May 24, 2023

10 Ways How NOT to Respond to Employee Reviews

What Everyone Does Wrong and What You Can Do Right

Contemplating how you can boost trust in your company? One of the most impactful ways is by publicly responding to employee reviews. Appropriately replying to employee reviews showcases care for your team members. It helps job seekers see the type of support they can expect from your company if they were to work there.

But how do other companies respond to reviews, and what do they do wrong?

Here are the top ten ways NOT to respond to reviews and what you should do instead.

1) 🚫 Never responding

💡Consider this: 

The number one way NOT to handle reviews is by never responding at all! Why does The Review Cycle say we should respond to reviews? Here are 3 specific outcomes associated with writing review responses:

Increase trust

Even when a review is negative, timely and consistent responses show a willingness to offer support and back up the company.

Of course, because people focus most on the most recent reviews, checking and responding daily will offer the consistency needed to increase trust in the brand.

Control the narrative

When an employee leaves a review, their claims have the spotlight. A response can clarify a situation and shine a more accurate light on the claims to more clearly communicate appropriate expectations to the wider audience.

Even positive reviews can raise claims that warrant a response in order to clarify, support, or corroborate the desired narrative.

Increase ratings

A timely response with follow-up contact information not only offers the employee a way to resolve their concern (and maybe update their rating) but also anyone who reads it will be impacted.

Simply posting contact information in your response gives others who may be looking to post a review an alternative place to reach out and resolve any issue before they even write their review.

Responding consistently to reviews also provides you with a human eye on reviews every day. What better way to inform you on your company’s trends than by observing reviews for possible improvements or needed adjustments to best align expectations.

Having a dedicated employee in charge of review monitoring and responses can give priceless insight into the employee or consumer experience. Employee reviews can be managed in a very similar way.

2) 🚫One-liners or a storybook

💡Consider this: 

A review response needs more time and attention than sending a simple one-liner that thanks or claims an untruth. Responses should be molded carefully in order to communicate professionalism and trust.

However, don’t write a storybook. Most people reading a response will skim through. Keep your responses to mini paragraphs, having the most important information given in the first sentence of each paragraph.

3) 🚫Forgetting your audience

💡Consider this: 

When responding to a review, remember that you are not only responding to the original poster, but to a wider audience of readers. Your response will impact others.

In The Review Cycle, Mobrium’s CEO, Matt R. Vance invites you to imagine the review poster and yourself (the responder) as being on a stage as the audience watches the employee rant about their negative experience. What if at that point, the responder points out the misunderstandings, clarifies the purpose, and respectfully directs the employee to the best place for more assistance? What would the audience think now? Especially if the employee can’t rebuff, but instead simply walks off the stage.

Speaking to an individual at a personal level is good, but don’t forget the wider audience, listening carefully to the public conversation. If more needs to be said, direct the employee to a private mode of communication such as email.

4) 🚫Templated copy/paste responses

💡Consider this: 

It may be tempting to create a generic response to be posted on all negative reviews and another to post on positive reviews. Copy, paste, done.

However, if we are going to fulfill our purposes for responding in the first place –improve trust, control the narrative, and improve ratings– a copy/paste approach simply will not work. Using the reviewer’s name or pen name, mirroring any specific words from the individual review, and offering up any specific-to-that-review solutions goes much farther.

“Mirror Messaging” is another technique described in The Review Cycle. By reusing specific words or phrases from the review, you will showcase better listening skills and a higher degree of care for the reviewer.

Rather than copy/paste, Matt Vance recommends writing responses in a document and keeping copies of all responses. This way, you can keep a record of responses and develop better ways to respond by looking back at past responses that may be similar.

5) 🚫 Defensive and argumentative

💡Consider this: 

When a negative review makes accusations or claims, it may be difficult not to get offended. Your company culture may be your pride and joy and this review is poking holes in your precious baby!

