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Glassdoor.com is a popular employer review site that aspiring employees can consult before making an employment decision. For many, it is a vital source of information on the character and opportunities within a company. With so many India-based companies engaged in deceptive hiring practices, it has doubtless kept countless professionals from making bad career choices. However, despite the obvious benefits of a forum where people can fairly exchange information about their employers, there is an equally sizable downside for employers.

I have been running a company in India since 2011. In a country where business practices are still developing and ethics are often questionable, we have create a workplace that reflects my American values of fairness, transparency, honesty and professionalism. We are proud to regularly pay even average employees 20-30% above-market. We have relaxed attendance policies, and generous paid leaves. We have sent many of our staff overseas to exciting locations such as Japan, Abu Dhabi, Australia and the United States. Every employee who has been with us for three years receives a sizable bonus, and we invest back into our community through charitable donations. On top of that, we have regular celebrations to show our employees how much we care about them. I have known every single one of my 300+ employees by their name, and believe I have a personal relationship with all of them. I have never been shown anything but respect by my staff, and have attended many of their weddings and other celebrations, and received even more invitations.

I never paid much attention to our ratings on Glassdoor. As a small MNC with great perks, American management, and a robust portfolio of notable projects built in the latest technology, Prospus stands apart from comparable Indian-owned companies of similar size. So much so that we don’t actually compete with our neighbors in Delhi; we compete with our neighbors in Portland and San Francisco. At one point in 2015 I know we had a 4.5 out of 5 rating. But I was shocked when, in early 2017, I overheard my HR Manager discussing our 2.0 rating and how it was impacting our ability to attract hesitant candidates.

In just those two years, I wasn’t able to figure out what had happened. We had tripled in size and profitability, and we were regularly handing out large increments and bonuses to our employees. We were sending them outside of the country, and the scope for career growth was clear as our project size and quality was comparable to a company 4x our size. But when I read some of the reviews I didn’t see any of that. Instead I saw vicious misrepresentations of Prospus, as if we were running a sweatshop rather than a successful, high-energy IT firm. I went on a listening tour, starting with management, then to the team leads, and eventually speaking with some of our oldest and most loyal employees to figure out what was wrong and how I could fix it.

I wasn’t surprised that everyone was positive to my face. Something you learn quickly in India is that bad news is almost never delivered in person. But I was still floored by the level of negativity and open hostility. When I further analyzed the reviews I began to notice a trend: they directly corresponded to our hiring campaigns and performance review periods. As I investigated and discussed with my HR, she was able to tie many of the reviews to applicants who were rejected during our intense interview process. We interview upwards of a thousand people in a year for limited seats, and it wasn’t surprising that a few of lashed out after their egos were bruised. The remainder of the negative reviews were tied to employees we had let go for performance issues. I came to learn that the few positive reviews that we had were actually requested by an earlier HR Manager who had left Prospus, unbeknownst to me.

In conclusion, I’ve come to learn that, at least in India, the majority of “employee” reviews on Glassdoor.com come from three types of people: 1) rejected applicants who felt offended; 2) terminated employees upset at losing their job, or; 3) employees asked to give positive reviews by management. Given the fact that feelings in India are often hidden, it’s no surprise that anonymous online forums are the perfect breeding ground for pent-up, repressed expressions of frustration. I raised the issue directly with Glassdoor, but lost interest once I realized they had no intention of addressing the core issue. Who could blame them? If they removed every illegitimate “employee” review, they’d lose at least half their database in India.

While it still irks me to see negative comments posted about my company online, I can confidently say that Glassdoor reviews have not affected the quality of applicants who show up at Prospus wanting a job. I had underestimated Indian job-seekers; they are adept at sifting through information from a variety of sources, and are aware that anonymous online reviews are often spurious representations of a company, product or service.

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