"... will break my bones, but words will never hurt me." I recall as a child unleashing this clever phrase at the resident 3rd grade bully during recess only to get clubbed up side the face with a tether ball shortly after. I don't recall what said bully told me to invoke my mouthy reaction, but I do vividly remember feeling like I had just run into a glass door after the ball on a rope struct my face. It would appear in this instance, Sticks and Stones: 1, Words: 0. When it comes to companies however, I think most would take a poke in the eye with a sharp stick over a filling buffet of libel and slander most days. Here's why...
On a daily basis I speak with candidates from a wide range of backgrounds and industries and there is generally one question I consistently ask that has the potential to be more loaded than a Fat Albert's baked potatoe. The way they answer "Why are you looking to change jobs?" usually gives me some good insight into the state of the corporate culture at their current employer. These candidates peel away the "Best Company..." awards and really get to the heart of what is going on inside and how it is effecting them. They offer up the information as if I am a confidant and that leads me to believe anyone who has shared oxygen with this person probably is aware of what I have just been made privy to. I try to use my best judgement on whether I am dealing with an eternally disgruntled employee or if there are serious issues going on and then at that point formulate my own opinion of the company and then I react based on it.
If a candidate is not a fit for what I am looking for and I know of another solid company hiring I will often times coach them on how to get into their recruiting process. My Who's Who List is constantly altered by the feedback I recieve from my standard question stated above. I am not saying my lack of referals can bring down a company with a ticker symbol, but if as an outsider I am not willing to give a referral then think about the ramifications of employee referrals? Internal referrals are proven time and time again to be the best source for quality of hire so why put this method in jeopardy by not meeting your employees needs.
Granted you will never please EVERYONE, but the best way to shut up the disgruntled employees is to be a good company. Don't foolishly probe them with the childish sticks and stones line. If you do get ready to be called pancake face the rest of the day.