A new book has scandalized the entire nation of Sweden, a country known for its stability and pride in its progressiveness.
The book, by 30-year executive Johan Stenebo, “Sanningen om Ikea” (“The Truth About Ikea”), alleges that the company is run like the East German secret police, and that the upper ranks are characterised by racist managers who won’t promote non-Swedes.
Der Spiegel: Stenebo accuses Ikea of employing methods akin to those used by the East German secret police, the Stasi. He details an alleged tight-knit network of informers who were able to contact [Founder] Kamprad directly at his private home in Switzerland via telephone and fax. They were expected to regularly update Kamprad on the atmosphere in the company and to pass on personal gossip. According to Stenebo, the Swedish headquarters of Ikea was apparently shaken by a power battle in the late 1990s, during which time “the spies actively took action to get employees onto Kamprad’s side.” The conflict went so far that at times there was the feeling that the whole company was “split into factions for and against Ingvar,” Stenebo claims. None of which goes down very well in Sweden, where the locals would rather seek consensus.
On the executive floor, Stenebo claims, foreigners were repeatly denigrated as “ni****rs.” They apparently had no chance of promotion within the company — something Stenebo blames on Kamprad’s increasing paranoia. Ikea, in spite of being the world’s largest furniture company, is run exclusively by people from Älmhult in the Swedish region of Smaland — the small town where Kamprad himself grew up. “Born on the farm” is how the Swedish describe it. The importance of blood and place of birth within Ikea is no coincidence, Stenebo claims — blatant racism exists within the company.
The company isn’t responding, and it certainly seems possible that Stenebo is a disgruntled former executive with an axe to grind. But even that storyline, as the article notes, seems decidedly un-Swedish. Angry tell-alls are common here, but not necessarily elsewhere.
So for now, we don’t expect this to derail the design juggernaut anytime soon.
(Picture via Flickr user Oimax)
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