my last company was horrible — how do I save other people from it?

A reader writes:

I recently started a new job and escaped my previous job. The previous job was for a CEO who fancies himself a LinkedIn influencer and life coach. His actual business is a for-profit tech company. He brags about putting his employees first and people over profits.

The actuality of working there was a terror. They send employees to a mandatory, multiday 13-hour workshop that is essentially therapy with the people you work with. The CEO is hot and cold. One day, you’re the best person he’s ever hired. The next day, he’s cornering you in the break room interrogating you on your weight and offering you weight loss advice that you never asked for.

None of this is apparent in the interview process. You don’t know what you’re signing up for, until you’re at an off-site meeting getting yelled at by the CEO on a basketball court at 11 p.m. to change your life.

Beyond leaving a bad Glassdoor review, I don’t know what to do. I don’t have any tangible proof, since most of these interactions happened in person. I worry about the potential harm that will be inflicted on people who think they’ve found a dream tech job, only to be put through intensive therapy by unlicensed counselors.

I would love to tell you there’s action you can take. There should be action you can take. But there’s not a ton you can do.

Glassdoor — definitely. That’s hands-down the best way to reach people who are considering working for the company in the future and especially those who are outside your own network. Encourage other current or former employees from there to do the same. One bad review is easier to dismiss; multiple bad reviews with similar themes send a message that’s hard to ignore.

You also can just talk. Be open and honest with people you know about what your experience was there. I’m sure you’re already doing that with close friends, but be willing to talk to your professional network as well if it ever comes up. (If this is a small company, it might not come up much, if at all … but if it’s larger, there’s a good chance you’ll find openings to share your experience.)

Beyond that, there isn’t really a mechanism for the kind of warning you want to give. Frustrating as it is, I think you’ve got to accept this isn’t a problem you can fix for other people. The most you can hope is that people will do their due diligence before accepting a job there (including looking at Glassdoor) and that they’ll get out quickly once they start seeing what it’s like.

It’s also worth noting that not everyone will respond the way you did. Don’t get me wrong, this guy sounds horrible and shouldn’t be running a business or have power over others, but people are bothered to different degrees by that stuff. You probably had coworkers who were more on the rolling-their-eyes end of the spectrum than the truly-shook end of the spectrum. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do what you can to warn people away, but don’t let the limits of your ability to protect future hires eat away at you either. It’s okay to move on and disconnect from the experience completely.

{ 141 comments… read them below }

  1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    There’s always helping the competition put the old employer out of business, too.

  2. MissGirl*

    Definitely do Glassdoor. I just dodged a bullet by someone leaving a review outlining very specific toxic behavior from the CEO. The CEO publicly shamed a manager for posting on LinkedIn about how nice it was to work for a remote company and being able to take his kids for a walk. Apparently no one should ever leave their desks for a walk. However, everyone I interviewed with spoke highly of the company culture.

    A few weeks after I stepped out of the interview process, they had massive layoffs two days after the CEO had a massive drunken party in Miami for all the higher ups. Apparently he’s burning through their funding on yachts and private jets.

    1. ferrina*

      I always look up companies on Glassdoor. Definitely dodged some bullets that way (though none so intense as MissGirl’s comment!)

      1. English Rose*

        One piece of advice on your Glassdoor review though: write in a very calm, factual way so it doesn’t read as personal (I know it is!). Be… intelligently destructive.
        I’ve spoken to several people who have discounted what they interpreted as sour grapes reviews by poor performing employees because the reviews were written in an emotional way, then afterwards regretted not believing them.

          1. Nesprin*

            “Boss was the worst person I’ve ever worked for” is an opinion with the possibility that you just didn’t like the guy.
            “Boss sent entire teams to multiday 13 hour training classes with that is essentially therapy with the people you work with. ” is a factual statement that is objectively nuts.

            So strip out anything that could be construed as opinions, be as impersonal as possible and describe the dysfunction.

            1. Lime green Pacer*

              ^ This is good advice for making any kind of negative review more credible. Be specific about what happened, let the reader draw their own conclusions as to the awfulness of it all.

            2. Irish Teacher*

              Very much agreed. I’d also say tone down emotive language. Like “meetings regularly continue to 9pm” is better than “meetings go on forever!”

