my old employer is trying to intimidate me into removing a Glassdoor review

A reader writes:

I recently left a job after a few years of intense work and long hours. After leaving, I left a critical but fair Glassdoor review. Since then, I have received multiple emails from the CEO of my former employer asking me to remove the review and including (what I perceive to be) threats of the industry being “small” and mentioning my new manager by name.

I had seldom spoken to the CEO before these emails – a bit of small talk here and there in the office – and his notes to me contained details about personal and family struggles (as justification for poor leadership and mistreating employees?) that I thought verged on inappropriate. I had also delivered all of the feedback in my review throughout my tenure at the company – and, of course, had not received any interest from leadership in discussing my thoughts until I made them public.

What is the best way to respond here? As an attempt to diffuse the situation, I sent a kind email back acknowledging that working there was at times difficult, but also expressing my gratitude for all I learned and the opportunities I had. After that email, he again asked that I remove the review and made reference to the “small community” of the industry.

Should I remove the review? Is he really going to tell my new boss that I left a critical (but truthful) Glassdoor review? If he does, will my new boss even care, or will he see this as a weird and inappropriate overstep from my old employer?

It would be incredibly weird for him to contact your new boss to tell her you left a critical review about them! And it would be weird for your new boss to care.

In theory, if you want to inoculate yourself against his threat, you could warn your new boss preemptively by saying something like, “When I left my last job, I left an honest review on Glassdoor that I think is fair. The company has contacted me asking to take it down, and the CEO implied he might contact you about it, which I think would be incredibly odd but I wanted to give you a heads-up about it in case he does.”

Or you could say nothing and figure he won’t contact her, and it’ll reflect more poorly on him than you if he does.

That said, if your former CEO has a lot of influence in your industry, there’s a chance your current manager will ask you to make the drama go away by just taking the review down.

There’s also a chance that she’ll be annoyed at being involved at all and that annoyance will carry over to how she sees you. Given that, I’d lean toward doing nothing and just dealing with it if she raises it with you (especially since you likely don’t have enough of a relationship with her yet to know if a preemptive mention would help or not). If he does contact her and she does ask you about it, the milder your response the better; you don’t want to seem like you’re waging a battle or trying to pull her into it. (I might say, “Huh. I think review sites like Glassdoor help everyone, employers included. How odd that he’d contact you.”)

But what worries me is less that he’s going to contact your new boss and more that he’s going to smear your name to others in your field.

That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll embark on a campaign of vicious slander, but it could mean that if your name ever comes up with industry colleagues, he’ll say something like, “We found her difficult to work with” or “I wouldn’t hire her back, to be honest” or something else vague but damning. If he’s known in your small industry as being difficult himself or a jerk, that might not carry any weight. But if not, it could harm your reputation.

Is he the kind of person who would do something like that? Is he vindictive or petty? Does he take things far too personally and act on them in ways that hurt others?

Of course, it’s possible that nothing like this is on the table, and instead he just meant something vaguer and less threatening, like “it’s a small industry and relationships are important, and we don’t want to have bad feelings between us.” But given the whole context here — him sending you multiple emails about this and name-dropping your current boss — it sounds like he does want to intimidate you.

I would love to just tell you not to remove the review, but you’ve got to balance that against (a) what you know of this guy and what he’s likely to do and (b) how much you care.

{ 153 comments… read them below }

  1. 3DogNight*

    Can you take it down, then repost it anonymously? Then act like you have no idea what he’s talking about?

    1. Reba*

      Glassdoor reviews already are anonymous. It’s likely that the owner figured it out due to timing or certain details that were included.

      1. Lacey*

        Yeah, unfortunately, Glassdoor forces you to put information like how long you were there and what department you worked for. And even in a large company that can be pretty identifying. I’ve never left a Glassdoor review because it would be obvious.

        1. Greymalkin*

          You can still be generic in providing identifying info in Glassdoor reviews, even if you don’t outright lie about your role and tenure. In a large company, stating “manager” for your role, and “over 3 years” for tenure is vague enough. I personally also don’t see a problem with saying you’re a former employee when you’re actually a current employee, and vice versa, as long as the context of your actual review doesn’t immediately identify you.

          1. Lacey*

            If it’s at a large company but you were in a small, unique department, it will still be obvious. I would probably write the review if I didn’t still need to be surface level nice with the company, but I do and they would be pretty well aware of who wrote it.

        2. Roscoe*

          I’ve left reviews that were vague enough that you couldn’t be sure who it would be. Even if they ask your department, you don’t HAVE to be honest.

        3. Annie*

          Same. And believe me, I’d love to leave an honest review. My former company has hardly any reviews, and I’m guessing this is exactly why, because from what I’ve heard (and based on my own experiences there) not many people leave happy.

        4. Medusa*

          Same. I can’t even look up salaries right now until I leave a review, and basically every job I’ve had, it would be obvious (to my former or current bosses, at least) that I was the one who left the review.

      2. BRR*

        Yeah at a small company it can just be impossible to write an anonymous review. I do think it’s perfectly fine to switch some details if it allows you to write an otherwise honest review, but if there are only a handful of people who could possibly write it there’s really nothing you can do about it.

    2. trekkie*

      But doing this puts OP on the wrong foot if (when?) he figures it out. Right now, OP is an honest person telling uncomfortable truths. By having OP take the review down and repost it in another form, they seem much less honest, more sneaky — and one can count on the CEO to make that point in tearing OP’s reputation down.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        The good news here is that that CEO has sent multiple EMAILS so he’s putting this all in writing! It may not be time to talk to a lawyer, but if I got multiple emails w/vague possibly implied threats, I might get peace of mind from a one-time consultation, just to see what they say.

        It’s amazing when someone puts in writing a possible threat. If he’d do that, he might be so clueless as to tell people he’s shocked that you replied to his email by mentioning what your lawyer told you.

        1. Self Employed*


          I waa getting all kinds of weird talk from my landlord, but he’s experienced enough not to put it in writing. Having tenant rights doesn’t help if there’s no paper trail.

