How To Handle Negative Employee Reviews Like a Pro

Manager coaching employees

Are you dealing with a backlog of bad reviews about specific employees in your company? Are you grappling with HR issues that seem to keep your staff from doing the best they can?

Whether the reviews are true or false, bad reviews can wreak havoc. Whether the employee enjoys working at your company or not, it can be challenging to start fresh.

If your HR staff is dealing with the fallout from bad reviews, your Monday could have just become a nightmare.

Take an objective approach to get a handle on the state of affairs. You don’t have to complain, gripe, and moan about bad reviews – not when you have a healthy and swift alternative.

Be Objective: Identify Commonalities

Let’s explore a few examples. The names and details have been changed.

  • Suzy got a scathing review. She was accused of being unhelpful, insensitive, and “the worst customer service rep” this customer had ever encountered.
  • Teddy got an equally awful review. He was called, “an incompetent idiot, who shouldn’t be allowed to be online.”
  • Maxine got a horrid review. She was termed, “unable to speak English and delivering unsatisfactory responses in the slowest possible manner.”

What do these complaints have in common?

While they each seem unrelated, they have a common thread. The employee was preoccupied with other issues. The customer did not feel heard, listened to, or understood.

It’s entirely possible that the customer was just having an awful day. Maybe they were just laid-off. Perhaps there was a family emergency, or their only child was sick. As HR professionals, we know: there is always more to the story. You still have to deal with negative customer reviews.

Similarly, the employee could have encountered unexpected circumstances. Maybe they suddenly got an eviction notice. Perhaps they got an unfavorable medical diagnosis. Possibly, it was combined anxiety from COVID-19, wildfires, and rumors of downsizing.

As an HR professional, you know that there is more going on than meets the eye. You know that it’s essential to treat each person as a whole human being. Every customer complaint has more than one angle. That’s why the first step is to identify commonalities. Do some deeper investigations into the possible causes for the complaint.

While you can’t control the customer, you can enable the employees to do their best job.

Be Swift: Have a Rapid Response

Responding rapidly is key for containing the issue. First, address the customer complaint promptly. As our culture is changing and evolving, consumers are used to a swift resolution of issues.

If this hasn’t already happened, make this the first action. Listen to the customer. Explore satisfactory outcomes. Go above and beyond.

By taking the customer’s complaints seriously – and addressing their needs quickly, you can go a long way towards resolving the issue. You may not be able to eliminate the negative review. But, you could transform the problem into an opportunity.

Next, rapidly respond to the employee. If you can decipher a personal reason, support their need for time off, a break, or coaching. If the issue is more systemic, such as poor networking or poor-quality technology, resolve this immediately.

Further, take a rapid response to address the emotional reactions that may have emerged. You may find that an immediate answer to a highly charged emotional reaction is helpful.

Be Active: Have A Clear Plan of Action

As an HR professional, you know that there is more to be done. While the immediate investigation and response are crucial, your job is not over.

Many HR departments rely on personal interviews, check-ins, and performance reviews. This helps HR stay in touch with each employee and their evolving needs. The findings of these interactions may inspire your team to initiate an organization-wide program.

For instance, as more teams are working remotely, many employees need to have help with home-office setup, creating work-life balance, and dealing with issues of isolation. While working from home initially seemed attractive, it also carried some new problems such as lack of boundaries, loss of community, and loss of social support.

Moving forward, HR teams are looking at the impact of hybrid working arrangements. This may impact how employees perceive an imbalance of power between people working from home and those at the organization’s headquarters.

In terms of employee reviews, this can also affect how willing people are to share negative reviews, explore personal issues, and work collaboratively.

Be Positive: Focus On Future

HR departments are critical for helping organizations move forward into a positive future. As many businesses are finding, there are new challenges that constantly emerge.

HR is where people can explore their career path, get candid feedback, and learn new skills. If you are noticing common patterns of negative reviews, take a proactive approach.

Be Specific: Resolve Every Complaint

Explore how to resolve the specific complaint. Consider using review business software to resolve each negative review in a consistent manner. Take things a step further, and create a system-wide approach to review management.

Be Proactive: Emphasize Employee Programs

Each employee should have equal access to programs, opportunities, and development courses. Some people may be more inclined to study alone, pursue improvement with virtual media such as video and podcasts. Others may prefer private mentoring, coaching, and in-person training.

Be Unique: Adapt To Match Employee Needs

Respond with unique approaches for each employee. One person may be a visual learner. They may respond quickly to an info map, blueprint, or detailed visual chart explaining the steps of a process. Another employee may be highly auditory. The visual map will be confusing. A third employee could be extremely kinesthetic. They will want to work shoulder-to-shoulder to model a peak performer.

Sum Up

Getting a negative review is not the end. It is a beginning. As an HR professional, use negative reviews to help you support your staff, identify problems, respond quickly, and build systemic solutions.

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