              And sometimes leaving people out of it can also be helpful. Again “meetings regularly continue until 9pm” sounds less personal than “boss drags meetings out forever because he loves the sound of his own voice,” even if the latter is true.

              1. metadata minion*

                “Meetings regularly continue to 9pm” also really helps make sure you’re on the same page as a potential reader as to what “forever” actually means. If I saw the less specific comment, I wouldn’t know whether that meant “meetings regularly run 20 minutes over” (deeply annoying but if the job was otherwise excellent that’s an annoyance I can live with) or “meetings will regularly keep you hours past your ostensible end of day” (total deal-breaker).

        1. MissGirl*

          That’s so true. The review I read really stuck with me because of how specific it was. Had he said the CEO sucks, I probably would’ve ignored it.

      2. 30 Years in the Biz*

        I also agree wholeheartedly! After reviewing the company on Glassdoor, I turned down an opportunity to interview at Theranos. Crisis averted!

      3. irene adler*

        Yep! Me too!
        The Glassdoor reviews included some very dodgy interview experiences.
        Which means I HAD to take the interview.

        They were right. I withdrew my application.

        (I did get a good story out of it: when the CEO lets spill that the hiring manager is retiring soon, but doesn’t know it yet, run away as fast as you can. Run even harder when they ask when you will be able to take over the hiring manager’s position.)

    2. Artemesia*

      Professional conferences are great places to share information as well. I dodged what would have been a nightmare ‘opportunity’ when chatting with a colleague who had worked in that setting — she outlined what it was like to work there. Further investigations suggested she was spot on. One example. The corporation gave the director of that office a pool for merit bonuses each year. The director took it all for herself claiming ‘she did all the important work.’ After several years of this someone mentioned it to the central admin office in another state and they were outraged and took that authority away from her. This is the person I would have been working for.

  3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

    And don’t underestimate the power of talking! If you’re involved in any professional organizations for tech people in your area, don’t be shy about telling people what it was really like to work there. Yes, you want to be factual, but just because something’s outrageous doesn’t mean it’s not a fact. You can also put the word out that you’d be happy to talk to anyone who’s considering working there. (I assure you, in your place I’d be going to all the happy hours I could to tell people about this job.)

    The combination of these two can go a long way towards providing an accurate impression of working here, at least within your local tech scene.

    1. Maglev No Longer to Crazytown*

      It dramatically helped me during my interviewing process when my interviewers did that for me, with respect to a short lived position I got fired from. I was honest in my interview that I got let go for “fit” at several months (I refused to commit illegal activity and stood up when I witnessed women being harassed). I had multiple local interviewers not even let me get to the explanation of why my experience was so short lived… With a chuckle, several said, “oh, yeah. THAT place is one big massive revolving door.” This is a major corporate entity too, not some little fly by night place!

      But still getting over that trauma.

  4. Stitch*

    The reality is even if you directly contacted each applicant and warned them (and 100% do not do that) people wouldn’t necessarily listen. They’ll dismiss you as an employee with an age to grind or similar. This is one of those situations where the more effort you put in, the more likely people are to dismiss you.

    Don’t get me wrong, your goal is admirable but it’s likely not achievable and too much effort here could get you some threats from old company. Leave a Glassdoor and move on.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      The phrase is “disgruntled former employee.” The beauty of it is that it leaves open why this person is disgruntled. Some people in fact are perpetually disgruntled. We all know people like that. But perhaps this person was happily gruntled before this horrible workplace came along. So dismissing a complaint this way is a semantic null, while sounding like a substantive response.

      1. Artemesia*

        In my example above, I knew my colleague as a gentle decent professional and so I absolutely gave credence to her description of the horror show of working for the boss who was trying to recruit me.

      2. Silver Robin*

        Your use of gruntled made me consider swapping out all sorts of prefixes and wondering what the ensuing word would mean

        For example:
        Regruntled – made happy/calm again
        Engruntled – made happy/calm
        Misgruntled – ???

        1. starsaphire*

          “Good morning! How may I regruntle you today?” would be a GREAT way to answer a telephone…

    2. Tired but happy*

      In my former life as a designer I did not listen to someone about a workplace, but it was after the fact and the guy who told me was kind of a jerk himself.

      BOY. Was that one of, if not, the worst places I have ever worked.