  2. Nicotene*

    Honestly this is why I always put plausible deniability in my Glassdoor reviews. First, I leave one *before* I quit or give notice, so the timing isn’t connected; I write it when I first start job searching. Second, I deliberately put a few details in the review that don’t align with my position. If this isn’t possible (because I’m the only staffmember or whatever) I wouldn’t leave a review at all. But if I’m ever contacted, I have grounds to deny it was me.

    Sidenote: I have overheard HR complaining that their reviews must be “fake” because X and Y doesn’t match up. This is why. The review is not fake (but the fact that HR is reading it in this detail and trying to triangulate who left it is revealing …)

    1. LTL*

      Ooh these are good tips to “anonymize” a review. I’ll keep them in mind for the future.

    2. CatCat*

      These are great tips. I’d like to see a post on this blog about leaving Glassdoor reviews like tips on keeping it anonymous, what are relevant things to put in, what things you might want to leave out, how to deal if someone tries to out or threaten you based on the review, and how to deal if your company tries to make you post a positive review.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Also if possible, how to get Glassdoor and Indeed to show you more reviews! When my position was eliminated after almost 9 years, I posted reviews on Glassdoor and Indeed. I’ve been mostly unemployed ever since, and neither of those sites will show me any reviews until I post another one. How many jobs do they think I have?
        I had a temp job and thought about posting a review, but was concerned it would be too identifiable and it also would have said the same things already said about the company, so it wasn’t necessary.

    3. Green great dragon*

      I do that here, just in case someone I know is reading. Nothing that changes anything important, but co-workers switch genders or age 10 years, or we groom camels instead of alpacas. There’s even a technical term when you do it to a whole dataset – perturbation.

    4. anon24*

      I only ever left one Glassdoor review, and I mentioned 3 separate negative incidents that had happened to 3 different employees. One was me, but I wrote about all 3 as if I had just witnessed and talked to the 3 employees about what happened and gave enough details that it was clear that I wouldn’t recommend the company but didn’t give anymore details than a concerned co-worker would know.

    5. Beth*

      Yes, this is what I’ve done as well. Change minor details (e.g. saying I was there 4 years when I was there 5–things that won’t change the usefulness of the info I’m leaving, but obscure identity) or stay vague (just say ‘manager’ instead of listing which team you managed). I’ve never had anyone contact me about a Glassdoor review, but if a past employer were to do so, I’d be able to say it wasn’t me; they may or may not not believe me, but it would probably be plausible enough to ward off real pressure.

    6. Pret a Manager*

      I had a previous employer ask me to remove a review I didn’t write (I have never left a glassdoor review). Rather than say it wasn’t me, I pointed out reviews are anonymous and if I said either way I might be implicating someone else, so “can neither confirm nor deny”. Pretty sure they just assumed it was me!

  3. DarthVelma*

    I’d be tempted to leave a new review detailing how the CEO of the company is trying to threaten you into removing the previous review.

    1. Nicotene*

      Seriously, how lame of this jerk not to reflect at all on ways to improve company culture but instead focus on threatening the little guy into staying quiet. What a prince.

      1. Self Employed*

        Clearly Ex-Boss has not only not heard of “don’t put threats in writing” but “Streisand Effect” as well.

    2. LunaLena*

      I honestly thought the same thing. To paraphrase Terry Pratchett, the CEO can’t stop you writing down that he told you to stop writing things down.

      (That quote is from The Truth, if anyone wants to know:
      “You can’t tell me as commander of police I can’t stop some little ti– some idiot from writing down anything he likes?”
      “Oh, no, sir. Of course you can. But I’m not sure you can stop him from writing down that you stopped him writing things down.”)

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*


      Hell, I’d consider copying & pasting the emails directly into my review.

      That is probably not a good option though.

      1. 30 Years in the Biz*

        Yes, very tempting to do this or even generally mention the type of pressure/threats the CEO has made

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      This is what I was going to say — reply or edit the review and add that part. It has much the same effect as warning the current manager, in that the CEO’s badmouthing will start to look petty and capricious if it’s known that he threatens to trash former employees for leaving honest, factual reviews.

    5. Roscoe*

      I mean, you can do that, but who is this really helping here? If OP is worried about retaliation or just their name being smeared, that doesn’t help them. Its like quitting in a blaze of glory. It may feel good in the moment, but chances are, in a small industry, it won’t be the best thing in the long run.

      1. Artemesia*

        I know several people over the years who sent dense long missives when resigning — and each of them was accurate enough and each of them ended up being thought of as doofuses as a result. going out in a blaze of glory is fun but regularly damages the leaver. It is hard to win with this sort of thing.

        An accurate not ranty review is different. If possible as the OP I would ignore the emails from here on out and leave it lie unless they feel there is a real possibility this guy has the power to damage them professionally.

      2. California Ltd.*

        It might help if you add something like: “Please bear this information in mind if you hear this CEO say something that suggests a previous employee should not be considered for employment in our industry.”

      3. tangerineRose*

        Yeah, Roscoe’s right. I wanted to recommend updating the review with what the CEO was doing, but it could cause problems for the LW.

    6. Heidi*

      I’m glad I’m not the only person who immediately thought of doing this. It might make things worse in the long run, but it would be really satisfying in the short run.

      In any case, keep the emails as documentation. If other people get involved, you can say, “This is what I wrote. This is how the CEO responded.” Let everyone decide for themselves whether the CEO meant it as a threat.

    7. BarnacleGirl*

      Yes! This was my first thought and I’d update the review every time he contacts me or my manager. LW needs to Name and Shame this clown.

    8. Jen in Oregon*

      I would post this as an update:

      “I am very dismayed to learn that the CEO thinks that they have identified the author of this review and has been harassing a former employee to take down my review. While I feel terrible that this person is being harassed, I cannot in good conscience take down this fair and accurate review, but I do hope the CEO stops the intimidation tactics and moves on immediately.”

      1. Properlike*

        Yes, I had the same thought. “I keep getting emails from the CEO of my former employer ordering me to take down the review here and implying that I will suffer some kind of career consequences. Since I didn’t leave a Glassdoor review before this, I’m understandably worried about my references moving forward.”

