Those with one eye on the world may have seen an interesting case played out in the US courts this week, originating in little ol’ Aotearoa. Kiwi Toymaking giant Zuru, with revenues of over US$1bn, have won the right to be told the identities of those who have given them crappy reviews on US based workplace review platform “Glassdoor”. This marks a first, with Glassdoor successfully defending 100 attempts made my employers to get them to spill the beans on which employees, both former and current, have badmouthed them. Incredibly, it looks like a csv file full of employee names (and some no-doubt fake ones) will be arriving in the inbox of that slightly weird brother and sister who make water balloons for a living. Like busting a spy ring, or outing commies in 1950s America, the water balloon-yielding answer to The Carpenters will then sue these people for defamation in a New Zealand court. Incredible stuff. More on the story here.

Strangely, for someone in my line of work, I’ve never visited Glassdoor. And now I think about it, in my 17 years of recruitment, I’ve not once had a candidate mention a client’s Glassdoor rating. Here in New Zealand, we just “know someone”. And knowing someone sure trumps any online review. I like the concept of what Glassdoor do, but I also assumed that we all knew that people chat shit online. There are, certainly in a tiny country like New Zealand, much better ways of getting the dirt on a prospective employer. However, and here’s where Zuru may have dropped a bollock, their sulky attitude has for the first time driven my eyeballs to their Glassdoor page. And this is where Glassdoor has had the last laugh. At the top of Zuru’s Glassdoor profile, above where we shall soon see carefully curated 5 star reviews, is a note from the folks at Glassdoor:

Glassdoor Alert: Employer Legal Action

The employer has taken legal action against reviewers and/or Glassdoor for the reviews that have appeared on this profile. Please exercise your best judgement when evaluating this employer.

Now is it just me, or is this a more damming indictment of a business than a few crap reviews, fake or otherwise? As opposed to Zuru admitting that they do the odd stinky fart, they have a legal team threatening to sue anyone who claims that they let one off. And staying on the same analogy, because they’ve kicked up such a stink in court, they have a heap of first-time eyeballs on their profile, with a cheeky webmaster telling us to “exercise your best judgement when evaluating this employer”. Well played Glassdoor. Well played.

However, this may prompt some serious squeaky bums for the folk at Glassdoor, and perhaps the broader “review” industry – including Google and Reddit. For some time, we’ve taken it for granted that we can click a number of stars and review a business without fear of a lawyer abseiling through our windows like the storming of the Iranian Embassy Siege, clutching a defamation lawsuit. If Zuru can beat Galssdoor, how many other employers are going to have a stab at it? And once the writs starting flying out, who’s going to have the cajones to write a review in the first place? And where does it end? You can’t donate sperm anonymously anymore, and how long will it be until that gay sauna in Berlin tells your wife about your drunken visit? The day I can no longer send margarine tubs of catshit to counter offered candidates without fear of recrimination is the day I leave the industry.  Certain stuff only works if it’s anonymous, and Glassdoor certainly has a bleak-to-non-existent future if this court-sponsored interrogation becomes commonplace. And here’s the othing thing. Those reviews were already placed, and the posters are being exposed retrospectively. Perhaps our parents were right and we all need to be worried that our 17 year old anonymous web behaviour will one day be exposed to friends, family and employers. I am in BIG trouble.

Personally, I think Zuru have made a gaff on this one. They claim that negative fake reviews have cost them “money, time, and resources in combatting the negative publicity, negative perception, and harm to [Zuru’s] reputation that the [r]eviews have caused”.  Well every entity that can be reviewed online will attract good, bad, and fake reviews, so join the club guys. If you get enough of all of the above, and you’re a good firm, you’ll come out looking alright. Why didn’t they just encourage their employees to visit Glassdoor and write an honest review? Instead, they’ve won an expensive court case, got a tiny handful of negative reviews removed, and driven a shit-load of traffic to a website which highlights in bold red letters that Zuru can’t be trusted.

Anyway, if you want to get the actual gossip on who’s a terrible employer, New Zealand’s top Recruitment networking event, The Rice PowWow returns next Thursday. A little birdy told me there are a couple of tickets left, and you can RSVP here.

^SW

One Comment

  • Avatar George says:

    Nice one, Sean. Another great post, this time explaining also the entire rationale behind good PR, which is ‘to be what you wish to appear’ – ie: if you want the world to see you as trustworthy, BE trustworthy. Do it and say it, don’t just say it. As you say, nothing drives awareness, attention (and bad PR) like a company taking legal action against an entity like Glassdoor, as all it does is allow an insinuation of a potentially toxic work environment echoed in a vengeful legal pursuit. Surely it’s better to spend the legal $ on getting to the bottom of (and/or curing) any possibly poor workplace issues, righting any wrongs, and then letting the fragrance of the resulting new air-freshening reviews waft away the farts that caused all the trouble in the first place… And remind me never to open a parcel from you that is the size and shape of a margarine tub!

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