  5. to varying degrees*

    If you don’t care about being found out or burning a bridge, you could just troll the hell out of him on LinkedIn and whatever other social media he may be trying to be an “influencer in” (and Linkedin has to be about the stupidest site to choose to do that from).

    1. ecnaseener*

      The thing is, if I saw some relatively benign post from a CEO on LinkedIn, and someone in the comments was either trolling or even just warning people not to work for him…I wouldn’t put much stock in that commenter. The internet is full of trolls and of people making overblown complaints.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      Unfortunately, I just automatically assume now that anyone who is an influencer (or attempted influencer) on LinkedIn is more likely than not to be a nightmare boss or colleague.

    3. Iris Eyes*

      LinkedIn has/had a way to review your company similar to a Glassdoor review. Might be worth putting it there as well.

    4. KatEnigma*

      Meh. Someone who is that invested in burning down the company is pretty unhinged and not to be believed.

  6. PotatoOfSweet*

    My former boss found out about Glassdoor and went on a rampage. He forced all current employees to write glowing reviews to overshadow the pile of negative reviews. He would speculate who wrote negative reviews and openly badmouth them. We had 40 people come and go in this very small 15 person company in a single year. I checked in after the 2016 election and found he must have replied to the reviews himself because they all said “FAKE NEWS!” before being replaced with “we’re sorry you feel that way” comments.

    I still haven’t written one, eight years after I left the company, because they were my only non-family related work experience and I needed the reference.

    1. Thatoneoverthere*

      I worked somewhere that did this as well. This was in the early days of Glass Door. If you scroll back far enough you can tell when the current employees posted the “positive reviews”.

    2. Reluctant Mezzo*

      There are ways of writing glowing reviews to where you can almost see the gun held to the head of the reviewer. Especially if the employees get together and paste the same words and the boss just think it’s lovely.

  7. Legitimately wondering*

    Are you willing to name & shame company here in the comments?
    Would it be in violation or close to violation of this commenting rule?:
    • Don’t make comments like “I think I know what company you work for.” People comment here expecting anonymity and, even when well-meant, these comments can make people uneasy. (Also, they’re usually wrong!)

    If so, I am sorry & please forgive this comment

  8. Ranon*

    The other power of leaving is helping get other people out too- acting as a reference/ referring them to other positions/ etc.

    1. Daisy*

      Yes! Give all the good workers tips on open positions, offer to act as a reference, and keep in touch with the nice folks.

  9. Sparkles McFadden*

    It’s very kind of you to want to warn everyone in advance, and the only real place for that is Glassdoor. That said, even if you could magically speak to candidates directly, a lot of them would say “Uh huh…and how’s the money?” In many cases, the need for a decent paycheck makes it easy to roll your eyes and move along. I put up with insane things simply because I loved the work I was doing. It takes all kinds. Leave the Glassdoor review, be glad you’re not there and don’t worry about it.

    1. young worker*

      yes, I wouldn’t feel like you should take on the burden of preventing anybody from joining the company. I had a boss who was quite rude and dismissive of others, but so many others loved him (he only showed his true colors to me) that I gave up hoping people would realize the truth and left it alone emotionally.

      1. KatEnigma*

        Or, and I know this is hard to accept, but maybe you read things into behaviors that weren’t there, or were sensitive to it, and your interpretation of his “true colors” were honestly different than when he did those same behaviors to or in front of other people. That doesn’t make you wrong- but it doesn’t make them wrong or blind or him secretive, either.

        1. Artemesia*

          There are bosses who are immature enough to target one or two people. I had one like that for awhile and luckily had so much capital that he didn’t hurt me, but he sure tried. After one meeting someone came up to me and said ‘what is HIS deal? you must remind him of his ex-wife or something.’

          1. juneybug*

            I had a boss like that (only mean to me). When I asked a trusted co-worker for advice dealing with the boss (I was a new hire where he had been there for a few years), at first he didn’t believe me. The boss adored him so figured I needed to find out what he was doing right (cause it sure didn’t feel like I could do anything close to right!).
            After he started watching how the boss acted towards me with their actions/comments, he was baffled. They didn’t treat anyone else on the team even close to how terrible I was treated. But it wasn’t in the talk to HR territory so I was stuck trying to please an unpleasable boss.
            Stayed there for 3 years and then left. Had some insecurities about my abilities for a while after that experience.

