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