know there is always room for improvement, and if all you get are glowing reports, then the problems never get fixed. The emperor’s new clothes indeed.

  19. I have a bit of a different take as to why some companies encourage employees to give them great reviews on job sites.

    I worked less than a year for a publicly-held publishing company that is self-insured. In the past 12 years they’ve for the most part quietly “laid” off 1/3 third of their workforce after the board, encouraged by its chair, prior to the economic debacle of 2007, bought a company that put them $1 billion in debt.

    So how do you balance the books? By letting go higher paid, typically older legacy employees with substantial knowledge or who cost more to insure.

    An older coworker, who had prior health issues, was offered the job of a younger male employee (most likely at half the pay given the company’s past antics), but I believe chose a severance. The younger guy was given the boot. He has no idea why he was targeted, but suspects it was because of the cost to insure his family. I believe he was let go for the company to cover for having laid off myself and the older guy, both of whom were over 40.

    This company has a developed a terrible reputation as an employer, both in its layoff practices and how it spends money, with its board approving large bonuses for the chair and other members as it emerged from bankruptcy and refinanced its own self-inflicted debt. $1 million-plus in bonuses that year alone.

    When this company makes its quarterly reports to stockholders its chair talks about how the company’s businesses have great reputations in the communities they serve, which is not true. Nor do they have a good reputation with workers in that industry.

    Two years ago, the reviews for the company on job sites were not that great. Conversations about them on forums are even worse. Recently though, their reviews have vastly improved although employees treatment has not changed. I suspect those glowing reports are related not to employee recruitment, but reputation management for the board look better to its stockholder or potential stockholders.

    It’s ironic in an industry tasked with telling people the truth, that they are not truthful about themselves, nor are they following the best practices standards they require of employees who provide the substance to the products they sell.

    Are companies using these employment websites to market their businesses as great places to work or as reputation management for shareholders? Is their purpose to give themselves 5 stars to improve stock prices? Is this legal for publicly-held companies to do?

    • Lying and cheating have become strategies for doing business. The techniques are touted, praised, promoted, sold and paid for. Entire jobs are created to lie and cheat to make a business more “successful.” There are now “consultants” that will teach your company how to lie and cheat with class and with “plausible deniability.” That’s a new industry itself. Rationalizing and pretending lies and cheating are not really lies and cheating but “business” are now business skills that are cultivated, admired and hired.

      Our economy has become inured to it. It’s gotten to the point where such scofflaws get away with so much lying and cheating that honest businesses decide that to compete they must lie and cheat, or they’ll lose market share.

      Sooner or later, consumers start to compliment themselves for recognizing that “of course everyone’s cheating an lying to get ahead!” They don’t want to appear naive. So they consent to being lied to and cheated — and are proud to be “with it.”

      I say NO. You have to decide what you will say.

  20. Nick

    Compliments on the recent Glassdoor article…another example of the experienced insight, wisdom, research…overall common sense that is routinely provided The Ask Headhunter following. You are spot on, have such a firm grasp of the unfortunate games being played within the search/recruiting/human responsible spaces in business today. Many are out of touch, less skilled, experienced, lazy, often ‘pressing the easy button’, don’t care or just incorrectly undervaluing the impact of the #1 Resource of any business-organization…its Human Resource.

  21. Five years ago I was running a small company with 10 employees. We interviewed someone for a sales position and she turned out to be a crazy person; scary bad. She wrote a psycho review about us on Glassdoor, our only review. At a meeting, I asked our tight-knit team (50% millennial) what we should do. Should they write reviews to counter that? Do we respond somehow? Everyone agreed: meh. It was such a bad review it didn’t seem real and we did nothing about it – that review remained there in its stinky glory.

    I share this because, as an employer, not only did I not feel it represented us, neither did anyone on the team (great morale, high retention, still love all of them!). We weren’t growing fast, so recruiting wasn’t a problem. But finding great people *is* a problem for many companies, Glassdoor *is* a massive resource for many job seekers.

    I completely disagree with being able to take down bad reviews (even my stinky one), but it’s also true that most people won’t write a review without prompting unless they are pissed. When I travel, I receive requests from hotels to review them on TripAdvisor and when I receive great service I do it, because I know those are important for them. I wouldn’t even think to do it without the prompt. BUT – I had spectacularly bad service at a restaurant last year and I immediately went to give them a bad review without any prompting because it felt like my only recourse.

    In summary, I don’t love Glassdoor, but it’s a reality that employers have to deal with. So… I’d love to hear some practical, more genuine ways that employers can leverage Glassdoor. Not all of us employers are evil!

  22. Annete, all of these sites allow you to post a response to these bad reviews.

    An employer who has acknowledged the problem and stated how they will resolve it is a good one.

    Maybe in your case it’s just sorry you felt that way/we disagree.

  23. Glassdoor is now doing radio ads, just like ziprecruiter does. They’re targeting employers to post there jobs on Glassdoor. Unbelieveable.

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