  10. stelmselms*

    When you’re talking to folks about the company culture, stick to the facts as much as you can while keeping your emotions out of it, i.e. CEO did x, y and z not “I felt like a, b and c when CEO did x, y and z”. People will come to their own conclusions about his behavior.

  11. Chainsaw Bear*

    This sounds like that boss who made news for giving a huge paycut to himself first and making employee salary a min of $75k (I think that was the number?) He positions himself as a twitter and linkedin talking head now, but I keep hearing rumors that his actual in-office behavior is less than stellar.

    1. devtoo*

      yep, and he has a growing list of abuse allegations. There were a few big news stories about it last year

      1. Loredena*

        Well that’s a rabbit hole I just went down! I thought I was terminally online but I’d missed the news about his behavior and resignation as CEO.

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          Me too! He seems like a total skank. And all those young employees getting exposed to all that awfulness.

    2. Loch Lomond*

      Oh yeah, I definitely heard some news that that guy was a combination of huckster and creep.

      1. musicalmanager*

        Gravity Payments and I’d bet this is the company referenced. I’ve heard similar stories from ex gravity employees.

      1. Boof*

        Gaah, that’s like the creeps who make a big deal out of being so feminist so none of their [actual sexual harassment or sexual abuse] could possibly be exactly what it is. Because they make such a big deal out of not being that way! A predator in woke clothing >:(

        1. RVA Cat*

          Oh yeah. It definitely fits the pattern (see also Joss Whedon). My first thought was Dan Price but the basketball court at 11pm also makes me think of that bonkers cult leader with all-night volleyball.

    3. bighairnoheart*

      Oh boy, this guy. Is it sad that, way back when he made news for all that and was generally thought of by the public as an amazing boss, I had a weird feeling he was an asshole? I think it’s because he reminded me of an ex-boss I had–he wowed people when they first encountered him, but was truly awful to his staff. The only good thing I can say about him is that working with him gave me a stellar asshole-radar.

    4. V monster*

      I live in Seattle like this CEO and he is exactly who came to my mind as well. The Seattle local reddit has some pretty incredible stories from his ex employees about his behavior. He’s so gross and had so many of us fooled!

  12. Aggretsuko*

    I hear Twitter is the place to publicly name and shame everyone…or all social media, really. Or create yourself your own webpage with “CompanyName Sucks” and anyone Googling for it might come across your thoughts.

    However, I would personally be afraid of the consequences that come from your labeling them publicly, especially if it’s easy to find out you did it.

    This kind of thing is why word of mouth and rumor milling exists…

    1. Anonomite*

      I have considered doing this for assorted employers. The main thing that’s stopped me is the small chance anything would go viral and the even smaller amount of energy I could commit to it.

  13. nope*

    I had an absolute terror of a boss. He wasn’t really even my boss, he was just a person who held a higher position. People I worked with then didn’t believe me when I said how abusive he was, so I know no one outside was going to listen or believe me if tried to warn people off.

    Unfortunately the business is still in operation and I’m sure he’s still there, being an awful rancid human being.

  14. irene adler*

    Too bad LI doesn’t have an opt in/opt out flag that says “talk to me about working at [name of company] as [job title]” for former employees. They do it for folks ‘open to work’ and recruiters ‘hiring’.

    Glassdoor! Please! Try to make your post sound as factual as possible. That would come across as more sincere for the readers, IMHO. For me, some posts I just have to discount as they are either too rosy or too awful.

    If there’s an avenue for informal broadcasting of information via a professional organization, that might get the knowledge to others that [company] is a place to avoid despite what folks employed there might say.

    1. Kate*

      Informal broadcasting via professional organization has been very useful for A Friend Of Mine. They left the Bad Place like a decade ago? and word gets around. Those of us who know what happened are also alert to it & try to inform people so at least they can go in with their eyes open.

      1. irene adler*

        Exactly what I had in mind!
        The folks who are part of the professional organization I belong to are absolutely candid about local companies. The good and the bad. Names are named too. Sometimes there’s a ‘they’ve gone from company A to company B’ comment. We watch. We remember.

  15. i babysit adults in the sky*

    Keith Raniere is out of prison and CEO of a tech company?

    Seriously though, this guy sounds like garbage and I’m sorry OP went through this.

