How to Make the Most of an Ugly Christmas Sweater

Recruiting Gifts of the Season


December is a few days away and with it comes a season of holiday gift giving. Most of us can probably think of one gift that stands out in our minds as being perfect. It’s a gift that keeps giving long after it was received and possibly even after it exists. That gift might have been a favorite toy from your childhood that is long gone yet still remembered, a treasured quilt made with love from your grandmother, or a cookbook handed down from generation to generation. Whatever the gift was, just thinking about it makes you feel good.

On the other hand, most of us also have that one gift that stands out in our minds as a “What was he or she thinking?” kind of gift. It might be an ugly, hand-knit sweater from Aunt Mabel, or maybe it was something totally inappropriate like a ceramic cat toilet brush holder. It’s the gift you wish you never received. Sometimes that gift can be discarded or passed on to someone who will love it. (Really, someone out there might love that ceramic cat toilet brush holder.) Other times, we are stuck with the ugly sweater because we love Aunt Mabel and it would hurt her feelings if we didn’t want her gift.

When you recruit, you also receive gifts, like the client who recently contacted me to hire another employee like the one I recruited for them earlier this year. You might also have the gift of being named a great company to work for or having a strong employer brand that organically attracts the best candidates. It’s easy to love these gifts.

However, recruiting can also give you bad gifts. One of my current clients received an ugly sweater in the form of negative reviews on Glassdoor, a website where employees review their employers. You may hate the gift, and just like Aunt Mabel’s sweater, you must accept it.

Unfortunately, a bad review on Glassdoor is not as easy to deal with as an ugly sweater. You can’t delete or edit it because the intent is to keep the site useful and relevant for job seekers who want to know what it’s like to work for your company. While some negative reviews are given with bad intentions, I like to believe that most reviews are intended to point out areas for improvement and make a difference in your business, because when we care, we share. Like the ugly sweater from Aunt Mabel, you must focus on the reason for the gift and find a place for it. That might mean you wear that ugly sweater once or twice when you visit with Aunt Mabel, and then you can either donate it to a charity or simply discard it.

When you recruit, candidates are making decisions about working for you without the opportunity to try before they buy. Making a career choice is a big decision and no one wants to get it wrong. So, they turn to others for help. Most candidates will use a variety of sources to make their decision. They may talk with current or former employees, visit your website and social media pages, and read reviews on sites like Glassdoor. They will use this information to decide whether your company will be a great place for them to work.

Review sites are popular because of the power of social influence. Our decisions are influenced by what others are doing. We look to others to see what they say about a product, service, experience, or job. Then, we use that information to decide whether we will feel the same way.

If you were unlucky and received a gift like this, here are a few ways to turn that gift into an opportunity.

First, consider whether you even need to acknowledge the gift. While most reviews are given with the intent to be helpful, an unhappy employee may write a review with the intent to get back at you by posting false information. Unless the lie is so egregious that it is impossible to let stand, ignore it. Your positive reviews will outshine this one bad review.

Sometimes reviews will bring issues to your attention that you were unaware of. In this case, you will want to investigate to find out what is going on and whether it truly is something you should be concerned about.

Finally, bad reviews can be the stimulus for change. You might realize that some of your policies need to be more flexible. You might find that the suggestions in the review are things you wish the employee had spoken up about while they worked for you, and you can take steps to make it easier for employees to share their ideas and opinions.

In the spirit of the season, I hope you reflect on the gifts your employees bring to your company and spend a few moments to show your employees how much you appreciate them. Who knows, those small actions might prompt them to write a five-star review and post it on Glassdoor.

Please share your best and worst gift stories in the comments. I’d love to hear what gifts you’ve received and how you felt about them.