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Shell employees must be able to speak out without fear of retribution

…the Group’s leadership is working very hard to promote open and honest communication within Shell, as well as with our external stakeholders. We genuinely do welcome all comments, positive and negative. We also believe that employees must be able to speak out without fear of rebuke or retribution.

John Hofmeister

By John Donovan

I have printed below a posting made in June 1999 by John Hofmeister on the “Tell Shell” forum for lively and open debate on the Internet.

Hofmeister at that time was Shell Director of Human Resources. He later became President of Shell Oil Company and is now happily retired from Shell.

The “Tell Shell” forum, buried within shell.com, was later suspended then closed down when the debate got rather more lively and open than Shell had anticipated and Shell no longer wanted to hear what employees and external stakeholders had to say.

The Hofmeister posting was brought to our attention by former Shell Production Geologist Dr John Huong, after EIGHT Royal Dutch Shell companies collectively sued him for alleged defamation when he spoke out about Shell. Further retribution came in the form of multiple injunctions from Royal Dutch Shell companies in the UK, the Netherlands, Malaysia and elsewhere, all seeking his imprisonment.

Date: June 07, 1999 03:49 PM
Author: John Hofmeister, Director of Human Resources
Subject: Communications within Shell

This message is in reply to ‘Anon’ on the subject of ‘Communications within Shell’:

First, I would like to thank you for sharing your thoughts and for your honest feedback. You clearly feel strongly about this issue and I appreciate the opportunity to hear what you have to say and to respond.

Let me say straightaway that in such matters personal experience counts for much, and I would not wish to dispute or contradict the evidence of your own experience in Shell.

However, let me say that I strongly believe the people in Shell have an enormously valuable contribution to make to the key debates, and that the Group’s leadership is working very hard to promote open and honest communication within Shell, as well as with our external stakeholders. We genuinely do welcome all comments, positive and negative. We also believe that employees must be able to speak out without fear of rebuke or retribution. We are realistic enough to understand that for some people – leaders and staff -this could yet mean a change in attitude, but it is a change we are determined to work for.

This website is in itself evidence that we are interested in seeking your views and willing to listen and respond. You will note that to overcome any reservations people may have about contributing, we have deliberately designed it so that you remain completely anonymous.

You will recollect also that responses to the recent Shell People Survey were also anonymous. Here again is evidence that we are anxious to hear what people have to say. We were delighted that so many responded. We expressly asked people to give us feedback on levels of respect, involvement, and communication within the organisation. I quote from personal feed back by the Chairman to all staff “relative to benchmarks, there are very positive messages about your feeling able to question conventional ways of working, being encouraged to come up with innovative solutions and being open with each other. You say that leaders trust the judgement of people like you and you feel that you have sufficient involvement in decisions affecting your work. You also feel that there is respect for people where you work.”

People are now being given the opportunity to review and discuss the Survey results for their particular operating unit, with a view to identifying issues and developing action plans appropriate to their local circumstances. It is through the understanding of the results and dialogue with staff at this level that we expect the main benefits of the survey to be reaped.

In conclusion, I can only emphasise that I do support you in making your views known, and that I and my colleagues are working to create an environment where you feel comfortable and encouraged to do so. Please continue to let us know how we are doing.

ENDS

Further interesting postings from “Tell Shell” will be published shortly.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoBBSZSyu0A

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