  16. Loch Lomond*

    Definitely be specific about things like cornering employees and berating them about their weight; that has a specificity to it that will get people to understand what you’re talking about a lot more than if you just said that, for example, the boss runs hot and cold.

    1. I take tea*

      And you’d still get people saying “but maybe they really needed to lose weight and the boss was just being helpful…” (eye roll)

      1. Observer*

        Yeah, but most people have enough sense to realize that this goes too far, even if he REALLY was just trying to be helpful. (Not that I believe that’s what was going on, but still…)

    2. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

      If I had a boss that did that I’d probably A) Yell back and give him my weight loss rant, and B) Quit on the spot. But I’m really sensitive to that kind of bullying, and I have a very “counterattack” response.

  17. Elizabeth*

    Another option you may have, depending on the industry, is to inform the career counselors at the universities/business schools/whatever degree program this firm generally recruits candidates from. For example, I’m a lawyer and if I wanted to steer more junior attorneys away from my firm, I would send a quick note to the career services department at my law school to let them know about my experience there. This might help some recent grads in making their employment decisions.

  18. Avery*

    Tangent, but to those saying “Glassdoor”: what if the organization is small enough that it doesn’t have a Glassdoor page already?

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      And some organisations are small enough that you can’t post on Glassdoor and give your former job title without making it easy for people to work out your identity. This is the case with my last job – around 40 employees while I was there and a grand total of 3 Glassdoor reviews ever, last time I checked.

      1. Catalyst*

        I actually came here to mention this, I can’t get a look at anything on Glassdoor because it wants me to give a review of a previous company or job. I have always worked for incredibly small companies and can’t leave that info without everyone immediately knowing who it came from! I think it’s actually a flaw in the Glassdoor system and why there aren’t more reviews for some companies.

        1. Relentlessly Socratic*

          Any review will work, tho. For my most recent role in a very small company, I was the only one in my role/with title. I posted something innocuous, but true and informative, about benefits to keep my access to Glassdoor.

        2. Cookies For Breakfast*

          In case that helps, I worked around this by leaving a review for an interview at a company I had applied for (I’m similarly wary of leaving reviews for former workplaces). Now that Glassdoor pop-up is supposed to leave me alone for a while!

        3. Anonymouse*

          Yes, but there’s a very popular employer called Nunya Bizness — lots of people have “worked” there.

        4. Leandra*

          I wonder if some no-substance reviews are from people who never worked for the company, just to gain system access.

    2. rayray*

      You might be able to get a review on Indeed. I worked for a tiny company with zero online presence (basically just a couple employees working for a billionaire family. Sometimes Indeed asks me to review the company even though they aren’t officially on there. I’ve thought about leaving an honest scathing review but I fear retaliation so I haven’t done so yet. I really hope to save any prospective employees though. It wasn’t necessarily the family that was terrible, just their business manager who I worked with. She made my life HELL.

  19. Goldenrod*

    I’ve thought many MANY times about contacting my horrible boss’s current assistant, just to provide moral support and validation. They are terrible gaslighters over there!

    But I haven’t done this partly because I’m still in the same system (company) and I’m not sure it wouldn’t backfire in some weird way. I think about it a lot, though! I did bury a copy of the book “The Asshole Survival Guide” in the bottom desk drawer on my way out….

    1. rayray*

      That’s awesome! My former horrible boss had this 200+ page employee manual, and while it actually was helpful, it was still over the top. I would sometimes hide messages in white font but then I’d get scared and delete them haha. I genuinely think if I could save even one person from accepting that job in the future, I’d probably have a golden ticket straight to heaven.

  20. I Work for Cats*

    I had to sign an NDA when I left my previous employer in order to get my severance package which stated that I could NEVER say or write anything negative about the company. So if anyone asks me, XYZ Inc. was all rainbows and unicorns (wink wink).

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, “I literally cannot talk about it” got the most persistent folks to quit asking about what happened with my worst boss.

    1. nona*

      I mean, the response is “My NDA prohibits me from saying anything negative about the company, so there’s not a lot I can truthfully say without violating that. The cafeteria was good?”

    2. Observer*

      Yeah, if someone told me “I can’t talk since I signed an NDA that prohibits me from saying anything negative.” That would be rad banners, flashing lights and sirens all at once.

