Hostage No More: Addressing the Threats of Online Reviews

A client has threatened to post a negative online review unless you give in to a set of demands. What do you do? 

You could cave in to those demands in order to avoid the negative review but you then become a hostage of the one imposing those demands. This is potentially the easy path forward. Or is it? By doing so, you will have compromised your ability to determine and act on what is right and wrong. You will have undermined your and your team’s credibility and integrity. You will have enabled and encouraged this client to use this behavior to get his way with you or others again in the future. And, in the end, he may still post the review.

Promoting this type of behavior is wrong. It is a disservice to you, your team, and your profession. There is an alternate path to responding to this behavior. It can be an uncomfortable and, by some definitions, an unconventional one but it is one rooted in strongly defined and enforced boundaries. It is supported by a high level of self-respect. And, it is the start of defining how you will allow others to treat you. Social media and online review platforms have become the bully pulpits of a countless mass of cowards who have found “courage” behind a keyboard. From the safety of their proverbial caves, they can hurl insults, question another’s principles or ethics, or spread outright lies in order to get their way or punish those who dared to disagree with them or failed to bend to their will. In the words of the Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “insults are the arguments employed by those who are in the wrong.” If they are in the wrong, why should we support their journey of wrongness while compromising our integrity and commitment to doing right?

This alternate path looks something like this:

Client: “I don’t like this diagnosis. You clearly do not know what you are talking about. My neighbor’s cousin’s girlfriend’s brother saw on Google that this isn’t real and you are just trying to steal my money. If you don’t refund my money, I will post a negative review on every site I can find. I’ll tell everyone that you are a money grabbing quack.”

You: “Ms. Smith, it is regrettable that you feel this way. You may decide to post a bad review anyway, but Fluffy is still sick and I’m trying to help that. My team and I should be compensated for our efforts to help Fluffy, so we will not be refunding our fees.”

Does that approach make you nervous or uncomfortable? It should. It is different. Personal development author Michael Hyatt once wrote “Discomfort is a catalyst for growth. It makes us yearn for something more. It forces us to change, stretch, and adapt.” 

I challenge you to get uncomfortable. You are yearning for others to treat you with respect. You are yearning for others to behave with kindness. You are yearning for things to be different than they are right now. So, keep yearning for more. Use the discomfort as the catalyst to demand change. And if you still get a negative review, that’s ok. 

You are still demanding change. And, you will get your chance to respond to that review. Try this approach just once and see what happens when you not only challenge their behavior but also take the power out of their threat. Feel the difference in yourself and in their behavior. You will realize that you are not their hostage and that you still get to control how you react and get to do what is right.

Demand more. Expect more. Don’t settle for the status quo. You are worth enduring the discomfort for a better future. Your team is worth demanding a change. Now, let’s make that change happen.