7/27/2015 | Chuck Leddy

Glassdoor reviews can damage your middle market company's retention and recruiting efforts. We live in an age of social media where sharing and transparency are paramount values. Like it or not, your employees will be going online and writing reviews about the good, the bad and the ugly of working for your firm.

If Glassdoor reviews offer constructive feedback, discuss them with your employees and try to make a change.

Want to read what employees are saying? Go to Glassdoor.com and search for your company. You'll be able to read reviews, which affect your reputation in the job market and hence hamper or help your human resources (HR) efforts. Here's a big question: Should you respond to negative reviews?

Some Considerations

Glassdoor encourages companies to set up a free employer account with which to respond to employee reviews. You should have one person in communications or HR respond on behalf of your middle market company.

"If you feel a review is incorrect or contains false or damaging information, however, feel free to flag it and our content team will take a second look at it," explains Glassdoor. The review can be taken down or edited if applicable.

You should immediately respond to a negative review when it contains something factually false or intentionally misleading. Be sure not to attack the person, but do answer or correct their assertions. Personal attacks make any company look worse because they show pettiness and defensiveness. Glassdoor offers guidance on how companies should craft responses: "We believe in being professional, saying thank you, addressing specific issues, being authentic and utilizing your reviews to fix problems."

Being defensive never works. Ask a Manager blogger Alison Green writes, "A lot of employers do it really poorly — replying to critical reviews with canned, inauthentic-sounding pablum (or worse, defensiveness), or replying to positive reviews with such chirpy marketing-speak that it casts doubt on the authenticity of the positive reviews themselves. In those cases, they'd be better off not responding at all. Some companies also weigh in on every single review, which I also think is a bad idea. It comes across as saying 'we don't trust employees and applicants to talk about us amongst themselves.'"

Be Constructive

Glassdoor says companies can encourage employees to post reviews, but they can't pay or otherwise motivate them to do so positively. If the site believes that a business is paying for or encouraging explicitly good reviews, those posts are subject to removal. Be careful here.

The site even encourages CEOs to write responses to negative reviews. Again, a constructive tone is the way to go. For example, say a disgruntled employee complains that your company doesn't offer enough detailed direction about what workers need to do. If your company has a culture where employees are expected to take initiative and be self-starters, emphasize that in your response by saying, "We expect our talented people to take initiative." Another example: If your middle market company promotes an internal culture of competition around financial bonuses, it's OK to state that in response to an employee who feels undervalued because his or her results are below expectations. You can say, "We like to create a competitive internal climate, and if you don't like that sort of culture, you may not fit here." If employees can express how they don't fit with your values, then you have the right to do exactly the same thing.

Fix What's Broken

When a negative review notes that something is not working in your middle market company, respond by expressing your willingness and intention to fix it, and also offer a time frame.

"If you see a lot of reviews complaining about the same things," writes marketing expert Laura Lake, "find out where the breakdown is happening. Is it in the recruitment process or after the hire date? Knowing this will help in clearing up any issues." In this case, the negative review can function as a positive call to action by the employer, who should then thank the reviewer for exposing the malfunction.

Has an employee or prospective hire ever expressed concern over Glassdoor reviews? How have you responded to or addressed the review? Tell us by commenting below.

Boston-based Chuck Leddy is an NCMM contributor and a freelance reporter who contributes regularly to The Boston Globe and Harvard Gazette. He also trains Fortune 500 executives in business-communication skills as an instructor for EF Education. Circle him on Google+.