    3. Sara without an H*

      My university broke with a vendor Because Reasons… all parties were required to “speak neutrally” of each other going forward.

      Thing is, if you tell people “I’m legally obligated to speak neutrally of them,” you kind of damn them by implication.

  21. CSRoadWarrior*

    Definitely Glassdoor. A few years ago, when I had a phone interview scheduled for a potential company, I went to Glassdoor to review. Everyone rated that company 1-star. No joke. The comments were not so subtle either. I promptly canceled the interview via email, saying I was not interested anymore. I got no response, and no phone call at the scheduled time. Not surprised.

    But I was glad to dodge a bullet. There was no way I would work for that company after all the 1-star ratings and scathing reviews. It was not just a few either; there was a sizable amount of ratings.

    Another personal advice? If you personally know of anyone looking for a job, you can warn them as well. I did so once to a friend and told him not to apply to my former employer, because they were know to lowball salaries and not treat employees fairly. That is pretty much all I could do. You cannot make a public announcement on such things, nor would I ever do so.

  22. Smithy*

    100% all of this. For a start, lots of time people think of themselves as fairly resilient and tough and having had experience with difficult work places. So while the OP or any of us may have struggled at CrazyPantsMcGoo Inc, they will be fine.

    Or, for that salary – they’ll be fine. Or for that prestige, they’ll be fine. Or for those benefits, they’ll be fine. The list goes on. And some people are genuinely more ok in those situations than others

  23. Ormond Sackler*

    This sounds like Dan Price (who Chainsaw Bear mentioned, but not by name), the dude who cut his salary and gave all his employees a $75k minimum salary, became a LinkedIn guru, then turned out to be a huge creep who was credibly accused of domestic violence, sexual assault, and regular assault.

    It turned out most of his posts were ghostwritten by a guy named Mike Rosenberg, who got in trouble for sending creepy messages to a co-worker.

    1. Dormon Slacker*

      Dan Price is the first person I thought of, and this comment is how I found out about the massive creepiness… what a bummer.

  24. CLC*

    The Maintenance Phase podcast recently did a main feed episode on workplace wellness followed by a bonus Patreon episode reading listener emails about horrible bosses and coworkers and company cultures around wellness, mental health, and weight loss. This letter would have fit into multiple topics they covered on that episode. I disagree with Allison that some people wouldn’t be horrified by this—if they’re not, they are probably on their way to becoming a wildly “toxic” boss themselves. This stuff obviously isn’t illegal but it is soooooo unethical. It shouldn’t be normalized in any way.

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I came here to thank the commentariat for turning me on to Maintenance Phase. I just dipped my toe into the regular podcasts and signed up for their Patreon.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I don’t think Alison was saying that the people who have a high tolerance for these things think they’re acceptable. I have a really high tolerance for BS from my older bosses because I know they aren’t going to change and there are so many generational differences that I really pick my battles. But there’s a scale of bothered by things that ranges from rolling your eyes to having a huge visceral reaction and that’s what’s being alluded to.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes! I think most people would be horrified/outraged by this stuff, but it bothers some people less than others — some people really don’t care that much about what goes on at work, or aren’t personally affected by this specific type of thing, whereas others really are. Either reaction is legit; it’s not about their assessment of it as OK/not OK, but about how affected they are on an emotional level to be working around it.

  25. rayray*

    Definitely leave a detailed Glassdoor review and also on Indeed.

    I had a job a few years back that was so horrible, but it was a tiny operation, under that specific company umbrella there were only 3 full time employees. I know a couple other people came and went in the position I held. I am not kidding you when I say I have actually daydreamed about a prospective employee finding me and messaging me to ask about the company and the boss. I was contacted for that job through a local job site and I couldn’t find really anything about the company by searching online so it was hard to do any due diligence. I had a bad feeling but I saw it as my ticket out of the job I had that I hated….it was one of the worst decisions I have ever made in my life.

  26. My 2 cents*

    Just a comment on Glassdoor…a company that I used to work for ‘encourage’, ‘enticed’ by bonuses, prizes, swag, etc. their employees to leave fabulous reviews on Glassdoor. They then used their fabulous reviews as part of their sales pitch to potential customers. I was told by many of my new colleagues that if I wanted to get noticed, more money, etc. I should post to Glassdoor. I only lasted 5 months at this horrible company.

