Former Employees Making Your Life More Difficult?

photo - ex-employeesThis can happen in many ways but a recent Inc. magazine article brings up the fact that statements and opinions of former employees can damage your company’s reputation and make it more difficult to attract good job candidates. Just as online reviews of products and services (even lawyers) have multiplied across the internet, so have reviews of employers.

In the article J.T. O’Donnell describes a business owner having a hard time finding candidates for job openings, with three people backing out of interviews. With openings unfilled he was having a hard time meeting his clients’ needs. O’Donnell learned his company had restructured two years earlier resulting lay offs. Some of those let go used social media to blast the company and its management.

Just as you may do online research on people you’re considering hiring, those looking for work also may do online research of possible employers. These job seekers, especially ones whose skills are in high demand, may be very picky if they read things they don’t like. The job candidate may discount one or two truly negative reviews as being written by malcontents, but if multiple, consistent negative statements about your company or management are found they may be given some weight.

O’Donnell warns of three ways your well of job candidates could be poisoned by former employees,

  • Glassdoor: This website solicits ex-employees to anonymously share their experiences. The website advertises job openings and gives applicants the ability to research potential employers which are rated from one to five stars. As an example the A. Times has a 3.5 average from reviewers. Is your company listed? What rating do you get?
  • LinkedIn: It’s the top networking tool in the world. With a few clicks, a job candidate can search for and find your former employees, making it easier for candidates to get their off-the-record thoughts on their former employer.
  • Social Media: Just as angry clients and customers can lash out on Facebook or Twitter, so can ex-employees. Search your company name and find out who is saying what about your business.

O’Donnell suggests the best way to deal with this is to take your brand as an employer just as seriously as your brand for your product or service. She suggests you not shy away, that you take charge of it, publicize it and be transparent. Top talent doesn’t expect perfection but they would appreciate openness and honesty.

How do you prevent bad reviews from happening or at least reduce the chances they’ll be made? You could give your employees a contract stating a condition of employment is not disparaging your company. There are limits to this restriction, such as not including complaints to government agencies. Non-disparagement language could also be used as part of a severance agreement, along the lines of the person will get a certain number of weeks’ pay in exchange for not disparaging your company. If the contract is broken the ex-employee would owe your company the actual damages or a certain amount of money (whichever is more).

This is not a cure all, considering online reviews of employers can be anonymous, but it may give a disgruntled ex-employee second thoughts before writing a scathing Glassdoor review or responding to a LinkedIn message from a job applicant.

If you are having problems because of former employees or want to try to prevent them, contact our office so we can talk about your situation, applicable laws and how you can protect your business from unhappy ex-employees.