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What to Do When Ex-Employees Damage Your Reputation

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Everybody likes positive feedback. It’s just the way humans work. So, naturally, negative feedback can be a bit nerve-wracking. Especially if you’re a business owner, and it’s coming from an ex-employee. But fret not: there are ways to save your reputation, and here is a step-by-step guide to help you.

How Does It Happen?

Threats to your reputation can come in a variety of ways, but mainly they happen online. After all, that’s the quickest way for your ex-employee to get their opinion heard. 

So on what kind of sites might they put their thoughts? 

The easiest option is to leave bad reviews of your business on websites like Yelp. Before trying new restaurants, for example, people often flock to the Yelp page of their place of choice to determine whether it’s worth going. A bad review here will immediately push away potential customers.

If your business isn’t on Yelp, they might simply resort to Google reviews instead. The first thing that comes up when searching a business on Google is the location, the hours, and two to three reviews.

Often, Google will select two good reviews and one bad or mediocre one, just to highlight all opinions—if your ex-employee’s review is displayed on the front page of your business’s Google search, you’re already two steps behind. 

Another place ex-employees might turn to is social media. Twitter, especially, is known for getting information around as quickly as possible—should your ex-employee put their opinion there, it will instantaneously be circled around to your potential clients. 

A subtle advantage of social media is the people behind the usernames. While a Google review is seen by many, social media allows other people to circulate your ex-employee’s post and even respond to it.

Word gets around quickly here, and many people take sides immediately whenever there seems to be an argument forming. Because of this, social media is dangerous territory for negative opinions to be floating about. 

Both of these methods of damaging your reputation pertain mostly to your customers, but ex-employees can try to dent your corporate reputation, too.

Bad reviews on websites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor will deter potential new employees, preventing you from growing your company. These posts damage your personal reputation more than that of your company from the customer’s perspective, so they require a different kind of solution. 

The final kind of reputation damage an ex-employee can do is taking matters into their own hands. Leaving bad reviews and social media posts helps them voice their concerns, but they rely on other people taking their points at face value to detract from your company. These kinds of damages, you can seek out and repair. But if employees are angry enough, they might hit your company directly. 

Take, for example, the case of AshleyMadison. This Canadian dating app is marketed specifically towards people in committed relationships looking to have affairs. Naturally, then, information secrecy is essential. But one former employee, disgruntled, hacked the company’s database and put the profiles of nearly 37 million people at risk of exposure. Such a direct hit to the company’s core value of secrecy is far more damaging than a bad review. 

However, none of these examples are intended to frighten you—there are ways for you to prepare and protect yourself against these reputation scandals and ways to repair them if they do happen. 

Preventative Measures

In order to make things easier for yourself, it’s best to input some preventative measures before and while letting employees go. 

  1. Pay attention to their concerns. If employees continually voice their concerns about a particular aspect of your business, consider addressing it or finding a way to compromise with them. Any bone they pick with your company now could turn into reputation damage if they are fired. 
  2. Give them notice. Catching somebody by surprise, especially with their termination, is never a good way to leave on good terms. Take the time to sit down with them and explain the situation, and give them ample time to put their future plans together. 
  3. Be firm, but be kind. Hearing about one’s termination is never an easy thing to bear, so it’s best that you do it in good standing. Be kind to your (now ex-) employee, even if you don’t think they deserve it. From a legal standpoint, the less you say, the less can be held against you if it escalates. 
  4. Be generous with severance. A reasonable severance package, combined with a kind notice, could be enough to prevent future damage to your reputation. However, if you feel the need, including a nondisclosure agreement as part of the severance package is smart. This prevents the ex-employee from saying anything you don’t want, and they get a generous sum of money for their trouble. 
  5. Always keep yourself covered. Consider talking to your legal counsel, or consulting a reputation management company like Repute PR, to ensure you’re covered if anything does arise from the termination. It will make any necessary legal troubles far easier to deal with in the future. 

Even with these preventative measures, however, some damage might slip through the cracks. What do you do if a bad review is already out there or an ex-employee’s claim is making its way through Twitter? Don’t worry—you still have options. 