    Not all reviews on Glassdoor are real ones.

    1. Anonomite*

      I can’t say for sure, but I feel like actual reviews, even if they’re good, are more neutral in tone and I would be suspicious of anything too complimentary or glowing. “They really are committed to work/life balance and their PTO policy is generous to support that” as opposed to “they insist you take time off and are so generous! It’s been a real game changer for me!”

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Not all reviews in general are real. There are companies that pay people to leave bad Google or Amazon reviews for their competitors.

      For “real” reviews, they are going to usually fall on either extreme — love it or hate it. Places where I’ve worked/shopped/eaten/visited/etc. that are fine or average as expected, I just probably won’t care enough either way to leave a review.

  27. Meep*

    “…until you’re at an off-site meeting getting yelled at by the CEO on a basketball court at 11 p.m. to change your life.”

    I shouldn’t have laughed at this, but I did. Someone clearly thinks himself an anti-hero. Or a personal trainer.

  28. SereneScientist*

    I feel for you, LW, having been in this situation myself. My first job was similarly at a small business where the horrifically toxic owner could behave however she wanted with impunity. After I left, I would occasionally be approached by candidates who were interviewing with the org to ask me questions. Whenever I could, I spoke plainly and honestly, though without malice and exaggeration, about the working conditions there. Whatever the candidates did with that info after was beyond my control, but I could take some satisfaction is trying to do right by folks seeking that feedback.

  29. FlyInTheOintment*

    I’m sorry but Glassdoor is completely worthless. They not only require registration to do ANYTHING on the site (not just to write reviews, but even just to read one) but the registration process is amazingly intrusive. I got about halfway through and realized the information provided would make it quite easy for a lot of employers to identify who I was, personally, should Glassdoor make it available to them. And I certainly would not trust Glassdoor to not sell such information, nor trust that any employer would not try to buy such info; almost by definition any unscrupulous or otherwise-problematic company would no doubt immediately have their minds go right to this idea.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        As I posted below, they also made it very difficult for me to read the reviews. I think a person would have to make up reviews to enter enough to satisfy their criteria.

  30. Harmony*

    My goodness. This sounds like Gravity Payments CEO. I wish the OP the best of luck on their life journey.

  31. Bookworm*

    Glassdoor was genuinely helpful. One place I worked at refused to take any accountability–employee feedback was mostly disregarded, people in a position to actually complain and get results were eventually frozen out or left in disgust, etc.

    From what I can tell the problems still continue, but airing the dirty laundry publicly did end up leading to other reviews of experiences I recognize (so not necessarily competitors, etc.). Being validated was incredibly helpful, although it was a little depressing to know it wasn’t just me and that these problems both preceded me (someone added a review after I did but apparently worked there before I did) and continued after I left.

    The grapevine is good, too.

  32. Leandra*

    Someone left a bad Glassdoor review for the local office of a major firm in my industry, with the kind of specifics job candidates need.

    For instance (and paraphrasing), some admins do extra work because some other admins simply refuse to do their jobs.

    I interviewed at an outfit with a bad review I was convinced was by the person most recently in the job. They passed me over, I got interview practice, and even without the review I was meh about them at best.

  33. DJ Abbott*

    I don’t know how anyone gets glassdoor to consistently show them reviews. After my last position was eliminated, I signed up for glassdoor and entered a review. Then glassdoor allowed me to look at maybe three detailed reviews of other companies before it shut down and started nagging me to enter more reviews.

    How many jobs do they think I’ve had? I was at my old job for 8 1/2 years. I was never able to look at actual reviews again on glassdoor, only ratings. I got the impression I had would have to make up jobs or interviews to get enough entered to satisfy them and get them to let me read their reviews.

    So OP, also enter a review on Indeed, there’s a better chance that more people will see it, although Indeed is also stingy and demanding like glassdoor. See if Google has a review section for employers. And see if LinkedIn does. Basically, look for any and all opportunities to enter your review so that most people can see it.
    I wish I could think of something more you can do. If I do, I’ll post again.


    I’ve got to ask, having been forced to attend this earlier in my life: Is the “group therapy” nonsense The Landmark Forum by any chance? That organization is rife with new-age/culty corporate nonsense.

    1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

      Landmark is the successor to EST. Run far away.

