Human Resources News & Insights

Great — another place for employees to rip your reputation online


Here’s what every company needs — a new place on the Internet where employees can tear apart their managers and co-workers without fear of reprisal.

It’s Unvarnished, and it could turn out to be the Web’s greatest example of just how hateful people can be when they’re hiding behind a screen name.

The concept: Instead of reviewing service providers or restaurants, Unvarnished offers Internet users a chance to review people in the workplace: their colleagues, superiors, the temp who’s filling in while the exec admin’s out on maternity leave.

The sticking point: The reviews are anonymous.

Let the slander — and the HR nightmare — begin.

No way out

Evelyn Rusli, writing on TechCrunch, called Unvarnished  “a clean well-lighted place for defamation.”  Its creator says it’s not.

Founder Peter Kazanjy told the site’s designed to be a forum where professionals receive objective — “unvarnished” — evaluations from the people they interact with on a regular basis.

Seems fair enough — until you learn that once a review is on the site, it’s there to stay. The “reviewee” can post a rebuttal, but the original comment remains, no matter how negative (or inaccurate) it might be.

One final scary thought: Unvarnished members can add anybody they please to the site’s database — in other words, say whatever they want about whomever they want. And if you’re in the database, there’s no way to get out.

All in all, it sounds like an HR nightmare. If you’re a manager who discovers that somebody in your department has just roasted you on the Internet — anonymously — what’s the effect on your overall trust level?

And what happens when employees find out what their peers are saying behind their back — to the entire digital universe?

Finally, how’re you going to handle this kind of thing in your Internet use policy? You can certainly issue an edict banning anonymous Internet postings about your company or employees. But if employees use their home computers to post nasty stuff about their co-workers, how will you enforce it?

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  1. ::shakes head::

    You know, it’s ok, maybe even healthy, to vent your feelings. We spend half our lives in the workplace, so you’re bound to become frustrated with people, policies, etc…But to basically be a coward and post nasty things because you’re hidden behind an anonymous screen name is just childish. I’m sorry, but the creator of this site is obviously naive if he seriously believes people will use it to “evaluate” each other. This is just an adult version of cyber-bullying.

  2. Cynthia S. says:

    I see an easy solution to this…Don’t log on to the site! People are always going to have something to say about you, good and bad. It’s human nature to have an opinion. So if you don’t want to know what your co-workers are saying then don’t log on.

    From on HR perspective, would it be legal to tell employees they can’t post from home?

  3. All I was thinking as I read this was “Wow!!!, who left the flood gates open!” TLW…I think you’re right, it may just end up a place for cyber-bullying.

  4. I agree with Cynthia – don’t log on. Frankly I don’t believe that much in the way of useful “evaluations” will actually appear on this site so don’t see the point of yet another place where people can trash other people. My one problem with this is the fact stated that anybody can add anybody and once added you’re there for life. I’m not happy that I could potentially be trashed on the internet for all eternity! Of course if all that was posted was positive feedback it would be a different story. LOL.

  5. The internet world in getting crazier everyday. I would like to vent on some of the IT creators/creatures.

  6. Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but anything I need to say to a supervisor or coworker I would be comfortable saying to their face, positive or negative. The death of that young girl due to the cyber-bullying should be a lesson to everyone.
    Whatever happened to “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? Just wondering.

  7. Cynthia S., you are absolutely right. Let people say what they want; just don’t look. Do we really want to try to manage employees’ thoughts and feelings? Maybe business practices like that are the reason we could end up on this site. As for me, I have enough work to do…

  8. I’m not convinced that this is an entirely bad idea…at least where reviewing bosses are concerned. If you’re a boss and you’re making life a living hell for your employees, then people should be warned about your behavior. Although I can see this site becoming a potential hotbed of bullying and libelous activity, it may also get bad bosses to mind their P’s and Q’s.

  9. Wow… well which role do I play today on this subject. It seems you can’t even get in without an invite and that seems weird since the owner denies any cowardess of site members. Odd. On the other hand, despite our efforts in HR, employees and customers really aren’t listened to. I have friends who come to ME to talk about things in THEIR company because nobody cares. Nothing changes. Can we really be shocked that this site exists????

  10. Sticks and Stones folks!! Didn’t we learn that in grade school? Move on and do something productive with your time than logging onto a website that slams people.

  11. I agree with the don’t log in crowd. Employees have always said stuff about thier employers behind thier backs and always will. Kids also say things behind thier parent’s backs and always will. What we have to do as HR pros is to keep a level head and listen to “official” complaints/suggestions so improvements can be considered. If a manager subjects themselves (voluntarily, mind you) to the verbal slander that will inevitably be on the site, they probably shouldn’t be managers.

