I admit it. I love reading Glassdoor reviews. On Glassdoor, employees can post anonymous reviews of their respective workplaces. The site offers a tantalizing, voyeuristic glimpse into the work culture of thousands of companies.
Perusing company reviews on Glassdoor is endlessly fascinating and enlightening. After reading hundreds of reviews, I feel like I have
a much better grasp on why certain companies earn glowing 4-5 star ratings, while others barely muster a measly 2-3 stars – or God forbid, the dreaded 1 star.
Clearly, highly rated companies understand what employees want – and deliver.
So, what exactly do employees want? Challenging work? Flexible hours? Generous pay and benefits? Opportunities for professional growth?
Well, sure, all of those things are good.
But what employees want most appears to be…good snacks.
On Glassdoor, even the most heinous company, with a laundry list of “Cons”, can redeem itself, and avoid a poor rating, if said company merely offers tasty snacks (or better yet, free lunches and booze).
To illustrate, here is a sampling of actual headlines from companies with 1-star ratings:
“Worst Place to Work”
“Game of Thrones Without the Dragons”
However, directly below these damning headlines comes a list of positives:
Bagels on Mondays with 3 tubs of cream cheese
Good selection of cold pressed juice
Free lunches and snacks are awesome!
At times, the juxtaposition of Pros and Cons can be a trifle amusing:
Pros: Free bagels on Mondays!
Cons: They will find a way to make working here a living hell
Pros: Cold-brew coffee and craft beer on tap
Cons: You WILL be overworked here
Pros: Delicious smoothies and yummy pastries
Cons: Sociopathic behavior is encouraged
Pros: 3 meals a day, stocked kitchen, and a freaking brewmaster on site!!
Cons: CEO is an easily manipulated doofus who thinks he is a visionary
Pros: Catered lunches on Fridays
Cons: Constant layoffs and resignations
But remember, just offering free snacks and other food isn’t enough. You have to provide quality offerings. Don’t think for a moment that you are going to get away with stocking your office kitchen with a few bags of Cheetos, a couple of sad bananas, and cans of Red Bull chilling in the fridge. Heaven help the well intentioned Office Manager who offers a sub-standard culinary experience, as these comments demonstrate:
Wish there were better snacks
Only offer 5 flavors of La Croix water in fridge
Free lunch and dinner, not that good though
The breakfasts were terrible, but free
Today’s employees are a tough audience. And in the food-obsessed Bay Area, where food is oh-so-precious and a healthy sense of entitlement is a job requirement, the bar is even higher. Local employers are under pressure to please the most discriminating palates, as witnessed in this Glassdoor review:
“Free coffee and tea (coffee is small batch and local, none of that big box stuff”)
Imagine…being forced to drink big box coffee? Could be grounds for a lawsuit (no pun intended).
Now, I like free snacks and food as much as the next person (maybe more, if my BMI is any indication). But I never considered snacks a major factor in accepting a job. Times have changed. Today, it’s all about the food. What started out as free pizza or Thai food delivered to employees who were occasionally required to work late, has now morphed into a mandatory perk. Some companies even boast their own gourmet cafeterias, with menus that rival 4-star restaurants.
No doubt, this feeding frenzy began with Bay Area tech companies and start-ups. These companies quickly discovered that the best way to lure hungry, young talent (and keep them there) was with lots and lots of food. In a USA Today article, Hadley Malcolm writes, “Perhaps to no one’s surprise, food at work is the most important to Millennials, vs other age groups, and they are also the most likely to say they wish their employer offered more snack options.”
What is it with these darned Millennials? Do they not eat except at work? If there were no free snacks in the office kitchen, would they starve? Maybe they’re still living at home, but Mom refuses to feed them? No wonder they are hoarding bagels and Greek yogurt.
Malcolm goes on to elaborate on the reasons for today’s snacking craze: “In recent years, some offices have turned into edible playgrounds, with a never-ending supply of pressed juice, granola, Greek yogurt, chips, cereal, cookies and even beer. And with a growing number of young start-ups and high-energy tech companies that have reimagined the workplace as communities with a shared purpose, rather than offices where a group of people all happen to be from 9-5, free food has become an integral part of the workday.”
“Communities with a shared purpose”? That’s one way to look at it. A more cynical view (such as mine) is that 9-5 has stretched to 9-whenever. A good way to get people to work endless hours is to endlessly feed them.
So it’s not surprising that one often finds a correlation between the Pros and Cons listed in a Glassdoor review. If the reviewer complains about “Zero work-life balance”, it’s a pretty sure bet the next paragraph will include “Awesome snacks and free meals!”.
In other words, you may be killing yourself at a modern day sweatshop, but hey, the Tuesday tacos are to die for.
Once in a while, a clear-eyed reviewer on Glassdoor sees through the food-as-bribery gambit. As one savvy employee said at the end of an especially negative review, “Don’t let the free food and adorable dogs cloud your perspective”.
That’s a refreshing bit of honesty, but comments like that are rare. More often, employees seem to be eating it all up.