The Exchange

The Trouble With Negative Employer Reviews

They say, “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Chances are “they” don’t work at appliance and electronics maker Haier America. Headquartered in New York City, the U.S. arm of this China-based company ranks miserably low in terms of employee satisfaction, garnering just one star in Glassdoor.com’s non-scientific survey of employee happiness. CEO Shariff Kan received a 0 percent approval rating in the survey. It's the lowest-ranked major company on the Glassdoor.com’s employee satisfaction rankings. Admittedly, the sample size is small – only nine employees have commented on their experiences at Haier America to date – but the strength of their convictions is clear.

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“Management don't (sic) care about employees,” wrote one anonymous current employee. “All they worry about is who to blame, so they can be off the hook. Very disorganized, no respect of rules or regulations. Very high turnover rate, unstable.”

According to another anonymous employee, the company is “unorganized and overstaffed” and burdens its workers with unrealistic workloads. “Senior management is incompetent,” they wrote. “Senior management does not know how to organize the department and distribute work. Everyone is mentally crushed.”

Another former employee put it succinctly: “This place stinks!”

Harsh words, but worker discontent like this is not uncommon at large corporations, says Doug Reiter, a human resources consultant in Hingham, Mass. The key for managers is addressing the problem from the top down.

“Organizational culture is almost always a function of the CEO and his or her executives in the C suite,” he says. “Whatever they do, however they behave, sends messages down through the organization and people do what they think they’re being asked to do.”

After all, he says, corporate executives are simply human beings like the rest of us. They bring their own personal baggage into the workplace, approach work with their own driven and competitive attitudes, and then surround themselves with people who mirror their own personalities.

“It’s a recipe for a toxic work environment,” Reiter says.

Haier America declined to comment on this story.

But this sort of public blowback has been coming for a while now, says Washington, DC-based employment attorney David Scher with The Employment Law Group, P.C., who says the nature of the Web allows disgruntled employees to vent their frustrations openly without fear of reprisal. That has brought new attention to firms with morale problems that previously would have been able to address issues internally. “With the social media impact on employers and the workplace, employees can now pretty much say whatever they want as long as they don’t disclose trade secrets,” says Scher.

The trouble for employers, he says, isn’t that disgruntled employees can necessarily sue over their perception that a company is simply an unpleasant place to work – they explicitly cannot – but that in a negative work environment neither side has any motivation to work together to address their problems. As a result, smaller issues are more likely to spin out of control down the road.

“We see it all of the time,” Scher says. “Whereas if the environment is conducive to a fair resolution you’re just going to get a much happier situation with much happier employees and problems will get solved much more easily. It sounds logical, but I’m astonished at how many employers fail to get that.”

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