Anyone who is any kind of a football fan probably saw or heard about Brett Favre returning to Lombardi Field as a Minnesota Viking and beating his old team, the Green Bay Packers. 

If we translated that situation to the typical workplace the headline might read “ex-employee sticks it to former employer”.  The situation occurs more than you might think, but not played out on in front of a national television audience (thank goodness). 

Most of our blog posts concern hiring the right person, or engaging your work force. But what happens after your employee leaves could be a concern to you.  Disgruntled employees who are fired or resign are nothing new; every company probably has had this issue.  But today there are lot more “weapons” for the “ex” to get revenge.  Consider this example:  Employee who is terminated wants revenge- he decides to write something bad about the company and post it on internet blogs, forums, twitters, chat rooms, You Tube, consumer report sites and anywhere else he can think of. The question is, “will anyone even read this nasty note”?

If your business is a typical small business, there are not very many things on the Internet about you.  Maybe your website if you got one and maybe a directory listing.  What that means is that if someone searches in Google using your company name, there won’t be very many things for Google to find, so if  someone posts something about your company on line, it has a very good chance of showing up on or near the first page.  I know of several small companies that had this situation.  Put their name in the search bar, and the third listing on Google is some very nasty stuff. 

What should you do?
 Let’s start with being proactive:
  • First and foremost, make sure that your business conducts itself in an honorable and ethical method at all times.  Make sure that that your expectations for business moral conduct are clearly and frequently communicated across your organization.  It is a lot easier to deal with negative “posts” if they don’t have a little truth in them.
  • Employee Contracts:  Many companies have employee contracts that deal with “post employment” actions.  Non – compete agreements are common but also non-disparagement clauses are possible. 
  • Exit Interviews: Some times exit interviews can reveal potential issues and even address them before the employee decides to become “Attila the blogger”

What can be done reactively?   You suddenly notice that when you search using your company name, the number four post on Google is accusing your business of every atrocity imaginable.  What should you do?  Here are some options:

  • Don’t do anything.  Depending on your business, it may not hurt you at all.  People who surf the internet are use to seeing “disgruntled blogs” and regard them with a grain of salt.  It always looks worse when it is about you, but many times these things may not be worth taking action.
  • Contact the Person:  It may not work, but just asking nicely to remove the false information, or trying to understand why he made the post may result in some friendly agreement.
  • Get the post removed.  There are a variety of avenues to try.  If the post is blatantly fraudulent you can contact the ISP, the hosting company, the owner of the website or even the search engines- you will need to get a professional to help in this case.
  • Take Legal Action:   See your attorney.
  • Hire a Reputation Management Firm:  They may not get the post removed, but they know how push it back to the third or forth page on the search listing.

Hopefully by using good pre-employment assessment tools, you will not hire the type of people who would do these despicable things, but if it does happen, you don’t necessarily have to be like the Green Bay Packers and get bludgeoned in front of the entire world.