Two Types of Bad Press

Figuring out how to deal with negative backlash to your reputation online is an intricate process, but the basic first steps are deciding what kind of backlash it is. 

There are two main kinds of backlash, and the first comes purely from anger. Largely an extrapolation of fact, this kind of ‘bad press’ is the ex-employee letting off steam. They aren’t voicing any legitimate concerns. Their comments are mainly filled with upset words, not upsetting feedback. So, these are easier to deal with. 

The second kind, however, holds some value. Such reviews might come from ex-employees who have mentioned these concerns in the past but feel that not enough has been done about them. For instance, if they’ve discussed wanting to decrease the company’s carbon emissions, that could become a topic of review. 

Though the ex-employee might be angry, that is not their driving force. These opinions, then, are more difficult to scrub off the internet because they hold some weight. Especially in social media circles, opinions that want you to change your company’s model somehow will circulate more. 

What Can I Do? 

Your most likely first option in both cases is to get the review or post removed. If it does not voice a legitimate issue that you can respond to, there’s no reason for it to continue making its rounds through the channels of the Internet. Posts on social media can be reported as harassment—if its language goes far enough, you could even argue that the post is defamatory. 

Reviews are slightly more difficult to remove because most reviewing platforms value showcasing all opinions. However, you can report the review and ask for it to be taken down. This guide to removing Google reviews can help you figure out the steps. 

If the review or post contains the second kind of backlash outlined above, however, deleting it may not be in your best interest. This could be read as the company trying to cover up a legitimate viewpoint.

Instead, try responding to the comments and see if they hold any weight. Make sure to keep it professional when writing your responses—again, anything you say can be used against you.

Express thanks that they’ve brought their concern to your attention, and then outline what your company is doing about it. If you’ve decided not to follow through with their concern, give them a legitimate reason as to why not. This will help boost your image of caring about your clients’ and employees’ concerns. 

If you cannot respond to the review or get it removed, your third option is to flood your company with positive reviews instead. With more and more positive reviews of your service online, people are less likely to pay attention to the one drastic negative comment.

You can do this by implementing a short survey as a part of your service to your customers—if they genuinely enjoy their experience with you, they won’t mind filling out a quick form to give you that feedback. 

If you need additional help controlling and mitigating the damage to you and your business’s reputation, Repute PR may be able to help.

In the Long Term

Of course, continue to keep an eye out for new negative reviews and deal with them as we’ve outlined above. But it’s important to check in with those you’ve decided to respond to as well.

Let us take the example of decreasing carbon emissions again. Make a point of periodically updating your client base with your progress in this vein, for instance, when you’ve installed solar panels as your main energy source.

Be sure to also respond to the comment that brought it to your attention to let them know you’ve taken their concern seriously. 

Too Much to Handle?

Keeping up with every review on the Internet is exhausting, especially if you have other pressing matters to handle within your business. It could be worth hiring a reputation management company like Repute PR to handle the bad press for you. 

Our team consists of professional writers, attorneys, and consultants, all of whom can help you respond to bad reviews. While our attorneys and consultants can keep you legally covered, our writers will help you draft responses to any reviews you wish to take seriously. Our services can be completely tailored to what you need. 

And it’s never too late to reach out for help. Even if you’ve suffered a crisis at the hands of an ex-employee, Repute PR can put your reputation back together. Our crisis management programs will help you remove bad reviews and build back your confidence through whisper campaigns and friendly media. No matter how bad things seem to have gotten, you’ll be in good hands. 

What feedback from employees and customers have you used to improve?

How to Fix Your Restaurant’s Bad Reputation

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Dealing with Criticism

Negative criticism is inevitable, and it’s important to learn how to deal with it properly. However, not all negative criticism is there simply to discourage you (more on that later); it can be necessary feedback that’ll help you improve. 

Constructive criticism is there with the intention to help you improve and it should be viewed as such. Look for any recurring elements (i.e., complaints about the service during a specific shift, customers regularly disliking a certain dish, something about the atmosphere or cleanliness, etc.) and decide what needs to be improved upon going forward.