Everyone knows that employee reviews may or may not have completely true claims. The best way to handle a potentially embellished or emotional review is to verify the information to the best possible degree, respectfully clarify what may not be true, and emphasize what positive steps can be done.

One important principle outlined in The Review Response is the use of active or passive voice. Actively expressing disagreement can be seen as accusatory or argumentative. Passivity can be used to soften an argument. Use active voice for solutions and passive voice for corrections.

For example (Active Voice) “You left work without approval and are now being fired” can be made into (Passive Voice) “Accruing more than 5 unapproved absences ends employment.” This softens the information.

Another example (Passive Voice) “It’s unlikely, but your absence might be an exception. Talk to your manager for assistance” can be transformed into (Active Voice) “We will submit an exception report to HR on your behalf. Can you tell me why you left?” The active voice in this example gives confidence to the solution.

6) 🚫Over-apologetic acceptance of blame

💡Consider this: 

While we don’t want to be argumentative in our response, we also don’t want to accept blame fully for whatever negative claims made. Rather than apologizing for what may or may not have actually happened, respectfully give the responsibility for the disappointment back to the employee.

“We’re sorry your manager made this mistake.” can be transformed into, “We’re sorry this experience didn’t meet your expectations.”

Whether or not the manager did make a mistake is not verifiable at this point with an anonymous review, but we can know for certain that the employee posting is upset and their expectations were not met. This is something we can express genuinely without accepting blame.

7) 🚫Create an echo-chamber

💡Consider this:

To avoid seeming obtuse in review responses, a consistent and helpful point of contact should be given in every response. This contact needs to be managed daily just as review responses are managed daily, and focused on offering solutions asap.

When someone emails or calls this contact, it is imperative that a solution be given promptly. With the completion of the solution, we can request the employee update their negative review which impacts ratings. Note: Not all employee review sites allow reviews to be updated and some limited time frames when reviews can be updated. This is another reason why responding to reviews promptly is important.

8) 🚫Only replying to the negative reviews

💡Consider this: 

Of course the negative reviews should get most of the attention. Positive reviews are great on their own. However, those positive reviews deserve acknowledgement too when needed. If all positive reviews are left without a response, we are missing opportunities.

Some positive reviews may contain questions that could be answered by a response. These questions should not be ignored, especially when the audience can see us on the platform writing responses to other reviews. Even if a question isn’t directly asked, some positive reviews will make a statement that poses an unasked question that may be addressed by a response.

Read every positive and negative review and choose carefully whether the review should stand on its own or could be benefited by a response.

9) 🚫Responding to every single review

💡Consider this: 

While we agree that some positive reviews should have responses, and all negative reviews should have responses, The Review Cycle points out the pitfall for responding to every single review. Doing this creates the illusion of some kind of automated response system or machine response. 

To maintain a personable tone and achieve our ultimate goals to increase consumer trust, control the narrative, and increase ratings, some reviews should be left without a response. The Review Cycle calls this strategy the 3QPD Principle:

The 3QPD Rule (Pronounced “3 cupid”) 

• Respond to ALL 3-star or lower reviews 

• Respond to ALL Questions in reviews, regardless of star rating 

• Respond to SOME Positives 

• Dispersed throughout your reviews

10) 🚫Disregarding the reviewer’s time

💡Consider this: 

Remember to thank the reviewer for taking the time to post a review. This is of utmost importance in a review response, even when responding to a negative review. Without those reviews, our companies might remain oblivious to a needed adjustment or fail to make a change that would boost everyone’s experience as well as profits.

Make a standardized and agreed-upon intro and signature to your responses for all those responding for your company. Consistency will keep your company voice in the spotlight rather than individual employees, who can become more personable in private emails. Begin by saying thank you. End by giving a consistent follow-up contact, another simpler thank you, and sign with the company name.


By avoiding these top ten mistakes in review responses, you can achieve your goals to increase trust, control the narrative, and increase your company culture ratings on all the top employee review sites.

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// Formly Script