        Except you can’t do that because you already admitted to writing it, I think?

        1. Jen in Oregon*

          Damn–how did I miss that bit? Well, maybe this will help some one else in a similar situation.

    9. ursula*

      I’m not convinced you’ll achieve much by deleting your review. This guy sounds petty and unprofessional and I doubt his opinion of you is going to change much at this point. Maybe it would mean he doesn’t go far out of his way to tank your career (like contacting your current manager, strange as it is) but I don’t think he’ll be kind when your name comes up, no matter what you do. I might be inclined to let it lie, and also maybe stop responding to his messages if you haven’t already. If you think your comment was honest and written with integrity, then I’d be prepared to say so and let his behaviour speak for itself. Sorry you’re in this situation!

      1. serenity*

        This is where I was going with this too. If the CEO is the petty, spiteful person they appear to be they might already have formed a low opinion of OP based on that review and removing it at this point wouldn’t make much difference. They might blackball OP regardless of what she does now.

        My heart goes out to OP. It’s annoying to think about an honest Glassdoor review causing problems but this is a tough spot to be in.

        1. Amaranth*

          I’m wondering how awkward it would be to just note when giving references from OldJob to add ‘I should mention there might be some bias from the CEO who threatened me with a bad reference if I didn’t take down a glass door review.’ I mean, they might never talk to him, so you’ve brought up some drama, but waiting until the CEO shoehorns himself into the process is too late.

    10. Essess*

      Yes, this! So that it is publicly documented that you are receiving inappropriate coercion and implicit threats from the CEO.

    11. Glitsy Gus*

      this was my thought. I don’t know if Glassdoor lets you edit, but I would be very tempted to throw in there an ETA about how the CEO has made multiple aggressive requests for you to take it down, but, as you think it is honest and fair, you are not going to.

      That really would probably just fuel the fire, so it’s probably not really great actual advice, but it’s what I would really, really want to do.

    12. The Rafters*

      I was just going to suggest the same thing. And save the e-mails from the whackadoodle CEO. Then you’ll have additional ammo if you need it.

    13. radfordblue*

      This was my first thought as well. Trying to get an honest review taken down is much more damning than the review itself.

    14. esmerelda*

      Yes! I did this one time when an Amazon seller was harassing me to change my 3 star review to a 5 star review of the seller. They tried to bribe me. My many responses of “no” and “stop calling me” didn’t work, but changing the 3 star to a 2 star review stopped the calls. ;)

    15. Dennis Feinstein*

      I thought the same thing! Go back to your review and add “CEO threatened to smear by name because of this review”.

  4. Ms. Minn*

    I would be very tempted to update the Glassdoor review that the CEO is pressuring (and threatening) the OP to remove the review. Buttttt, that would probably escalate the situation.

    1. HugsAreNotTolerated*

      Honestly, the fact that the CEO is harassing OP about this review is very very relevant information to anyone looking at the company as a potential employer. Updating the review to include this information would be a boon to all who are evaluating the company as an employer, and would likely get the CEO to back off a bit if worded correctly. I’d keep it calm and something along the lines of “I feel that this is a fair review of my experiences at Company, however since posting I have received multiple requests from CEO directly to remove this review since he does not like the content. Take of that what you will.”

    2. Susana*

      Yes, even though it reminds me of that Seinfeld episode, where Kathy Griffin plays a standup comic, was making fun of Jerry a bit. And when he calls to complain, she adds it to her routine. This happens several times and it’s quote funny.

      but … this isn’t a TV show!

  5. I should really pick a name*

    I’m not actually suggesting this, but it would be fun to update the review with a running count of the number of times they’ve contacted you.

    “Since posting this review, they have asked me to remove it # times”

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I love this idea. But it entirely depends on whether or not OP wants to go to war with this guy. Their life is probably gonna be affected a lot more than a CEO’s if the CEO wants to pick a fight, as Alison points out.

      1. Mannheim Steamroller*

        Maybe take it down but ask a current employee to post an anonymous review referring to how a former employee is being treated.

  6. Lucious*

    Alisons concern that the CEO is smearing the LW in the industry is valid. That said, this CEOs actions shows that he’s got issues – micromanaging GlassDoor reviews is not something a CEO should be doing. Which in turn means he’ll probably smear the LW whether she takes down the post or not.

    There’s two approaches I see : do nothing (as Alison advises), or take the post down. Notify all parties the post is removed- then post an “updated” review containing the original information + the fact the CEO threatened the LWs reputation to take it down.

    1. LTL*

      Which in turn means he’ll probably smear the LW whether she takes down the post or not.

      I don’t think this is true. People who use intimidation tactics do indeed tend to back down once they get what they want. At least until they want something else, but OP doesn’t work there anymore so that’s not really a concern.

      1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        This does not match my personal experience with bullies and other people fond of intimidation tactics.

        Appeasing a person like this is why you have sayings like “if you give an inch, they’ll demand a mile.”

      2. Clorinda*

        “Now post a review that says how wonderful it was to work here and how I am so shiny, I literally glow in the dark! And if you don’t do it, you know we work in a very small industry, hint hint.”

      3. Artemesia*

        I don’t think this is likely. The jerks I have known who smear employees with things like ‘well we wouldn’t hire him again’ will do that regardless of whether the OP backs down. In fact they might be more likely because they love to go after the weak.

      4. Sparkles McFadden*

        No…someone who wants to smear you will do so even if there’s no obvious prize for them at the end. Bullies keep bullying because it’s all they know. Their bar for achievement is fixed in place, so all they know how to do is lower everyone else. Therefore, by comparison, the inept person looks good. This is their world. Pathetic, but when it’s your boss, it’s also annoying.

    2. NerdyPrettyThings*

      I agree with this. You gain nothing at this point by taking it down and leaving it down, because it’s not going to change how he views you or talks about you. If he’s badmouthing you, that is awful but probably not something taking the review down would fix, so why do it?

