Fake reviews | CEO reprimanded after dodgy employee practices

CEO reprimanded after dodgy employee practices

A company founder accused of forcing employees to write fake product reviews to enhance sales figures has been punished and told not to do this again.

The BBC reported that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) started to investigate Sunday Riley’s firm after an anonymous tipster claimed that Riley and other managers at the firm were faking reviews on Sephora – one of the sites which hosts Sunday Riley’s product range.

Additional reporting details found evidence that Riley emailed staff telling them to create several different accounts on Sephora’s website, using an amalgamation of different fake identities and bogus emails in order to post glowing reviews that would help boost sales.

Apparently, staff would receive an email advising them to “always leave five stars” when reviewing Sunday Riley products.

In one email, quoted by the FTC, Riley wrote: "If you see a negative review - DISLIKE it. After enough dislikes, it is removed. This directly translates into sales!!"

The beauty boss has since settled with FTC over claims and both Riley and her firm have been ordered not to post fake reviews in future.

This isn’t the only instance that employees have allegedly been forced to complete tasks that satisfy senior leaders or go against their own morals and beliefs.

Staff allegedly forced to hand out pro-Brexit leaflets

Earlier this year, HR Grapevine reported on the allegations that Wetherspoons staff faced discipline, bonus cuts or dismissal if they failed to share pro-Brexit material.

One anonymous staff member told a Guardian journalist: “We the staff during the referendum were contractually obliged to put out pro-Brexit propaganda at the behest of Tim Martin’s personal agenda.

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“The staff at my pub unilaterally agreed we did not support the propaganda and resorted to binning as much as we could until we started getting regular unannounced inspections from regional and head management to ensure compliance.

“It was therefore deemed gross misconduct for us to ignore directives from head office and non-compliance would be of course disciplined.”

What does this mean for HR?

While it may be tempting to ask staff to write fake glowing reviews to drum up business or to hand out material to push a particular political agenda, it is not only unethical from a consumer perspective but it puts employees in an awkward situation where they might feel obliged to do what they’re told to keep their job.

Therefore, HR should ensure that employees aren’t put in this situation in the first place and should communicate the severity of activities such as fake reviews to pushy leaders.

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Being caught out if you’re engaged in dodgy dealings can not only impact a firm legally and financially but it can also impact the firm’s brand and whether it is seen as having a purpose outside of profiting the leader.

This is increasingly important to employees: therefore fostering an ethical employer brand or clear purpose can be beneficial to some of HR’s core functions.

A 2016 LinkedIn study found that four in ten employees aged between 18 and 24 would take a pay cut if they could move to a purpose-driven firm – showcasing how important it is to talent attraction and retention.

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