Is not being anonymous on Glassdoor really a bad thing?

If you didn’t see it this week Glassdoor got some bad news from the U.S. Court of Appeals:

Glassdoor, an online job-rating site, must unmask anonymous users who posted damaging reviews about a company under investigation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco ruled Wednesday.

A federal grand jury in Arizona served the Mill Valley company with a subpoena in March, demanding the names and IP addresses of reviewers who wrote on the site that a Department of Veterans Affairs contractor was committing fraud.

 The unnamed company, which administers two veterans health care programs, is under investigation by the federal government for “alleged fraud and abuse.” In court documents, the federal government maintained that there is no other way for it to identify the employees who claim the company was committing the fraud.

Glassdoor, which allows people to post anonymous comments about what it’s like to work at a company, said that unmasking the reviewers would violate its users’ First Amendment rights. But in the Wednesday decision, the court said Glassdoor reviewers have a “limited right to speak anonymously.”

Turns out you can’t go online and destroy someone’s reputation without being held accountable! That’s a very good thing for employers who have for years argued that employees, past employees and people who have never worked there but might have ulterior motives to bash a company online, shouldn’t be allowed to do and say whatever they want without recourse.

You can’t run into a theater and yell ‘fire’! You can’t go online and say a company is committing fraud and not expect to back up those allegations and stand behind them.

My question: Why are we even listening to anonymous feedback, to begin with?

If you had your annual performance review and it was given to you, but you had no idea who it was coming from, would you really listen? “Hey, Tim, we just let anyone in the company make some comments about your performance, hope you like it!” You would totally discredit anything that was said you didn’t agree with because you have no idea where it’s coming from.

Employee reputation sites, like Glassdoor, are basically doing the same thing. Now, if someone put their name and title behind those comments, we all would actually listen to those words with a much more credible ear. Would less people leave comments if they knew it wouldn’t be anonymous? Yes. Would it make the feedback less valuable? No.

I’m a big fan of believing in what someone says when they put their name and personal reputation to the words they want to share. I’m much less of a fan when someone wants to hide behind being anonymous to give me that same feedback.

Okay, I get it, people are fearful of retribution if they say something negative. Can you imagine how that would look if you said something negative and your organization fired you?! That would be even a bigger slam to the organization’s reputation.

One issue I see with anonymous reputations sites moving forward is the whole Google for Jobs schema. GFJ has said that a company’s reputation matters, so they will now include your ‘reputation’ into their algorithm in ranking your jobs. Which means anonymous feedback is going to impact how well your jobs perform on Google’s search results. That sucks!

Do you really want some ex-employee who sucked and got fired, impacting your Google for Jobs search results!? Heck no! It makes no sense that any organization thinks that is a good thing. I say take away anonymity on reputation sites and then hold me accountable to my reputation. Right now, the current system is too flawed in allowing misinformation to be public.

So, I know I’m taking a minority stance on this issue, but tell me why you believe employer reputation sites should allow anonymous reviews?

5 thoughts on “Is not being anonymous on Glassdoor really a bad thing?

  1. Hi Tim,

    I know it kind of sounds sensible “why can you go online and destroy someone’s reputation without being held accountable” – but I don’t really think it work quite like that.

    I’ve spent years pouring over my own company’s Glassdoor and other’s and in that time I’ve analysed hundreds of reviews. The truth is that very very few, if any, are fraudulent and made up. The number is so small it is easily dwarfed by the true and correct ones. The truth is simply that the truth often hurts.

    It’s common for leaders to think of Glassdoor as a channel for the enemy but it’s not true and it’s not helpful to think of it in that way – Glassdoor is a channel for your own employees, and people who were once your own employees to speak up and tell you the world as they see it. Rather than thinking of people as those who “sucked and got fired”, I think of everyone on there as people we interviewed, put through recruitment, spent a heap on training and induction and then trusted with our clients and products. Yes sometimes it doesn’t work out and sometimes we pissed them off and made them angry, but what happened is true.

    In my mind, Glassdoor is an enormously powerful, and most often untapped, tool for CEO’s to connect with their front line, listen and do three things : 1. Listen and learn to what is going on, 2. correct misunderstandings occasionally and 3. apologise for when the company didn’t treat someone like they should.

    In even the best cultures, some people will be afraid to speak up without anonymity and that its a problem for true leader who care about the performance of their business. Anonymity isn’t a curse, it’s a gift – by helping people find their voice, they can help leaders and CEO’s by giving them valuable information and insight that they otherwise wouldn’t have.


  2. Its a power thing. Employers hold almost all of the power pre and post hire. Reviews give candidates insight they otherwise don’t have, and if the reviewer has to be public, those reviews simply won’t be there.

  3. Nog sure what the culture is like on this in the US, but in the Netherlands there is another reason for anonimity than direct retribution. People who are negative about former employers tend to get hired a lot less. Companies fear they will get negative about them too after they leave

  4. Can you imagine if you leave some negative feedback and how that could affect your ranking as a candidate to all future opportunities? This ranking thing can work both ways. If you do have a legitimate complaint you could basically be hurting yourself by openly expressing it.

    It’s easy to discredit anonymous claims as you stated. There is little risk to both parties really. In a non-anon only environment I think the risk will be heavily skewed towards the individual rather than the corporate entity.

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