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Powills: Why do we hate bad reviews?
When I was starting kindergarten, I was called fat.

That statement struck me negatively for a long time. It became me.

Being called fat in kindergarten is quite frightening for a child. First, I didn’t know what being fat meant. Up until that time I had no perception of my own shortcomings, as.....
When I was starting kindergarten, I was called fat.

That statement struck me negatively for a long time. It became me.

Being called fat in kindergarten is quite frightening for a child. First, I didn’t know what being fat meant. Up until that time I had no perception of my own shortcomings, as my family and friends treated me only with love. Bullying had yet to infiltrate my life. Second, it was a bad review. In fact, it was a crushing review. I was kindergarten-Yelped!

Unfortunately, we, as humans, are programmed to take bad reviews negatively. Even when the feedback is constructive, we fly into this aggressive, combative, destructive rage. Why? Because criticism hurts.

If I had the bandwidth, at 5, to understand that being called fat was merely a warning sign that I had not performed up to the standards of society, perhaps I could have made adjustments at that time and put down the cookies. But, I was programed to take that “fat” review and react negatively — and react negatively for a long time.

We can rarely take a review and find the silver lining. That includes me, too. But reviews are a clear, anonymous viewpoint into what you are doing well and what you can improve.

As businesses, we want to hate Yelp! And trust me, I understand why. But, what if we looked at our Yelp! reviews as unbiased opinions designed to improve our service, operations, marketing or product? What if we really looked at personal critiques as an opportunity for improvement? What if the term “constructive criticism” were eliminated and replaced with great feedback?

Surely, it would be difficult to get to this safety point, and very few of us will ever be able to.

I recently built an advertising campaign for a client focused on driving franchise leads to its website. While the majority of the comments under the Facebook ad (one portion of the campaign) generally focused on people loving the brand and wishing they had enough capital to own one, some of the comments did go to negative places: calling out specific managers or servers in their restaurants who treated people improperly, bad product, and how the competition is so much better. We, as the protectors of the brand, are trained to hide or remove such comments or respond to those people we’re able to reach, but shouldn’t we take those marks and find ways to make it better? Aren’t those reviews valuable?

With the speed of technology and the access of information, bullying — in business and in our personal lives — has been amped to a new degree. People and businesses can be punched in the face in real time and bullied by a gang of Internet goonies. But, if we can adjust our thinking to what is the value in what people are saying, we can continue our personal and business fight from good to great.

For No Limit Agency, Google our name and you will find a handful of reviews about our company on a site called Glassdoor. You will see former employees (or really just one, who is mightily on a mission to bully us), post about what they dislike about our company. At first, I read these posts as painfully abusive. I couldn’t understand why anyone, especially in an at-will hiring scenario, would bash me personally and bash the company I am working so hard to protect and improve. I was annoyed, frustrated and, frankly, pissed that these former employees would hide behind a review and not face me so that I could equally review them.

And then, I thought about it.

There is truth behind every review. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.

Perhaps these reviews had some secret blueprints to how we could make No Limit Agency the best mid-sized communications agency that ever existed. Perhaps these former employees were giving me the guide to making our culture wonderful.

Now, if you read the reviews on virtually any company on Glassdoor, they are not overly favorable. See, the challenge with review sites, in many cases, is that it is the venting zone — where people go for payback. This means, there is an underlying frustration that comes out in the form of words. If the truth can be told when drunk, perhaps the same can be said when frustration is protected by anonymity.

I am still human. I will still feel hurt or sad when I read reviews about the company I work so hard in. But, at the same time, I am going to try to listen to the underlying messages in a mission to make our company great. I know our company won’t be the right fit for many people — it can’t when you are on a mission of change and challenging the status quo. But, despite all the dollars we invested into someone that didn’t work out, that explosive feedback can help us draw the right lines for success in our business blueprint.

Reflecting on being called fat in kindergarten, I realized that experience was just a puzzle piece. It reinforced part of my foundation necessary for expediting my personal and business momentum on my way to great velocity so many years later.
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