    3. Well...*

      100% agreed. If it’s gotten to the point that he’s threatened smearing your name, he probably does (in his mind) think you’re difficult and won’t correct that line of thought after you comply. If he’s very savvy/jaded and explicitly only saying these things to get what he wants, he might drop it if you comply. But likely he thinks he’s the good guy and you’re already out of line, and you taking the review down won’t change his mind.

    4. Anonym*

      The latter approach makes a lot of sense. You can absolutely take it down and repost it in 9 months or whenever. Too bad for folks considering working there in the meantime, but you’ll still help plenty of people later.

    5. Smithy*

      I do wonder if this is a case where it’s worth bringing in a lawyer to negotiate what the CEO/company will ever say if contacted about the LW? Personally, this kind of a threat would leave me with a lot of anxiety and even if part of the negotiation involves bringing the review down, at least the OP could move forward with more assurance.

    6. LizzE*

      A good CEO would not do that, but it does happen. The CEO of the largest placement firm in my city — placed me in my current job — answers every single review on Glassdoor and even provides somewhat identifying information about the reviewer in his response if the review was negative.

    7. Autumnheart*

      I don’t think it matters at this point. The CEO can smear LW to all their new bosses as much as he wants, whether LW takes the review down or leaves it up.

      In which case, I would leave it up and maybe consult a lawyer.

    8. Jack Straw*

      “he’ll probably smear the LW whether she takes down the post or not.”


  7. Campfire Raccoon*

    Industry smearing would be a concern, but I also push back hard against intimidation. I’d probably update my review to include the number of times the CEO has contacted me and asked me to take the review down. It seems petty but if I were a prospective employee, that information would be invaluable. What kind of CEO harasses ex-employees for a fair (if uncomplimentary) review? It’s gross.

    You could also do nothing and leave the fair review as is. Ignore further attempts at contact and let it go.

    1. Sondheim Geek*

      Honestly, even if it weren’t fair (since that’s can be pretty subjective depending on your POV) as long as the OP wasn’t stating outright lies (i.e. “this company kicks puppies” or “the CEO embezzled funds to pay for his beanie baby collection”) the CEO is much better off letting it go. Most people take Glassdoor reviews with a grain of salt and attempting to suppress it is going to look WAY worse than any review.

  8. Greymalkin*

    Whatever you end up doing, keep all evidence indefinitely, just in case this comes back to bite you years down the road.
    Paranoia sometimes pays off…

    1. Roscoe*

      I just think she has more to lose. Even if he speaks factually about what happened, it becomes a he said she said. OP comes up in discussions down the line, CEO says “I didn’t have a great experience with her. She put some unflattering things I didn’t agree with on glassdoor, and I asked her to remove them”. For some people, that is just enough drama to not even want to deal with OP.

      I think a lot of these suggestions are those things that feel like a justice boner, but really don’t do anyone good in the long run

      1. Mayflower*

        It’s not a “he said, she said” if there is actual email evidence where “he” repeatedly threatens to retaliate against “she”.

      2. Essess*

        Since he’s contacting through email, it’s more than a he-said/she-said because she has documentation about the coercion and threats.

        1. Owler*

          I don’t think this helps the OP. It’s not like they will being up against one another in a court of law or that the OP can walk around waving printouts saying, “look at what the CEO said!”. In reality, your public reputation is built on word of mouth interactions, and if the CEO wants to be petty, the OP doesn’t have a lot of recourse.

          1. Joan Rivers*

            “I don’t think this helps the OP. It’s not like they will being up against one another in a court of law . . .”
            FAMOUS LAST WORDS.

            If the CEO would bother to send multiple emails, we don’t know what else he might do. It’s a sign of his poor judgment to put this in black and white. Anyone can SAY anything but this is evidence. It means more than him just running his mouth.

  9. Roscoe*

    This is why when I leave a job review, I try to keep it pretty vague so they don’t know its m. . Maybe not listing my department or role, that type of thing. But I will say, if they know it was you, you really can’t expect to have it both ways.

    Let me first say, I fully believe you when you say it was a fair review. But what you see as fair and what they may see as fair isn’t always the same. It works the other way too. I’ve gotten reviews from managers that they probably thought was “fair” that I didn’t agree with.

    BUT, if you are publicly talking about how bad they were, and they can’t respond without looking bad (lets be real, any employers who try to respond to a bad glassdoor review do look bad), then you can’t also expect there to not be a bit of blowback. That is the risk you take when you leave those types of reviews and people can figure out its from you.

    If you stand by it, stand by it. But also you shouldn’t be surprised if , in a small industry, this doesn’t do you any favors in the long run. You have to decide whether or not its worth that risk.

  10. SheLooksFamiliar*

    ‘Should I remove the review? Is he really going to tell my new boss that I left a critical (but truthful) Glassdoor review?’

    First, I take most Glassdoor reviews with a huge grain of salt, and everyone I know/work with does, too. Even candidates I interview brush off negative reviews as sour grapes or ‘one person’s experience.’ The reviews serve a purpose, but a lot of people just don’t give a lot of weight to them.

    Second, let me ask you, OP: How strongly do you feel about what you said in your review? I’m asking because as slimy as I think your former CEO is, he’s got a point about news traveling in a small, insulated field or industry. Your review may not be news, and industry insiders may already know how FormerCo operates. And FormerCo doesn’t have to do anything more than drop negative comments to industry insiders about you, and the damage could be done. Would FormerCo do this?

    ‘If he does, will my new boss even care, or will he see this as a weird and inappropriate overstep from my old employer?’

    This is trickier. Your new boss might not appreciate being pulled into drama that could be seen as your own making – a Glassdoor review is not a requirement, it’s a choice. You had valid reasons for posting your opinion, but your new boss may not see it that way if they’re dealing with a schoolyard-type spat your former CEO is bringing to them. No one likes that kind of thing. It’s also possible your new boss will roll their eyes and laugh it off because they’ve already heard how odd the CEO is. Still, if I were in your shoes I’d do whatever I could to minimize or eliminate irritations for my new boss; a heads-up is a good idea, at minimum.

    No matter what, it’s not right that you have to deal with FormerCo’s veiled threats and interference, OP, and I support your choice to share your experience.

