How to Handle Negative Online Reviews from Former Employees

You may expect your clients or customers to review your business online, but when these reviews come from inside your organization – from former employees – they can be shocking, especially if the feedback criticizes your management practices.

Responding to negative employer reviews publicly poses unique challenges and questions. Do we respond? What do we say? What if they counter back? If other people are reading, who will they believe?

If you haven’t had to deal with this yet, you’re bound to run into it someday as your company grows. The best thing you can do to prepare is to start with a plan.

Create a response policy

Have a policy that offers guidelines for responding to negative employer reviews or at least address the situation within your general social media policy. That way, when you’re dealing with a bad review in the heat of the moment, you’ll be less likely to let your emotions get involved.

This policy should identify who is responsible for crafting the response. Should it come from someone in your HR department or customer service? Should it be posted under your company’s name or the name of a specific employee? Also, there may be situations in which your company would choose not to respond. Make sure your policy explains this.

Monitor the Web for reviews

Be sure you’re aware of all the places you could be getting employer reviews. The most popular sites for these include:


Sometimes former employees will even post on, so it doesn’t hurt to check there either. Set up an account on these sites and have emails sent to you when a new comment or discussion is added.

It’s also very important to set up Google Alerts regarding news about your company. People do make remarks on news articles and blog posts, too, so it’s wise to know what’s being said in the comments section. And you may even consider purchasing a more robust brand management tool.

It’s also a good idea to monitor your competitors’ reviews and gain more insight into what resonates with your target employee market.

Look into the problems raised

If the negative review raises issues that you were unaware of, investigate the complaint within your organization before you compose a response. You want your reply to sound informed and concerned so you can remain in control of the situation, and discuss your solution and action plan.

Put on a good face

Respond in a timely manner once you’ve had a chance to analyze and research the complaint. You should address the issue or concern in a direct manner, posting a public reply to the online review. No matter how upsetting it was to read the negative review, remain professional and don’t get defensive in your response.

“Resist the temptation to get into an online war with the person posting the negative review. Instead, try to stay impartial and make course corrections to avoid having similar things said about your company by current employees,” says Roberta Matuson, author of Talent Magnetism: How to Build a Workplace That Attracts and Keeps the Best (2013).

Be personal in your response, too – transparency is best and adds a human voice. Try to empathize with the former employee. Stay as objective as possible, and always offer a solution to the problem.

Look on the bright side

Bad reviews aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Negative reviews can serve as real feedback on how you can improve your business.

“The only positive thing about a negative online review is that it may shake up the organization enough to actually take care of some of the known problems that should have been corrected a long time ago,” Matuson says.

If the employee is bringing up legitimate concerns, let the employee and the site’s audience know you’ve addressed the situation and made efforts to improve it. The employee who made the complaint as well as your future employees will appreciate this – it shows you care enough to listen to them and are willing to fix the problem.

Be proactive

Take the initiative with your employment brand by establishing a strong employee-centric culture. Most people just want to be heard, so if you communicate with them and address issues before they escalate, then your employees are less likely to vent on an open forum.

“There should never be any surprises. By that I mean, you should have a good sense of what the climate is like in your organization so that you can manage areas of concern before they wind up going public,” Matuson says.

One way to do this is by conducting an annual employee satisfaction survey. Learn from the comments and feedback. If there is a trend in the negative comments, then it’s definitely something that needs to be looked at and re-evaluated to prevent further negative comments.

But being proactive doesn’t mean that you should require or even ask current employees to post positive reviews for you. Asking for positive comments may help your “score” on these sites, but it will definitely make your profiles look tampered with. Also, this request may make your current employees feel uneasy. It’s best to allow review sites to remain organic.

Recap: Principles to remember


  • Have a response plan
  • Stay professional and impartial
  • Empathize with the employee and offer a solution


  • Be defensive in your responses
  • Miss the learning opportunity that negative reviews provide
  • Ask current employees for positive reviews

Your company’s reputation influences more than you think. Learn how Insperity Recruiting Services can help you build a strong employment brand that makes it easier for you to recruit and retain candidates that fit your culture.

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3 responses to “How to Handle Negative Online Reviews from Former Employees


Ive had dealings with HR people in the past…whether its bullying from an out of control boss ie swearing yelling abusively saying your not entitled to sick leave (even with doctors cert) critical of your work every day,making sure you dont get any promotion even though your work performance is of high standard So pray tell why do people in HR cover or sweep under the carpet this type of behavior when someone has to complain?It must be a conflict of interest…obviously your going to be on the employers side…why not they are paying you.So the 64 million dollar question is why on earth would any former employee be libel for posting a negative review of this said employer online or otherwise?Surely they are just warning others of a bully in the workplace..a condition that is not being addressed..

Lisa Schmidtke

Great article! Very helpful and I can now give the proper advice to my clients.

Insperity Blog

Hi Lisa, Thank you for your feedback! Great to hear you enjoyed the read and found it helpful as well.

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