      IMO EST made my mother even more of a magical thinking flake than she was before she took it. It’s like a cult dressed in a snappy business suit.

    2. Bob-White of the Glen*

      I signed up for one of their weekend courses. I opted to walk when they said you would miss your breakthrough if you even left for 2 minutes to go to the restroom. Horribly uncomfortable chairs that very few could sit in for the 16+ hours of lectures. When they asked who wanted to leave (and get a full refund) my hand shot up, and of course they made me stand there about 30 minutes preaching while trying to embarrass me in front of the group. Didn’t work, and I knew it was too new ageish for me to succeed anyway. I finally left and did eventually get my money back. Because they made such a spectacle of me me, no one else stood up for the public dress down, but a few came out quietly and got their refunds.

      If you have a decent program, with 16 hours of lectures, etc., you should not fail because you need a bathroom break. Which I told them while standing there. But yes, cult is a good term. And it did make me look a lot harder at the friend who raved it changed her life. (Should have done that first.) She makes a lot of bad decisions, and this was one more. A lot of money wasted and her life continued to go to pot anyway. But yes, this was very cultish and run don’t walk, from throwing your money away on it.

  35. Sassypants*

    I have an acquaintance who talks often about a past company they worked for and how bad it was. Their experiences were valid experiences, but I also think that all the energy they’re putting into speaking against the company when no one is asking for it reflects more poorly my acquaintance than the company. At some level, it comes out as petty and spiteful.

    OP’s former company sounds awful, but OP should consider how much energy they want to invest in an old employer. Make a glassdoor review, warn people if you’re in a situation where your opinion is warranted, but don’t give an old employer any more of your free time and energy.

    One bad glassdoor review doesn’t make much of an impact; but candidates will avoid a company with a pattern of bad reviews.

  36. nevereveragain*

    My last employer was horrible. I was warned ahead of time about the CEO by a friend who worked there, but I was confident I could manage to work around it (and she thought so too). Flash forward to my boss filing an HR complaint about a pattern of abusive behavior by the CEO after I was his latest target in a situation where me asking basic questions about a website implementation let to him yelling at me and telling the leadership team I was attempting to undermine him. I was less than 2 months into the job. He decided he liked me again not long after, but continued to overreact and be paranoid until the day I left.(Another example, no one was asking questions at an all-hands early in 2021, after we’d finally escaped having the company fail when revenue dropped. I asked what I thought was a softball question “what did we learn from Covid?” Expecting him to talk about our pivot to remote and how well we did, etc. Instead he floundered, then confronted me on slack that night to say that I shouldn’t have attacked him, as that question presumed the revenue loss due to Covid was his fault. I was honestly stunned, but I had already put in notice at that point AND extended my end date when they couldn’t find a replacement.)

    They got an award for being one of the best places to work in (region) recently. Part of me wants to go back and leave a GD comment but I worry they’d know it was me (company was very small) and he’d start harassing me, and part of me also feels like… if I ignored the explicit warnings, why wouldn’t others?

  37. Elle*

    I worked for a company whose culture went drastically downhill after a change in senior management. Yes to Glassdoor, yes to speaking to your professional network. These things might seem small and quiet but they get around.

    When my former colleague spoke to a recruiter, the recruiter asked why she was leaving. Former colleague said the job was too stressful. Recruiter said “was that because of [managing director]? Yeah, I don’t refer people to [company] any more because of all the stories.”

  38. Onward*

    “I don’t have any tangible proof, since most of these interactions happened in person.”

    I mean… this isn’t a court of law. You’re allowed to speak to your own personal experiences without necessarily having cold hard proof.

  39. escaped a bad boss*

    I had a terrible, no good, very bad boss at a small nonprofit with 6 employees. I quit after 6 months and have quietly warned a few folks against working there. However – it felt too risky to leave a post on glassdoor given that so few people worked there – it would feel obvious that it was me and potentially have repercussions. Now it has been 2 years since I left and I still consider it sometimes. Has anyone posted anything negative on glassdoor with such a small company?

    1. Lavender Gooms*

      I’m in your boat. Up until current job (big employer where I’m very happy), all my jobs were with small businesses. I’ve never been brave enough to leave Glassdoor reviews because I could never write one specific enough to help candidates but vague enough to mask my identity to the employer.

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