    1. Ripley Jones*

      I don’t take single reviews too seriously, but if there is any sort of pattern, you bet I do. Things to look for include many poor reviews, but also a few poor reviews that are suddenly surrounded chronologically with a bunch of too-good-to-be-true reviews (actually worked at a place where they would send mass emails asking for 5-star reviews every time a poor review was posted). I also look for whether the employer responds, and if so, how often, and how do they react – that can tell you a lot about the leadership at a company.

      I have also directly asked about reviews in interviews in a polite way – I saw several reviews that mention X. Could you speak to how you handle that here? (More specific depending on what it says)

      1. chewingle*

        Yeah, there is a running joke at our company about the 5-star reviews. Everyone knows that a bunch of them are fake, written under accounts owned by someone in upper management. ALL reviews need to be taken with a grain of salt, not just negative ones. Which is why the most important thing to me are the actual written reviews, rather than the number of stars. That way, I can find patterns (“benefits are terrible,” “no work/life balance,” etc).

      2. Self Employed*

        My landlord’s Glassdoor reviews looked like that! A string of “omg, this place has no ethics and can’t find its a** with both hands, need to stop taking referrals for new employees from people who can’t do their jobs” reviews and then suddenly “this is the most professional place I’ve ever worked, great culture, so glad to be a part of a company that makes the world better” reviews.

    2. Malarkey01*

      The other thing that gives me pause, which isn’t always fair, but if I know someone is posting negative things about a previous workplace it makes me wonder if they will do the same to me our our workplace or if their standard of fair is a true picture. And, yes sometime the reviews are 100% fair and accurate but I don’t know which are and aren’t so it does make me a little guarded until I know more about someone.

  11. Maggie Simpson*

    I agree with everything everyone has been saying re anonymizing your Glassdoor reviews…. However there are unfortunately still ways for employers to take unfavourable reviews down, my previous job did this by paying for some service… They also wrote at least 3/4 of the reviews there, shockingly the only positive ones were fake /s

  12. irene adler*

    I wonder if the folks who run have any thoughts on employers asking people to take down their reviews.

    If it were me, I wouldn’t like it. Might even design a special symbol that flags posts employers have asked to be taken down. Not to remove them; but to let readers know what response the employer had to said post.

    1. CatLady*

      They also require you to leave more reviews to access all their content. I had already left two and didn’t have an update but to read more on a few employers I had to leave more even though my employer hadn’t changed.

      So they (GlassDoor) really needs to think about that because I was looking up places and had to leave a quick review of one of my old workplaces to continue to see content. It was a quick update but I really didn’t have enough info changed to make a new one. I would have rather paid for the content at that point instead. So they might not even be accurate for that reason alone. I didn’t want to be identified but needed the info. so I left a good review. Anything more detailed would have identified me.

  13. pleaset cheap rolls*

    “We found her difficult to work with”

    This phrase makes my skin crawl – it’s exactly the message some Hollywood abusers sent around to damage the careers of their victims/would-be victims who resisted.

    I’m not saying this is anywhere like that, but this phrase triggers me a bit.

    1. Pippa K*

      Yeah, this is such a common way of phrasing fundamentally sexist criticism. I have absolutely been described this way at work, as have some of my women colleagues, and it’s because we objected to harassment and were insufficiently submissive in manner. And we probably didn’t smile enough. The especially poisonous thing, though, is that sometimes “difficult to work with” truly does mean just that, without sexist or racist baggage, so someone who hears this can’t always tell whether it’s bigotry or not.

      1. EchoGirl*

        Yep, I’ve definitely had people I worked with who I would describe this way (when I used to run election sites, I dealt with workers who didn’t listen either because they generally thought they knew everything or specifically not taking *me* seriously because I was 20+ years younger than they were), but it can also be a shorthand for bigotry or for a worker who didn’t suck up to the boss in the way the boss wanted.

  14. John Smith*

    Try googling the response in the case of Arkell v Pressdram. I would suggest it is appropriate for you to use this to your old boss.

    1. Exhausted Trope*

      Oh, my! I like it. I’d never say this but I’d certainly think it.

  15. RCB*

    I know it’s often easier said than done, but don’t let bullies win, and this guy is a bully. The problem is he’s a dysfunctional leader, the problem is not your review, and he needs to focus on not being a dysfunctional leader, though bullies rarely see that the easiest solution is to fix themselves.

    1. esmerelda*

      Yes! And hopefully other people around him see him as the dysfunctional leader he is so that any word against the OP will be discredited. Harassing someone about taking down a negative review is quite bizarre so I doubt that this is the only sign he is dysfunctional.

  16. cmcinnyc*

    So when the CEO’s name comes up in your small industry you can say, “oh yes, I worked with him, poor man, I think he’s having some personal issues that are interfering with business.”

    1. learnedthehardway*

      NO – absolutely don’t do this. You – not the CEO – comes off as the person who is unethical and a gossip, and who lacks boundaries.

  17. Bookworm*

    Thanks for writing this letter! I’ve been strongly considering leaving a review but have been uneasy because of things like this.

    Good luck in however you decide! I’m sorry that happened to you.

  18. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    What a ponce.

    1. Keep the emails so that you have evidence of Jerk CEO trying to pressurise you. Unfortunately the evidence will only be useful if you have the opportunity to respond to his smear tactics though.
    2. Speak to your current manager. Tell her that something unusual has happened and you’d like her advice as someone senior and in a hiring manager role. Describe what Jerk CEO has said and ask her how she would interpret this as and whether she has any suggestions on how to respond.
    3. Email Jerk CEO back and letting know that you are uncomfortable with his veiled threats and you’ve asked your manager for her advice.

    Hopefully this will

    A. Put him on notice that you are wise to his behaviour
    B. Let him know that his shoddy tactics are known to your manager
    C. Put your manager wise to the situation with a different framing to that in original Q&A
    D. Give you the benefit of your manager’s perspective

    Sorry if I’ve muddled up the pronouns. I realised halfway through that I made a mistake but it’s too difficult to fix on my phone.