    When people get caught up in name calling and labeling outside of work, the negativity usually shows up at work. And when it does show up at work, that’s when it can be taken care of. The only thing patrons to the site will be doing is hurting themselves because you can’t go very far with ugliness inside…

  12. This is a new low as far as civility and interpersonal communication goes……I believe the younger generation has no aversion to blasting someone online right or wrong and not being concerned with the negative consequences until it is much too late…and in this case the error (if one) cannot be undone. Sure, there are plenty of older folks who would use it too…

    The effect might be akin to someone taking a hidden video of you naked in the shower and then posting online – never to be removed. Find out who the creator is now so if you end up on here you can find cause to file suit against him/her for being complicit.

    Our society has sunk to a new low….and going lower. It sure doesn’t help when the president resorts to public name calling which simply sets the tone for this type of behavior.

  13. I think the concern is not what we might read about ourselves, but what others may read about us, particularly potential employers. I believe as HR professionals, we would not utlize this source as a tool for background information on a candidate, but you never know who might before making a hiring decision.

  14. Well put, HR Dude. It would be wise of us to remember that this can only go so far if we don’t give it the attention it is begging for. We teach children that they don’t get what they want by screaming and crying… why would be expect anything less from adults.

  15. If any potential employer that utilizes that site as a means to obtain “background information” and deem that background information as truth and as a means of making an objective, honest descision to hire someone, they are “morons” (to use a word from the evil Human Resources director, Catbert). The potential employer, themselves, may have been drug though the mud on the site.

  16. Some trial lawyer must have created this.

  17. is it like formspring for the buisness set ….

  18. I am curious what happens when someone cites a comment from this website as a basis to question an employee’s ethics or other behavior or a company’s ethics overall. It is one thing to ignore it, but the younger generation have access and there is a tendency to give credibility if it is in print.

    I suspect that there will be a lawsuit and that the website will be compelled to supply the information on those who posted in order to hold them accountable.

  19. I have a question – can the work agreement completed by employees include wording that states employees may not list the company name or names of employees on the internet? Just wondering…

  20. Sounds like a NEGATIVE place for NEGATIVE people to spew their NEGATIVE garbage. The creator of the site is likely a NEGATIVE person who has a sense of entitlement, a conspiracy theorist who thinks “the man” is out to screw him all the time but never takes responsibility for why his social and workplace experiences are always bad. People like this love to gather the masses to drink the Kool-aid to poison all that are around them and now with the internet, they can poison folks all over the world……it’s truly purile! One cannot control what others say or think about them and depending on your own self esteem/worth, the entire point of this site can be……. well….pointless. If people are so miserable at their current employers, they need to remember, they are not in a “Personal Hostage” situation, the door is wide open so don’t let it hit you on the way out. The way to make things like this go away like everyone else says is just don’t give it the attention it so craves.

  21. I thought HR was supposed to be a resource for the employee – there is an alarming tendency in this publication to promote articles emphasizing an almost adversarial relationship between an HR organization and the employees of the company. This article is no exception.

  22. Mike R: You are right and also I suspect (if they aren’t right now) there will eventually be lawyers somewhere licking their chops to figure out what the loop is to be able to sue for $$$$. I believe this entire thing will fix itself and the site will have to be terminated by the time the lawyers get through with it.

  23. HR Chick says:

    I would think that if a company provides a way for their employees to “vent” internally AND see action taken on those complaints, that we would see far fewer of these types of sites.

  24. This is just like tabloids, when you are sick of the stories you stop reading them!
    Chin up people!

  25. Penney: True indeed! I don’t read Tabloids or watch those silly entertainment shows who think it’s big news if a celebirty is spotted walking out of Starbucks or on a shopping spree somewhere. It’s like who cares!!! Just like the Tabloids, there will be law suits because people and Lawyers will always find that loophole. If anything, it will be interesting to watch the trend.

  26. There will always be atleast one unhappy employee in the workplace despite everyone’s best efforts. The thing to take from this is that employees need to have a way to vent concerns without the fear of reprocutions. They also need to know that management and owners will listen and take concerns into considerations. Employees that aren’t listened to will find a way to vent one way or another. Whether it is on the internet or in the break area. We shouldn’t fault the makers of these sites we should fault the lacking management styles that have resulted in people feeling the need to post. Without the need to post the sites would have to close up shop.

  27. Michelle: Good point from the other side of the perspective. There will alway be unhappy employees who won’t do anything to leave the company. Every company should definitely take all complaints from EE’s seriously no matter how petty we may think it is. The small things can be BIG lawsuits!

  28. JohnnyHR says:

    The thing that bothers me about a website such as Unvarnished is that ANYTHING can be posted regardless of the level of truth, validity or perception. It does serve a positive purpose in that it gives all miscreants of a like ilk a place to dump their misdirected anger. What happens when you get ten people of a similarly angry mind sitting around talking about all the injustices perpetrated against them? They feed off each other and in extreme cases you get the beginnings of a mob mentality. My guess is that Unvarnished will promote a small cyber-centric shere of angry people that feed off each other and accomplish nothing positive other than the satisfaction that they are able to rake someone over the coals in an anonymous and cowardly way.

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