In the past, employees at Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) have reported a “climate of fear”. This was revealed by revelations from Business Insider. Director Joachim Knuth defended himself against the criticism and commissioned experts.
Now the theologian and long-standing NDR broadcaster Stephan Reimers has presented a “climate report” on the working atmosphere. His results vary between clear criticism and conciliatory tones.
According to the 100-page report, the complaints from the interviewed NDR employees focused on the directors and directors. They are disconnected and live “in their own world”. Knuth described the interior views as “not nice”.
Is there a “climate of fear” at Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR)? This is how employees from the state broadcasting centers in Kiel and Hamburg described the working atmosphere at the public broadcaster. The NDR countered the revelations by Business Insider several times last year. Intendant Joachim Knuth reacted by commissioning the theologian and ex-NDR broadcaster Stephan Reimers to carry out an independent investigation. A “comprehensive climate analysis” was announced. Reimers and his team have now presented a 99-page final report that states: “There are tendencies towards obedience, from perceived immaturity to basic forms of fear among employees.”
For Knuth and his directors, the report should not be the hoped-for liberation. The document called “Climate Report” contains plenty of criticism of the management culture of the top channel managers. “Many employees do not trust management,” says the report, obtained by Business Insider. The communication and rhetoric of the management is “often perceived as lacking in empathy and smooth”, the employees missed “real appreciation”, is a conclusion of the confidential discussions that Reimers and his team had with NDR employees. Among other things, they heard from their interlocutors: “The management class is disconnected and lives in its own world.”
The internal investigators spoke to 1055 people from the station and its committees. Between November 2022 and January 2023, 539 one-on-one interviews took place. The conversations were not recorded. The current final report is based on handwritten notes. Nevertheless, it contains countless quotes from employees, which hold plenty of explosive power for the top staff. “The top leadership sends without receiving,” it says, among other things. There is “no real listening,” according to the accusation. “The directorship thinks they listen because they have learned in training how important it is. But that’s not real. Rhetorically brilliant, but not real.”
NDR employees doubt the leadership of director Joachim Knuth
Reimers and his employees report from the broadcaster that many employees mistrusted the NDR leadership and denied her an “objective view of the problems at the base”. There is also talk of “area selfishness instead of having an eye on the entire station”. This corresponds with a statement from the circle of directors: “We don’t do well together in the management. Everyone only looks at their own area.” One employee is quoted in the report as saying: “I don’t trust this management team to get this under control.”
Another accusation leveled at the management is that it primarily acts programmatically, focuses less on the economic dimensions and shys away from making “clear management decisions”, as Reimers and his team state. One of the interviewees said: “If entrepreneurial thinking does not work at the top of the company, conflicts arise.”
“Employees often despair of it”
The NDR is described in the paper as an “authority-organized broadcasting company” in which an “immense internal complexity with rigid structures, bureaucratic processes and many rules” has developed. “The employees often despair.” In the individual interviews, the employees complained about superiors being overwhelmed, a “two-class society” between permanent employees and freelancers, and a lack of transparency when filling lucrative positions. Another result of the study was that the relationship between them was “in places clearly characterized by mutual distrust and conflicts”. The external observers also attest to an “avoiding culture of criticism and conflict” on the NDR. “Unpleasant things are often not heard with pleasure.”
The rapporteurs identified the practice of filling management positions at NDR as a “source of frustration, annoyance and outrage”. They follow “usually no transparent procedure, no uniform tendering practice,” Reimers & Co. state. “In the vast majority of cases, appointments are made behind closed doors according to individual preferences and logic of power strategy.” Knowing a manager.” Another interviewee complained: “The boss becomes who the boss likes.” The filling of powerful positions in the NDR is similar “in parts to the patriarchal organizations,” according to the report.
The NDR briefly summarized Reimers’ “climate report” in a press release on Tuesday. The document goes “deep into our existing structures,” the broadcaster quotes its director Knuth as saying. “The mirror is held up to you and there are views that are not beautiful.” Knuth again announced a “cultural change” at the broadcaster.