  19. No Mas Pantalones*

    I think those emails sound like threats, however veiled. Could threatening legal action be considered here? Is there any real legal recourse?

    1. Velawciraptor*

      This. There’s a part of me that agrees with the idea mentioned elsewhere on this post that OP should reply to or edit their original post with details of the CEO’s ongoing harassment, but better at this point to consult with an attorney. Not only can they give you a sense of whether you’d be taking on any (legal) risk with such a move, they could also (if appropriate) send the CEO a cease and desist notice, copying the company’s general counsel. If a GC sees this, I’d expect them to sit on the CEO to bring the behavior to a stop, because (I think) the CEO is creating a real risk of liability for the company both by the harassment and if he were to follow through on the veiled threats.

      (I say I think because this is very much not my area of practice. I do know that, in OP’s shoes, I’d call my employment attorney and get his input before taking next steps.)

      1. Malarkey01*

        I just don’t see any legal liability in saying “I am unhappy with what you are doing and this is a small industry where this thing is frowned on and I’d be compelled to share that you did this”. If he’s lying about what she did that’s different but he can say she wrote an unflattering review of us that I think was inaccurate and he can share that he will do that with her.

        1. LabTechNoMore*

          To take that further, even though the CEO trashing LW’s reputation could be slander (IANAL, etc.), it’s incredibly easy to give a deeply negative review that’s both factually accurate and completely misleading about performance (e.g. “LW came in late X minutes Y number of times” [all during holidays and weekends], “made W and Z mistakes” [during their first week on the job], and “refused to take on additional responsibilities when ask” [upon being asked to do things which were illegal]). Not to mention the more subtle off-the-record digs like AAM pointed to.

          With that said, the fact that the CEO went out of their way to threaten OP just underscores how accurate (if understated) the negative portions of the review were, and how crucial it is to warn others about how this place operates.

    2. Banana Pants*

      Perhaps reply back once more to the CEO, “After consultation with my attorney, she assures me that the GlassDoor review is fair and accurate and has received documentation for any legal action.” This is a vague counter threat that might make the CEO think twice about any retaliation. I also have would not tell my current boss. Be as low drama as possible. Don’t address it until it needs addressing.

  20. Anonymous Hippo*

    Oh, I hate this kind of imbalance of power. How dare they use it in this fashion. Honestly, I’d update or write a second review and say the the CEO is trying to threaten you into taking your review down. And then keep those emails in case you need them.

  21. Sylvan*

    I think you should copy and paste his emails into another review of the company. /jk

    But actually, I’m glad you wrote this letter. I have a former employer who’s reacted badly to customers’ Yelp reviews and I expect something like this to happen when she finds out about Glassdoor. Where I wrote the only review.

  22. CurrentlyBill*

    If you decide to add to your review with this new information, I would just copy and paste the CEO’s messages into the review with the only commentary, “On this date, the CEO sent me this message.”

    No editorializing or value judgment needed. Let his words speak for themselves.

  23. NYC Taxi*

    Ignore the stupid CEO and just leave the review. Don’t update it with the current drama and don’t clue in your current employer. If in the rare case your current boss brings it up, deny that you know anything about it, and ask if boss has read your llama grooming status report yet.

    If I was your boss now and you’re writing bad reviews of your last job and editing it with a play by play of what the CEO is doing I would start to wonder what kind of reviews are you going to write about your current job.

  24. Instructional Designer*

    I recently left a critical review on Glassdoor about my previous workplace, which was completely dysfunctional and sexist. I then regretted it and deleted it precisely because I was worried about retaliation from certain members of management. I’ve heard through the grapevine that they saw the post anyway and I’ve debated putting it back up.

    All that to say, I totally understand where you’re coming from. This all sounds so familiar to me. I would say to think about what you know of this person and how far he might go. In my case, my grand boss was problematic enough that I thought it could have negative ramifications for me.

    I hope you you can figure out a decision that feels right for you.

    1. Mannheim Steamroller*

      You should put the review back (and OP should leave hers up). If it was truthful and warranted before, then it’s still truthful and warranted now.

  25. Cleopatra, Queen of Denial*

    Just like there are ways to subtly communicate to a reference checker that you can’t recommend a candidate without outright saying it, you can edit your review to imply your former company was shady.

    “Edit: Per (company’s) request, I removed my previous review. As they are influential in this small industry, I chose to remove anything that would be detrimental to their hiring process. I hope that this is satisfactory.”

    1. Jinni*

      Oh, this is really good! Probably would still bite OP in the a**, but feels just.

  26. Rav*

    Maybe the LW can channel all communications through a lawyer and work out a deal for the removal of the review? The deal should include a neutral job reference, acceptance that the review is truthful, no further communication, and no nda.

    I would assume that the CEO is already badmouth LW and will continue to do so in the future. He’s too obsessed with the review to let it go.

    1. Squeakrad*

      I think it depends mightily on the industry, the job the OP is now in, and the actual wait at the former CEO may have in the field. All kinds of dysfunctional jerks have power and I think it’s folly to not consider that fact. I would personally remove it and repost in six months.

  27. Forgot My Last Username*

    This is a great setup for a film. Powerful CEO threatens former staffer who does their public duty and reports a toxic work environment.

    There are several ways this kind of thing plays out in scripts:

    1. Jimmy Stewart version. The protagonist stands their ground and prevails in the end. Stirring and satisfying, but not always realistic.

    2. The protagonist does something outrageous, like Francis Frances McDormand posting the public messages in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and the plot just keeps getting more and more outrageous. Fun for the audience, but extremely unlikely to result in a happy outcome.

    3. The protagonist goes in a completely different direction, catching the villain unawares. (The only film example that comes to mind is Dustin Hoffman posing as a woman in Tootsie, where the villain is the patriarchal entertainment business itself .) Here it might be hiring a private investigator to follow a CEO who most likely has done and is doing very bad things, and letting the CEO know very elliptically what the protagonist has found out, without making any threats. Truly satisfying, but alas also unrealistic.

