Quick Studies

How REI Responded to Employee Criticisms Online

With social platforms and sites like Glassdoor, companies are receiving more feedback from their employees and that feedback is often very public. How should a company respond?

On November 10th, 2015, outdoors retailer REI’s CEO Jerry Stritzke held an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit that turned into an online “suggestions box” in which current and past employees questioned the pressure the Co-op places on them to sell REI memberships to customers. As one former employee noted: 

“I was denied a promotion because I did not sell enough memberships. I had my hours cut from 30 hours a week to less than 10 and couldn’t pick up extra shifts because I did not sell enough memberships. Similar things happened to some of my most authentically qualified co-workers as well.”

As similar comments appeared, it seemed as if Stritzke was ignoring the initial comment, which could have led to more negative press. However, he responded the next morning, acknowledging the former employee’s experience and their criticism, admitting that “the truth is that we should have been doing a better job sharing what makes the co-op special.”

By addressing the comment truthfully, Stritzke made the forum an opportunity for company improvement, rather than a PR failure. While your organization may not need an AMA to obtain feedback, keep these three guidelines in mind when soliciting employee feedback:

  • Give employees an open forum for feedback. They may have already identified problem areas but are uncomfortable sharing with higher ups.
  • Respond to criticism quickly and candidly. It helps to emphasize with them and demonstrate that you understand the issues they’re facing.
  • Identify metrics for success. Explain what progress will look like, and how long it may take, so that employees will know how things are changing.
Published February 21, 2019

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