Workers Need Online Complaint Forums

It’s wise and just for websites to allow ticked-off workers to rate their supervisors, complain about their bad behavior, and name names. Pro or con?

Pro: A Conduit to Job Satisfaction

It is no secret that happy employees exhibit higher levels of productivity, loyalty, and innovation. The recipe for ensuring a happy workforce is also widely known. Numerous surveys demonstrate that having a good boss ranks as the most important factor in keeping employees happy at work.

Despite this, the vast majority of workers are dissatisfied with their jobs. The Gallup Organization has reported that only about 30 percent of employees feel engaged at work.

Far too many managers have been either unable or unwilling to ensure that their employees remain happy with their jobs. A Zogby International survey found that 49 percent of the U.S. workforce reports having been bullied at work or having witnessed workplace bullying.

Websites that enable both employees and employers to evaluate potential managers are one of the most effective ways to ensure a positive and healthy work environment for workers and to avoid hiring toxic people who would poison the work environment.

The ease in sharing and accessing information about managers will also help deter abusive behavior and persuade bosses that it is in their best interest to treat their subordinates as well as they treat their own supervisors.

Professional, respectful, and non-libelous "boss rating" websites will soon become accepted as legitimate career resources for both job seekers and employers, and they will enable companies to cultivate the kind of healthy and innovative workplaces that can maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Con: A Pandora’s Box

Offering disgruntled employees an online forum to rant about their bosses is more likely to stoke anger than relieve stress. Given such incidents of workplace violence as the recent shooting rampage in Manchester, Conn., which left nine people dead, this not only is unwise but can also be downright dangerous.

WorkRant, BossBitching, JobVent, and the like claim to be a form of workplace therapy. These sites show they are anything but.

Most contributors are clearly unhappy, unsuccessful people who hide behind the anonymity afforded them by the Internet to defame co-workers and bosses—often violating their privacy along the way.

Typical examples include these pearls of wisdom: "I wish his family was tied up to watch him slowly f____ing die" and "i f____ing hate my boss so much i want him to die of cancer."

Bad enough, but when it strays into naming names, contributors to these sites open themselves up to expensive litigation for defamation and privacy violations.

The sites may be asked to turn over identifying information, such as IP addresses and e-mail addresses. If they refuse, they face costly legal proceedings. If they comply, they will expose their contributors to litigation. Either way, the company loses and faces a future similar to that of Juicy Campus, an infamous college campus gossip site that shut down last year.

The supposed raison d’être of these sites is helping workers identify companies to seek out or avoid. Yet given the anonymous, hostile nature of the sites, the reviews are worthless.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg Businessweek, Businessweek.com, or Bloomberg LP.

Reader Comments

brunettegirls

It was rather interesting for me to read that article. Thank the authors for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to them.

Anete Hakkinen

Fake Resume

As more forums are created to address workplace bullying and reveal adverse work conditions, the more pressure there will be on companies to treat their employees with the respect they deserve as opposed to mere chattel to be exploited.

Susan Singer

Where I work, there is a locked suggestion box. People can anonymously write whatever they will, but for every complaint, it is expected that the person also suggest a constructive possibility for resolving the deficiency. (That idea, incidentally, came from the suggestion box...)

The box is unlocked and the suggestions are read aloud--by our boss--every month at our all-staff meeting. One incident reported was about a manager who yelled at an employee in a common area of the building; the suggestion was that disciplinary matters should be dealt with in a non-public forum. No names were mentioned, but so far as I know, it never happened again, so a positive result was achieved.

It is, I think, both beneficial and stress relieving to know that any complaint a staff member might have will be heard, acknowledged, and answered in this way. I'm all for respectful airing of grievances!

Greg Hobson

I think potential job seekers should be able to evaluate a potential employer. Why walk into a minefield?

Katie Weaver

Great article discussing both sides of this issue. While I understand both arguments, I think it is important for organizations to encourage employee feedback and proactively address employee complaints, concerns, suggestions, and reports.

Many employees may be afraid to come forward with concerns about management (or other employees) and by providing them the ability to report legitimate issues or red flags, organizations can improve the overall company culture and inspire trust and accountability at all levels.

Kathleen Schulweis

I can see both sides of this issue too. I work with abrasive managers and their targets, and here are some facts:

Isolated or anonymous complaints look like they're from disgruntled employees, so don't have to be taken seriously;

Managers aren't trained to handle problem employees.

Without identifying the abrasive person we're left with general conversations or training that requires the abrasive person to identify their own behavior and improve, and that doesn't happen.

Companies hire people for the technical skills, not their behavior or leadership capacities. I suggest they start emphasizing emotional Intelligence as well as technical expertise.

It's hard for chronically abrasive people to improve--mostly they don't know they're being abrasive. Anonymous complaining or complaining without a biz infrastructure to improve the situation are useless. Companies can feel better about themselves but are not fixing the situation.

John

Great article and review of online surveys.

Rick

I think a far more effective solution would be anonymous and/or confidential incident reporting and incident management solutions that includes automatic notifications to threat/prevention team members and includes documentation of actions (both victim and assessment teams) to connect the dots and ensure compliance, legal defensibility, and CYA.

sue

I agree with the idea of welcoming criticism, but also requiring the contributor to offer a solution to the problem. That encourages employees to be creative and at the same time to put themselves in the position of the person about whom they are complaining.

RobD

Don't even understand why there's a debate about this. Of course feedback is good. Bad management is typically what sinks companies, and any early warning signs can be valuable! Will some angry people vent? Of course and so what? First of all, it lets you identify that there are people with anger issues in the organization and second, anyone reviewing the comments who has half a brain can clearly understand what a comment of this type is indicating.

ReneeReader

Kathleen's comments nail this one.

Something I would add is that moderation and open communication help in 99% of cases. I've been on both sides of the issue, being someone who both suffered abusive management and also didn't know I was having a negative impact on someone else. In the former, I needed a safe way to raise the issue without risk to myself and without putting the manager's job on the line. In the latter case, I simply had no idea the person found me intimidating because I always seemed irritated, and no doubt the first situation contributed to the second. In both cases you need details to know how to proceed and how to improve; anonymous rants are unlikely to help, but anonymous constructive feedback could help those open to change.

Car Hire Alicante Airport

I guess you'll want to get a twitter icon to your blog. Just bookmarked the site, although I must do it by hand. Simply my advice.

Brooklyn_fromTJ

I think greater interaction among groups would result (mix up the tech bloggers and the marketers and the VCs and the usability people and, hell, even the sex bloggers) and really spark some awesome conversations.

Brooke_fromTJ

Having said all of that, I wonder if Ande's idea isn't the best (regardless of what format you choose to go with for the blog). If it was still public with no comments, but you cross-posted entries in a private forum, you could allow people to respond and discuss in a controlled/private environment but still keep the blog itself public. I'm not sure how much extra work that would be for you, but if it was negligible I would say that's the best option for running your site the way you have and seem to love, but keeping the riffraff at bay.

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