Ikea Netherlands “fear culture”: workers complain of oppressive tactics

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A group of Ikea Netherlands employees wrote to the 89 year old founder of the Swedish furniture giant Ingvar Kamprad to complain about the "culture of fear" and work pressure present in the retail chain.

The employees complain that Ikea focuses solely on turnover, efficiency and profit which results in both floor employees and management being too afraid to make mistakes or utter critique because they may be fired. "Very quickly you no longer fit with Ikea and leave is taken of employees without any hesitation." They also complain that in planning for services, Ikea hardly takes into account their employees personal lives. There is no space in working hours for people who also work and informal care giver or are bound to childcare times.

The employees refer to Kamprad's Christmas letter in which he states that he spent much of his time this year in fighting against fear of making mistakes "which is one of the major diseases of our time". "To our sincere regret we must conclude that your personal fight or beliefs about anxiety are in no way embedded in the daily practice of Ikea", the employees write. "If fear is, as you say, one of the major diseases of our time, then Ikea is sick. Your fight is therefor far from fought and in this time of reflection it may be good to take a good look at this failure."

"The biggest problem at Ikea is that everything is hung on ratings", FNV union official Pieter Beuzenberg explained to news wire ANP. "Employees are assessed at any time of day. There is a manager watching everyone in every corner. It is paralyzing."

Ikea stated in a reaction that the company will seek contact with FNV about the letter. The Swedish furniture giant now has 13 stores in the Netherlands and employees about 5 thousand people.