  28. foolofgrace*

    Even if you take down the review, what’s to stop the CEO from badmouthing you anyway? He certainly sounds petty enough. As long as CEO is not one of your references, how would his opinion of you affect your ability to get hired elsewhere? And if you do go looking for another job in a year or three, is anyone going to remember what CEO said about you at some industry function in the distant past? I assume that’s the only way he could talk badly about you.

    I don’t know what you should do; I’m sorry you’re in this position.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      If it’s a small, close-knit industry, maybe off-list reference checks are common?

  29. Smilingswan*

    Personally, I’d be inclined to add an addendum to my review stating that the CEO has sent you multiple intimidating e-mails directing you to take down your review. But that’s just me.

  30. Faith the twilight slayer*

    I would be awfully tempted to update the review with all the communications from him. But I am notoriously petty and my DGAF is pretty high.

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      Not petty. This is a man with a lot of power, threatening someone’s entire career over her opinion of his company, one which she gave him the courtesy of addressing directly to the company before leaving said review. This is downright heroic to stand up to this.

  31. Workfromhome*

    If you have a good relation with your current Manager and can do it without “drama” maybe try raising it in a vague way. “if a former employee left a review that said X,Y and Z What would you do? Would you demand they take it down?

    Just enough for him to say no I wouldn’t make them take it down.

    Then email back old CEO and say “I consulted with my current Manager about glass door reviews and will not be removing this one. ” Basically I’m in ahead of you he’s already heard my side so if you call him you will look stupid.” Neutralize the threat.

    As for him smearing your name at this point its unlikely you will get a good reference from him even if you take it down so there is likely no upside to letting him bully you.

    For what its worth I know for a fact that my last company was so buried by bad reviews that they pushed curent employees into writing good reviews to try to offset them. Some of them even used a bunch of corporate slang that no real reviewer would use.

    1. Beth*

      This isn’t a strategy I’d personally go with; it feels like pulling your manager into the middle of the argument, when really it has nothing to do with them. It’s not going to deter the former-boss CEO from threatening to bad-talk OP in the industry, and it does carry the risk of making the manager question OP’s judgement for pulling them into something so irrelevant. I think OP is better off either deleting the review (if they think the CEO’s threats have real power behind them) or just ignoring the whole mess.

  32. esmerelda*

    I left a three star review of my company while I was employed there and I didn’t get asked to take it down (I tried really hard to make it anon) but I got a heated response from HR on Glassdoor, commenting on my review and trying to negate and defend what I listed as “cons.” I thought – that’s fine, people will see your true, defensive colors and also see how you don’t want to fix any problems. ;) Proved my point!
    But also, ugh. I’m sorry, OP, that you have to deal with this.

  33. Beth*

    OP, how small is your industry in actuality? Your former CEO is definitely trying to pressure you—but unless your field is VERY small, or he’s a big enough name that he holds an unusual amount of sway, odds are it’s just a pressure tactic. Unless he does have a lot of influence, his frustration with you is unlikely to have much impact on your life. But if you think his threats have something behind them, if you think he could actually damage your career, it might make sense to ‘give in’ for your own sake.

    If you choose to do so, I’d say to take your review down, put a reminder on your calendar to revisit this in a couple months (long enough that it’s not going to seem connected to the timing of your old review coming down), and post a new, more anonymized review at that time. If he contacts you again at that point, tell him it wasn’t you and hold to that line.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      It feels very “Reese Witherspoon’s ‘do you know who I am’ DUI rant”.

  34. Cake Pary*

    Depending on how you feel about your current boss maybe that can be in your favor. If his person wants to bad mouth you to the small industry maybe you can find a way to have your current boss in your corner. If it gets around that old boss says “she was difficult to work with”, new boss can reply with “oh really, she’s been lovely and a hard worker”. I’d be hesitant to take it down because then you’re not saving any new new people from applying to that company. It’s just letting the bad guy win. But I understand the struggle and dilemma. I say stay strong and do your best to navigate it.

  35. Glassdoor Glassbowl*

    All credit to the Carolyn Hax reader who long ago coined the term “glassbowl.” :) Now, for my rambling Glassdoor experience.

    For the longest time, my sole Glassdoor review was a verbose but accurate missive on a former employer–specifically, how they sold the company to new employees during orientation versus what standard operating procedures actually were, with a dollop of nepotism as the cherry on top. My group had a high enough turnover that I could use my actual title without directly identifying myself, as several former coworkers had left and written negative reviews before me in a relatively short timeframe. I wasn’t inclined to post anything until I saw the company’s HR team swoop in and start trying to debunk the negative takes; they promptly gave up once someone identifying themselves as a former C-suite employee swept in and dropped “slander” into their review, so pearls were definitely clutched at that point. Unfortunately these wonderful tennis matches have been lost to posterity, as Glassdoor deleted all the reviews under the old company name (I’m not sure if this resulted from a request by the company that bought out my old employer, however–I noticed only because I logged in to leave a subsequent review for a different company and my review showed as “removed” in my account).

    My only other Glassdoor reviews have been for interviews, and I admit I experienced poster’s remorse over one and removed it myself after it sat there for about a week–the only real crime was ghosting, although an AmLaw 100 firm should really know how to close the loop in this day and age, pandemic or not. I lauded their communication skills and level of remote interaction up until the point at which I was ghosted, then concluded the review with that simple fact, no real shade, but I have to wonder if someone alerted the hiring manager in the ~7 days the review was posted before I nuked it (there was never any response posted by the firm, so I can’t say for sure who, if anyone, saw it). I’m not sure what I would say if the job ever reopens and they contact me and ask if I left a negative review before resuming the interview process, but Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me” comes to mind…

    The second negative interview review was entirely warranted, however, and I decided to burn the bridge with every accelerant in my arsenal. If you’re hiring for an editorial manager position and send a “proofreading” test that actually requires a full copy edit, then get defensive when I ask for clarification–the HR rep responded, verbatim, “This is a viable test” to my question about the expected level of editing, which asked about procedure and in no way questioned viability–well, then I’m going to share that with the world. I may have thrown some barbs about a “Mean Girls” attitude and the company’s lack of transparency in there just for kicks, too. I’m disappointed that I haven’t received any response, as the company website has a six-minute video of the “Chief People Officer” (I hate these cutesy titles) traversing the office and singing the company’s praises, we love our people, all that fluff. Regardless, I consider it a bullet dodged–especially after I found out they have an open office plan. No and thank you, not now, not ever.

