How Review Sites Bullied the Small Business
How Review Sites Bullied the Small Business

It’s too bad we live in a society where payback means more to us than paying it forward.

Clearly, payback comes from both sides of the fence, employer and employee. Employers feels cheated when an employee decides to leave their company. Employees feels taken advantage of when employers shows the.....

It’s too bad we live in a society where payback means more to us than paying it forward.

Clearly, payback comes from both sides of the fence, employer and employee. Employers feels cheated when an employee decides to leave their company. Employees feels taken advantage of when employers shows them the door. After an exit, there are two real choices: justice or money. However, there should be another option –bridge builder.

When I was an employee, I did my very best to not burn bridges. This was something that my parents instilled in me, especially my Dad, who frequently preached about small worlds and what goes around comes around. This stuck with me.

At my first job, truth be told, I hated my boss. She wasn’t kind and was more of a bully of a boss than a supporter and nurturer. After college, I expected the latter. I expected a boss that would challenge me, but take me under their wing and show me a path. She chose not to.

However, there were silver linings to my first job. The highest man on the totem pole took me under his wings to mentor. When I failed, he coached me. When I thrived, he balanced his praise. When I challenged, he listened. He was a good boss. In fact, so good, I hired him when given the turnaround opportunity.

I chose to not burn a bridge.

As I made the conscious decision to leave his company, I thanked him for the opportunities. He tried to keep me in his company with a more financially beneficial package that included more writing and working from home. I declined and went into PR.

I loved my next company – primarily because of those who worked around me. There, I had a mentor too – someone willing to show me the ropes and give me opportunities (it was up to me whether I wanted to take them or not). When I made the decision to leave, I knew it would sever the relationship with my leader – but I made sure to do it the proper way. The bridge had a little spark, but it would not burn down.

When I left the agency to form an agency, I left to create one of, if not the first, Social Media agencies around. What this means is that at the time, review sites had not taken over the world and bullied the business owner. Today, it’s a different story.

Bridge burning takes place in many forms. The f—k you when an angry employee is asked to leave their job. The Yelp review where an angry employee tries to bash you and your work. The Facebook unfriending, where the employee shows the public they are no longer friends with you – and never were. And now, even the Glassdoor review, where former employees can talk behind your back and you know it, you just can’t see who they are.

Review sites are a bully to today’s small business owners. It’s another thing they have to be concerned with, on top of everything else that goes into running a company.

I have heard it from many of my peers – the personal pain they feel when someone they tried to cultivate goes digital and tries to bash their company. They, too, have options: money or justice. Most often, they choose to ignore it. But, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

The former employee wins – but at what cost? Was it really worth it to bully the employer, the one that took a shot with you? Sure, it didn’t work out – but move on and up.

I think about my last day on earth and wonder what I will reflect back on, if given the chance. As a person, I hope I live a nice life, where I am nice to others and do my best not to burn bridges. As an employer, I hope I look back and smile about those who saw the opportunity and grew into amazing people, both at work and outside. Surely, not every employer feels that same way. I had my share of employers who wanted to get me back for leaving their company – justice was more important than bridge building.

Review sites suck. While they were initially designed to help – now they are just hostage holders for bullying.

On Yelp, good luck getting a review taken down – or even responding. You can, if you are willing to pay money. This goes for the local pizza place where a customer decided to bash them for making a mistake on their pizza; the salon where a new employee messed up a haircut; and the software company where the employer wasn’t ready to promote someone or double their salary as quick as they wanted. Review sites are the justice opportunity for people to complain and criticize many of those who didn’t mean anything personal by the experience.

With the shape of Social Media today – bullying doesn’t seem destined to go away anytime soon. People are mean to people enough in person; now they have another venue in the digital world. It’s too bad – and dangerous.

When a shop gets a bad review, that can means less money coming in. The regular person may say – good, the business owner deserves it for poor service. The reality is, that business owner needs that money not only to pay their bills – but their employees.

It is a vicious circle.

There are certainly bad companies, bad owners and bad operators. But, there are many that don’t deserve the added negativity that reviews bring to their businesses. At the very least, review sites should allow for open communication, from both parties. This way, some of the positive qualities of Social Media can participate – the response, the apology and the solution.

Reviews are just step one for business bullying – something much more powerful, like government laws and enforcement, could mean the end of middle-of-the-pack businesses. I hope that when I am taking my final breath, I am not here to see that.

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