Anonymous professional reviews don’t work because people lie. Or they are biased. Or they are jerks. Or they have no idea what they are talking about. Or, did I mention lying?
I was having a brief Twitter chat with Todd Defren of Shift Communications the other day about a new social media site called Unvarnished. He later wrote a great blog post about the site, Human Kind is Unready for Unvarnished, which I commented on. I was already flustered thinking about the potential ramifications of anonymous professional reviews (as you can tell by my post) but as the idea zig-zagged around my head over the weekend, I feel less comfortable with it now than when I first heard about it.
Here’s why: there are two sides to every story.
Just to entertain myself, I did a little mental time travel to see if I could figure out who would post things about me anonymously. (Frankly, I doubt anyone would, because really, who cares about little ol’ me?) But just for the fun of it, let’s toss out some situations and the likely accompanying Unvarnished review. After you read this, let me know if you still think anonymous reviews will work in anyone’s favor.
[By the way, three of these are real and one is made up. I’ve changed the details so that I don’t unintentionally varnish the reputations of others.]
After the appropriate waiting period, I met with my manager in his office to tell him that I am expecting my first child. He looks up from his desk and says, “Could you just have an abortion so I don’t have to go through the hassle of hiring someone else.” Shocked, I silently left his office, packed up my desk – never to step foot in that office again. He was placed on admin leave. I chatted with HR and an attorney. Things got signed. I still think he’s the biggest jerk ever.
Unvarnished review: Jules quit before our largest fundraising event without notice.
A male senior co-worker walked into my office and started telling a dirty joke, after I had told him I don’t like it. I informed him that his behavior was inappropriate and that I would go to HR if it happened again. Later, he makes a pass at me, which I refuse and I go to HR. Third time (since HR is one lady who apparently had no spine and clearly could not reign him in) he does it again, only this time, I copy the entire executive team on my complaint. As I suspected, he stopped speaking to me after that. The other women in the office thought I was a hero.
Unvarnished review: Jules is not a team player and does not understand how to follow the chain of command within an organization.
I was hired into a great organization, where everyone was glad I was there and we all work together as a team, except one lady who made it clear from day one that she did not want me there. Finally, after a few days she blew her top and told me off. I ran crying to my boss who took it to HR (not my idea). She was written up and had to be “counseled” by HR. A few days later, I missed something on a big project (probably due to the stress of her constant attacks, but maybe I just missed it.) Of course, she pointed it out via email to everyone in our office, including the receptionist. Every other aspect of my work there was exemplary. My boss didn’t even care: he said it was still a B+ project. She hated me even more after that.
Unvarnished review: Jules lacks the ability to complete projects and her work is sub-par.
The SVP (aka the company bully) at XYZ Corp. made everyone use instant messaging instead of email so she could berate, harass and humiliate them without anyone having a record of it (because, for some reason, they were too scared to print them out and show them to anyone). I started with the company and shortly thereafter her poisonous bow & arrow were pointed my direction. Having been warned of the pending IM attacks, I simply disabled that function on my laptop and claimed technical difficulties. She was furious and kept sending IT up to fix my computer. Every time they set it up, I disabled it. My boss said I didn’t have to use it, so I called her on it and added nicely that if she needed to contact me (since I didn’t work for her and wasn’t in her dept.) then email or voice mail would suffice. Not surprisingly, I was the only person in the office that was not subjected to her attacks because she knew emails could be forwarded or retrieved.
Unvarnished review: Jules damaged company property, refused to follow directions from a senior executive, and limited the means by which the team could communicate with her.
Now, I know that I am a negative Nelly, but am I the only one that thinks anonymity breeds malice or should we all be forced to face the music without the knowledge of who is saying bad things about us? Because if you think the reviews are going to be nice, you’re wrong.
Although… I do see an upside to this type of social media: there is the potential for PR pros to get a lot more crisis management work because the dirt is going to be flying as soon as this thing goes live.
Will it be worth the ruined reputations? If so, we can call it the Mean Girls Social Media Stimulus Package.