As consumers, we love to do our research on a company or product before making purchase decisions. Given the common practice of investigating before committing, it makes sense that the public is drawn towards business review sites when considering applying for a job. One of the top sites that job-seekers look to is Glassdoor, where current and former employees are able to anonymously express their thoughts on a company and their management. Ideally, the site should serve as a well-rounded and trust-worthy collection of authentic reviews made by the people, for the people, as well as providing insight to business leaders on areas they do well in or could improve upon. Unfortunately, the world is an imperfect place and abuse of the system is inevitable. With so much authority entrusted to the public, review sites will never have a shortage of internet trolls and keyboard warriors attempting to submit bogus reviews to stir up trouble. While it is next to impossible to completely combat those users, what largely muddles the amount of faith we should have in Glassdoor is the ease with which companies are able to manipulate their ratings, along with questionable aspects of the Glassdoor business model that can be described as morally ambiguous, or some would even say unethical.

For businesses, Glassdoor is available as a free site once you have been verified, which then permits the employer to make updates to the company profile page as well as respond to reviews. The part where it feels like the gray area between right and wrong, is where more advanced features are offered to companies who are willing to pay a fee. There is no standard fee for all companies across the board, and Glassdoor is very vague when it comes to disclosing how their pricing works. Sales reps will call into businesses to offer an “enhanced profile” package and for those with unfavorable ratings, they feel they have no choice but to buy. There are business leaders that think that this is an unfair proposition, especially when they dish out the money but see no improvement. In other corners of the internet, people say Glassdoor is gaming the system by removing, or never even posting positive reviews, while dubious and defamatory reviews remain and the only way to really challenge those comments is to be a paying customer. One claimed “Glassdoor is the epitome of extortion” after noticing on multiple occasions that Glassdoor’s sales team would mysteriously reach out to them immediately after an unsavory review was posted to their page. Of course, Glassdoor needs to make money somehow, but cornering vulnerable companies to make a sale and giving preferential treatment to those who oblige seems to directly contradict their mission of “increasing workplace transparency.”

Although they claim there is a strict policy against companies offering incentives in exchange for reviews, it does not seem to be highly enforced. A recent study analyzed millions of these Glassdoor posts and discovered over 400 companies had unusual single-month spikes in their amount of reviews, including places like Bain & Company, Clorox and SpaceX. In a campaign to place in Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work” list, one company reportedly offered employees free swag such as mugs in exchange for their contribution, leading to their page being flooded with almost 200 five-star reviews when in earlier months they had received less than a dozen of them. Encouraging employees to use their voice on Glassdoor regardless how they may feel is one thing, but pressuring workers to leave five-star reviews, especially just before the deadline to make the awards list, is improper. Soliciting reviews in this manner practically forces other businesses to take a dishonest approach in earning their five-star ratings or else they will fall by the wayside in yearly rankings. The culture of a company cannot be accurately judged from reading these reviews when it is impossible to tell if it is falsely negative or falsely positive.

In a place where everything is done anonymously, reviews are inherently biased as it is; we need to work on the ways in which we can eliminate those biases whenever possible. Glassdoor needs to expand on their policy of the acceptable ways to go about earning reviews, and more closely scrutinize those who may be ballot box stuffing. Business leaders will have to decide for themselves whether they want to play the game and pay for their account, or to let the chips fall where they may and stick with the standard free features. In the end, most of these rankings seem to be more about who bribed their employees best rather than an honest look at a company’s environment.It is best to have hope that the type of person you’d want to hire will be the type to look deeper and see the truth in your company’s value, as well as researching through avenues other than Glassdoor. With reviews being so saturated with falsehoods these days, Glassdoor is not worth the money.