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Coaching May Help Avoid Employer Branding Nightmares

negative_employee_review.jpgI read an interesting post by JT O’Donnell recently that reviewed the recent PR nightmares that Yelp experienced with the firing of two unhappy employees that went viral.

In both cases, the employees actively engaged social media channels to voice their grievances and bring negative attention to their former employer. What was left was a scorched earth where no one came out in a positive light.

What could have been done to avoid this?

In her blog: Yelp's Employee PR Disaster: How 'Employer Shaming' Can Hurt Your Company JT O’Donnell wrote about two former Yelp employees who went to blogging site Medium to air out their grievances about their past employers. As she wrote:

The first came from an employee who wrote an open letter to Yelp's CEO outlining in dramatic detail her personal challenges living in San Francisco and trying to survive on her low salary. She was fired that same day.

The second is from a single mother who was fired after taking off three unpaid days of leave to be by her boyfriend's side in the hospital after an accident. She also outlines in detail a less than flattering view of working for Yelp.

While the employee blogs were one sided in their favor and should be viewed as biased the damage to the Yelp reputation was already done.

The net is: Yelp has employee issues and may not be a great place to work. While this is definitely unfair the perception becomes the reality.

The new reality is that there has been a power shift towards the employee. Websites like Glassdoor.com provide them with tools to anonymously rate their employer (present, past and potential). The damage to the employer brand, their talent acquisition efforts, and morale can be significant.

Consider the following two reviews:





While each review does have positive comments the negatives comments are what will resonate with a potential job seeker. The net take away that they will have will be: Yelp management is questionable.

In her blog JT O’Donnell offered an interesting recommendation on how companies can proactively address this problem: provide discreet coaching services as an employment/wellness benefit. In her words:

The lesson learned from Yelp's employee PR disaster is that companies should provide employees a way to work through their challenges privately, or you could be at risk of them doing something desperate, dramatic, and very public. An example would be offering private coaching as a wellness benefit.

Unlike traditional mentor or buddy programs, the coaching is done with outside advisors who aren't required to report back to the employer, providing a safe place for the employee to open up and seek advice that can help them survive and thrive in their role.

While internal mentoring programs can help with assimilation into a corporate culture, because the mentors work for the company, studies show employees will often fail to share deeper concerns for fear of getting in trouble for voicing them. 

I agree with the assessment provided by JT O’Donnell. Employer shaming is a real problem today and it is only going to become more prevalent with the increasing number of social media tools available for the disgruntled (let’s not also forget the competition) to air their grievances.

Smart companies will want to do whatever they can to get ahead of this curve. Management of the employer brand is vital to organizations as they 

While they will never be able to completely control all negative comments they can start to show employees that they are sensitive to their issues.