The title of the online review from an anonymous employee sums up his or her feelings about the boss: “Worst CEO Ever.” This unnamed employee gives his employer two stars out of five and suggests that management “get rid of the CEO and find someone who will help you keep good people and help improve morale versus making everyone nervous.”
The online world is filled with anonymous reviews about restaurants, books, celebrities and most everything else people tend to have strong opinions about, so it’s not surprising that there are websites—such as Glassdoor, Vault and others—filled with reviews about workplaces and leaders. What’s surprising is that apparently more CEOs are paying attention to them. Indeed, the boss of one major corporation has responded to 70 of the reviews written about him and his firm on Glassdoor.
But is it wise? While many experts say it’s great that bosses are open to feedback, they shouldn’t put a lot of weight on anonymous website reviews. “Leaders have to be very careful not to take what they see on these sites as facts,” says Rick Lash, a Korn Ferry senior client partner. These comments are people’s perceptions, Lash says, and they may say more about the individual writing them than they do the organization or the boss.
Even if the reviews are totally accurate, they can diminish a CEO’s effectiveness. Positive reviews could inflate a leader’s self-worth, while negative reviews could feed self-doubt. Both outcomes could be detrimental not just to the leader, but also to the organization.
Most of the comments also lack the nuance necessary to really have impact and affect change, Lash said. Those who take the time to post, positively or negatively, aren’t representative of the entire workforce, for instance. Internal surveys are a much better way to take the pulse of an organization and get a more systematic view of employee perceptions. Most employees will fill out a workplace survey rather than post reviews, the latter which often draw those more inclined to express either extremely positive or extremely negative feelings.
To be sure, keeping employees productive is a universal challenge. According to a Korn Ferry survey, only 59 percent of global employees feel extrinsically motivated to work hard and give their best effort. In other words, more than 40 percent of workers don’t feel as if their company is offering the kinds of incentives that will keep them motivated. At the same time, many organizations are restructuring themselves to deal with disruptions from technology, new competitors or other outside pressures, and change makes many people anxious.
“People get frustrated and use these sites as outlets because it gives them a microphone to express their frustration,” Lash said. “But that doesn’t mean the organization should be changing course.”