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Shell spying on Shell employees

By a former employee of Shell Oil USA

Reuters Article: Shell critic says oil major targeting his website


I must say that I have been very surprised (and  disturbed) to learn of the extent of Shell’s activities in the monitoring of their employees, their outside critics, etc. I find the creation of an internal ‘thought police’ organ very disturbing. Even more disturbing is the employment of former high level British and American governmental ‘spooks and cops’ to run these organizations. Shell’s relationship with the FBI is also very disturbing. Furthermore, Shell’s actions toward you and your blog have been almost ‘neo-facist’ in nature. (Henri Deterding would be proud of them, I am sure. Traditions die hard, I guess.)

Who hires these guys? Fear does nothing for staff performance or loyalty, and it breeds loathing, contempt, and rebellion. It is very bad for business and the bottom line because it drives away the best and the brightest.

All this nonsense brings to mind a number of books I read as a youth. One was George Orwell’s ‘1984’. There are some lessons to be learned from that book, good and bad I suppose. (As I  recall the ‘pigs’ were the ruling caste. No. That was Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’. The ‘Party’ and ‘Big Brother’ ruled in ‘1984’.) I wonder if these two books are recommended reading for Shell management? (They might try reading John Locke’s comments on tolerance and the various forms of tyranny as well. However, you might have to remind these folks who John Locke was.) There has to be a good editorial comment lurking in this observation somewhere. I will have to ponder it and see what I can come up with.

When I worked for Shell USA in the 1980’s the HR gang (Human Resources) was referred to as the ‘thought police’. The term ‘Resources’ was snickered at as well. Staff was a ‘resource’ to be ‘exploited’, just like natural resources. Why Shell USA management chose the term ‘Resources’ is a mystery to me. Very bad form. Most companies would use the term Human Relations or Employee Relations. Not Shell. But the term accurately reflected the attitude of management towards their staff.

Times have changed but management culture and their attitude toward their staff clearly has not. Shell would be served far better if the time and resources involved in policing and repressing staff attitudes and discontent were directed toward the process of selecting competent managers of both talent and character. This would do more for staff moral, attitude, loyalty and performance than any degree of bullying and repression.

Just a thought or two from a former Shell USA employee.

This website and sisters,,,, and, are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia segment.

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