    TL;DR: All that said, LEAVE YOUR REVIEW UP.

  36. learnedthehardway*

    Whatever you decide to do – keep a screenshot or other record of the actual texts / posts the CEO sent you. That way you can at least respond to any concerns people in your industry might raise with you. Let your network know about it as well, if/when you have the opportunity.

    The concern is whether you would know if the CEO ever smeared you in your industry / function. That might be a reason to withdraw the comments – although you have no way of knowing whether the CEO might hold a grudge about it and smear you anyway.

    If your comments were fair and appropriate, it’s very unlikely that the rest of your industry will be surprised about them. Word gets around. It might be a small industry, as your former CEO says, but that also means if the CEO is someone known for unfairly smearing people in the industry, people will know to take what he says with a grain of salt. If the company is known as a sweat shop, nest of murder hornets, or run by cultists, people will already know.

    Also, if the CEO has the kind of influence he suggests, he also has the liability of being known for who he is and his credibility is also at stake, as you progress your career. ie. if he badmouths a great employee, it will reduce his credibility, harm his company’s recruitment brand, and make people realize that perhaps they don’t want to work for him. That sort of impact will take time, whereas his effect on your options would be more immediate.

    There’s a valid argument to be made that any hiring manager or executive who takes his comments seriously would not be someone you’d want to report to, in any event.

    Really, the only question is whether you might be perceived as badmouthing a former employer – but it’s not an interview situation, and it’s anonymous. Unless the CEO complains specifically to other people that you left the review, then nobody will know that you did. And if he does say you left the review, those people will be able to look it up to see what you said, and will realize you gave a fair assessment of the work environment.

    On the whole, I’d be inclined to leave the review up, unless it directly affects your ability to obtain a reference for your next job or two. If it does, then I would take it down for now (and would repost it, together with the aftermath, a couple years from now when the reference isn’t as important to you).

  37. Nicole*

    Not only would I leave it up, but I’d update to include that he’s bullying you about removing it. Let future potential employees dodge that bullet.

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      That actually could be getting into dangerous territory. If he can say she is posting false information about his conduct in the course of his profession, it could be considered libel/slander per se, which puts the burden on OP to prove everything written was true. She may be able to do that, but does she want to be embroiled in a legal battle and incurring lawyers’ fees to meet that burden when she knows her ex CEO is already rather unhinged? I see why it would feel satisfying in the moment, but I would caution OP against further antagonizing this man, who does not seem to understand appropriate boundaries and professional behavior.

      1. Jean*

        It would be a slam dunk for LW though – they have multiple emails from the bully. Truth is an absolute defense to libel.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Yes, but it’s a pain in the ass to deal with it, and she may not be in as great a position about things she said about the company. Just because a case is a winner for you, it doesn’t mean it’s ideal for you. I am an attorney. We have to consider factors other than the law, like how much time, effort, and upfront legal costs someone is willing to take on. People usually only want to fight when they may seriously benefit rathe than just to make the better argument and win the good fight.

  38. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    OP, I do have concerns about your old manager trying to say something vague but damning, though I think that might happen even if you take down the review at this point. But do you think you might consider editing the review to more hint at the issues, add in some more positives into the discussion, and just make it milder? That might help, because if it ever comes up, you can always point your boss or anyone else to the review and say that you even edited it to soften it, but you did not want to encourage the wrong applicant to apply without understanding the culture, as that would not work out for the company or that potential employee. Also, I doubt emailing your old CEO again would be a good idea. If you do for any reason, though, you could then say you edited it to soften the tone and add in some of the positives, but these sites thrive on honest reviews and it is really best for the company to find potential employees who better fit their culture.

    That said, you could take it down, but I think the odds that he will be negative about you are high regardless at this point. I think making the review look as reasonable and non harsh as possible is your best way to damage control if anyone later asks you about it. Then you can refer them to the review and say that he took issue with it, but you did try to make sure it was balanced and written with an eye to encouraging only the right candidates to apply, for the good of everyone.

  39. Nom*

    Somewhat unrelated, but I once left a very damning glassdoor review of a former employer and HR responded to the comment on glassdoor (they didn’t know who left it) saying “We wish you had brought up these issues when you worked her.” I laughed because i had brought up the issues to that HR person personally and she didn’t care.

  40. Cookie Monster*

    The thing is, now that he knows you wrote it, you could take it down and he could STILL say those things about you to others: “she was kind of difficult,” etc. This might have just permanently altered the way he thinks of you.

    I don’t know what to do but I’m tempted to say to leave it up. If it gets back to you, you could direct people to the review itself to show that it was fair and balanced.

  41. Former Employee*

    I would check with an employment lawyer to see if they would be willing to write a “cease and desist” letter.

    It sounds as if this guy is harassing the OP with threats to go to their current manager and the potential for blackballing them in their industry.

    I am not an attorney, but I am under the impression that this type of coercion can land someone in legal trouble, especially when there is such a clear imbalance of power between the CEO and a rank and file employee.

  42. wee beastie*

    I had a boss try to get me to leave a positive glass door review to outweigh the MANY excoriating negative reviews he had. I refused. They said “but it is anonymous, doesn’t that make it better for you?” And I said “No, it doesn’t change anything. I’m not doing this.” Fortunately, they left me alone after that. (I also didn’t work there anymore so there was no leverage over me.)

  43. Zeke*

    Maybe I’m just a rabble rouser, but I would start adding those CEO emails to the review itself to shine a light on it if possible.

    That doesn’t make retaliation impossible and some future employers might find it distasteful – but others will see it as a paper trail of his own credibility issues.

  44. move on*

    It’s a risk you take when leaving a review. Personally, I ignore them unless an employee puts their name in the review. Otherwise, it’s just a slam book and who knows the real story.

Comments are closed.