“what the Brady Bunch would be like …

… if they lived in communist Russia,” is how an anonymous employee described his company culture. Guess which company.

Also, want to know what your boss’ home is worth? And how much does she make? From some of the folks who enabled you to discover the answer to the first question you may now be able to learn the answer to the second. Taking on two work taboo topics, the start-up, glassdoor, aims is to help job seekers get a real picture of a company. Also, suggests CEO Robert Hohman, “When the annual compensation review comes,” says CEO, “you need to know what your market value is.”

Secrecy is on the way out. People who work or worked at a company can submit reviews of it and of individual employees there plus provide salary information. It is then displayed anonymously for all site members to see. Membership is free. Profits will come from ads aimed at job seekers, a premium level of membership and selling compiled data to HR firms.

You can see who’s on the other side of a glass door. Yet glassdoor’s approach seems less transparent. However noble the founder’s intentions, anonymity can tempt us to castigate under cover or to deceive. From jealousy to enmity, all kinds of dark motivations can move people to submit negative comments or inaccurate salary information.

There are other reasons for contributors to warp the results at glassdoor. When executives find that their firm has a lower rating than a competitor’s they may be tempted to “gently” suggest that their underlings submit high ratings and positive feedback.

The experienced team at glassdoor insist they have built in systems to detect malicious or inaccurate submissions. Certainly, as more people contribute, an “error” is more likely to stand out, unless a group decides to submit it. To spur contributions, you must give information to get access to more detailed reviews.

Even if the information is accurate, as Jupiter Research analyst Barry Parr points out, “By providing free access to sensitive salary information and sometimes blunt reviews of companies, glassdoor is bound to upset some employers.” (Guess where software engineers get the most take-home pay – Yahoo, google or Apple?)

Facebook is trying something somewhat similar, albeit on a smaller scale. There’s an undeniable appeal to reading the salaries and anonymous comments about colleagues in your company or at competing firms. Consequently, there’s money to be made from our prurient interest in:

• Money
What’s the salary of prospects, clients, friends and other key corporate people in my life?

• Gossip
What are others willing to say about individuals I know, behind the curtain of anonymity?
Already, despite Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s 89 percent approval rating at glassdoor, a google employee has complained, “Google pushes a highly “googley” atmosphere, which is something akin to what the Brady Bunch would be like if they lived in communist Russia.”

Perhaps, as at TripAdvisor, Epinions and other rating or review sites, as more people rate and contribute, the collective credibility of numerous contributions will add color and depth to the snapshot outsiders get about companies. And lower ratings or review may spur improvements. Perhaps the Wisdom of the Crowds will prevail.

Anyway, since launching (in my village – also home to Federated Media) last Wednesday, glassdoor has already attracted more than 1.2 million page views and over 10,000 new salary reports and reviews submitted.

How do you feel about glassdoor’s approach? Is it a valuable new Me2We tool or is it oversharing or something in between?

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