Why you can't rely on company reviews
Updated: Feb 8
I recently read an alarming piece about the toxic culture and leadership at a well-known brand. While I read it and was thinking WTF the entire time, I also wasn't that surprised.
Luckily, I've had mostly really amazing work experiences over my 16-year career and have had managers that I still look up to, however, I've had a few really toxic experiences too. And the toxic ones always stemmed from leadership that, while smart and skilled (well, most of the time), treated people pretty awful, thus created a suboptimal work culture to truly thrive in.
Beyond my own personal experiences, more and more, I'm hearing from my friends and former colleagues (and coaching clients) about how toxic leadership is where they work, too.
What's interesting about the brand that was mentioned in this news piece is that on their Glassdoor page, they have a 4 out of 5-star rating. If you aren't aware of what Glassdoor is, Glassdoor is a website where current and former employees anonymously review companies and also allows users to anonymously submit and view salaries as well as search and apply for jobs on its platform. Anyway, 4 out of 5 stars is pretty dang good!
Interestingly, a few months ago, I was catching up with a former colleague of mine, and this brand (that was in the recent news piece) came up. I asked her if she knew anyone there, and she mentioned she did and heard the culture was terrible.
But by reading the Glassdoor reviews and seeing that 4 out of 5-star rating, you might now know that! You might blindly take it as face value and accept a role at a place that is clearly having major cultural issues and is lead by some folks with not-so-great managerial skills.
I've also had my own personal experience in the past with a company with above a 4-star rating (almost a perfect 5) on Glassdoor, but it was NOT that beautiful picture it was painted out to be.
Also, when employees exit a company (whether they resign or are let go for any reason), they many times have to sign legal documents stating they will never negatively review the company on Glassdoor, social media, and anywhere else. I also know this because, in the past, I've had to sign such documentation. This means that, even if I want to give a place a negative review, I can't! So what happens is, everyone else out there in the world doesn't have the full story of the experiences of both current and former employees. This, in turn, makes these online reviews completely unreliable.
So instead of relying on Glassdoor reviews and other online review boards, do this instead…
GET THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM PEOPLE WHO USED TO OR CURRENTLY WORK THERE.
And no, not the people who are interviewing you. You need to find a way to connect with others there - whether through a direct connection or someone who knows someone who can make an intro for you. This is super important. And ideally, you can get more than one opinion. In the past, I've asked someone for a quick coffee (on me), or at the least, a quick phone convo since people are so busy. I find that usually, people are willing to meet and answer questions - you just need to ask.
And if you have no connection to anyone at the company, then ask the interviewer if you can speak to some other folks at the company.
Whenever I'm coaching someone who is looking for a new job, I always recommend connecting with others at the company and getting as much information as possible, outside of the standard interview panel and process.
If you are looking for a new job in this new decade, keep this in mind! And if you know someone who is currently job hunting, pass along this quick tidbit - it could give them just the inside info they need as they decide on their next job.