Since When Has It Been OK To Spy On Your Staff?

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It’s a simple question: “Since when has it been OK to spy on your staff?”. I mean with hidden cameras in the workplace, with private detectives out of work and even with staff spy implants. And there’s a simple answer: “It isn’t. Period”.

A storm is brewing (in German) over German discounter Lidl’s illegal spying on staff. Hidden cameras have been setup in some of Lidl’s shops and in staff rest areas, private detectives have been hired to spy on staff and staff spys have even been implanted in shops to report staff discussions to management. This has reportedly been going on for years.

Under German law some of this is illegal; the German Data Protection Registrar and state attorney’s are currently starting legal proceedings against Lidl. And the shopworkers union Ver.di is supporting staff seeking damages from Lidl for their illegal spying. And this is not the first time that Lidl has been in the news for highly unsavoury staff management practices either.

What I fail to understand is why all this is necessary. If there is a pilferage problem then Lidl should act quickly and punish those caught red-handed. But that isn’t the case here. This and previous news stories seem more about instilling fear of management in staff. And in preventing Ver.di from unionising staff. Now I am no fan of Germany’s Jurassic-era unions, but I fully support staff’s right to unionise to protect themselves and to withhold their labour if they have a legitimate gievance. It seems that they have a whole load of legitimate grievances to me.

What I also fail to understand is how Lidl management thought they could get away with their behaviour. Have they never heard of the Internet? Or even of mainstream media? Don’t they think that customers will be turned away by their apalling attitude towards staff?

What do you think? Does the Lidl fish rot from its head? Or is spying on staff acceptable behaviour?

Post a comment and get the conversation going?

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager

1 COMMENT

  1. Graham,

    One of the big topics today is building trust between a company and its customers.

    Related to this topic is the fact (through studies cited here) that customer treatment is correlated to how a compnay treats its employees.

    Putting the two together, how can that company expect to build trust with its customers when it doesn’t trust its employees? How can customers expect to build trust with the very people that are deemed untrustworthy?

    They should be hiring folks who they trust to form a union for the best of reasons, not the worst. Unless, of course, they’re doing something that keeps good prospects from wanting to join the firm.

    Jonathan Narducci

    CornerStone Cubed
    Creating Positive Change

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