Given the anonymity allowed via social media, there will be many individuals who will take that opportunity to be as unhelpful, hurtful, and vitriolic for one reason or another. Unfortunately, these kinds of responses may be inevitable. What is important is not allowing these responses to get to you and being able to maintain your composure.

Here are a number of tips for your consideration:

Keeping a Cool Head

It’s always important to remain free of bias and be impartial when evaluating your reputation. Getting clouded by impulsiveness will prevent you from being able to make proper judgments which run the possibility of worsening your establishment’s reputation further. Having a plan can help you keep that head cool and Repute PR can help with that.

Responding to Criticism

Responding to criticism is a good idea, but it must be done in a civil manner. Learn to figure out how to break down the negative reception in more practical terms and use that as the basis for improvement.

Best to also remember that as a business owner, the reputation of your restaurant affects more than just you. It also affects each of your employees and business partners. A business is not a monolith or product of a single person’s efforts and talents. As such, you should keep the livelihoods of everyone you work within the mind in how you conduct yourself online and offline.

Be Honest and Have Integrity

You must be willing to take an honest look at yourself, your employees, and your business.  No improvement can come if there is no honesty or self-awareness.  It might be hard to acknowledge problems in the same way it can be hard to acknowledge negative criticism, but those problems cannot be resolved until they are dealt with properly. It is imperative that you be willing to maintain a sense of integrity as well. Without some level of integrity, you won’t be able to maintain positive relations or trust.

Always Strive to Improve

It seems like a no-brainer, but you must always be looking to improve instead of resting on your laurels and falling into complacency. Just because things might be going well doesn’t mean they will always stay that way. There will always be some level of hardship or competition, and staying vigilant is imperative.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” or so the saying goes. But fixing and improving aren’t necessarily the same thing. Consider the feedback you’re currently getting and see if there is anything you may not have realized, and use that as a jumping-off point. Similarly, you can also look at the feedback your competitors are getting and see if any of it applies to you or can be used to further improve your reputation.

If it seems like you’ve thought of everything, diversifying your network and portfolio is an excellent way to open the door to new opportunities. By having newer and different perspectives around, you can find newer and different solutions than what you may have thought of before. Everyone has something to bring to the table, and it is the leader’s job to make the best use of that something.

Using Social Media

Social Media is an excellent tool for connecting with all sorts of people. This can be used to expand your network and thus expand your capabilities and consumer base. Just as whatever happens inside the restaurant can affect its reputation, whatever happens on social media can do the same.

It’s imperative that you understand how the world is connected via social media and keep that in mind because whatever happens in the restaurant can end up on social media and spread quickly. The reverse is also true; a good social media presence can help bring in more customers.

A few different social media platforms that can serve as helpful tools for you:

  • LinkedIn – for searching out and hiring potential employees and partners;
  • YouTube – Good for content creation and advertising;
  • Twitter – For conversation, advertising;
  • Yelp – A crowdsourced review site on various businesses;
  • Facebook – Platform for advertising, recommendation, platform for discussion.

Reaching Out to People

When reaching out to people, especially if someone posts a negative review or comment that you’d like to address, remember to be civil. When addressing criticism, it is important to address their points and argument and not to attack their person or character. Instead of simply denying or refuting their points, use those points for feedback and consider offering them an alternative menu item or free meal assuming they are reasonable about their points. Only reasonable people can be reasoned with after all.

No matter how unreasonable one may seem, sometimes a, “Thank you for bringing this to our attention,” can go a long way to quell the negativity. Try seeking out someone you can trust such as ReputePR and ask them to give you an honest assessment of your work.

Getting Reviews Removed

On review sites like Google Reviews or Yelp, you can have particularly harmful reviews taken down or marked as spam if they aren’t constructive or accurate. However, sites like Google will review each claim, so it’s wise not to abuse this. When addressing a reasonable negative review, it’s important not to take a combative approach as that will only make the reviewer less likely to change their tune. Consider showing humility and apologizing for the issue. Maybe even offer them a free meal on their next visit.

Don’t Pay for Fake Reviews

It should go without saying, but paying for fake Yelp reviews is a terrible idea. Not only is it against guidelines, but people will find out, and it will be held against you. Yelp reviews do hold a considerable degree of influence over a restaurant’s reputation, and taking advantage of them will only end poorly for that very reason. 

