Thursday 13 August 2020 1:51 pm

N26 in stand-off with staff as confidence in founders hits 'all-time low'

Meetings between N26 staff to create a so-called works council are scheduled for today and tomorrow, despite the digital bank’s best efforts to stop employees organising with a legal injunction.

The founders of N26 obtained an injunction against workers trying to establish a council earlier this week, after staff wrote in an open letter that confidence in management had reached “an all-time low”.

Complaints ranged from uneven staff salaries to a toxic working culture, while the letter accused N26 of refusing to listen to staff feedback because the responses were too “angry”.

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The employees said today that N26’s injunction had prevented those who had organised the works council from attending, so German union Ver.di had stepped in on their behalf to carry out the meetings.

The two events will happen today and tomorrow at a bar in Berlin, as the works council holds elections to nominate representatives who will then voice staff concerns to management.

The group said at today’s meeting it had selected an electoral board, and will now begin the process of arranging a works council election.

N26 had tried to stop the meeting from going ahead based on health and safety concerns. However the meetings are permitted under German law, and N26 must let employees attend.

N26 is the latest in a slew of fintech giants to be accused of fostering a toxic workplace culture, as startups target fast-paced growth by hiring at great speed — often without proper management structures in place.

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The digital bank’s founders Valentin Stalf and Maximilian Tayenthal are said to have written a memo to staff, in which they said a works council would hinder its ability to achieve its goals.

“A German works council stands against almost all values we believe in at N26,” it said, according to Finance Forward.

“Drive: It slows us down. Simplicity: It makes our collaboration more complex and hierarchical. Integrity: It undermines a culture of trust and could lead to increased levels of confrontation. Excellence: It is not a contemporary instrument of employee engagement and limits personal career development and impact.”

Read more: German digital bank N26 quits UK ‘due to Brexit’

N26, valued at $3.5bn as one of Europe’s most valuable fintech firms, pulled out of the UK market citing Brexit concerns earlier this year.

The digital bank did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

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