Zalando has “strongly” objected to allegations it is employing ‘Stasi’ style techniques by ranking its employees and asking them to give feedback on each other.
A report published on Wednesday by the Hans Beckler Foundation said that Zalando’s performance management system Zonar, infringes privacy, increases stress, and doesn’t lead to increased performance.
Zonar asks employees at its head office in Berlin to nominate up to eight employees twice a year to assess them.
Everyone is encouraging to keep a constant record of their colleague’s behaviour, according to the report.
Zalando will then generate a score based on the feedback as either low, good or top performer and determine whether employees deserve a promotion or wage increase.
One employee who was interviewed for the report said that it was “360-degree surveillance”, while another compared it to “Stasi methods”.
The Stasi, the official state security service of the former Communist East Germany, encouraged workers turned informants to spy on each other to weed out anyone opposing the communist regime, arresting more than 250,000 political prisoners during its existence.
Still within living memory for many Germans, the Stasi are still a very sensitive subject and any accusations invoking their methods are taken seriously.
Zalando released a statement soon after the report was published saying it “strongly objects to the results of the Hans Böckler Foundation study on our performance and development tool, Zonar.”
The online fashion retailer which employs 14,000 staff, 5000 of which are eligible to take part in Zonar, said that as the study was based on interviews with just 10 employees it lacked credibility.
It went on to quote the study’s own leader who said the report was “limited in scope, completeness and generalizability”.
“At Zalando, transparency and an open feedback culture is a daily reality. For this reason, we conduct voluntary employee satisfaction surveys four times a year,” Zalando said.
“In the most recent survey, conducted in September 2019, only 13 percent of the employees surveyed stated that they would like to work outside Zalando within the next one to two years. 67 percent would recommend Zalando as a good employer.”