What you should focus on instead is on improving your services and fixing your mistakes. Do not mistake the symptom (bad reviews) for the cause (some problem with your restaurant or business).

Identify the Root of the Problem

Once you’ve figured out the problem, figure out what caused the problem in order to fix it. If the problem is related to a certain menu item, consider revising the recipe or inspect what it is your chefs are doing. If the problem is related to a specific location, then it may be best to reassess that location’s operations. Understanding whether or not the problem stems from a more systemic or operational issue is important to differentiate because it may require a substantial change in how you run the business going forward. 

Consider this: problems are like weeds. If you let them be, they will keep spreading beyond your ability to control them, and they won’t go away until you pull them up by the roots. Once again, finding a third party to act as a fresh set of eyes can be a very useful tool.

Maintaining a Positive Online Image

Maintaining a positive public image will require constant diligence and research. Not only will you have to maintain a welcoming atmosphere within the restaurant, but you also have to maintain a positive social media presence. The current social media landscape is one that rewards constant, consistent engagement. Consider using your social media account to humanize your brand to present a positive image. Consider creating a persona much like Wendy’s Twitter or allowing your staff and customers to participate just like Kohls Inc. This works as an excellent avenue to connect with your customers and make them more likely to return and recommend your restaurant to their friends and families.

Remember to be Earnest and Sincere

Whether it is reaching out and responding to critics, connecting with your customers, or even communicating with your own employees, honesty is the best policy. Remember to communicate your intentions clearly and concisely. Giving feedback is as important as receiving it. Remember to be as impartial and level-headed when offering criticism.

People are not to be treated as a means to an end and shouldn’t be treated that way. Take care of the customers, and the business will take care of itself. People will respond better when they know you have their best interests in mind. As having a social media presence will bring you closer to your customers, it also means that customers will be more likely to respond to you more as if you were a close acquaintance.

Market Research: Do Your Homework

Times are changing and will keep changing. Part of being diligent involves market research. Not just researching reviews, but you need to take current and upcoming trends into mind as well. Not just what are your competitors doing and what are people saying about them, but what are people saying in general.

Any good business person will be quick to adapt to the times, and restaurant owners should be no different. Knowing how to go with the flow and anticipate change will get you through the tough times. A business exists to provide a service for its customers. Always be on the lookout for new ways on how best that service can be provided.

Getting People to Come Back for More

Keeping people coming in sounds like a no-brainer, but how do you get them to come back? The best way is to make it easier and more rewarding to come back to the restaurant. Changing up the menu every now and then (i.e.having certain menu items available during the holiday season) or having some kind of loyalty program (such as allowing for a free meal after getting ten holes punched) can serve as an excellent way to reward regular and loyal customers while offering an incentive for becoming one.

While managing a social media presence, the best way to go about it is to use it as an avenue to further customer engagement outside the restaurant. A number of people already have social media accounts they engage with frequently, and it shouldn’t be difficult for them to use their accounts to engage with your brand as well. The key is to create avenues between the customers and further engagement. The easier and more rewarding it is to engage with your brand, the more customers will be willing to come back and spread the word about how much fun your brand is.

How Repute PR Can Help You

Sometimes, the path forward isn’t clear, and you’re at wit’s end. Hiring a reputation company. ReputePR can help clear that path.  ReputePR can research your brand and figure out what exactly you need to do in order to improve that reputation. ReputePR can help remove negative material, assist in improving search engine optimization, and use media relations outreach and online affiliate programs to help promote your best moments.

Repute PR is a results-driven PR and Reputation Management Agency.  We believe in making sure our clients excel in what they do.  We treat our clients’ bottom line as if it were our own and deal with their crises with an all-hands-on-deck approach and an ownership attitude that lets our clients thrive in any environment.

Repute PR does this by bringing an array of talent and expertise to the table.  We galvanize teams that understand our clients’ industries.  Our firm is composed of professionals with expertise in business, law, journalism, press relations, campaign management, marketing SEO, and branding.”